Burma is wonderful!

Old Jan 18th, 2011, 07:34 AM
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jules39 -

I’m enjoying every line of your report! I was in Burma in October and had the pleasure of one day with Prof. Min Thu - but 4 nights in Bagan would be perfect. Glad you mention the fascinating temple lighting systems.

You have a wonderful itinerary & I’m looking forward to the rest of your report. Thanks for posting & hope you’ll share your photos, too!
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Old Jan 18th, 2011, 10:24 AM
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In retrospect, would you recommend driving from Bagan to Inle
Lake? Did you see enough pretty/interesting scenery on the way to make the drive worthwhile? I usually prefer driving to flying if there is good scenery along the way. But 2 days in the car is a long time. I am enjouing your report and will be referring to it as I plan our trip to Burma, either next Jan. or the following Jan.
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Old Jan 18th, 2011, 05:02 PM
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Thanks m-bran.

Shelly it would really depend on how much time I had available. We had a good amount of time. But if the drive meant we would have only had 2 days in Bagan then perhaps we we would not have done that. The scenery was pretty & we just enjoy being able to see some life going on as we drive along. Stopped at a nice breezy restaurant for lunch along the way.
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Old Jan 18th, 2011, 05:09 PM
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Kalaw to Inle via Kakku. The driver was wating for us at 7am to leave Kalaw. The drive down to where you would turn off for Inle lake probably took only about 1 hour. Most of the drive was in fog so we were not able to see the view of the lake as we came down off the mountain. We continued past the turn off to Inle on to Taunggyi where we had to stop to pick our permit & compulsary Pa-Ou guide for Kakku. We then drove though Pa Ou villages to get to Kakku. All up the drive from Kalaw to Kakku took about 3 hours.

Our Pa-Ou guide was great. Very informative but not overbearing. When we first got to Kakku he spent a period of time giving us the information & then left us to wander alone for the rest of the time. During conversation with him over the day was when I became confused yet again as to whether it is Myanmar or Burma? His conversation with us sort of lead you to believe that if you refer to the country as Burma then you are igonoring the minority non- Burmese. I did not like to lead any political conversation but other comments he made certainly lead to the belief that he was not in favor of the current govt so that would not be his motivation for the Burma comment. Just a comment I thought I would pass on.

Kakku is pretty amazing. I didn’t even see it coming up! Looking out the other side of the car I guess & as we slowed down & turned & there is was. About 2400 stuppas grouped very closely together on a small hill. There was nobody there. The site only sees about 300 tourists a year.

As we walked up through the center of the stuppas a breeze blew & the bells on the stuppa umbrellas rang softly. It was magnificent. I sat at the base of one of the stuppas off to one side and just listened. I had “lost” my hubby for a while & when we found each other his first comment was “did you hear the bells!” Some of the stuppas have been renovated & some in my opinion not very well they look way too new. But that is just my opinion. There are plenty that still look more original. We spent nearly 3 hours & could have easily sat in a shady area for longer just listening to the breeeze & the bells.

Had lunch at the only retaurant in the area that is right across from the complex.

On the drive back to Tauggyi we stopped & walked through a Pa Ou village. It was lovely & very neatly laid out. It also seemed incredibly quiet. One reason was that a lot of people were off working in the fields but the other reason our guide told us about was that there are no animals living in the village so you don’t have all the animal noises.

We dropped our guide off in Tauggyi & then went on to Inle Lake.
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Old Jan 18th, 2011, 06:47 PM
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Yes, the bells at Kakku were magical!

The comment you got on Burma vs. Myanmar is interesting. It's clear that there is disagreement among those who live there that are not based on political leanings.
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Old Jan 18th, 2011, 07:34 PM
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Yes Kathie the comment has made me think a little.

Oh those bells!! Have to admit that the only thing I really wanted to buy after this was a bell & some wind chimes that have that sound. Looking forward to summer and hearing them chime as we sit outside bringing back great, relaxing memories!
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Old Jan 19th, 2011, 06:08 PM
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We stayed at Inle Lake for 5 nights at the Inle Lake View Resort. Thank you Kathie for your report as that is why we chose this place. We really liked the resort. Great location set back a little from the lake so it is quiet & if you have time you can stretch your legs by walking in the town just outside. Our room was a junior suite & just lovely. The staff at the hotel were fantastic. The front desk manager helped us arrange our boats each day & the restaurant staff were just lovely.

