Home > Responsible Travel in Bagan, Myanmar: Our Story > Meet the Three Treasures Team

Our founders and staff are passionate about Myanmar, its people and culture. Each member of our team brings a unique perspective, background, and skillset to enrich your tourism or learning experience.

We host our own tours, using only our own guides and staff. You will never be passed on to freelancers or third-party operators.

Co-Founders and Lead Tour Guides in Bagan and Myanmar

Thandar Oo

Thandar is from the Ayeyarwady Division of Myanmar, about two hours west of Yangon. After several years working in Japanese fine dining and hospitality, she began working as a consultant for community-based tourism projects with JICA, the Japanese International Cooperation Agency. She spent several years in Bagan and the Central Dry Zone developing pilot projects before founding Three Treasures in 2016 together with Ian.

Since founding the company and starting her journey as a social entrepreneur, she has continued to develop her relationships with local communities in Bagan. She is a licensed national tour guide (Batch 54), taking the lead in developing our community-based tourism projects, developing craft products, workshops with local artisans, and meditation retreats together with local monasteries.

As project manager for Myanmar SEEDS, she is responsible for community education projects for rural village children, livelihood development projects for women and people with disabilities, as well as our organic agriculture projects. Her latest project is Mi Ta Zu Permaculture Farm, an organic agriculture training center located in Bagan.  

Languages: Myanmar, English, basic Japanese

Ian Hayes

Ian was born in the United States and later migrated to Switzerland. He completed his Master’s Degree in Sustainability and Environmental Management at Harvard University in 2014 and soon after founded Myanmar SEEDS (Sustainable Economic & Environmental Development Society), a non-profit development association based in Zurich and Bagan. Ian has been studying Buddhist philosophy and practice in monastic communities in the USA, Europe and Asia for over two decades. Inspired by the principles of “Engaged Buddism” as developed by Thich Nhat Hanh, his goal is to use responsible tourism as a tool for conservation and sustainable development at the community level. He’s also a keen photographer and mountain biker.
Languages: English, German

Support Staff

U Thein Shwe & Daw Hla Thi (Grandma & Grandpa)

This elderly couple are the caretakers of our little “home temple” in Bagan. As we returned again and again to this secluded temple compound and its expansive gardens, we learned about their struggles to maintain the grounds and support themselves in the heat and drought. Their hospitality knows no bounds as they welcomed us and our guests into their home despite their daily challenges. We began helping out with garden and temple maintenance during our first month of operations and soon after we “hired” the couple as part-time staff to compensate them for their hospitality and hard work. Through responsible tourism, your tour fees ensure that this couple and others in the community receive sufficient income, nutrition, and medical care throughout the year.

Ko Ko the Elder

Ko Ko is a Bagan local who started out as a horse cart driver before expanding his skillset to include tour operations management and photography. He knows the hidden gems and secret viewpoints all around Bagan and has a great relationship with the local community. After getting his hands on his first “real” camera, his photography skills quickly developed and in June of 2017 he participated in his first photo exhibition in Bagan. Ko Ko’s tour itinerary ideas are very innovative and he is quite amazing at anticipating guests needs and positioning us for the perfect photo at sunset. If you need a photography assistant for your professional Bagan photo shoot, he’s your man.
Languages: Myanmar, English, basic French

Ko Ko the Younger

Ko Ko the Younger is the little brother of Ko Ko the Elder. (In Myanmar, many guys are named Ko Ko!) He is our go-to horse cart driver and tour support, always early and prepared for your comfort. He knows the sandy paths of Bagan well, and with his horse Madonna he is always there to provide you with that classic, slow pace of early Bagan. He is keen to follow in his brother’s footsteps and become a photographer, if only he could find time when he isn’t playing or watching football. He’s a big fan of Neymar and Manchester United.
Languages: Myanmar, basic English

In Memory: U Thaung Lwin

Mr. Lwin was Bagan’s “master guide” and our mentor. He knew the Bagan area so well it is astounding, down to the tools and brickwork of each temple and monument as well as their cultural and historical significance. His charming colonial English and mannerisms brought to mind the character “Yoda” from the Star Wars films, as he guided visitors for across the Bagan plain for decades. Mr. Lwin passed away in 2018 following a long illness. We will continue to pursue his dream of sustainable and responsible tourism in Myanmar.

Myanmar SEEDS

Three Treasures in a social enterprise, the first such project launched in Bagan with support from Myanmar SEEDS, a Swiss non-profit association. By combining sustainable development with responsible tourism we are able to create jobs, improve livelihoods, and conserve the environment in Bagan.