“These are not the places we discussed, nor I wanted to go,” Singaporean photographer Billy Mork exclaimed in exasperation to his Bhutanese guide. Mork had just flown via the Royal Bhutan airline and landed at the taciturn kingdom’s Paro Airport. The guide picked him up and amiably brought him to take in some of the town’s famed tourist sites. Upon hearing Mork’s frustrations, the Bhutanese amicably ditched his travel plans for the next nine days. Instead, he decided to take Mork out of town, into the mountainous regions where the locals lived.
The 64-year-old photographer came to Bhutan with no travel plans or arrangements. He only had one thing in mind — to rub shoulders with the happiest people on earth. “I wanted to go to places where people did not have the chance to go — climb mountains, and go deep into villages.”
The next morning, Mork and guide embarked on five-hour-long road trips out of town, touring the mountains. When a village came into view, Mork would halt the car. It was not because he wanted to approach the village, but quite the opposite. On sight and sound of the truck, the villagers stepped out of their houses, looked down on the mud tracks, and started waving at these visitors.
“Of course, on the first day, it was so funny that people kept asking us to go to their homes. “Should I? Or should I not?” After a few days, I realised they were so open. So why should I say no? Just say yes to them even if I am far. They are waving from their small windows and I would walk all the way, even if it were muddy. Just walk there to see them.”
Read more of Guan Tan’s article in The New York Times Style Magazine Singapore.
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