Help with planning Burma itinerary

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Jun 10th, 2014, 02:06 PM
  #21
 
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I did something very similar to LL in the other direction for about the same price (maybe a bit less) but it was back in 2004. Things have changed so much since then! If I were going back I'd probably head north from Mandalay.
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Jun 10th, 2014, 02:43 PM
  #22
 
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Yes, that is one new road the junta invested in. The other is from Mandalay to Pyin U Lwin so the generals could get to their country homes easily. I had looked forward to our trip to Pyin U Lwin for the botanical gardens and the lovely old English-style houses, but found the place full of new McMansions the generals are building. They have torn down a lot of the old homes, leaving a few for tourists to look at. The military academies meant that the town was full of soldiers. Even our stroll through the local markets was punctuated by sighting of soldiers in fatigues with automatic weapons. Not what I had in mind. I fear it has only gotten worse since my stop there in 2011.
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Jun 10th, 2014, 07:08 PM
  #23
 
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BTW, It isn't clear to me whether the law has changed about foreigners staying in the homes of locals or not. I can't find anything about the law being repealed. The link LL provided is from an article almost a year old. The link was posted on Thorntree and there was discussion of it. The problem isn't that you'll get in trouble over this, the problem, of course, is that your hosts may be in BIG trouble. So check it out before you book a home stay. It appears that at the very least the authorities have opted to look the other way on some home stays. But as we know, they could decide not to at any time.
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Jun 10th, 2014, 07:09 PM
  #24
 
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PS Satoric, if you know anything about this, please chime in.
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Jun 10th, 2014, 08:43 PM
  #25
 
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I don't really know the legality. There were several airbnb listings that I contacted, a couple were expats renting out a room in their apartment, but the place I stayed at was owned by a Burmese guy. Well, I don't really know that he owned it, he could have been renting the house and subletting all the various spaces illegally (or not).

This was in Yangon of course, I don't think you would find country home stays on airbnb.

I was very sure that I wouldn't be in any trouble, and figured that if the host had listed on a site like airbnb, then he would (or should) be aware of possible ramifications. But, who knows, it seems to be a very fluid situation within Myanmar.

I suppose it is something I could ask my Burmese teacher friends.

Certain things have changed with regards to Foreign currency. Both my teacher friends were fine to accept US dollars, said they would get the same exchange rate as me. I also believe you can exchange Euros, AUD, and THB as well.
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Jun 10th, 2014, 09:10 PM
  #26
 
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"I was very sure that I wouldn't be in any trouble, and figured that if the host had listed on a site like airbnb, then he would (or should) be aware of possible ramifications."

Haven't you been keeping up with the problems with airbnb in New York and San Francisco? There seem to be plenty of illegal rentals there. You probably wouldn't be in any legal trouble, but you could be looking for somewhere else to stay with no notice.
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Jun 10th, 2014, 09:16 PM
  #27
 
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I actually am aware of the controversy over airbnb in New York. There is no similar discussion about airbnb in Myanmar. If the very worst happened and I was without accommodation, that wouldn't have been a huge issue. Taxi driver, credit card, find a hotel.
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Jun 11th, 2014, 07:22 AM
  #28
 
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Do ask your friends, sartoric, I'd be interested to hear what they have to say.

The very worst wouldn't be that you'd be without accommodation, the worst would be the police raiding the place at night and dragging your hosts off to jail and turning you out onto the street. I doubt they would take you to jail, but I suppose you never know.

Knowing what I do about recent history in Burma, I wouldn't stay at a person's home without bring positive that the law had been changed. Otherwise, at any time, the government might decide to enforce the law and hosts would be in trouble. I suppose I sound sort of paranoid, but I've talked with so many people in Burma who spent time - often years - in prison for offenses that we would consider inconsequential that I have no trust in the government - even the new "kinder, gentler" generals.
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Jun 11th, 2014, 11:53 PM
  #29
 
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Staying with friends or family overseas can be good but strangers?

Better to stay in hotels so you dont feel obligated to do what hosts do. Nice to have freedom on holidays.

If there are legal issues its not worth the risk.

Im all for mixing with locals but get to know them first before sharing a house.
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Jun 12th, 2014, 12:18 AM
  #30
 
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LOL Kathie, I've now imagined myself being turfed out in the wee small hours. It would have taken seconds to pack (there was nowhere to unpack) but still feel I would have been treated well by the cops. Call me the eternal optimist.

