Juan Gallardo is a native of Sevilla, a city nestled in Southern Spain. An avid traveller, he has been to many countries and fell in love with the people, food and culture of Myanmar. Calling himself an “ordinary tourist”, he decided to write about a book about a country he so adores. His book, Delicious Myanmar, is a story told by the indigenous people of Myanmar, through their home cooking, traditions and customs. Juan talks to Yuko Maskay about his book, why he loves travelling and his infatuation with Myanmar.

WHERE IS HOME?
I call home wherever I am at any particular moment. I am from a beautiful city in Southern Spain called Sevilla and I have for a year each been in the US, France, Morocco. For the last two years, I’ve been travelling all over Myanmar. Now I am living and enjoying London with my girlfriend.

COULD YOU TELL ME A BIT ABOUT YOUR BOOK, DELICIOUS MYANMAR?
Delicious Myanmar is a photobook to discover Myanmar through its people and food. I have travelled all over the country and asked locals to cook their favourite dish for me in their own kitchen and the traditional way. I share pictures and write about the people, the dishes and the culture.
During my first trip in Myanmar, after a few months of eating the same dishes all the time, I realised that when I went out lunching with local friends, there were so many more dishes I didn’t know about. As a tourist, most of the time you can’t understand the menu or there is a different and shorter menu for you than for locals. I found it so varied and delicious that I decided to come back for another four months just to learn everything about their cuisine.

WHO IS YOUR FAVORITE PERSON THAT YOU STAYED WITH/INTERVIEWED FOR THE BOOK?
I love all of them but if I have to choose one, I would choose the children from NEED, an eco- agriculture school who cooked mohinga for me. This is the dish on the front cover of my book. They even made the spoon with bamboo and coconut shell. I stayed a few days in the farm; it was amazing to get up very early in the morning and have a “coffee mix” next to the outdoors with an open fire with them. cooking and sharing meals with them was an experience I will never forget.

HOW DID YOU FIRST GET THE IDEA TO WRITE A BOOK? 
As soon as I discovered how delicious Myanmar food is, I decided to do a book about it with my photography and personal experience. I think it’s a good book to have as a guide if you are travelling to Myanmar or as a coffee-table book to remember your trip.

BIGGEST CHALLENGE WHEN MAKING THIS BOOK?
Learning from the beginning all about editing and publishing. Plus choosing which photos are in the book. All my photos are very personal and have something special for me, so it was very sad

WHAT’S SPECIAL ABOUT MYANMAR?
People, food and culture. It’s located in the heart of Asia and there is a beautiful and rich mix in these three aspects. But it is mainly the people who make the real difference. They are honest, friendly and their warmth will touch your heart.

WHICH COUNTRIES HAVE YOU TRAVELLED TO? FAVOURITES? LEAST FAVOURITE?
I have travelled extensively in the US and Europe. I know Morocco quite well and I have been to Japan, china, Thailand, Laos, Vietnam, Malaysia, and, of course, Myanmar. I don’t have a least favorite country; they are all very different with very interesting culture, people and food, which you can’t compare. My favorite part of the world is Southeast Asia and in particular Myanmar, being the most authentic and welcoming country I have ever been to so far.

WHAT WAS YOUR WORST EXPERIENCE TRAVELING?
Street dogs at night in Thailand. Nothing has happened to me thankfully; I have walked the long way back to the guesthouse more than once and on that street there were 20 dogs protecting their territory.

PASSION BESIDES TRAVELING?
I like scuba diving, football, music and sunny countries to travel in flip flops.

FAVORITE FOOD? WHY?
Any curry with coconut milk. Rich flavour and spiciness that makes you suffer but it’s so good you want more and more.

ANY TIPS FOR ASPIRING TRAVELERS?
My favourite quote from Mark Twain: Twenty years from now you will be more disappointed by the things you didn’t do than by the ones you did do. So throw off the bowlines, sail away from the safe harbour. Catch the trade winds in your sails. Explore. Dream. Discover.

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For more information about Juan Gallardo and his book, go to www.myanmartravelessentials.com/delicious-myanmar

Photo
Juan Gallardo

This article was first published on MYANMORE’s EnjoyIt, Feb 2015.

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