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Trip Report 16 fabulous days in Myanmar

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I travelled in Dec./Jan with my (adult) daughter.The trip was booked with Kyaw Khaing of One Stop Travel (www.onestop-myanmar.com) in Yangon. We were very pleased with his service. He patiently answered all my planning questions, usually by return mail.The cost was very reasonable. I chose to have moderate hotels but, another time, would upgrade a couple of them. Kyaw also kept tabs on us as we travelled through the country, phoning either us or an associate agency at each location. Although my daughter wanted to do some biking, I have not been on a bike in many years, so I booked drivers and guides (in retrospect, too many.)
Some general observations:.
-the people are wonderful...friendly and unfailingly helpful. Many speak some English.
-there are thousands of motorcycles, apparently mostly from from China. A large number are unlicensed , as are the drivers. They are mostly driven by the young.
-the most important part of a driveable car seems to be the horn, which is used constantly
-S Korean culture seems to have a big influence on the youth eg. hairstyles, clothing etc.
-Canada is known for Justin Bieber and Avril Lavigne---how disheartening!
-the majority of our guides had university degrees (economics, archeology,law.) but there don't seem to be any jobs
-we saw quite a few large permanent billboards displaying patriotic slogans
-driving on the RH side of the road in a RH drive car (or even a horsecart) is an interesting experience.

We flew AC from Toronto to HK, Thai to BKK and Air Asia to Yangon...overnight in BKK. What a deadly, long trip in economy!! All other flights were on KBZ--attentive service, 2 segments were not full, 2 left early and 1 was late.

Yangon
-1 day at beginning and 1.5 at end of trip.
We were met by guide Myo Ngwe (travel.myo@gmail.com), a driver and Kyaw. Since the $$ exchange was not yet open (opens at 9:30) we were taken to a bank. After all my fretting about finding "perfect" bills they were barely glanced at. I received all brand new 5000 kyat bills. I had been expecting great bundles of old notes. We later exchanged money at a bank and at a travel agency in Mandalay with equal ease. Myo was an excellent guide and his English was very good. As we were tired ,we sort of sleepwalked through the day. It would have been better at the end of the trip. The Shwedagon is indeed beautiful. I was not impressed by the sacred white elephants, chained to their small area of concrete. Other sites were interesting.
Hotel-Panorama. Skip it! The best part about it was the adjacent Ruby Mart dept. store which sells everything, was always very busy and has a coffee/snack bar which was good for people watching.
Restaurants: Feel -very spicy soup for breakfast
Aung Thu Ka--small, all locals, many small dishes of vegetarian (I think!) food
Sakura--lovely view but pricey (4000kyats for a Myanmar beer) I chose it for our last evening because I had read that prices were in US$ and we had very few kyats left. Old info., I guess. The food was good.
Apparently there was someone killed in a bomb explosion on our first day in Yangon. That night there were 2 very loud explosions. I really wondered what we were in for. However they were reported to have been natural gas explosions.

Pindaya
At Heho we were met by guide Ngelay and driver. Although the roads to Pindaya were rough the countryside was very picturesque. the caves and Budhhas were very unique and fascinating. We also saw the papermaking workshop where they use mulberry leaves to make the paper for attractive products
Restaurant ---Green Tea...good food with several vegetarian options in a tranquil setting beside a lake.

NyaungShwe/ Inle Lake
Hotel--Amazing. It was wonderful, from the cool towel and melon juice on arrival to the hot water bootles placed in our beds at night .Service was excellent and always with a smile Our room was on the ground floor overlooking the canal and had a nice porch with comfortable lounge chairs. On NY's Eve they had a free mini-buffet and all guests received a gift. There was also a huge fireworks display and many other NY celebrations in N'shwe.
Breakfasts were good but dinner lacked veg.choices.
Restaurants: Unique--family run, good food, inexpensive, slow service
Golden kite--crowded, mediocre food, terrible service
Uhlapaw noodle---good noodles, inexpensive
Aurora---(best of the bunch)--friendly, family run,inexpensive. excellent curry, "presents" of soup. salad and oranges.

On our first day on the lake we visited Mine Thauk market where we talked to several people and enjoyed sweet tea and pastry. We then walked through the village and "hiked" up to Forest Monastery. It was a lovely, peaceful spot with a superb view of the lake. Next we visited workshops of our choice (couldn't resist a silk and lotus scarf)and had lunch at Ngwe Zwyaw restaurant in another village where we also visited a pagoda. Of course, we took many, many photos of the rowers on the lake and it was a thoroughly enjoyable day .
The next day we went to Taunggyi--nice city. large market, and were supposed to go to Kakku. We cancelled the latter because we were tired and the roads were very rough--probably not our brightest decision! We had lunch at Aythaya winery--lovely deck overlooking vineyards but also a very scummy pool--food was OK, wine not very good and service very,very slow. Upon our return to N'shwe we stopped at the Red Mt, Winery---had a lovely time sipping nice wine and enjoying a beautiful view over the lake.

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