The Man from Del Monte


“Where are you going? Stay with us and look at this fruit!”

About two years ago while flying from Yangon to Bagan in Myanmar, I struck up a conversation with the guy sitting beside me during the flight. He had a nice shirt tucked into a pair of pressed cream chinos, looking rather like a knock-off of the Man from Del Monte. Over a lukewarm beer, he told me how a driver would be waiting for him at the other end to take him on a full guided tour of the temples – and asked me if I’d like to join him. He said his company was paying, so it was no skin of his nose if I tagged along. My initial gut instinct was to say “thanks but no thanks”, but since I was planning on visiting the temples myself that day any way, I thought what the hell and agreed.

Sure enough, after we picked up our bags a brand-new Mercedes-Benz was waiting for us outside the arrival gate. I dumped my bag in the boot, jumped in and off we went: the Man from Del Monte sitting in the front and me in the back wearing a NOFX shirt. The original odd couple. First stop was a local market down the road. Our guide parked the car and brought us inside the market, explaining the different fruits that were on sale and how the baskets were made. I soon got bored and wandered off down a side alley with my camera. “Where are you going?” my guide shouted after me. “Stay with us and look at this fruit!” And so the next 30 minutes was spent looking at durians and learning about how Burmese people like strawberries. I will never get those 30 minutes back.

Back in the car, our next stop was the temples. But not for me. “Screw this” I thought and told the driver to pull over by the side of the road. “What’s wrong?” the Man from Del Monte asked, bewilderment written all over his face. “This isn’t for me,” I replied. “Seriously, I can’t do this.” So I grabbed my backpack from the boot of the car and watched as the Mercedes sped off down the dusty road.

Standing there, alone once again, with no clue where I was, was the best feeling in the world.

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