The veteran B&R guide and Slow Road columnist had just returned to Yangon, Myanmar’s capital, after conducting some research in the northern part of the country. “It was night time and I was exhausted, and the guy who was supposed to pick me up didn’t show,” he recalls.
Magic Still Exists
Facing a sea of taxi drivers haggling for his business, Tyler gave up on looking for his ride and hailed a cab. Of course, this is Myanmar, a country where “magic still exists,” as Tyler’s fond of saying; from the very start, this was no ordinary cab ride.
“This young punk rocker drives up in his taxi—there’s this new hip hop/punk scene happening in the capital, in Yangon. He must have been in his late teens, and I asked him to give me a ride to my hotel,” Tyler says. “I get in and he went a different way than I knew… It turned out it was a shortcut, but we got stuck in traffic.”
That’s when, gridlocked and looking out his window, Tyler noticed the car next to him. “It was a black, fancy SUV, a Lexus or something,” he says. “And I saw a face I recognized.”
Upon seeing the familiar face, “I was totally starstruck, I started breathing heavy,” he admits. Enthusiastic and unable to believe his luck, Tyler alerted the punk rock teen helming the cab to the VIP next to them.
“Man—man!—do you know who that is!?” he asked. “It’s The Lady!”
The Lady, as she’s affectionately referred to in Myanmar, was Nobel Peace Prize—winner Aung San Suu Kyi.
Of course—Tyler being Tyler—he couldn’t pass up an opportunity to interact with an international icon. “I made eye contact with her and was smiling and waving, and there was a friend of hers in the car who was smiling and waving too,” he says.
And of course—Tyler being Tyler—he figured, Why stop there? After all, if she was happy to wave…
“And then I made the motion of rolling down the window—and she did! We were stuck in traffic for about a minute or a minute and a half and we talked.”
While Tyler admits that the conversation mostly consisted of him gushing over the world-renowned activist, it also proved a vintage example of the depth of his immersion in the area.
Naturally, he dropped their mutual friend’s name. “Hey, I’m friends with Misuu!” he called across the cars. “And she was like, ‘Oh great, me too!’”
Even in a place as magical as Myanmar, the odds are extremely long that an unexpected detour will result in a run in with its most famous citizen—and even longer that the encounter will happen across a gridlocked street, from the backseat of a cab.
But after seven years spent researching, riding and forging connections in the country, we here at B&R have learned not to be surprised when Tyler Dillon makes a new friend.