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Locked Down In Myanmar: One Stylish Traveller K.O.L Tells Her Story

Daniela Caccia is the Italian-born Singapore-based marketing executive whose stylish travel photos on her Instagram page @danielacaccia_ never fail to give us a bad case of wanderlust. Her recent trip to Yangon, Myanmar in March proves to be her most memorable journey yet as she finds herself in the middle of a city in lockdown and unable to return to Singapore, the place she has called home for the past 10 years. Here, she opens up about her sojourn and plays tour guide to a country she has grown to love.

 

Caccia at Inle Lake posing with its famous boatmen who row with their legs.

“I flew into Yangon on the evening of Friday, March 13. The plan was to spend the weekend there and get some work done for a couple of days. Alas, that five-day trip has turned into two months as I cannot return to Singapore (she’s been based here for 10 years) due to travel restrictions on visitors entering the country amid the Covid-19 pandemic. It is a surreal experience for me, a learning opportunity and a waiting game. I am thankful for this unexpected moment that has turned into a precious experience. Our experience with time always goes in one direction: Forward from yesterday and towards tomorrow. Fortunately, we have the chance to make things better every day.

When I got the news that I am unable to return home at first, I thought it was just a hiccup that would last for a few days. But I soon understood that there is still so much uncertainty in the world and my return home would not be so quick. The major concern I had at that time was Myanmar’s healthcare system – unfortunately it remains one of the weakest in the world; my health and safety could be at risk. The Yangon airport had shut down its operations by then so there was no way out. Everything is out of my control. Hence I stopped worrying about it. I reversed my emotions: instead of feeling worried and upset, I am practising gratitude.

“It is said that if you don’t feel fear, the unknown will be kind to you. If I was focusing my energy only on the unfairness, uncertainty and materialistic matters, I was going to lose it.” – Daniela Caccia

 

Caccia has travelled to Myanmar four times and has fallen in love with its mystery, traditions, and majestic landscapes.

My family and friends in Bergamo – the epicentre of the coronavirus outbreak in Italy – and other people in the world are going through a much more terrible time. They are exposed daily to fear and death. Despite all, I feel blessed and fear is a choice that I do not want to opt for. It is said that if you don’t feel fear, the unknown will be kind to you. If I was focusing my energy only on the unfairness, uncertainty and materialistic matters, I was going to lose it. I want to be grateful for myself and the people around and for the ability to work remotely from where I am. I am approaching this as a learning experience – an exploration of myself and new skills. Adversity is the foundation of growth.

The first time I travelled to Myanmar was in 2010 with a dear friend from university. The country was still fairly unknown to tourists. Back then there were no ATM machines, no good infrastructures to house tourists and I felt that time there was not moving at the same speed as the rest of the world. Work brought me back to Yangon in 2013 and the city was visibly changed but I didn’t have the chance to explore much. More recently, I returned in February this year during the Chinese New Year break. This time I managed to venture into the far northern reaches of the country and it was a wonderful discovery of pristine lands and old traditions. I was fascinated by the mystery, the traditions and the landscapes. Since then, the country has never really left my heart and it has held a special memory for me.

“We tend to predict the future constantly and we are terrible at it. We spend our days guessing how an action will impact the future and we are often wrong. We spend most of our days worrying and we try to control the future. What if instead, just for a little while, we simply did our best?” – Daniela Caccia

 

The northern Italian town of Bergamo (above) is the epicentre of the Covid-19 crisis in the country. “My family and friends in Bergamo and other people in the world are going through a much more terrible time,” says Caccia. “They are exposed daily to fear and death. Despite all, I feel blessed and fear is a choice that I do not want to opt for.” Photo: Showbit.com

Here in Yangon, the lifestyle is unpretentious and more authentic. I appreciate what matters most at the core of life: the value of time, genuine friends, nourishing food, meditation and early nights. However, I don’t have the chance to explore Myanmar more during this latest trip as the country took early preventive measures against the coronavirus and I have been in self-isolation for most of the time I’m here. Myanmar is on lockdown and has imposed an evening curfew so all commercial premises like F&B outlets and hotels are closed.

