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Burma. An Enchanted Land.

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I can’t remember when or how Myanmar first became a possible destination, but I think what first caught my eye was the cruise ship ‘Road To Mandalay’.

The itinerary that finally developed was a 4 night stay in Bangkok, a 2 night stay in Yangon, 4 nights on Inle Lake, 1 night in Mandalay and finally an 11 night cruise from Mandalay up to Bhamo (a frontier town near the Chinese border) which ended in Bagan. Then I had a final night in Bangkok, and returned to the US yesterday.

In Yangon I stayed at the Savoy (staff were very friendly and welcoming), Inle Lake was the Lake View Resort, and Mandalay was the Sedona. I really didn’t like the Sedona as it is a large hotel with very little character. I ended changing my room twice, once because I was placed on the smoking floor ( I was not asked for a preference) and next because the air-conditioner was not able to sufficiently cool the room. In neither situation did the controls on the wall bear any relationship to the temperature of the room. In Bangkok I stayed at the Riverside Marriott, which I had used during my last visit 5 years ago.

I did have a lot of concerns about the morality of my visit considering the political situation, and the trepidation only increased as the trip approached. Turns out this was one of my best trips ever, and I could not be happier with the decision I made.

I expected to see people who were somewhat withdrawn or subdued in some way, but decided to go with the advice of Gloria (Thank You!) and others, and I must repeat I think I made the right choice. I certainly did not expect to see teenagers in malls bopping to ipods!

The people may not be happy with their leadership, but they definitely appreciate the tourists and I was told many a time how happy they were that we were visiting their country.

The highlight of my trip was definitely Inle lake. It is a different world. Not just geographically, but also in atmosphere. It is difficult to describe. Suffice it to say, I was not ready to leave even after 4 nights. It helped that I had a wonderful tour guide, a lovely young lady who was tuned into my interests and desires.

I also loved the Road to Mandalay. The service and facilities were maintained at the highest standards. The food was European and excellent. If I do have a complaint, it is that my contact with the local people was quite limited while on the cruise. I also wish the shore excursions were longer. Also, whenever the chef tried anything even slightly different/unusual/spicy I heard complaints from other passengers, and concerns about becoming ill. 3 or 4 passengers did have days when they were under the weather, with some blaming the food as the likely culprit. I can imagine the complaints would be worse with ‘local’ food. However, that is the downside of being on a group tour.

While I did feel a little removed from local life while on board, the ship allowed me to extend my stay in Myanmar, which I would not otherwise have done. A very big concern for me when I travel is the standard of accommodation, and outside of Inle Lake, I found nowhere else that looked inviting.

In Bangkok I visited the Grand Palace and Wat Arun, took a klong tour, visited the bridge over the river Kwai, and most memorable of all, the Tiger Temple.

I am trying to write an effective summary, for fear that I may go on for far too long, so please feel free to ask for more details.

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