We wanted to take a few moments here to introduce one of the very finest guides in Myanmar, and probably the world. She is Ma Linn Linn, and she’s from the ancient lost city of Mrauk U, although much more recently! Before we get into Linn Linn’s story, we first wanted impart a little information on how the guide system in Myanmar works.
Something often taken for granted, is that Myanmar tour operators, or tour operators in any country for that matter, always have top quality tour guides at the ready to enlighten, entertain and take good care of us. As travelers we know this is not always the case – and sometimes we end up with a clunker. Maybe the guide is nice and knowledgeable, but the accent is so strong that it makes communication exhausting. Maybe they are more interested in the sound of their own voice, or pouring on the false charm in order to angle for a big tip, rather than being truly & earnestly helpful.
In Myanmar, ALL tour guides must not only pass English competency tests, (or German, Japanese, French, etc.), know their territory and its history inside & out, but must hold university degrees in order to be licensed. 95% of guides are freelancers working out of a local station guide office, as opposed to being full time employees of a particular private tour operator. 90% of those specialize locally, with about 10% licensed as full country guides.
But the license alone is no guarantee of having the excellent interpersonal skills necessary to being a top guide. There are no tests for this beyond the interview process. There are also no tests that can determine how dedicated any potential guide may be to their job, or how much they may care about the well being and overall quality of experience their clients will receive. Learning who these guides are and cultivating strong relationships with them is essential to being a top tier Myanmar tour operator.
At Luminous Journeys we have wonderful relationships with a number of guides whom we consider to be in the “great” category. It should be noted that it’s only our clients, through the collective weight of their reviews, who can elevate a guide from the merely very good, to vaunted greatness!
As mentioned above, the first such guide (we should have thought of this years ago!) to enter the rarified air of greatness and be featured here, is Ma Linn Linn of Mrauk U. Let’s begin with an unsolicited email that sparked the idea for this series –
“Benn, please continue to use Linn forever. She is a remarkable, intelligent and special woman. I gave her a donation to buy some things for the children in the Chin villages. She usually uses her own money… She sent me these images attached. I have no idea what is in those bags, but knowing Linn, it is exactly what they need.
In all my years of travel, I have never met someone as delightful, trustworthy and knowledgeable as Linn Linn.” –Patricia Pomerleau, President & CEO, CEOExpress
Wow, high praise indeed, and special thanks to Patricia for helping out and passing the word along.
Linn Linn, like most Myanmar people (she’s actually Arakan, one of 136 ethnic minorities in the country) is naturally friendly and loves to interact with foreign nationals. A graduate from the University of Sittwe with a degree in Botany, Linn has a keen interest in philosophy, especially the Buddhist variety and how it applies to life and work:
“0ne thing I discovered early on”, said Linn Linn via Viber, “is that despite appearance or cultural difference, inside people are essentially the same. We all have hopes and dreams, we all have difficulties. I was taught from a young age that when we practice patience and kindness with each other, and give without expecting anything in return, that we find ourselves happier, stronger, and better able to resolve our difficulties successfully.”
When asked what she enjoys about being a Myanmar guide, Linn mentions teaching her clients basic Burmese. “This is very lovely and funny when we share language, and I love when we laugh and smile together. Laughing is the best way to make good relationships in a short time.”
What inspired Linn Linn to become a tour guide? It turns out she has a pedigree! Her grandfather was a historian, and guided visiting historians and archeologists in Mrauk U in that capacity. As a young girl she remembers being fascinated by her grandfather’s ability to speak with foreigners in their own language, and by the foreigners themselves. And the rest, as they say, is history.
“Linn is always calm, patient, friendly and polite to everything she talks to. When she approaches people to be a subject in a photo, she always does so gently and respectfully, and always with a lovely smile. When she’s not helping us to photograph, she tells us interesting and useful information on the area we are passing through, as well as personal opinions and her beliefs. When we travel on the boat, which is four times on a tour to Mrauk U and the Chin villages, Linn is always prepared with great lunches and serves them to us in silver bowls with spoons and makes sure everyone is always well looked after.” — David Lazar, Photography Tour Leader
Linn also mentioned that since she has been handling photo tours for Luminous Journeys in Sittwe & Mrauk U, she has become interested in studying photography and has learned a lot from our photographers, A.P. Soe, David Lazar, K.K. Winn and Boothee Thaik Htun. This in turn has helped her to help her regular clients to get better photos – just a little fringe benefit you get when traveling with one of the finest guides in Myanmar!
It should be noted that Linn Linn handles almost all of our photo tours that venture to Sittwe and Mrauk U, public and private.