Burma: Go now!

Jul 23rd, 2012, 02:10 AM
Original Poster
Join Date: Jul 2003
Posts: 1,075
We had always made the arrangement to have SM pick us up at the Yangon airport for our original arrival so I never had a discussion with them about whether or not it was required. I can understand from SM's perspective why they require the first airport transfer. You'll be carrying a lot of cash for the payment and you can't check into your first hotel without the vouchers that they give you when you make the final payment. We arrived at the airport, got into their car, and they picked up one of the other agents on the way to the hotel. When we got to the hotel, we sat in the lobby and did the transaction with their agent and went over the itinerary and checked everything. Then we gave the first voucher to The Strand and were able to check in. If you didn't take the car to the airport, this process would be more complicated.

Also, I don't know how much luggage you'll be traveling with, but SM's car has a larger trunk than most taxis. Our 26" suitcase didn't fit in the trunk of the regular taxi on the way back to the airport and we were worried that it was going to fall out!

At Inle, SM had a really fantastic driver to take us to the hotel. There are some hairpin turns on the way and he was incredibly careful and had a nice, solid car. We liked him so much that when I talked on the phone with Zaw when we were at Inle, I asked him to arrange for the same driver to take us back to the airport (my original intention was to have the hotel arrange it).

The hotel transfer in Bagan is now 7,000 kyats for Min Thu's brother (we called him Joe).
FromDC is offline  
Jul 23rd, 2012, 05:28 AM
Join Date: Mar 2003
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Thanks for the replies re: electronics. I knew the state dept. would go overboard and/or be out of date in their warnings but just wanted to double-check. I usually look at Australian gov't rather than US travel info online for more accurate, less fear-mongering advice.
Leslie_S is offline  
Jul 23rd, 2012, 05:52 AM
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Thanks for the info, 520. I had forgotten that post. This trip, we didn't stay in Yangon at the beginning of the trip, so one of the SM agents met us at the airport and I paid hid quite a stack of money while Cheryl went off to do our exchanging for kyat. Then we caught our flight for Mandalay.

And I'm not surprised, DC, that the price for a transfer in Bagan has gone up a little. Many prices have skyrocketed. For instance, Traders Hotel in Yangon is now triple what it cost last year!

I do love reading about other's experiences in Burma!
Kathie is offline  
Jul 23rd, 2012, 06:33 AM
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Before we left, I emailed Min Thu to ask for the current costs, assuming that there be some increases. I was able to estimate our expenses pretty well except for Inle.
FromDC is offline  
Jul 23rd, 2012, 06:51 PM
Join Date: Oct 2006
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And I had forgotten, Kathie, that in your trip report for this most recent trip you did say that you didn't start in Yangon.

What you describe, DC, and what MM described is much like what our agent did upon meeting us in Hanoi, although the trip had already been paid for. I remember the vouchers from Vietnam and Cambodia. What we aren't doing, however, is paying for the second half of our trip when we arrive. To avoid having to carry such a large bundle of cash, we're going to do a bank transfer shortly before we leave.

To date, Min Thu has never told me his costs--and after a quick scan of your report, didn't see your mentioning it. We'll be fine with Joe, I'm sure-What sounds special is having the chance to go with one.

I'm planning on asking MM to arrange a visit to the synagogue--and I'm sure it's the same person. There is ONLY one synagogue in Yangon, and I think something like eight Jews. I think I read an article by Moses somewhere on the net--or perhaps my friend told me.

I believe the large cruise boat will be docked at the port an hour outside of Yangon and passengers will be bussed in and only see Yangon and the area around it....sounds extremely unappealing to me.
520 is offline  
Jul 24th, 2012, 04:08 AM
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For those not using SM, which it seems now requires an airport transfer on arrival in Yangon, I want to let you know that getting a taxi from the airport taxi stand is very easy and inexpensive. It was our first interaction with a resident and was quite pleasant and interesting. He spoke some English and taught us a few words during our half hour trip to the hotel. Maybe we were just lucky, but I am sure anyone whose has prior travel experience can easily get from the airport to their hotel independently, although I do understand why SM requires the transfer for logistical reasons.
shelleyk is offline  
Jul 24th, 2012, 05:57 AM
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520, just email MinThu and ask his daily cost. Knowing how much costs have changed/are changing, I expect the price has gone up from 17,000 or 18,000 kyat a day.
Kathie is offline  
Jul 24th, 2012, 06:28 AM
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Posts: 371
Thanks, Kathie. Will do.
520 is offline  
Aug 14th, 2012, 02:19 PM
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Hi FromDC - would it be possible to share your actual itineray -- your trip sounds perfect and we may want to replicate it. Any and all details would be most welcome thanks in advance
danjagrrl is offline  
Aug 14th, 2012, 06:13 PM
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Happy to oblige

Days 1 and 2: full days in Bangkok, Mandarin Oriental hotel. We've been many times, new thing for us was BKK food tour.
Day 3: fly to Rangon in the morning, get oriented, walk around a bit, stay at The strand(opinion of hotel well documented)
Days 3-6: fly to Bagan early morning. Spend 4 days touring with Min Thu and his brother(2 days in horse cart, 2 days in car). Visited Mt Popa, Salay in car. Stayed at Tharabar Gate hotel, really liked it
Days 7&8: fly to Mandalay early morning, stay at Inn by the Red Canal, which we liked a lot. Wandered on our own in the neighborhood of the hotel first day. Second day, all day tour of ancient capitals
Days 9-12: fly to Heho in morning, 4 nights at Inle Lake View Resort which we loved. Spent entire time touring on the lake, one day going to Sankar.
Days 13 and 14: back to Rangon. Afternoon at Scott Market, evening at Schwedegon. Next day, full day tour.
Day 15: fly to BKK, relax and dinner
Day 16: fly to Hong Kong in time for light show and dinner. Stayed at Salisbury YMCA with harbor view room
Day 17: fly back to US

Arranged everything except Min Thu and Mandalay guide through Santa Maria. Excellent service through Zaw and would highly recommend using them all

If you have additional questions about things not in the trip,report, let me know.
FromDC is offline  
Aug 15th, 2012, 10:37 AM
Join Date: Mar 2009
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thank You !! This is most helpful - I will let you know if I have any other questions.

Sounds like it was a wonderful trip!
danjagrrl is offline  
Jan 18th, 2013, 04:14 AM
Join Date: May 2012
Posts: 305
There are some conversations happenning here about Asian travel, and I have had a few good exchanges with Kathie, me being an Australian traveller and she being an American traveller, both of enjoying the experience of travelling in Asia.

There's a neglected part of the world that Mike and I also travel for part of every year...the south Pacific. Wide open oceans.

We're off to the southern climes on my birthday, Jan 29, first port of call the 2013 Hobart Wooden Boat Festival, home in time for Anzac Day .5 April.
mareeS55 is offline  

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