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Kathie Oct 8th, 2009 09:57 AM

Burma arrangements
Ok, I think I finally have the last of my Burma arrangements made. Burma is like another planet. Emails may or may not get through, flight times and days change daily, schedules are published week by week... it's crazy.

I made all of my own hotel reservations months ago, bought my tickets from BKK to RGN and return, but had been struggling with the rest.

As of this week, it looked like I had come to a dead end. My usual agent for buying air tickets in Bangkok was having difficulty with the air arrangements.

So, I emailed Santa Maria on the advice of Craig. I got an email back today (rescuing it from my spam folder). I now have flights, Balloons over Bagan reservations ($245 pp rather than $295 direct), and have an airport pickup in HeHo that will take us to Kakku before getting to our hotel. I had some doubts, but Santa Maria encouraged me to do this and I have to assume they know more than I do about the logistics.

Any other thoughts or comments from my fellow travelers?

dogster Oct 8th, 2009 10:51 AM

Well, I'll stick with my time line of a million posts ago: but you may as well just do it this way and get it done with, really. It'll be a long day, tho'.

And yes, eventually in Burma, you just have to capitulate and do what, probably, you should have done months ago. But where's the fun in that? Anyway,it's done and you can relax.

Kathie Oct 8th, 2009 11:12 AM

Yes, I kept thinking of your post, dogster, about that long day. Santa Maria told me it was perfectly possible to do (I know that possible and enjoyable are often different). We will have a restful day in Rangoon before we get to HeHo, so it's not quite as grueling as my original plan of flying BKK-RGN-HEH and then doing Kakku! Also, the flight they have us on gets in earlier - 9:20 is when it is scheduled to arrive HeHo. It became apparent that if we were to go to Kakku, it had to be that day. So we'll just do it. The other days at Inle we'll spend on/around the lake.

And you are quite right, I had to try to book it myself rather than going with a Burma agent, just to finally realize I couldn't do it.

Craig Oct 8th, 2009 11:16 AM

Kathie, if the doubts you had were about going directly to Kakku without stopping at your hotel, then not to worry as Santa Maria is correct. Stopping at your hotel would require at least a half hour detour from the main road between the airport and Kakku, which would make your day even longer.

I am glad you were able to get your flights and save some $$ on the balloon ride. Be sure to have Santa Maria reconfirm your flights or have your local hotel do it so that there are no mix-ups.

Hanuman Oct 8th, 2009 11:32 AM


We experienced a lot of delays and early departure in Myanmar especially for the early morning flights. Perhaps you should be prepare for alternatives if you are delayed by a couple of hours getting to He Ho.

Kathie Oct 8th, 2009 11:40 AM

Craig, my doubts were about whether I was trying to pack too much in to the arrival day at Inle. I remember your advice that it makes sense to go directly to Kakku if we were going to do it.

Dogster, here is your timeline from my original idea to go to Kakku after flying in from Bangkok the same morning:
5.30 a.m. wake up
8.00 flight BKK to YGN
9.00 arrive YGN
10.30 YGN to Heho
11.30 arrive Heho
12.00 exit airport.
Heho to Taunggyi - say 90 mins?
1.30 Taunggyi winery, market, lunch
2.30 grab local guide drive to Kakku
3.30 Kakku sightseeing
5.00 leave Kakku - Taunggyi - Inle - say 2.00 hours?
7.00 arrive Inle.

Now, the day will look something like this:
5:30 wake up at the Strand
7:30 flight to HeHo
9:20 arrive HeHo (this flight must stop somewhere in between)
10:00 exit airport
HeHo to Taunggyi - 90 min
11:30 arrive Taunggyi; winery, market, lunch
1:00 get local guide for drive to Kakku
2:00 Kakku sightseeing
4:00 leave Kakku for 2 hour drive to Inle Lakeview resort
6:00 arrive hotel

I've added time in Taunggyi and at Kakku to your original timeline. It will be a long day. Maybe I'll schedule a massage for when we get to the hotel.

