Marek Lenarcik’s new book, Burma Lost & Found was the culmination of three years in a ‘dream job’ within the travel industry, both in Yangon and Myanmar. We sat down with him and talked about travel, tourism and veering off the beaten track.
TELL US ABOUT YOURSELF AND HOW YOU ENDED UP IN MYANMAR
Two weeks holidaying in Thailand in 2007 changed my life. Fed up with dreary Irish winters, I decided to leave my corporate job and, in 2009, bought a one-way ticket to Asia. I’ve worn a variety of hats – I’ve taught English in a Thai university, hosted outdoor adventures in Malaysia and organized expeditions around Southeast Asia and South America. In 2012, I moved to Yangon, following an offer from a local tour operator to become their Product & Marketing Manager. I’ve worked in the country’s booming tourism industry since then. I also hold a M. Phil in International Peace Studies from and a BA in Political Science.
I began writing at age 17 and I’ve published numerous articles since. My work has appeared in The Washington Times, Playboy, Paranormal Magazine UK and The Times.
My first book Tajski epizod z dreszczykiem was published in Poland in June 2012 and quickly became a bestseller in its category. Its English version was published in February 2013 titled This is Thailand: A Story of Love, Sex and Betrayal in the Tropics. Burma Lost & Found is my second book.
TELL US ABOUT BURMA LOST & FOUND
In January 2011, just before the political reforms in Myanmar ended a decades-old military regime, I arrived in Yangon on a short-term work assignment. Little did I know then that a broken heart and dwindling savings would lead me to pursue a dream job working for one of the country’s top tour companies. On duty as a travel product manager, I traversed the country by trains, planes and automobiles and experienced stunning landscapes, ruins of former kingdoms, exotic food and unique cultures, all in search of the best that the nation’s budding tour and hospitality industry could offer. With stories from the emerald shores of the Andaman Sea at Ngapali beach, to the mountain peaks of Chin State, Burma Lost & Found brings humour, vivid description and insight to adventures and encounters with an eclectic cast of characters including an eccentric monk, dodgy expats, charismatic guides, gracious hosts and many more.
WHAT ARE YOUR FAVOURITE PLACES AND WHY
I believe that everybody who travels to Myanmar should visit Yangon, Bagan and Inle Lake. I like Mandalay, but it can be skipped if your time or budget is limited, as it doesn’t have anything really jaw-dropping. I am a big fan of off-the-beaten-track places, but they need to have a reason to be visited. You could point at a random place on a map and it’s likely to be non-touristy, but as such it’s probably not visited for a reason. Eventually I’d choose Mergui Archipelago for its unspoiled nature and beauty, Mrauk-U as a non-crowded alternative to Bagan, and Pindaya as there is so much more to do there than just visiting Pindaya caves. There are so many others like Hpa-an, Loikaw, the whole Chin State, which I visited and described in the book; I am really having a hard time choosing my favourites – Myanmar is a fascinating country!
HOW CAN ONE BUY YOUR BOOK
The book is available as a printed version and as an e-book for Kindle on Amazon.com from April 2015. I am also in talks with a several Southeast Asian publishers and bookstores in Myanmar to make it available in the country, as Amazon doesn’t deliver to Myanmar as yet. It will take another few months. In the meantime, I might bring a few dozens copies myself and make some kind of a launch event in Yangon, so stay tuned.
HAVING A BOOK DELIVERED TO OR PRINTED IN MYANMAR IS CERTAINLY A CHALLENGE, SO WE WISH YOU GOOD LUCK. IN THE MEANTIME CAN WE GET A TASTER OF THE BOOK
You can visit the official webpage at www.burmalostandfound.com to download three sample chapters of the book. I’ve also published a lot of excerpts from different parts of the book on my blog www.lifeinthetropics.org, which also has a Facebook component, as does the novel.
This article was first published in MYANMORE’s monthly lifestyle magazine InDepth, May 2015.