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Trip Report 22 Days in Burma, Northern Thailand & Southern Laos

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Our Background: Robbie (short for Roberta) is 65 and DH Fred is 72. In our young marriage (8 1/2 years) we've been to Asia several times. We'd been to Luang Prabang and loved it and we'd spent 2 + weeks in Burma in '05. We knew we wanted a return to Burma and wanted to see other parts of Thailand and Laos. I had been to Northern Thailand (and Cambodia) in my previous life but felt sure Fred would like to experience Northern Thailand.
Planning: Of our two trips to India, trip to Vietnam, Bhutan, Laos, Thailand, etc, etc, I found planning this trip the most labor intensive. Besides dealing with 9 internal flights, I had to make arrangement with in bound operators in all three countries. I utilized many of the suggestions offered by the Asia experts on this board, but had to do a lot of research in addition. We took in to account several considerations in constructing the itinerary: we wished to minimize the number of days devoted solely to transit (good luck); some flights on Lao Air to Pakse, Laos only fly on two or three days a week; if possible, we wanted to avoid the Gowd awful compulsory Christmas and New Year's Eve dinners required at some resorts.
So an overview of our itinerary looked like this:
Burma: 1 night Rangoon, 3 nights Bagan, 2 nights Kandawgyi, 1 night Rangoon.
Thailand: 3 nights Chiang Mai, 3 nights Golden Triangle
Laos: 2 nights Don Daeng Is, 1 night Don Khong Is, 1 night in the boonies, 1 night Bolaven Plateau, 1 night Pakse
Thailand: 4 nights Krabi
In an effort to maximize the Business Class frequent flyer miles we were using, I booked Thai Air (through Continental miles) LA-Bangkok-Rangoon and on the return Krabi-Bangkok-LA.
I'll save info on packing strategies, reading material and other stuff at the end.
BURMA
I still persist in ineffectively making a statement against the ruling military regime by calling it Burma but I found that to communicate with the local people, one must refer to the country as Myanmar.
The Thai flight from Los Angeles was blessedly uneventful. If I were paying for these BC seats, I would not be happy: not fully flat bed seats, lackluster food and service. Certainly not the Thai BC of 10 or 15 year ago. But under the circumstances, I relinquished my complaining rights when I got the free ticket.
So after 20 some hours we were finally in Rangoon. Getting through the arrival procedures was simple and efficient, no military in sight.
You may recall that Visa on Arrival was suspended back in September, given the upcoming November "elections" ( a referendum on a bogus constitution). This service was expected to be reinstated sometime after the November 7th electrion but just in case it was't, I sent away for a visa. Got the visa back from the Union of Myinmar Embassy in DC in 10 days. The vis application instructions say to use Fed Ex, very complicated. For reasons not worth describing I advise using US Priority Mail. More to come. Happy New Year to everyone.
I am indebted to so many active contributors to this board: Kathie, Craig, Dogster, fromDC, nywoman, Bob of Bob and Karen and many others. We took Bob's suggestion of a guide in Rangoon and Kyan kyanmaing.yangon@gmail.com) met us at the airport. Kyan ("just call me Joe") was a delightful fellow.

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