Craig, remind me about requesting a larger vehicle. What did you ask for? We also travel "heavy" and will each have two suitcases and a carry-on. While we've downsized from larger luggage, we don't want to be riding with our luggage in our laps for that long drive.

Craig Oct 8th, 2009 12:06 PM

Kathie, we did not request a larger vehicle in advance. It was only when we arrived in Yangon that we realized that this was going to be a problem. So we asked Santa Maria if they could come up with a solution. While we did not get a larger vehicle, they did their best to accommodate us. At Bagan, the airport was 10 minutes from our hotel so it didn't really matter. At Inle Lake, they put our luggage on a tour bus that was going to our hotel and unfortunately it did not arrive until much later than we did. For our trip to the airport at Yangon, we had two cars, one for us and one for our luggage...

So my advice to you is to contact Santa Maria and ask them how they can accommodate both you and your luggage. If there is no guide, you can stash some of your stuff in the empty front seat. If there is both a guide and driver, you need alternate arrangements.

Kathie Oct 8th, 2009 12:31 PM

Hanuman, I missed you post as I was typing when you posted. I've heard others say that flights in Burma often leave early. If we're delayed on that flight to HeHo, we'll have less time to ply with and will have to decide what to do or nor do. There is a lot here we don't have any control over, we'll just go with the flow.

Craig, I will ask Santa Maria about the luggage situation. While we are only hiring a car and driver from Santa Maria, we'll have to pick up a guide on the way to Kakku.

Kathie Oct 10th, 2009 08:15 AM

Another question. Santa Maria has confirmed a car and driver for us Heho - Kakku - Nyaungshwe. However, at Nyaungshwe, they say we need a boat to get us to Inle Lake View. Now I thought the Inle Lake View was one of the few lake hotels you don't need a boat to get to. Am I wrong? Or is it that we are coming to it from aa different direction, so we'll need a boat? Of course I'm away from home this weekend and don't have access to any of my notes or my LP.

By the way, we had chosen our date for Balloons over Bagan but it turns out they are fully booked that day - even though that's 6 weeks from now, so we're now booked for the day before.

Kathie Oct 11th, 2009 12:27 PM

I'm bringing my question back to the top, as it's been a busy weekend here on Fodors and my question had dropped off the first page. I'm hoping Craig will see this and know the answer.

Craig Oct 11th, 2009 04:37 PM

I'm here, Kathie back from the GTG - we were up til 1:30 last night and have been busy with "stuff" at home today...

You don't need to take the boat from Nyaungshwe. You can if you want as the town is on the way but I don't think that will be your quickest option.

From what I've heard, you can drive to the major upscale resorts on either side of the lake rather than go by boat. The Inle Lake View is closer to the airport than any of them by car, however.

Kathie Oct 11th, 2009 04:49 PM

Many thanks, Craig. I guessed you might be recovering from the gtg.

I'm back home now and took a look at the map, and I concluded we didn't need a boat. So I'm not sure if the email from Santa Maria meant to say we "could" take a boat or if the person writing it was of the belief we have to take a boat. In any case, I'll write back and say we don't want a boat from Nyaungshwe, but just want to drive. We'll be spending plenty of time on boats at Inle!

FInal arrangements are almost made, but there always seems to be something... I expect I'll have more questions, Craig.

Wonkyknee Oct 12th, 2009 01:52 PM

Kathie, When do you go to Burma?? I am very interested in your findings as it is the first trip on my agenda. Where did you book the flight to Rangoon - the hotels while in Burma and the Balloon trip? I hope to be there the first week of Feb. Also, have you got your visa and if so did you get it in BKK? As I am on my own I am going to fly from Rangoon to Mandalay, take a boat down to Bagan - the fly to Inle Lake and make my way back to rangoon for a return flight to BKK - all this in 14 days. What do you think of my plan?