Prachuap, it is common to stay in this kind of accomodation everywhere. You are not obligated to do what the hosts do, you have a room to retreat to just like at a hotel.
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Jun 12th, 2014, 12:41 AM
  #31
 
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We have a culturally enriching time with the Hindu family we stayed with recently in Kathmandu for a week. Here's the place...

https://www.airbnb.co.uk/rooms/889095?s=H1d1

I feel a bit guilty not posted a review. But I left things like writing reviews until we got back to UK, and I'd been timed-out.

Doing the same in Bali soon at this place...

https://www.airbnb.co.uk/rooms/25177...uests=2&s=84J3

Our hosts are French and Indonesian, and you just come and go as you please.
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Jun 13th, 2014, 05:04 AM
  #32
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We have used home stays in a number of places around South America and Asia and have always ground them a very pleasant alternative to hotels or guesthouses and a great way to get to understand more of the culture, appreciate the food and of course to get to know the people.

In Peru and Bolivia we used home stays as a great way of improving our Spanish skills. In Vietnam and Laos we used home stays in remote rural areas where effectively, it was the only option. in these cases, we would always go with a guide who spoke the appropriate minority peoples languages so we had a way of communicating with our hosts. As LL puts it, we did find it culturally enriching. In one home stay in the Mai Chau valley we got invited to a party with a bunch of political science student from Hanoi Uni being organised by the local cadre. in another, we got invited to a wedding in southern Laos - I ended up taking the wedding photos and kept in touch with the family for years afterwards.

One concern is the effect, culturally or economic, that we have on the people and the area we are visiting. Clearly, it benefits all concerned for visitors to research customs and how to behave without causing offence.

My understanding is that the one of the Burmese governments main concerns is that visitors won't know how to behave, which, in reality, is probably a legitimate concern. i did check with the UK FCO and was advised that the authorities do allow home stays in certain areas only, mainly on trekking routes etc.

i also found a useful website which has more info on the subject

http://www.irrawaddy.org/business/de...homestays.html

Prachuap, you do not seem to understand the homestay concept. In most cases, whilst it is a private home, it is just like staying in a small guesthouse, although some do have communal sleeping areas. Most will offer food, sometimes eating with the family but most often not.

give it a go. you never know, you may enjoy it.
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Jun 13th, 2014, 07:33 AM
  #33
 
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Very interesting article, crellston.

The concern about people not behaving appropriately is legitimate, but I do not believe it is the primary concern driving the laws about where foreigners can stay. As noted in the article, even other Burmese are not allowed to stay in private homes and family members from abroad are not allowed to stay in the homes of family members. I think it all has to do with control. The government is always concerned about an uprising, and if foreigners are staying in private homes - well, who knows what they might be taking about? Even other Burmese staying in a private home might be the beginning of a revolt. The government requires hotels and guesthouse to submit a list of who is staying there (along with passport numbers) to the local police every night. I don't know if they have improved the technology, but when I was there, it was all written by hand on pages with multiple carbons!

It will be interesting to see if the government decides to loosen the laws about homestays.
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Jun 13th, 2014, 09:59 AM
  #34
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You are no doubt correct Kathie. History has shown time and again that it pays never to underestimate the paranoia of a dictatorship, What you describe reminds me of my first visit to Vietnam 20 odd years ago. Every place I visited the guesthouse/ hotel would take my passport and go off to the police station to register my presence. The first time it happened, I refused to to let my passport out of my sight. 10 mins later the police arrived and "insisted" - how things have changed in that country ( despite the lack of democracy). Hopefully, the Burmese authorities will gradually relinquish there iron grip on the country as more visitors arrive.
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Jun 13th, 2014, 11:48 AM
  #35
 
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Ah, you were in VN before I was! It's great to be able to see that things have changed for the better. I do hope things will get better in Burma. It is one of my favorite places.
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Jun 20th, 2014, 10:54 AM
  #36
 
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Kathie

Finally heard back from my friend in Myanmar about having people to stay at private homes. She said the law hasn't changed, you still need to ask for permission from the government. As well she said it is more easily granted if you are downtown rather than in the country.

Perhaps optimistically, she's hopeful that will change after the election in 2015.

Sorry to hijack Crellston.
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Jun 20th, 2014, 11:29 AM
  #37
 
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sartoric, thanks for getting back to me about this, I appreciate it.
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