From Mandalay with Love

For most people, travel solo is something out of the comfort zone. But for me, it is not so. At some point in my life, I realized that travel solo is actually in my comfort zone, where I can really be myself and do whatever I want.
I still remember my first solo trip many years back, when I decided to go from Thailand to Vietnam by bus. That 10-day journey took me from Bangkok through Laos and arrived in Hue, Mui Ne and Ho Chi Minh. I met strangers and new friends along the way, and did some crazy things. I remember that time I brought ‘Love in the Time of the Cholera’ with me. It was one of the best, enlightening trip.
Not long ago, I got a chance to really travel solo again, but this time for work, in Myanmar. This country, strangely enough, is one of a few places I keep going back to. It seemed like Rudyard Kipling’s ‘Road to Mandalay’ didn’t only cast its spells on the Westerners, but also on an Orientalist like me. And to add more special twist, this trip I really had a chance to be on the cruise ship inspired by the very same poem, Belmond Road to Mandalay.
Those who wish to travel with Belmond Road to Mandalay can board the ship in Mandalay or Bagan. I chose Mandalay, thanks to more flights available, but during the dry period we need to board the ship at another village almost two hours away from Mandalay. The road journey was smooth enough and we had a chance to drop by at Sagaing Hill before heading off, and it turned out to be the most stunning sunrise spot ever in my life. A quick tour in the Myin Mu village was impressive enough, as the Belmond guide led us through the narrow walkway in the busy market with almost no foreigners around.
Formerly run by Orient-Express, Belmond Road to Mandalay is a legend by itself. Built in Hamburg, she is one of the very first river cruises operated in Myanmar, so surely she comes with many stories to tell. A British couple that I shared the van with from Mandalay to Myin Mu embarked on the journey just because his father used to travel there during the war, while a couple from Sweden told me about how they excitedly planned their trip, which was their first trip to Asia, and the Thai chef
As a youngest passenger on board (who attracted other older passengers, out of their curiosities of the reason why I went there alone) and an avid listener, I have to admit I really enjoyed that.
So what is the story that I want to tell? My story is very simple. It is about the most beautiful sunrise moment in Sagaing, and the lazy days contemplating things along the river goes by, the long-awaited balloon rising moment, the most colourful Shinbyu parade and I accidentally met and the mural-hopping in Bagan. I don’t know how they did it, but every minute of it, as simple as it seemed, couldn’t be
more magical. For me, this is definitely a trip of a lifetime.