Kathie Oct 12th, 2009 03:27 PM

We're headed for Burma in November. We booked our BKK - RGN - BKK flight with Thai Air. Hotels, I booked in a variety of places after much research. There are a number of websites that you can use to book Burma hotels and pay via credit card. I was able to book two of my hotels so that I can pay via credit card, one hotel I will pay in cash once I get there. Intra-Burma flights, the Balloons over Bagan and a transfer HeHo-Kakku-Inle Lake View Resort from Santa Maria Travel (which has been very responsive).

I think your plan is reasonable. We'll have 10 days, will do all transport via air, and will visit three places in that time: Bagan, Inle and Rangoon.

I'll do a full report here when I get back.

WinterTravel Oct 12th, 2009 03:38 PM

One thing to suggest from our trip to Inle Lake last year is that if you can you might think about building in time to see lake life away from the "sights" too. Via our hotel we hired a boat for a half day to leisurely float us in and around the communities on the northern side of the lake. It was a lovely few hours, as we encountered no other visitors - just locals.

We, too, made all our own hotel arrangements, etc... for our independent trip last year but did need local help to book flights and guides where we wanted to use them (we decided on a guide for the first day at each place to give us the lay of the land and then were on our own after that). It sounds like you are all set with your arrangements but thought we would share the name of the agent we used in Yangon in case it is helpful to people reading this thread going forward. We worked with William Myatwunna at Good News Travels ( He was very professional, efficient and flexible. Would highly recommend him (we arranged everything via email in advance and then went to his office in Yangon to pick up tickets, etc... once we arrived).

Have a wonderful trip!

Kathie Oct 12th, 2009 04:01 PM

Oh, Wonkyknee, I forgot to say that I got my Burma visa in the US. See my report -

Winter, we do plan to spend most of our Inle Lake time at less visited places in the area. We'll allow perhaps half a day for the usual places, so we'll have two days for less visited places. If you have any particular stops on the north side of the lake that you especially enjoyed, I'd be interested. We don't plan on using any guides for this trip.

WinterTravel Oct 13th, 2009 01:11 PM

Kathie -

Realized when looking at a map that we said "northern" but should have said "northwestern" part of the Lake. We really did just meander between villages on the water for hours and so don't have specific names, but from looking at our map we are guessing it was the area around Nga Hpe Chaung and northward from there. We had asked at our hotel that they request that the boatman take us to completely non-touristed areas and that is what he did (boatman did not speak English, so we did not get names).

One of our other favorite things at Inle Lake was bicycling off into the countryside beneath the mountains. Our hotel had bikes to borrow and we headed off on our own which was a great way to see village life off the beaten track.

We had a guide for one day at Inle, but not really that useful in retrospect. It was useful to have a guide for a half-day at Bagan, however, as he gave us a good overview so we had context and could then decide where to wander for the rest of our time. We rented bikes from the hotel each day afterward and explored that way -- wonderful way to see the temples (much of the time we stayed off the beaten track and had temples completely to ourselves). If you have any interest in his name, we can find his card in our file -- just let us know.

Kathie Oct 13th, 2009 06:58 PM

Thanks for the info. We plan to do something similar at Inle, have the hotel tell the boatman where we want to go (and don't want to go).

At Bagan, we have an excellent book on the temples which we area studying. We plan to do the balloon the first morning which will give us the lay of the land. We'll be staying right at the gate and for now plan to use a horse cart. We'll play the rest by ear once we get there.

Cat12345 Oct 14th, 2009 07:51 AM

It just took place yesterday in Yangshuo, China.

A hot air balloon has exploded and crashed in Yangshuo, killing four Dutch tourists.

Talk about a buzzkill.

Hanuman Oct 14th, 2009 05:08 PM

I don't understand why you would post that link here Cat? Ballooning is one of the safest activity but accident can happen. Perhaps this is more of the Chinese ballooning company's lack of safety issue or perhaps just pure bad luck?

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