Burma in December / January

Oct 7th, 2012, 01:30 PM
Original Poster
Join Date: Jun 2007
Posts: 45
Burma in December / January

Me and my friend, in our fifties decided to backpack for a month in Burma. Tickets bought and now for the late planning. We understand that accommodation might not so easy to find as in other countries where we have backpacked over the last few year. We would love to get as much assistance as possible. She compiled a rough itinerary for comments and any advice.

Preliminary travel ideas Burma Sunday Dec. 16 – Saturday Jan. 12

Day 1: Flight KL - Yangon dep. 15:40 arr. 16:45
Day 2: Yangon
Day 3: Train Yangon – Bagan; dep. 16:00 arr. 08:00 day2)
Day 4-6: Bagan (by bicycle, taxi)
Day 7: Fast boat Bagan – Mandalay (Malikha II; 6:30-17:00; 11 h.; p.120) $4 or the slow boat (only Wed. & Sun. dep. 05:00 day 1-arr. 09: 25 day2)
Day 8, 9: Mandalay (p. 201) (by bicycle) [day 9=Christmas Eve]
Day 11: Train Mandalay – Pyin Oo Lwin/Maymo (hill station w colonial buildings; dep. 04:00 arr. 8:21) $4
Day 12: Train Pyin Oo Lwin – Hsipaw/Thibaw (dep. 8:50-arr. 15:30) $5
Day 13-16: 1-2 days hill tribe trekking [day 16= New Year’s Eve]
Day 17: Bus Hsipaw-Mandalay (6 h.); express train Mandalay – Thazi (3 h., a couple of times a day) $ 8
Day 18: Slow train Thazi- Shwenyaung (dep. 05:00 arr. 14:09; 25 min taxi to Nyaungshwe, Inle Lake) $7
[or slow train Thazi-Kalaw +trekking Kalaw – Inle Lake (3 days)]
Day 19-20: Inle Lake
Day 21: Flight Heho/Inle Lake – Thandwe/Ngapali beach (Air Bagan daily) $122
Day 22-24: Ngapali beach
Day 25: Flight Thandwe – Yangon (daily, 50 min) $78-86
Day 26, 27: Yangon
Day 28: Flight Yangon – KL dep. 17:15 arr. 21:30

We would also like some advice on estimated daily costs for food & basic accommodation as we understand that we must carry all money for the trip in dollars
Abrie is offline  
Oct 7th, 2012, 02:33 PM
Join Date: Jan 2003
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Several thoughts: You are spending a lot of time on trains. Unless you are a train fanatic, you might want to reconsider this. The trains are notoriously uncomfortable, very bumpy and swaying, and you are unlikely to get much sleep. The buses are supposed to be more comfortable. But if you can spring for a couple more flights (Yangon to Bagan especially) it will cut down on your travel time.

In Bagan, forget the taxi. Take a horsecart, and you can bicycle if you want, but it's really not great for cycling. Most of the little dirt roads will have 2 - 4 inches of sand/dust you'll be cycling through on very old bicycles. Horsecart, $18-20 per day for the two of you.

Contact a travel agent to book your flights. Email guesthouses and see if you can get some reservations. Prices have tripled in the last year for most accommodations. A backpacker's budget this year will likely be $50-60 per person per day.

Recheck your prices for the train and the boat, as many of those prices have increased. You will also want to hire a boat on Inle Lake, in the $20-25 range for the boat, double that for Sankar. Also, remember that there are admission fees - $10 Bagan, $2-5 for Pa-O lands, $10 for Inle, etc.

Good luck to you!
Kathie is offline  
Oct 8th, 2012, 02:24 AM
Join Date: Aug 2003
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I agree with Kathie about the amount of train journeys. You might want to consider some bus travel instead (which, incidentally, will almost always be faster than the trains). For example, you could take the bus to from Mandalay to Pyin U Lwin (2 hrs and a much more regular service) and the train from Pyin U Lwin onto to Hsipaw - by all accounts a spectacular journey.

We flew from Yangon to Bagan at the start of our trip which saved a lot of time - worth thinking about if you budget allows.

Re Bagan: We hired bicycles to get around which was great. Yes, the tracks are sandy, but our bikes were fine and we travelled a lot faster than the horse carts. So combining the 2 sounds a good idea to me.

I would definitely pre-book accommodation in Yangon, Mandalay and Ngapali. In fact, I'd consider booking as much as possible as you are going to be in Myanmar in peak season. If you're on a tight budget you may struggle to find cheap accommodation in Yangon and Ngapali.

Consider using a Yangon-based travel agent to make some flight and accommodation bookings, but I'd do it quickly!

