In Audrey‘s Summer 2014 issue, we asked five tastemakers to give us a glimpse into their must-go destinations around the world. Here, bridal gown fashion designer Trish Lee shares her favorite place, Bagan, Burma.
Travel philosophy: Why not?
Why Bagan: Only in the last couple of years has Myanmar, formerly Burma, opened up its borders to travelers, and the breadth of its beauty is still untouched by Western civilization. Bagan, the capital city of the ancient Burmese kingdom, is a vast plain dotted with 4,000 of the original 10,000 pagodas that were built between the 11th and 13th centuries.
Stay: Kaytumadi Dynasty Hotel. The bungalow style hotel offers rooms that are a bit “rustic,” but you’ll really appreciate the kind staff, the privacy of the bungalows and the proximity to the ancient pagodas. Have breakfast in the garden where the ratio of staff to guest is one to one.
Eat: If Burma had a national dish, it would be mohinga. Rich in umami, mohinga is vermicelli rice noodles in a bouillabaisse made thick with white, flaky fish and a purée of lemongrass, garlic, ginger, onions and local spices. Any time of day it’s the perfect meal and widely available at most street vendor stalls.
Do: Rent a bicycle. It’s probably a 1980s fixie, but no matter. Wake up at 5 a.m. and bike to Lawkaoushaung Temple to watch the breathtaking sunrise, away from the tour groups and crowds. After sunrise is the perfect time to visit Old Bagan and give alms in the form of a food donation to the Theravada Buddhist monks, who do not eat after noon.
Unforgettable: As I was riding my bicycle on a dirt road, a lanky young boy started riding next to me. When I stopped at the next pagoda, we started chatting. Though the 11-year-old had never been to school, he effortlessly conversed with me in English. I ended up spending the whole day with him. He took me to the tiny village he lived in, called Goh Lone (Nine Stones) by the Irrawaddy River. He could speak several sentences in over a dozen languages and showed me his collection of foreign currency that travelers had given him. His curiosity for life was palpable. When he introduced me to his family, the whole village, which consisted of about five homes, came running over to greet me. His aunt insisted I have some tea and roasted corn with their family in their one-room home built on stilts. I’ve never forgotten their generosity and warm smiles. Before I left, I asked my young companion what I could give him. He asked sheepishly for my lip balm … to give to his aunt.
Trish Lee designs bridal gowns for her eponymous line, Trish Lee San Francisco. Born and raised in San Francisco, the Burmese-Chinese American often helped her mother make dresses when she was young. “One of my fondest memories growing up in San Francisco is selecting fabric in the now very hip Mission District,” says Lee. “Back then, let’s just say it was quite a ‘colorful’ place for an 8-year-old girl, but I adored every second of it.”
This story was originally published in our Summer 2014 issue. Get your copy here.