Just back from our winter trip and want to post a brief report on Myanmar to give back a little to this forum and members that helped me out.
First of all let me say how much we enjoyed Myanmar, what a wonderful place to travel in, with such gracious and charming people, captivating culture and history, wonderful scenery and an exciting, hopeful and promising time for them.
Santa Maria Tours, they were great so thank you fodorites who recommended them. From the initial email correspondence through to the wonderful reception at the Yangon airport they were fabulous ! They put together a general interest main highlights tour based on my 11 day window including 3 days at Ngapali Beach at the end. I chose the hotels based on their summaries on their web site and they were all very good. The guides and drivers were all great, probably freelancers, some of the cars were a little dated but fine and I could see that getting new vehicles in Myanmar is a challenge. Our luggage went missing in Beijing thanks to Air China but thanks to Santa Maria ( and nice Thai Air Agent in Bangkok) they were able to get it sent through Yangon and then to our second stop in Mandalay where we were thankfully reunited with it after 4 days !
The hotels used:
Yangon - Park Royal, large, central, a bit dated but fine with pleasant and efficient service. Right beside a supermarket, handy for buying supplies for the road.
Bagan - Tharabar Gate Hotel, very large rooms in bungalows, nice pool and outdoor dining, good spa, close to street markets.
Mandalay - Sedona Hotel, large central hotel with some nice views out to canal, good pool, efficient service, rooms a little dated but good size and fine.
Inle Lake - Pristine Lotus Resort, rooms are all in villas, very nice, new, wonderful park like grounds set off in quiet area away from towns and main roads, right across from lake, good spa.
Ngapali Beach - Amazing Ngapali Hotel, fantastic oceanfront rooms, good beach, wonderful friendly staff, good resto and spa, on road with some shops and restos.
I did not get the names of all the guides but the one for Mandalay is Ms. San Yu Khaing. She is very good, knowledgeable, well educated, good English with some French too.
Tel. 95-9-4301106 and email is Khaing.firstname.lastname@example.org
We flew most places using Air KBZ and they were excellent, on time, efficient, friendly, always a meal or snack and decent aircraft. The airports except for Yangon are small and without modern electronic signage. You have to look for a fellow walking around with a sign for your flight and then follow him to the aircraft !
We were expecting Myanmar to be a little backward especially considering their many years of isolation from much of the world but were pleasantly surprised at what they have accomplished. They must be a resourceful well educated and resilient people and I think they now have a great future. To be sure there some things are lacking, no credit card facilities, few ATM,s no fast food ( + ?).
We spent 3 days at Inle Lake, and this was one of the best travel experiences we ever had. It just seemed that the stars were perfectly aligned. The weather was perfect, our resort divine, our guide great, and the lake itself is calm, clear picturesque and with a fascinating lifestyle of the local people. The lake is quite large, about 15 km wide and 30 km long but only about 3-4 metres deep but with a lot of secondary channels and waterways. We went out in a typical teak wood boat, long (30 ft.) and narrow like a huge canoe with a long tail motor. Just us, our guide and 2 boatmen for 2 full days visiting local markets, cottage craft industries, watching the fishermen and the unique agriculture on the lake. They have made over many years floating islands where they grow tomatoes and other vegetables (very high quality), it is like a type of hydroponic growing.
The food was good, like Indian curries without spicy heat, lots of rice, not much meat, and very good fresh vegetables and fruit. Oh yes, the beer is fine too, especially Mandalay and they have some surprisingly good wine produced at Inle Lake called Aythara.
Sorry for the limited report but I type slowly and have a lot of others to do here and with Trip Advisor.
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