Go Back  Fodor's Travel Talk Forums > Destinations > Asia
Reload this Page >

Burma: General travel experiences/tips and Bike Trips

Burma: General travel experiences/tips and Bike Trips

Old Jan 13th, 2013, 01:47 PM
  #1  
Original Poster
 
Join Date: Jan 2013
Posts: 4
Likes: 0
Received 0 Likes on 0 Posts
Burma: General travel experiences/tips and Bike Trips

Hello!

I am planning to take an organized bike trip in Burma in March and I would love to hear all of your feedback re a few questions:

1) Thoughts/experiences on the weather in March? I have a fairly high tolerance for heat but am most concerned about ridiculous humidity (and the fact that I will be cycling).

2) I have read a number of forum responses discussing high tourism and low supply of tourism infrastructure. Many responders have advised to wait 1-2 years until the infrastructure catches up. I am eager to go now to see the country (culturally and economically) in its nascent/beginning stages of development so having upscale accommodation is less of a concern for me. I am a bit confused by this advice to wait 1-2 years because there will be even more tourists! Yes, the infrastructure could catch up but the demand will also be exponentially higher. As I said before, I am interested in seeing Burma in a more "raw" stage of development.

3) As I mentioned, I am planning to be with an organized bike trip for most of my visit. I am considering a few different companies: Backroads, Spice Roads, and Grasshopper. Anyone have any feedback/experiences with these companies? Backroads is about $2000 more expensive than the other two trips and is 5 days shorter, but seems more upscale and established. Spice Roads and Grasshopper seem to have almost identical 13 day trips but I have found only a few reviews for those trips. I'd love to hear if anyone has had experiences with those companies and/or with other companies!

Thank you in advance for your help!
AmygNYC is offline  
Old Jan 13th, 2013, 02:36 PM
  #2  
 
Join Date: Jan 2003
Posts: 33,289
Likes: 0
Received 0 Likes on 0 Posts
The issue about accommodation right now isn't a matter of finding upscale accommodation, it is a matter of finding any accommodation. That said, I assume your bike trip includes accommodation.

March is beginning to get hot - well, really, hotter. Where will you be cycling? Yangon is probably the hottest place I've visited in my many years of traveling. When you get farther north, the elevation increases as well, and it's a bit less hot. Make sure you bring plenty of sunscreen and cover as much skin as possible.

I haven't seen many recommendations here for people to wait a year or two before going, though that is often suggested in Thorntree by people who haven't been there yet. I certainly understand your wish to see the country before it has changed "too much." But know that the infrastructure in Burma is very poor - roads, "sidewalks" are in terrible condition. Do make sure you have medical evacuation insurance. If you got in an accident or became seriously ill, you would want to get to Bangkok as soon as possible.

We met two women who worked for Spice Roads when we were in Sri Lanka. From what they had to say, the Spice Roads trips sounded very well-organized. Of course, they were a biased source. SInce Burma just opened up to such tours, you are unlikely to find many reviews.

Good luck - have a wonderful trip!
Kathie is offline  
Old Jan 13th, 2013, 02:47 PM
  #3  
 
Join Date: Jan 2003
Posts: 29,053
Likes: 0
Received 0 Likes on 0 Posts
forget humidity, it will be far worse than anything you have experienced in nyc---ever..

just a note of caution... the roads in burma are very poor... be very cautious--- sometimes more potholes than smooth surface..
rhkkmk is offline  
Old Jan 13th, 2013, 05:02 PM
  #4  
 
Join Date: Jan 2003
Posts: 6,160
Likes: 0
Received 0 Likes on 0 Posts
When you say "Bike" do you mean bicycle or motorbike? If motorbike you might find this article interesting: http://www.bangkokpost.com/travel/tr...ays-in-myanmar
Hanuman is offline  
Old Jan 16th, 2013, 05:38 AM
  #5  
 
Join Date: May 2012
Posts: 305
Likes: 0
Received 0 Likes on 0 Posts
Bicycle or motorbike, AmygNYC? I can't imagine how you would cover any distance by bicycle, other than through local village roads, which are very nice but won't take to further than the next village.

The main roads were built by the British in about 1910, and haven't been maintained since then. You will have trucks, buses, local tractor haulers, ox carts, pony carts, motorcycles, taxis, tuktuks, bicycles, all competing for the same piece of rutted bitumen (where bitumen exists).

In late December 2012 we had to travel 180 miles on the main highway between Rangoon and Prome, and it took 7 hours.

This may give you an idea of the road system if you're planning to cycle or motorcycle. The roads in the dry season are very dusty, in the rainy season very slippery.

Outside the main towns and cities, the day starts at dawn and finishes at nightfall (around 6pm) so take this into account if you are travelling in rural areas and looking for somewhere to pitch up at night. Mostly there is no electricity in the rural areas after about 8-9pm.

Hope this helps.
mareeS55 is offline  
Old Jan 16th, 2013, 06:43 AM
  #6  
 
Join Date: Jan 2003
Posts: 33,289
Likes: 0
Received 0 Likes on 0 Posts
All of the companies Amy mentions sponsor bicycle trips.
Kathie is offline  
Old Jan 16th, 2013, 07:54 AM
  #7  
520
 
Join Date: Oct 2006
Posts: 371
Likes: 0
Received 0 Likes on 0 Posts
In early December we met up with a Canadian cycling group, which had just begun their journey, but they seemed quite well-prepared for the realities of the Burmese roads--and many Burmese use bikes as their means of transportation. Assume anyone who signs on for one of these groups is a qualified cyclist.