Each day we tried a different restaurant for lunch. The food was OK in each but it was probably the locations that were the highlight. On the different areas of the lake overlooking lots of different activities. At night we ate at the hotel. Again the food was OK although on our second last night we took the suggestion of the waiter who said if we like spicy food we should try the Prawn Sambal This was the tastiest dish we had there & ended up having it again the next night! Also discovered the chocolate mouse on the second last night which was yummie enough to have again the last night.

Five nights is definitely not a “normal” stay at Inle. Most people stay 3 or less. We met several people who were only their one night. Personally I think 1 night is nowhere near enough. Those folks seemed to be madly rushing to see as much as possible & I feel you could not enjoy the beauty of the lake. But….if that is all you have & you really want to go.
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Old Jan 19th, 2011, 06:17 PM
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So what did we get up to on those 5 days? We spent a lot of time in boats & at markets. It was foggy every morning we were there so we did not head out until 8am The first morning we were a little worried about this “late” start that we would get out there & be in the middle of hoards of visitors but it turned out that everyone went out later because of the fog & those who would usually head out very early were the 8am starters & the others were later. So we did in fact get to markets etc a little ahead of others. A note here. Our boatman spoke very little English so we talked with the front desk man at the hotel & explained to him what we wanted to do & what we would like to see. He would talk to the boatman each morning & give him an itinerary & also let him know what things we like. For example to go slowly through villages whenever possible. When we were going to dinner each night he would chat with us find out what we enjoyed most that day & what we wanted to see more of. This worked out very well.

The first morning we went ot Inthein. It was market day so it was busy. We spent a couple of hours in the market. Came across the obviously not allowed gambling area where a very polite man came up to us & asked us to feel free to watch but to please take no photos. Had a laugh at the dogs helping themselves to snacks of dried fish from the stalls on the ground. After the market we headed for the pagodas. First of all crossed over the bridge & saw the hive of activity in the river. Turns out market day is also a great day for dozens of people to drive their motorcyles into the river & wash them While you are at it strip the clothes off the kids so they can bathe as well. Oh & if you like bring some laundry down as well to do on the river bank. And don’t forget the water buffallo this is when they like to have the dust washed off them too!!! It was almost like one of those “Where’s Willy” posters were there are so many different activities going on that it takes you a while to register it all!

Across the bridge & up a dirt lane there is a cluster of totally unrestored & crumbling pagodas. They are mostly red brick as any stucco that was on them has come off. They look great encompassed by thick trees. One of the pagodas has its roof fallen in & when you get closer you can see thought he main doorway the fallen head of Buddha lit by the sun coming through where the roof should have been.

From there we decided not to go inside the main pagoda back by the bridge & walk up the hill under the covered walkway but rather to take the dirt road that goes up the hill a little to the left of the walkway. We did this beacause there were no people there & it just looked inviting! The road goes through a lovely bamboo forest to Shwelnn Thein Paya. Once there you can walk thorough the grounds where there are something like 1050 stuppas. Some are still beautifully original. We spent ages wandering among them. You only have to wander off the main trail to have no-one else around. We spent long enough there that by the time we decided to walk down the covered walkway there was only one other family dong the same thing. Everyone else had gone. We did go back to Inthein on another morning when there was no market. It was totally deserted then. We spent more time in the pagodas & stuppas & also hiked further up the hill along what turned out to be one of the hiking trails to Kalaw & also a well used trail for locals heading to market. Some were totally facinated to see us just wandering along obviously not on a hike but just wandering.
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Old Jan 19th, 2011, 06:37 PM
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The other morning market we visited was Nant Pan Market. When we first arrived there the front stalls were tourist stalls & thought we wold not be there very long but we only had to walk a few isles in & there was all the stuff the locals came for & we only saw 2 other tourists back in this area. Spent 2 hours in there. Totally facinating. You see so many different ethnic groups out doing their shopping. It is so culturally rich. In the fresh meat/fish section we spent time watching as dogs tried their best to get tid bits from the lady chopping up her fish for sale. Every now and again she would toss them a treat to scatter them but they would be back! When they annoyed her too much she had a long boat paddle by her side which she would pick up & threaten to wack them with!

