In November 2014 I finally got to visit a country that’s been on my ‘to do’ list for decades—Burma, or if you prefer, Myanmar. Though I’ve lived very close for many years. I’ve not been able to visit as I’m on a press visa in Thailand, and the powers-that-be in Burma don't issue visas to members of the press, but the introduction of e-visas in October 2014 suddenly opened the possibility. Then new flights opened between Chiang Mai (my home town) and Rangoon (Yangon), as well as Mandalay, so I found myself packing my bags and chanting the words of Kipling’s poem:
“No! You won’t ‘eed nothin’ else
But them spicy garlic smells,
An’ the sunshine an’ the palm trees an’ the tinkly temple bells;
On the road to Mandalay…”
I spent two days in Rangoon, two in Bagan, two at Inle Lake and four around Mandalay and had a fine old time, being reminded every day just how different Burma is to everywhere else. And in an effort to capture the diversity of the place, I’m posting the following images from the trip.
Immediately on returning from Burma (see previous blog), I began my current job—updating two chapters of The Rough Guide to Thailand (Northeast and Central Plains) for the new edition (October 2015). After plotting my route around the Northeast, I headed south from Chiang Mai to Khorat, then east to Ubon Ratchathani, and from there zig-zagged across the ‘elephant’s ear’ of Thailand, commonly known as Isaan. I spent a few weeks visiting every town, looking at lots of hotels and restaurants, as well as bus stations and hospitals, but I also found time to check out a few places that were previously not in the guide.
My favourite place, as a photographer who loves shooting nature abstracts, was Sam Phan Bok (Three Thousand Holes), a surreal section of the Mekong River bed where rock pools are exposed during the dry season (Nov-May). Check out the images in the gallery below.
Isaan is Thailand’s least-visited region and gets short shrift from most guidebooks. Yet it’s also a great place to travel, for a host of reasons, not least of which is that there are no other tourists around to spoil your enjoyment. Add to this the Khmer temples, the mysterious Mekong River, the fiery food, the quiet, country roads and the hospitable, generous people, and you’ve got the recipe for a memorable adventure.
is a British writer and photographer based in Chiang Mai, Thailand.