Also met up with a lone cyclist on the flight from BKK to Yangon, who had his bike with him and planned to spend a month cycling around the country--and had spent some time organizing his route. Have always wondered how he did.
520 is offline  
Old Jan 16th, 2013, 07:56 AM
  #8  
520
 
Join Date: Oct 2006
Posts: 371
Likes: 0
Received 0 Likes on 0 Posts
P.S. Also met a woman from Country Walkers who was checking out the places a group of walkers would be staying for a trip the company is organizing. Many different modes of travel
being planned for Burma trips!
520 is offline  
Old Jan 17th, 2013, 03:09 PM
  #9  
 
Join Date: Jan 2013
Posts: 44
Likes: 0
Received 0 Likes on 0 Posts
>2) I have read a number of forum responses discussing high tourism and low supply of tourism infrastructure.

I was there in November; I will post some trip reports after this.

I stayed in Yangon, Mandalay, Nyaung U (Bagan), Thazi, Kalaw, Nyaung Shwe. Accommodation was tight in Bagan and Mandalay, but not a problem away from those cities.

Comparing to prices given on trip reports from past years prices have risen two, three or fourfold since 2010. As a single I paid, per night:

Yangon: East Hotel $72; Myanmar Life $55
Mandalay: Zegyo Hotel (not great, but all I could get) $35
Nyaung U: Aung Mingalar $35
Thazi: Wonderful Guest House $20
Kalaw: Eastern Paradise $15 (now $30+)
Nyaung Shwe: Amazing $72

As you are cycling and likely to be staying in smaller towns and villages I don't think you'll have a major problem. But be prepared to pay more for fairly ordinary accommodation than you would in other countries in SE Asia.

Cheers, Alan
alan_s is offline  
Old Mar 10th, 2013, 10:54 AM
  #10  
 
Join Date: Jan 2013
Posts: 13
Likes: 0
Received 0 Likes on 0 Posts
Kathy'e advice is right on, It really does get hot and the roads are small and in poor condition and pretty wild with big trucks and bus's. Medical insurance would be well advised if you are going to bike it. I was just there last month(feb 13) I didn't realize it until I got to Bagan but visitors were not allowed to rent or to even ride on motor bikes and now that I think of it i never saw westerners on them in Inle Lake as well, Yangon was too crowded to even remember.
In my opinion now is the time to go, they had over a million visitors last year, prices have doubled, its going to get worse each year as there really isn't any master plan on how to deal with the influx, right now its all about the money. Not to take away from the fact that the Burmese people are some of the sweetest kindest people you can ever meet. Its just its a very poor country compared to our standards. I am glad we went this year. Definitely make sure you have rooms booked in advance. They are not catering to back packers like most places.
tommycall is offline  
Old Mar 10th, 2013, 11:15 AM
  #11  
 
Join Date: Jan 2013
Posts: 13
Likes: 0
Received 0 Likes on 0 Posts
Most flights from Bangkok to Yangon have very close connections times to Inle lake or Bagan esp if you have to pick up your tickets in Yangon at the air port. You arrive at the international terminal and then have to walk along the street to the the domestic (about 10-15 min) no carts you have to dragged your own luggage. Depending on how busy they are it could take up to an hour to get your ticket. We were cutting it too close and decided to just get in earlier and wait 5 hours for our flight to Inle Lake. What we discovered after waiting in the arrivals hall was that we could of purchased a VIP lounge access for 7.00 USD, in the lounge they have A/C free refreshments, WiFi and they take you out to the plane in a minivan before the rest of the passengers arrive. We did this for a couple of hours on our Yangon to Bagan leg, it was so nice and we were the only ones in the lounge. This was with Air Manadaly but all the airlines had lounges. Well worth the 7.00 and beats swatting mosquito's in the regular waiting area.
tommycall is offline  
Old Mar 10th, 2013, 05:09 PM
  #12  
 
Join Date: May 2010
Posts: 5
Likes: 0
Received 0 Likes on 0 Posts
It may be considerably cheaper if you arrange with an agency in Myanmar. Here is Literature re Burma/Myanmar, which will make your visit more interesting:

1. Letters from Burma by Aung San Suu Kyi

2. The River of Lost Footsteps: A Personal History of Burma by Thant Myint-U

3. Finding George Orwell in Burma by Emma Larkin

4. Where China Meets India: Burma and the New Crossroads of Asia by Thant Myint-U

5. From the Land of Green Ghosts: A Burmese Odyssey by Pascal Khoo Thwe

6. The Glass Palace by Amitav Ghosh

7. Burmese Days by George Orwell

8. Old Rangoon by Noel F. Singer
palhbooks is offline  
Related Topics
Thread
Original Poster
Forum
Replies
Last Post
kacollier
Asia
6
Mar 7th, 2013 01:57 AM
shelleyk
Asia
7
Nov 29th, 2011 06:35 PM

Posting Rules
You may not post new threads
You may not post replies
You may not post attachments
You may not edit your posts

BB code is On
Smilies are On
[IMG] code is On
HTML code is Off
Trackbacks are Off
Pingbacks are Off
Refbacks are On


Thread Tools
Search this Thread

Contact Us - Manage Preferences - Archive - Advertising - Cookie Policy - Privacy Statement - Do Not Sell or Share My Personal Information -