Went throught the floating garden area of the lake several times on our way to or from places. Here the plants are bobbing up & down & the farmers are harvesting from their boats. Had our boatman take us through villages whenever he could rather than just go straight from point A to point B. This way we had plenty of oportunity to see village life on the lake. Take in the house styles etc. If you happen to be going through before school starts watch out for the school “busses”! Longboats packed with kids usually just with a bigger kid driving heading to school. They will smile & wave at you like crazy! The people are just so friendly with beautiful smiles.


Went to the jumping cat monastery & confess to being facinated at the novice monk gently coaxed the cats to jump through the hoop. The cats loved him because he was obviously gentle & gave them lovely treats!
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Old Jan 19th, 2011, 06:54 PM
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One day we took a whole day trip down to Sankar. You go all the way to the southern end of the lake & then through a long narrow canal to a second lake. This day trip is well worth doing if you have the time. The views change as the valley narrows as you go further south so that you are closer to the mountains & you really do feel like you are infact in a valley. The landscape just becomes more intimate. To visit this area you have to pay an entrance fee & have a compulsary Pa Ou guide. So our first stop of the morning was to pick up our guide. This guide was a very nice young man. He was a pleasure to spend the day with. About an hour into the trip there was a small market happening so we stopped for an hour to look around. It took about 3 hours to get to Sankar. Most of the trip was through the narrow canal area.

As you pull into Sankar village there are ruined pagodas right on the edge of the lake. I have seen photos of these surrounded by water but the water level was low enough that we were able to walk amongst them. As with every walk we took in fields or rural Burma our guide warned us continually about snakes. We got this warning a lot all over the country & the locals were really skittish & looking around. Understandable when I read that it has one of the highest rates of death from snake bite than any other country.

From the stuppas we walked through the village. School was just letting out for lunch so all of a sudden we were surrounded by kids & the total focus of their interest as they headed home. The monastery is the only place in town with a power generator so this is were the locals gather in the evening to watch TV! Particularly soccer a national passion.

Stopped to see the activities on the rice wine making “hut” They make 60% alcohol rice wine during the day & in the evening the “hut” is a karaoke bar! Had lunch at the only restaurant in Sankar. Perched on stilts over the lake. Noodles again!!!

We headed slowly back north. Dropped our guide off & got back to the hotel about 445pm. Great day.
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Old Jan 19th, 2011, 07:37 PM
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One afternoon we got back from our lake touring about 2pm & the front desk manager asked if we would like to go & take a look at Nyaung Shwe village. This is the village where people would stay if they don’t stay on the lake or at the likes on Inle Lake View resort. It is also where there are budget accomidations available. So we headed there for a few hours. The boatman dropped us off & then we just wandered around for a couple of hours. It was actually good to do a good walk after so much boating! A couple of early evenings we would head out the front gate of the Inle Lake View Resort when we got back from the lake & walk for an hour through the village area. Always interesting things to see when you take a walk.

Well I think that just about sums up Inle Lake. It is a beautiful area & it is surprising relaxing going everywhere on a motor boat. The noise of the motor did not bother us at all. It is cool in the mornings. I had a fleece jacket & a light weight raincoat/windbreaker which were enough to keep me comfortable. We took a small extra bag into the boat & as we warmed up we just put these extra layers into the bag & left them in the boat for the day. Do not forget sunscreen! Reapply it at regular intervals during the day. We saw a few people with some sunburn that was going to hurt! The boat has a few golf sized umbrellas which make good sunshades. Bring a sun hat though.

At night it was cool but we were warm enough in the room & actually left windows open all night but we do like cool weather to sleep.

Through the hotel a whole day boat trip was US$35 & the Sankar trip US&$75. At the end of our time they actually gave us some discounts probably because we were there so long!

I wish I had tried the spa at the hotel. It gets good reviews but I didn't have time!!
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Old Jan 19th, 2011, 07:53 PM
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I'm so glad you liked the Inle Lake View Resort! We felt our time on the lake was magical.

And like you, we felt the trip to Sankar was well worth it.

