LOVE FROM LOCALS
At the start of my two-week trip to Myanmar, I held certain expectations developed from online research and talking to other travelers. I was armed with crisp US dollars, serious bug repellant, and knew the internet could be spotty. What I didn’t expect, and what came as a interesting surprise were the locals’ reactions and delight at seeing foreigners.
I didn’t notice it so much in the larger cities. In Yangon I received normal glances, some staring, and of course it was obvious that I was a visitor. As I traveled through the country, the people I encountered became more curious and bold. Local kids were out of school at the time so many families were traveling and visiting the popular sites throughout Myanmar. Since the whole country is not yet open to tourists, people from remote areas were not used to seeing foreigners and obviously they couldn't contain their curiosity.
My fellow travelers and I were photographed and approached by women, men, teenagers, and grandma to pose for pictures. We would start to notice staring and giggling, and then the cell phones would come out. Usually one young girl would have the courage to ask for a photo and a line would form. Other times, they would quickly put their camera in my face and snap a shot.
To my surprise the locals were quite forward, many times holding hands or hugging and they rarely smiled in the photos. It was weird and unusual but such a fun experience. I had a small glimpse into what it's like to be a Kardashian. I'm also pretty sure this is pay back for all of the locals I have photographed over the years.
Myanmar is rapidly changing, and in a short time they will be inundated with the likes of me. I was so lucky to visit while there is still a sense of wonder and interest from the locals. Even though it was unexpected, it has become one of fondest memories throughout my time in Southeast Asia.