We had the opportunity to interview two longtime guides with Belmond's river cruises in Myanmar. Win Myint is a tour manager on the Belmond Orcaella and has been a guide since 1995. Soe Kyaw Thu is an assistant tour manager also on the Belmond Orcaella and has been a guide since 2004. Read on for insights into the enchanting country and culture.
Andrew Harper Staff: What about travel and tourism led you to guiding?
Win Myint: We’re able to represent as hosts for our country. It’s also the only sustainable job for my generation.
Soe Kyaw Thu: As I grew up in Bagan, I saw many tourists and it made me want to be a guide. It matched with my hobbies, and of course I had seen the Road to Mandalay since I was young. Guiding is a chance to not just be a good ambassador for the country, but also to get information from all over the world, outside of Myanmar.
AHS: What’s your favorite memory while on a Belmond cruise?
WM: There are lots of memories. In 2006 we went to the east to Momaut to take our guests on an experience in the jungle. This started with a truck driving 45 minutes to Kyauk Talon. When we were deep in the jungle, most of the guests were starting to become tired and then we reached a creek where the bridge had broken down and we couldn’t pass. Luckily it was a small bridge and the ground staff was there to set up the bridge so we could cross. But then we reached a second creek and I had begun to be nervous about the guests. But this creek was actually a tributary of the river and—out of nowhere—all of a sudden the ship appeared and began serving drinks to the guests. It was a surprise because I didn’t know the ground staff had been preparing this, and it was so amazing to see it happen and so amazing for the guests to now be able to rest and drink while the chefs are out cooking. We had the best meal that day, surrounded by untouched nature.
SKT: My favorite memory while on the Orcaella was a visit to Pauk Taw Pauk Mying and seeing the novitiation ceremonies. It’s a huge celebration. We arrived by chance, and were surprised to see a colorful procession—many boys on horses—all excited for novitiation. There was loud music and lots of dancing; just a rural, dusty road with ox cars, but beautifully decorated and so colorful.
AHS: What’s the most enjoyable part of a trip for you?
WM: The Chindwin is the most enjoyable, because you see so many different things and different ethnic groups. I’m very taken by this river; the people along it are friendly and innocent in many ways, and very welcoming.
SKT: I’m interested in the lives of the people and in the architecture of the places we visit, especially Bagan.