I feel a bit like I'm re-living our trip to Burma through your report.
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Old Jan 19th, 2011, 07:54 PM
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From Inle we had to fly back to Yangon & overnight before we could fly to Sittwe. This was the only way that we could make it work. Originally we had an early morning flight out of Heho (The airport near Inle) but a week before this it was announced that Yangon Airways would stop flying on Dec 3rd & our flight was Dec 5th. This was a fact that Min Thu our horse cart driver in Bagan casually mentioned to us one afternoon that he had heard on the news!! So when we got to Inle we handed the front desk manager at the hotel our air tickets & said we were going to ask him to reconfirm them but we heard they are out of business! He confirmed this & said he would call Santa Maria's local agent & find out what they said. The next day he told us they were working on it already & later confirmed they had us confimed seats on an Air Mandalay flight the day we wanted but it was later in the afternoon. This was fine especially since it had taken no time out of our vacation to fix. So on our last day at Inle instead of an early morning flight we did not fly intil about 2pm. As promised by Santa Maria a driver came to take us to the airport with our new airline tickets in hand. The downside was that we did not have the day in Yangon we thought we would have but that was OK we had seen what was important to us in Yangon on our first day in the country.

So we flew from Heho to Yangon. That night really did not do much except have dinner!

The next morning we had a few hours after breakfast before we had to go to the airport. We decided to just spending this time walking around. So we did just that navigating the crazy Yangon sidewalks!

Next Sittwe & Mrauk U…
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Old Jan 19th, 2011, 07:58 PM
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Kathie I think Inle Lake View Resort was probably our favorite hotel in Burma. I thought a lot about whether to stay right on the lake but I just kept coming back to ILVR. I liked the idea that we could drive there initially & on our last day & that there was the possibilty to just take a walk if we wanted to. So again Thanks! It was just what we wanted!
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Old Jan 19th, 2011, 08:01 PM
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Oh & Kathie when you say you felt your time on the lake was "magical" I totally agree.In all the days we were there every morning as we headed out into the mist to begin our days exploring it was always such a wow feeling! I would find myself taking a deep breath & just settling in for the day!
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Old Jan 19th, 2011, 08:18 PM
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I was just informed that an ultra luxury, over the water villa type, resort has open up there. The Auruem Inle is suppose to be open and I was wondering if you saw this property Jules?
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Old Jan 19th, 2011, 08:32 PM
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Sorry Hanuman we did not see it.
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Old Jan 19th, 2011, 09:28 PM
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Just finished posting my Burma report. Were we at Tharabar Gate at the same time? Guess not since we used Min Thu for 3 full days too. I' so glad you also had a rich experience in Burma. You were so lucky to be at Shwe Dagon for full moon night. This was our second trip and I can imagine returning, can you?
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Old Jan 19th, 2011, 10:39 PM
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Jules, your report is exciting,especially since we leave for Myanmar next week. You faced some changes and difficulties and still you title your posts this way (Burma is wonderful.) We still don't have our internal flights confirmed (are wait-listed), but trust a good journey will happen anyway. Thanks for your friendly descriptions!
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Old Jan 30th, 2011, 09:56 AM
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I think the Lonely Planet describes Sittwe as a “scrappy” town & in fact this is a very good description! It definitely has the feel of a place that once thrived & is now not as prosperous. Arrived mid afternoon & spent the remainder of the day seeing some things. There are several Buddhist museums with eclectic collections & monks who beam when they see a vistor arrive & come over to chat.

There is a view point where locals gather to see the sunset & you will also probably see every tourist that happens to be in town that evening. But since there are not many tourists the place is not crowded at all! You can watch the sun set over the Bay of Bengal enjoying the sea breeze.

Did see a lot UN & Save the Children vehicles & staff in Sittwe.

We stayed at Shwe Thazin Hotel in Sittwe. It was fine but nothing special. I could not find information nor did I see any other hotel that looked better than this so there is definitely not much choice for accomidation. That evening it was interesting to watch the thousands of fruit bats that hang out in the trees take flight. They are big bats. The next morning the woke us as they returned to their trees for the day.

Before heading to Mrauk U we made an early morning stop at the Sittwe fish market. This was one of the most facinating markets we went to. Not just your run of the mill fish here but you had to watch you didn’t step on a griant sting ray. There were sharks, eels, & all sorts of other things. One lady had a bunch of live frogs tied together by their legs for sale! The market was incredibly busy. It is on the water edge & there were lots of boats still off loading there catch or selling straight from the boat.
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