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Trip Report Jan. 2014 Trip Report, Myanmar, Luang Prabang, Bangkok Airways

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We traveled to Thailand, Laos and Myamar Jan. 15 and returned Feb. 4. Since we’ve been back for three weeks, it looks like I’ll never do a full trip report, so I’ll instead post a few practical things that may be useful to others.

Photos are here:

Bangkok Air: When planning the trip, we needed flights BKK-LPQ (Luang Prabang); LPQ-RGN (Yangon); and RGN-BKK. After pricing each one way flight (something like $1100 or $1200 pp), it became clear that the Bangkok Airways discovery pass would save quite a bit (roughly $400 pp, I calculated). But it seemed you had to book on the phone or through a travel agent, so I kept putting off doing it.

Before finally biting the bullet to book, I went back to the website and entered all our flights as a single “multi-trip” and the price came out to be just over $600 pp! It basically priced it as round trip BKK-RGN. So the lesson is, don’t price one way flights if you can construct a multi-destination “round trip.”

Other notes: the ATR-72 that went to LPQ boards only from the back door. Every flight had a meal, three of the four served hot meals. Every flight in and out of BKK used a “bus gate” which added a bit of time (boarding was 30 minutes before flight). I was worried about our 2 hour 15 minute connection going from LPQ to RGN, but even accounting for the bus and boarding time, we had ample enough time to stop and have a coffee in the airport.

Luang Prabang: Stayed at La Residence Phou Vao which we booked through Luxury Link and saved about 1/3 off the rack rates. Package included one dinner, and that’s all we had at the hotel since the prices bordered on obscene when compared to cost of meals in town (which were also better). A main course was $25-$50 plus 17% tax and service. Our most expensive meal in town, including drinks, was $41 for two. The hotel provides free transport into town. We enjoyed the hotel very much, other than the costs of food.

We had very good meals at 3 Nagas, Tamnak Lao and Tamarind.

Lonely Planet guided to Laos said there were “a half dozen” ATM’s in Luang Prabang. Very out of date info. Besides ATM’s at airport, there were a half dozen ATM’s every block or two on the main street.

We spent four nights in Luang Prabang and could have stayed one more day without running out of things to do.

Myanmar: We used Journeys Within (based in California and Siem Reap) to arrange our travel. We wanted to have most things pre-paid so as to not have to carry huge amounts of cash, were able to talk to the agent on the phone and were able to pay by credit card. Were pleased with their service. We spent two single nights in Yangon, two nights Bagan and three nights Inle Lake.

I didn’t want to send our passports to DC in winter, so we had the “prearranged visa” from our agent (note, it is actually called “Visa on arrival” in English on the paper confirmation you are provided and the window where you receive the visa). Cost was $65 for two (vs. $40) and well worth not having to be out of possession of our passports. You get a letter and form from your agent and hand it to them at the window where they have your visa waiting for you. Got the visas, passed through immigration, got our bags, changed money and were on our way under 30 minutes.

We changed about $500 US to pay for a few meals, drinks and tips. Two hotels took credit cards, with a surcharge. Others did not. However, all our hotels would accept dollars, and one took Euro, so we paid the last bill for about $40-50 in dollars rather than changing any more. Seems we spent about $70/day, but our hotels, most transport and all but 3 of our meals were pre-paid. We may spend more on drinks than average visitors. Typical drink costs at hotels and restaurants were $1.50-$3 for a bottle of still water, $3-4 for beer and $6-8 for cocktails. Oh, and $30 for a bottle of Myanmar red wine which was good enough we had it twice.

There were many ATM’s in Yangon (including at airport), and a few ATM’s at Bagan and Inle Lake. There were several under construction, too. We didn’t use any. I would worry about reliability in Bagan especially, given that their telecommunications infrastructure is unreliable.

All our hotels had wifi, in theory. In Bagan, it barely worked, or maybe I should say rarely worked. The others were good enough to check email, but not do much else except in Yangon at the Governor’s Residence where it had reasonable speed. We liked that hotel very much. It had the best breakfast of the trip.

Internal flights were better than I expected, all on KBZ, fairly new ATR-72’s. You have to pay attention, however, since there are no gates assigned nor boards with departure info. You just have to keep an eye out for others who are wearing the same stickers on their shirts. KBZ usually announced the flight number in English, but that was usually all we could understand. Sit close to the door if you can so you can hear. Baggage claim was something of a zoo. There will be guys who want to help you for a tip. And it seemed to take forever given that they only had to bring the luggage about 50 feet. But they pretty much did it one bag at a time…

Thailand: Had been 9 years since we had been to the Peninsula, and I thought the Thai restaurant (Thiptara) was not nearly as good as it had been. Too bad. We had an excellent meal at Nahm. Highly recommended. Best meal of the trip. Peninsula breakfast was still very good. Still would recommend the hotel.

Spent three nights at Centara Grand at Hua Hin. Lovely hotel and grounds, but beach was too crowded for our taste. Pool much more appealing to us. Would recommend the hotel.

Feel free to ask any questions. Thanks to the forum for help in planning the trip.

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