Itinerary ideas wanted

Old Nov 12th, 2012, 10:26 PM
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Itinerary ideas wanted

I’m looking for itinerary ideas for 2 weeks in Myanmar, Dec 25 – Jan 8. I don’t have a sightseeing agenda but would like to know the best places – ideally off the beaten track – to do the following:

1) Rent a bike (ideally multi-speed but I know these are rare) for day trips within a 20-mile radius of the towns I’m staying in. It’s a great way to get away from other tourists and see unusual things while getting exercise. I am also open to creative itineraries such as a 2- or 3-day bike trip with just a daypack on my back, or biking from A to B and taking the bike back on a bus. I’d consider buying a cheap multi-speed bike and selling it used (for a pittance) or even giving it away after a week or so of riding. Are there especially good regions to explore by bike? For bonus points, do you know where I can rent a multi-speed bike?

2) Hike - interesting, strenuous, safe day hikes or multiday treks. The area around Kalaw sounds nice but is there anything more strenuous?

3) Eat great/unusual food in restaurants, homes, or anywhere else. I’m happy to pay for memorable food experiences if I can find them. Where?

4) Meet interesting people and learn what life is like. I’ve heard great things about the people in Myanmar. I imagine I will meet friendly people anywhere in the country, but are there particularly interesting places to just soak up daily life? Are there specific people you know who I should meet? (I’m a youthful 54-year-old guy from the USA especially into food and technology.)

A possible itinerary would include Yangon, Mt. Kyaiktiyo, Kalaw, Inle Lake, and Hispaw, but I'm not absolutely set on any of those if you suggest better places (except I fly in/out of Yangon). Am I crazy to skip Bagan and Mandalay? Is Nay Pyi Taw worthwhile for amusement value?

I’ll probably try to get to Mrauk U if that’s open/safe, but it’s not looking good at this point.

It sounds like I’ll see plenty of impressive temples without trying, so I’m not inclined to go out of my way for them.

My budget is flexible – I like to travel cheaply but am willing to pay for great experiences or convenience (e.g., a flight if it’s significantly easier than a bus). I don’t want/need a constant guide but will happily pay for a great one here and there (and for trekking). Can you recommend any?

Hotels: I am traveling alone, don’t care about fancy hotels, and would rather be spontaneous than pre-book everything with a travel agency. I have booked the first 3 nights in Yangon (at the Mother Land Inn) just to make the trip start smoothly but would rather not pre-book everything. I’ve heard the horror stories but am I foolish to trust that I’ll find someplace warm to sleep every night if I’m persistent, flexible, and willing to overpay a bit on some nights? Are there some places where I should definitely pre-book? While I’m not hotel-focused, if you have a particular place to recommend, I’d appreciate it.

Feel free to suggest anything you think I’d find interesting. Thanks!

Seattle, USA
btburger is offline  
Old Nov 12th, 2012, 11:40 PM
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I can help you with a few answers especially for questions 1 - 3.

1 & 2. Some friends of mine have been hiking, biking and rafting around Putao and they said that the scenery is very picturesque. Not sure how strenuous the hikes or rides are but should be interesting. They recommend the Malikha Lodge - see link below.

3. For unusual food, especially for Westerners, try the local markets. Usually some interesting food sold there!

Note that Myanmar is not really a country where you can just go to any remote towns you like. Several areas of Myanmar are still in civil war like condition.
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Old Nov 13th, 2012, 07:07 AM
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Bruce, I do think you are foolish to assume you'll be able to find places to stay on the fly. Pretty much every place in Burma is full for the whole of high season. You'll be lucky to find accommodations. Even last year, when the surge of travelers was just starting, we met people who were unable to find lodging and ended up sleeping in the lobby of a guesthouse, a closet or on tables at a tea shop. Some people flew out early because there was no where to stay. This year, there are already reports over on Thorntree of a guy who sleep on the street in Mandalay, someone who flew out early and dozens sleeping on the floor of a monastery. Burma is a country with very limited infrastructure and it is currently strained to the breaking point. Remember that you are required to stay in a government-licensed guesthouse or hotel - no camping, no couch-surfing, and very limited homestays (basically only in conjunction with organized, guided treks, though rumor has it homestays will be allowed during the balloon festival later this month in the Inle Lake area).

I found Mandalay interesting, but not compelling like Inle and Bagan. Bagan is really fabulous, and a great place to do biking. I have heard that there are places in Bagan that rent multi-speed bikes.

I'm sorry to say (as a fellow foodie) that the food in Burma is not very good. Edible is generally what you'll aim for there. You will stumble across good food here and there, but it is not (alas) the norm.

In terms of hiking/trekking, Hanuman's idea of Putao is a good one. I have heard that it now requires a permit to go there. You have to fly, of course, and it used to be there was only one place to stay (see Hanuman's link). You might want to consult with an agent in Yangon about this possibility. The other place I've heard is just fabulous for hiking/trekking is the Mt. Victoria area. That area does require a permit and a guide, but it's worth asking an agent about.

Take a look at our photos from our two trips to Burma,

Many areas of the country are still closed, and many small towns have no guesthouse licensed to take foreigners. The LP guide is pretty good for telling you where there are licensed guesthouses and where there are not.

I hope you are successful in arranging your trip. Best wishes from a fellow Seattle-ite (who will soon be out of the cold rain and into the tropical rains of Java).
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Old Nov 13th, 2012, 08:01 AM
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PS I assumed you have been reading the info on Thorntree, but if not, do so. A shocking number of people are showing up with no accommodations arranged and are not finding any.
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Old Nov 13th, 2012, 11:17 AM
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It is surprising that anyone can go without prearranged accomodations. We had to show our itinerary with hotels when we applied for our visa.
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