Simone Farbus, Asia Transpacific Journeys’ Air Travel Manager, recently traveled to Myanmar (Burma) courtesy of Orient Express. She was kind enough to share the following account of her recent journey:
“Last spring when I was reading The Piano Tuner by Daniel Mason, I had no idea that I would soon have the opportunity to travel to Myanmar where the novel is set. Based on my enthusiasm for the book and my enduring love of Asia, I jumped at the invitation from Orient Express to join the maiden voyage of their new Ayeyarwady Experience Cruise on the Orcaella.
It’s easy to leaf through a catalog or read an itinerary online and think you know what to expect. However, as with all things Asian, I’ve learned to expect the unexpected. It was these surprises that truly made this a memorable trip.
Being managed by the Orient Express, I anticipated that the food would be varied and superb. The unexpected was having the chef come to greet us all personally and to let us know that if we wanted to mix and match anything on the menu she would happily do so. Every day, vegetables and fruits were bought fresh from the local village markets and prepared into absolutely delicious dishes, thanks to the deft hand of Chef Ban.
Having traveled to Asia many times before, dirty shoes after long days of exploration are a given. But another unexpected perk of traveling on the Orcaella was that after each excursion upon returning to the boat, the crew immediately took our footwear for cleaning, returning them within the hour.
With the turbulent history of Myanmar, I had expected our guides to be limited in what they could discuss politically. But recent changes within this country and the release of Aung San Suu Kyi enabled our guides to refreshingly express an opinion of any subject we asked about.
An unexpected delight, and my favorite memory of this journey, happened one evening as our group wended its way back to our bus after visiting the crowded Shwesadaw Pagoda during a full moon festival. All of a sudden, a little hand took mine. Her mother held her other hand and I received her nod of approval. We three walked along in this manner for several blocks without a word being spoken, until, with regret, I had reached my destination.
After 20 years of being a member of the Asia Transpacific Journeys team, I have had the opportunity to appreciate the welcoming smiles and genuine enthusiasm of many Asian countries—and Myanmar was no exception. The crew of the Orcaella and the wonderful people of Myanmar exceeded all of my expectations.”