But my genuine curiosity is fervid and I still manage to walk, with masks and gloves, around some of the buzzy streets of Yangon, beating the heat and fear for my safety. There is a beautiful park called People’s Square and Park which offers an unobstructed view of the city’s iconic Shwedagon Pagoda. The blurry colours and peace you get here at sunset are blissful.

Caccia describes her experience rafting in Putao, which is situated in the foothills of the Himalayas in northern Myanmar, like being in a National Geographic documentary.

At the end of the day, I have learned to fall in love with the process – even the messiness of life and the confusion it brings. We tend to predict the future constantly and we are terrible at it. We spend our days guessing how an action will impact the future and we are often wrong. We spend most of our days worrying and we try to control the future. What if instead, just for a little while, we simply did our best? The future is still going to take care of itself. All we have left to do is to do our best work. Let the future take care of itself.”


“That’s me on the balcony of the apartment in Yangon – a spacious pad in the middle of town with a lot of light and a balcony with beautiful plants – where I am staying now, holding my weekly veggie box from the Fresco farm (it’s founded by Italian agronomist Paolo Cerati in 2007 and sells local produce).   I arrived with a suitcase for a five-day trip that I didn’t unpack at first as I had the mentality that ‘I will be going home tomorrow’. It is a well-packed piece of luggage comprising leisure boho clothes suitable for 40-degree Celcius weather, workout outfits, boxing straps and gloves, and a case filled with my beauty essentials.   As Myanmar is on lockdown now, all the shops are closed (for me to get new clothes). I have to be more creative with my outfits and even use whatever menswear pieces I can find. I have turned fishermen pants into my uniform and men’s shirts into cropped top or dresses. It is about being resourceful, graceful and comfortable.”
“This was me rafting in Putao, a small and picturesque town in the Himalayan foothills in Myanmar’s northern Kachin state. I felt I was in a National Geographic documentary. I had a pure and dream-like experience there with a pinch of adventure and culture while immersing myself in nature and silence.”
“In Putao, I stayed at the Malikha Lodge which is accessible by air. Perched high above the Nam Lang River with glorious views of the mountains and rice terraces, the Lodge was designed by the world-famous architect Jean-Michel Gathy of Aman Resorts fame. This place captured my heart with its feeling of luxury and seclusion amidst the wilderness. You will be blessed with the views of the breathtaking snowcapped mountain ranges.”    
“The highlight from my latest trip to Yangon is discovering the city’s small businesses that are run with passion. Kuka Philosophy is a fragrance company, founded by a couple who hails from Argentina and Italy, which lets you create your own eau de parfum.”
“Le Planteur restaurant is housed in a picturesque mansion and is a great place for lunch and dinner. Do check out its vegetarian tasting menu and the beautiful selection of red wines.”
“Bonjour Yangon (located in Yangon’s restored the Governor’s Residence) is by far my favourite art gallery-meets-retail space I’ve ever visited.”
“This photo was taken during a bonfire at sunset at Inle Lake which is situated in the Shan state in central Myanmar. It looked like the sky had turned into fire; it was magical. The region is great area to visit if you prefer a less strenuous adventure and want to soak in its enchanting sunsets and cinematic views. I love exploring the freshwater lake via the traditional wooden boats as the warm sun rays in the morning or the pleasant breeze at dusk hits my face.   The lake is also home to stilt-house villages and Buddhist temples that rise above the water. Here, you can catch the Intha fishermen propel their boats using the unique technique of leg-rowing. I recommend visiting the shops situated in these stilt-houses to learn how to make silver jewellery and flavoured local cigars called cheerot.”
“The Belmond Governor’s Residence hotel is an ideal spot for a relaxing brunch or spending an afternoon by the pool surrounded by the lush foliage and sound of tropical parrots.”