Good luck!
SarahAB is offline  
Oct 8th, 2012, 12:25 PM
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Thanks Kathie and Sarah. We will act on your advice. I am really excited about this trip. What is the availability of internet in Burma ? Almost unthinkable not to take a laptop with ?
Abrie is offline  
Oct 8th, 2012, 12:54 PM
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Internet access is variable. Some places we could get pretty good connectivity, other places, we couldn't get a page to load. It will always be slow - we were never able to use our VPN. This is an issue because you need to be aware that none of your internet connections will be secure. So don't do any financial transactions or even access your financial websites. Even email can be risky, my email was hacked in Mandalay and all of my contacts got spam.
Kathie is offline  
Oct 10th, 2012, 04:10 AM
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Thanks Kathie. We are fine tuning our travel plans. Will post if we have more details.
Abrie is offline  
Oct 14th, 2012, 01:46 PM
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I love buying clothes in Thailand/ Cambodia/ Vietnam. Is it worthwhile buying clothes and textiles in Burma. Need to know what to take with and what I can buy there at a reasonable price ?
Abrie is offline  
Oct 14th, 2012, 02:15 PM
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You won't find much in terms of ready-made clothing. Nor is it a place to have western-style clothing made. You will find some lovely textiles, both nice yard goods and exquisite hand-made small pieces
Kathie is offline  
Oct 15th, 2012, 05:54 AM
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Thanks Kathie
Abrie is offline  
Oct 15th, 2012, 06:10 AM
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I bought a dress for $10 at Scott's market which I get more compliments on than almost anything else I own. Otherwise as Kathis said not much in the way of clothing. Check out my trip report it actually includeds part of Thailand. It might be easier to go to my blog www.nywoman.blogspot.com I usually stayed in more down market places than many Fodorites do.
They were all booked by Santa Maria except Beautyland in Yangon. Do contact them they are terrific, they took care of my flights and all accomodations.

Keep in mind it will be hot when you are there. Enjoy you trip
Nywoman is offline  
Oct 22nd, 2012, 02:43 PM
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Thanks Nywoman. We are looking for accommodation more down market places than many Fodorites do ! Not sure if we are talking about the same price range but we are happy as long as it is clean & comfortable. Would like some suggestions on places to stay in following locations. We booked in Yangon at the Mother Land Inn 2 at 30 dollars for a double room without any availability problem.

Pyin Oo Lwin
Shwenyaung -
Inle Lake
Ngapali beach
Abrie is offline  
Oct 22nd, 2012, 03:48 PM
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Maymo is the old (British) name for Pyin Oo Lwin

I understand you'll have trouble finding a room in Ngapali beach for under $100 this year. Thandwe is the city where the airport is located for Ngapali Beach, so I doubt you want to stay there.

Hsipaw and Thibaw are two names for the same town.

Thazi refers to quite a number of places in Burma. I'm guessing you are referring to one of the towns along the rail route. Typically, one doesn't stop over night at these various towns along the rail line.

Do you have a guidebook yet? The Lonely Planet has the most recent guidebook in English. Also look at the recommended guesthouses in the LP for the smaller places you are staying.

I know the place names in Burma are confusing, as there are old names and new names, but do your research so you know how many stops you are considering.
Kathie is offline  
Oct 23rd, 2012, 01:04 PM
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Thanks Kathie. I am still battling to grasp all the names and haven't had lots of time to research. Thanks for the kind acceptance of my ignorance.

Hope to get more time in the next week. Hoping to hear from travelers with resent good accommodation recommendations.
Abrie is offline  
Oct 24th, 2012, 03:24 AM
Join Date: Aug 2003
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If your budget can stretch to it, Pleasant View Resort at Npapali is wonderful - very low key and intimate with a boutique feel. We stayed there in February. All the rooms have unobstructed sea views. I think it's on the most beautiful part of the beach, and there are several little places to eat which are right on the beach and serve fantastic seafood that's super cheap.

Here's the website:


The prices have gone up a little this year, but we booked through a Yangon-based travel agent and got a good reduction, so if you're interested suggest you do the same.

Here's a link to my photos from Ngapali which (hopefully!) will give you some idea what it's like:


SarahAB is offline  
Oct 24th, 2012, 07:21 AM
Join Date: Jun 2011
Posts: 7
We're about to leave (02-11-'12 returning 25-11-'12)
I organized our trip (took a lot of time and searching/surfing etc.
with a (recommended) travel agency in Yangon.
We have 5 domestic flights including Yangon>Sittway vv.
Only from Bagan>Monywa>Mandalay it's by car & boat
I can send you our itinerary to compare.
Mail to:
[email protected]
huubjurgers is offline  
Oct 24th, 2012, 07:33 AM
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huubjurgers, are you aware that Sittwe/Mrauk U have again been closed with a resurgence in religious/ethnic violence?
Kathie is offline  
Oct 31st, 2012, 03:17 AM
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Posts: 7
Hi, lost your mail please resend
Greetings Huub Jurgers
huubjurgers is offline  
Nov 3rd, 2012, 08:56 AM
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We had all our hotels booked by Santa Maria

In Bagan we stayed at the Bagan Princess which we loved. great pool, wonderful location and spacious rooms. $35 double per night.

Inle Lake we were at the Princess Garden Hotel, our favorite, small complex, pool, wonderful owner and little bungalows in a beautiful garden setting. Free bikes to ride into town and amazing breakfasts! $35 double.

Our Mandalay hotel was okay, newer . Double was $40. Not our favorite hotel but then either was Mandalay our favorite city.

We were there in January of this year.
live42day is offline  
Nov 27th, 2012, 12:28 PM
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Thanks for all the info. Leaving in 16 days . Looking forward so much. all the info will come in handy.
Abrie is offline  

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