December 2016

What´s Michelle Doing Now?



Michelle’s “road to Mandalay” commenced in Bagan on a luxury cruise along the magnificent Ayeyarwady River. Boarding the 27-cabin boat, you leave your shoes at the door, and you can either walk around with the Strand Cruise slippers or barefoot

It really is barefoot luxury, with Burmese teakwood floors and thick pile carpets on the spiral staircase. Everything is new and pristine. The Strand Cruise has all the facilities and trimmings of a five-star hotel, with its own swimming pool, sun deck, lounging area, a la carte restaurant, private dining, a wonderful wine bodega, gift shop and spa.

On a daily basis the cruise provided optional excursions. One of the delightful things about these trips is that, unlike when you arrive at an airport and you have to travel into town to see the “real” people, here on the cruise, they are next to you in their river front houses. As the Strand moors along the Ayeyarwady River,you can see people in the villages, carrying out their daily life, planting food, fishing, bathing and washing in the river.

Travelling along the Ayeyarwady River gives a wonderful insight into the way of life of the Burmese people. It’s a mainly Buddhist country, every village, no matter how small, has a temple, stupa or a pagoda. Both Bagan and Mandalay are centres of teaching for Buddhism. Here the monks wear deep red, almost burgundy robes as opposed to the saffron colours you see in Laos and Thailand.

In terms of photography, Michelle captured images of this luxurious floating hotel and travel images of the contrasting excursions.

The Magical Landscapes and Buddhist Temples of Mandalay

The Magical Landscapes and Buddhist Temples of Mandalay

In Mandalay, The Strand Cruise visited many places including the U Bein Bridge that crosses the Taungthaman Lake, believed to be the oldest and the longest teakwood bridge in the world, the old capital Mingun, and countless other images to catalogue and keyword along the way!


Reopened in November 2016 after a major restoration project, the Strand Hotel in Rangoon, Burma (now Yangon, Myanmar) is one of the most emblematic hotels in Asia. It was established in 1901 by the Armenian hoteliers, the Sarkies Brothers, who also founded the Eastern & Oriental Hotel in Penang, Malaysia, in 1884, andthe Raffles Hotel Singapore in 1887. Read more here.

This is a very interesting, smallfive-star hotel from the Golden Age of travel, whose fortunes have seen many dramatic ups and downs, hosting such luminaries as Edward VIII, George Orwell and Rudyard Kipling. In the 1970s, the Strand was known as a backpackers’ residence, but more recently, especially over the past few years, the hotel has been reclaiming its iconicluxury status.

Now the newly-appointed General Manager, Olivier Trinquand, hopes to definitively return the Strand, with its 32 rooms and personal butler service, to its former glorious era of travel and service.

The hotel is planning to create a swimming pool and gardens this year on the land adjoining the rear of the hotel, directly in front of the Strand Concert Hall, as well as adding more rooms.

Whilst in residence at the hotel, Michelle photographed the butler service, the Strand Café High Tea, the legendary Sarkie’s Bar, including the Strand Hotel Dragon Cocktails, and captured those essential Hotel Essence photography details.


One of Michelle’s first commercial photography clients was a hot air balloon company, Aviation del Sol, in Ronda, Spain, so the chance to take a flight in Bagan was extremely appealing.

Photography from a hot air balloon is a wonderful experience, as you’re almost hanging in mid-air, with no glass to separate you from the outdoors. For photography, you don’t have to use high shutter speeds as in a plane or a helicopter. That early morning take-off before dawn, and the experience of watching the sunrise over the temples, pagodas and stupas of Bagan with the Ayeyarwady River in the distance, is a truly wonderful experience for photographers and visitors alike.

Nature is never predictable and the sunrise on the first day was no match for the spectacular sunrise on the second day, and on the third day Michelle didn’t fly but climbed one of the many temples to watch the balloons pass by from an elevated position. You could spend a couple of months doing this, not just three days. A truly uplifting photographic experience indeed.

Balloons over bagan

Hotel Air Balloons over the ancient city of Bagan with Balloons over bagan


Michelle carried out a two-week travel photography assignment in Laos, more to follow in the January news…


Since Michelle’s last visit in 2012,the Authors’ Wing (the original Oriental Hotel) at the Mandarin Oriental Bangkok has been completely restored, with many period features including a magnificent 100-year-old mirror. In addition, it now boasts three new salons named in honour of the esteemed authors, plus a room called named after the hotel’s longest-serving employee, Khun Ankana who has been with the hotel since 1947. The whole area was a joy to photograph, especially the Royal Suite which was laden with flowers fit for a king.

During the restoration, the Bamboo Bar has also undergone a complete revamp, with a new menu which includes both barrel-aged and bottle-aged cocktails, as well as gourmet bar snacks.

Andreas Augustin and his wife Carola from The Most Famous Hotels in The World, together with Mandarin Oriental Bangkok GM Amanda Hyndman, have curated a superb permanent exhibition of 380 historic images: The Oriental Journey 1876-2016. These include black and white portraits of some of the 70 world-famous authors who have stayed at the Mandarin Oriental Bangkok over the years, an illustrious list which features the likes of Somerset Maugham, Joseph Conrad and Noel Coward.

Whilst in residence, Michelle took photographs of the hotel’s newly-restored areas, in particular updating images of the Eastern and traditional Western Afternoon Tea in the Authors’ Lounge.

The irresistible Eastern Afternoon Tea menu includes
(Warning: skip this if you are 1. a lover of Asian food, and 2. feeling hungry right now!)

• Lemongrass, chilli, lime-marinated crabmeat sandwich
• Minced chicken, chilli and black olive sandwich
• Mini Thai curry puff
• Fried vermicelli in a pastry cup
• Roasted pandan chicken
• Fresh Vietnamese spring roll
• Steamed Thai dumplings
• Wing bean salad with chicken and prawns in betel leaves
• Chicken and corn in crispy pastry shell
• Warm traditional plain and Thai mango scones with seasonal selection of home-made jams and Devonshire clotted cream, mascarpone or butter

A selection of pastries:
• Kanom Sai, sweet coconut pudding wrapped in banana leaves
• Steamed pumpkin custard
• Assorted Thai marzipan
• Mango tartlet with vanilla cream
• Candy bale fruit Chiffon cake
• Foi Thong (egg and sugar pastry)
• Royal Thai orchid tea praline


The Mandarin Oriental celebrated its 150 anniversarythis year. Andres Augstin, president of The Most Famous Hotels in the World, commissioned Michelle to restage an old black and white photograph of proprietor Maria Marie, taken about 100 years ago at the hotel with the East Asiatic Company in the background. The new contemporary version shows Amanda Hyndman, the current general manager. The two photos will be placed side by side in the next book to be published on the history of the Mandarin Oriental Hotel Bangkok.