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Beach trip in Burma. Best way to book it?

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I am planning an 18 day trip to Burma. For a number of reasons I decided to go with a group tour, even though almost all my trips so far have been done independently. I chose a UK-based tour operator which does small groups and has the itinerary I wanted to do ( Yangoon, Bagan, Mandalay, Inle with some hiking through the villages). The tour is 13 days and I have 4 days left to go somewhere else.

I am thinking of going to Burma’s Ngapali beach. I don’t want to do it through my UK tour operator (VERY pricey) and wonder what do I do to book it myself. Do I go through a local agency? I saw the Santa Maria name highly recommended, but wonder if they would work with me on such a short trip. Alternatively, I see a number of Asian/Burmese agencies advertising Ngapali trips online, but wonder how safe it would be to book with any of them. I also see nice hotels online still available for the days I need and bookable either directly with hotels or Asian/Burmese tour companies, or online intermediaries like Tripadvisor. Has anyone booked hotels in Burma online?

The bigger question is how do I book my internal flights. I heard that you can’t book internal flights independently…. I could see the flight schedule and the prices on Mandalay Air and can submit a request through the agent page. Does anyone know whether this is reliable or any other issues with it?

Thanks a million!

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