14 Days in Myanmar over the Holidays

Apr 5th, 2015, 07:27 PM
  #1  
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Join Date: Apr 2009
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14 Days in Myanmar over the Holidays

Hi,
I am using my United miles to fly with my husband to Yangon on December 18 and depart Yangon late evening on January 3. We are New Yorkers, late 30s, and I happen to be a wine, food and travel writer (so I am quite accustomed to independent travel and building my own itineraries.)

This will be a personal trip and we are going during this time because of my husband's job. We are planning to book everything in advance (despite preferring flexibility on the ground) since I have gleaned from reading these message boards that the super-duper-crazy-silly time to visit Myanmar -- the period when we are going -- equates to high rates and few-to-none rooms.

So far, just about any property I could want is available. I won't lie and say I am not shocked by the prices, however (hundreds of dollars for 3-star places and forced NYE dinners for another several hundred on Agoda at the Ngapali Beach properties). I've seen a few people mention booking with a travel agent to get better rates. Shalom Myanmar, OneStop, Santa Maria have all been highlighted. Any others? And how much better are the rates? Do they book airfare and are the rates the same as booking direct with airlines?

As for the itinerary, I would appreciate insights on how to structure our stops, broken down by average recommended days in each and how to get from place to place. We can take VIP buses or planes; more worried about efficiency than cost unless the bus is good value for a particular route v. a really expensive flight. Not going to bother with a train, unless it comes highly recommended and is easy for a particular route.

I would also ideally like to figure out how to get on the water, but it looks like a short trip from Mandalay-Bagan might be the only choice. There are a few "luxury" boats that do 1-2 day trips, but they are fairly expensive (a couple thousand). Are there any lower-priced overnight trips? Maybe there are but those ships don't have a web presence? We were planning on leaving Mandalay out, but could include for the sake of using as an origin/endpoint for a short boat trip.

Here are our tentative stops. We like temples, though not days and days of them (I am a photog, so I have to get some shots of the prime sights), exploring local culture, adventurous eating (although getting sick in Myanmar seems to be a theme from the people I've spoke to who have gone), scenery, scenery, scenery, and beach. Thanks so much in advance!! Sorry if I've missed any other pertinent details. Getting late. Let me know what else I can provide.

Yangon (in and out of the country)
Inle Lake
Hsipaw (heard this was nice and a break from tourists. Not married to it)
Bagan
Ngapali Beach (would like to spend the last few days here before heading out on the 3rd, but flexible on where it fits into the itinerary)
laurenanne is offline  
Apr 5th, 2015, 08:16 PM
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Join Date: Jan 2003
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A local travel agent should be able to get you better rates if there are still rooms available in the agent's allocation. All of the agents you listed get good review here. Send your requirements to a couple of agencies and see what kind of quotes you get. There are several small boats that do the Mandalay/Bagan route. IME all are over-priced, but ask the agents about what they can get for you.

In general, forget adventurous eating - not because you'll get sick, we didn't on our two trips there - but simply because most of the food isn't very good. Owners of the best places tell me their problem is getting good quality ingredients.
Kathie is offline  
Apr 5th, 2015, 08:50 PM
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Join Date: Feb 2006
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Forget the train, unless it has miraculously improved recently. All the reports I have seen say it is very slow, and it doesn't look very comfortable either. There is (or was) a local ferry that did the Mandalay-Bagan run - check the Lonely Planet guidebook.
thursdaysd is offline  
Apr 5th, 2015, 10:31 PM
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I am currently using Santa Maria for my Nov 15 trip. I used them when I went to Myanmar about 4 years ago. I have found their service better this time ( so far) I too am amazed at how much more expensive hotels are now and in some cases not available 8 months out! Without doubt SM have gotten me cheaper rates ( and cheaper rates with Balloons over Bagan). Although I have had to book a couple of hotels with Agoda just to get the hotel I want!
Smeagol is offline  
Apr 8th, 2015, 01:31 PM
  #5  
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Smeagol: Have you finalized your itinerary yet? I'd be curious to know which hotels you've chosen and how many days you've selected in each place. Also, how you are getting around! thanks
laurenanne is offline  
Apr 10th, 2015, 11:42 PM
  #6  
 
Join Date: Sep 2014
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Just a quicky-my Agent (Onestop) has booked me into 3 hotels in early January and for 4* in Yangon and Bagan it is circa $200 and for Ngapali Beach 5* at $300+. The rates are cheaper than Agoda. Flight schedules/prices will not be released till September.
Regretfully these are the prices you have to pay-especially for NB due to popularity and lack of rooms.Last year a German couple had to sleep in a storeroom at a hotel for 3 nights having arrived at Thandwe airport on 24th December expecting to pick up a room easily-but no room at the inn.
SS
Silverswimmer is offline  
Apr 13th, 2015, 03:16 PM
  #7  
 
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I am heading to Burma around the same time as you (Dec 21 - Jan 3), and seeing your post and Smeagol's caused me to get on the ball to get everything confirmed. I'm working with Moe at Santa Maria (he has been great), and here's my itinerary:

1 night Yangon - Strand Hotel
4 nights Bagan - Hotel at Therabar Gate
2 nights Mandalay (primarily to visit Sagaing, Amarapura, Inwa/Ava, and Mingun) - Rupar Mandalar
4 nights Inle Lake - Viewpoint Hotel (we are wait-listed the first night and have Hotel Amazing Nyaungshwe as back-up)
1 night Yangon - Strand Hotel
abby97 is offline  
Apr 13th, 2015, 03:59 PM
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Sounds like a good itinerary and good hotel choices. Have a wonderful trip!
Kathie is offline  
Apr 13th, 2015, 04:06 PM
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Thanks, Kathie! Your trip reports and general advice to other posters have been invaluable and served as terrific guidance in pulling together the itinerary (and your pictures are great, too).
abby97 is offline  
Apr 16th, 2015, 04:08 AM
  #10  
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Thanks for the additional input everyone. I made some tentative bookings on agoda just to hold rooms so I could take a break from planning while I got busy with work, but now intend to go back and finish. I've booked Therabar Gate and Princess Inle through Agoda, but will look into using Santa Maria to get a better rate, if they have rooms available through their service.
Thanks so much!
laurenanne is offline  
Apr 16th, 2015, 06:08 AM
  #11  
 
Join Date: Jan 2003
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I'm glad you made some bookings, as things fill up rapidly over the holidays.
Kathie is offline  

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