Dear Travellers!

I was born in Basel. Swiss Cheese...Swiss Chocolate...Swiss Miss, that's me.

Early in life I developed a strange fascination for travel. My childhood memories are still quite vivid - local trams and buses; weekend excursions with my parents and sister in the family car; and my first overnight train trip with my sister and grandmother through the Swiss Alps when I was about five years old.

Myriam and Yolanda Grest

Throughout my school years I traveled with friends and chaperones throughout most of Europe. But even among a bus full of students I was somehow always able to create my very own world of adventure travel; alone and surrounded by all things foreign - French, Italian, English.

My mother was a patient woman and always answered my never ending questions of faraway lands. We had a small globe of the world in my father's library and I can still recall spinning it around and around while closing my eyes and then stopping it with my forefinger - looking carefully at the place which my finger had covered. I always used this method to determine my next 'destination'. Before each bedtime my mother would ask: "Where are we going tonight?"

So, I imagine, I was deemed or doomed to travel. Not surprising then that I am writing to you today from my office in Yangon, Myanmar. Don't start spinning your globe of the world - many of them are still marked with Rangoon, Burma.

Myriam Grest in cave

I first arrived in this city in 1985. Alone of course, looking like a mix between Liv Ullman and Mrs. Trapp in the Sound of Music! Yes! Yes! Yes! Blond hair and blue eyes - I could not have been more different in appearance from the local Burmese! But somehow this never made a big difference to anyone here. In the mid-80s it was still Rangoon, Burma.

But even in 2014, after name changes, the life and landscape look about the same. It's an amazingly green Asian capital city. Wide boulevards of manicured trees and flora, with a full view of blue sky and cotton puff clouds which are still, even more amazingly, unobstructed by high-rise towers and buildings. They're on the way but still the panorama is clear. This is a country with colourful contrasts between the people and their surroundings.

Alas - as time goes by, life changes, especially in this area of the hemisphere - where nothing is granted but continuous change!

After many years of marriage, I was one day on my own again - this time not alone but with my daughter. I moved on with an even more determination as I LOVE my travel business as well as South East Asia and all the people I meet while working. I have learned from every single person I met, from the simple trickshaw driver to wealthy travelers, from my office staff to our suppliers and I would not want to miss one experience!

Myriam and Yolanda Grest Myriam Grest now

My company, Myanmar Travel, finally gives me the opportunity to induce other "intrepid travelers" throughout the world to visit this very unique land now - before it becomes just another westernized Asian landmark on the road to Thailand, Hong Kong and Singapore...

We are still a very specialized company. We offer tailored itineraries for each group. We don't have a printed catalog (a la the Chinese restaurant take-away menu style - choose one from column "A" and two from column "B"). I personally design each program to fit your group's needs of interest and financial pocket. We supply photographs or website addresses of all hotel rooms and facilities. If there is a request we cannot fulfill WE WILL TELL YOU IN ADVANCE!

Don't be fooled by my years in Myanmar and Thailand! I am still Swiss and Very Fussy. So are my clients. French groups require red and white wine for dinner - I always supply the restaurant with my very own hand-blown wine glasses.

When I say a tour guide is fluent in English - I mean it! We never forget - hence the elephant is our company mascot!

We also arrange special interest groups. Foreign trade and government delegations who require special services (private planes and security) are given special attention by my staff. If for a group of 2 or 200, we really offer personalized service provided by a caring staff.

Oh! And before I forget! We now offer tours to Thailand, Vietnam, Laos, Cambodia, Bhutan, China, Taiwan, Singapore, North Korea and last not least The Maldives!

Yes! Except of Thailand where we have a partner office in Chiang Mai, we arrange all other journeys from my office in Myanmar. I am often being asked why I do not move the operation to Thailand as it would be easier to operate out of a non embargo battled country. Well, despite all the events happened in Myanmar it has not only become my second home after 20 years, it is also my daughter's home country. We both are strongly attached to its people. I further wanted to give my staff the chance to work in a more international environment and give them the opporunity to work in a very unique company in Myanmar which is able to offer 10 Asian destinations!

Let me know your interests and I am sure I can offer you some programs tailored to your wishes..

Sincerely.
Myriam Gest, Managing Director

Myriam Grest Thein
Managing Director and Travel Designer

 
SPECIAL THANKS
To
Charles Ross of INTERNATIONAL GALLERY TOURS in the U.S.,
whose pioneering spirit has inspired many of us in the travel industry. I have had the rare privilege to be his ground operator here in Myanmar. As a result of his vision and imagination I learned and helped to create one-of-a-kind extraordinary programs in an extremely challenging environment.

To
Bill Alborough of TEFS in the U.K.,
with whom I arranged the most exiting steam locomotive tours throughout Myanmar! After our January 2000 finale, TEFS officially closed. Bill "remained keen to move on, to somewhere warmer and near to the sea" and Myanmar Travel moves on, to always finding challenging programs!

To
the tour operators world wide
for cooperating with us, thus giving us support in promoting this wonderful country.

To
my office staff
without their support Myanmar Travel Ltd. would not be what it is now. Their patience in dealing with an extremely fussy European, their willingness to learn a field of business which was until a couple of years ago closed to the private sector, will always be in my mind.

I do know that Myanmar as well as North Korea has not the best reputation among Western journalists - but there are always two sides of the coin and the most advisable thing will be, come and see for yourself! Before you ask me to comment on Myanmar's human rights record (and now North Korea!),  just think about so many countries which do not ‘fit’ into our Western democratic way of life: China (Tien An Men Square 1989 & subsequently), Indonesia (East Timor & Irian Jaya), the Philippines ("Smoky Mountain", NPLA), Vietnam (Communism), India (Caste system), Pakistan (Religion), Cuba (US sanctions), Northern Ireland and, and, and...

Surely, there are many arguments to be made for the opposite viewpoint. I have made my choice, but leave it to each individual to choose his own path.