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Last minute trip change...Laos, Thailand or Burma?

Last minute trip change...Laos, Thailand or Burma?

Old Nov 29th, 2011, 11:13 AM
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Last minute trip change...Laos, Thailand or Burma?

For the first time, we have signed up for a group tour rather than independent travel, to go along with some friends. Trip reports on Fodors for the OAT Vietnam trip with pre trip to Laos and post trip to Cambodia were favorable and I was looking forward to it all. Now the friends have cancelled, and the pre-trip to Laos is cancelled. I already have my own air tix to Bangkok and was going to spend 5 extra days there before the group meets up. So I arrive in Bangkok on 1/24 in the morning and meet the group on 2/3 in Bangkok. My new options are:

1. Bangkok 5 days and quickly plan my own trip to Laos and get back to Bangkok to meet up with the group.
2. Travel around Thailand for the whole time (have traveled parts of Thailand before).
3. Quickly plan a 10 day trip to Burma...trip reports coming out there do sound interesting and the only part of Burma we have seen is diving. However, I just found out about the cancelled trip today and have done no previous research.

Option 3 intrigues me, but do you think it can be done with such short notice? I just read the post re Santa Maria travel agency, too, and thought about emailing them. Any other suggestions about any of the options?

Thanks in advance for any quick help.
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Old Nov 29th, 2011, 11:36 AM
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We did a 12 day trip to Myanmar last month and used Santa Maria. I posted a trip report about it here and if you do a quick search you should find it. The trip was great and I imagine that SM could arrange something for you quickly. I would shoot them an email and see what they say.
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Old Nov 29th, 2011, 11:59 AM
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Your post is what gave me the idea, plus the other trips to Burma going on now. Did you take one of their own itineraries or design your own?
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Old Nov 29th, 2011, 12:35 PM
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www.theangkorguide.net seat61.com/thailand what I might do.

also www.kohtao.com perhaps great for beach...
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Old Nov 29th, 2011, 12:38 PM
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Qwovadis- Thanks, but our Cambodia post trip is still on, so we will be going there after Vietnam.
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Old Nov 29th, 2011, 12:46 PM
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Sorry to hear about the cancellation of the Laos part of the trip. It's always a dissapointment when you think you have things planned and then they do not go the way you expected.

I went on the OAT trip to Vietnam last Feb., and if your trip runs the way ours did, I think you won't be disappointed in the trip. We thought it was fabulous and would only have changed a very few things which did not go as well as we had expected.

We are going to Burma for 3 weeks this year. We have used Santa Maria to book the trip-our own itinerary,choice of hotels, ect. They are very nice to work with, but their email is not alweays working, so if you don't hear from them in a few days, email them again. Also, you'll have to make a decision fairly quickly because you need a visa to enter Burma, and it took 3 weeks to get ours back. Also, if you go to Burma, you'll need to add the cost of that to your trip insurance, if you have taken it out independent of OAT, so you'll be covered in Burma.

I think combining Burma with Vietnam is a good idea. You can fly Air Asia from Bangkok to Yangon fairly inexpensively. Alternatively, you coud easily duplicate the OAT extension that was cancelled to Laos.

Have a great trip to Vietnam.
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Old Nov 29th, 2011, 01:15 PM
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Burma,Burma,Burma
Just the most interesting country. Much more to see and do than Lao. I still like Lao, its a very nice place and we have spent a lot of time there over the years but Burma has so many "wow" factor places that it is hard to beat as a destination.
Also Burma seems set for a bit of a boom so it may be best to get in early. That may sound like a TV sales pitch but it is probably close to the truth.
We used Shan Yoma tours ( http://www.exploremyanmar.com/) for our tour and both the price and service was excellent. We dealt with a young lady at Shan yoma (Ms Yi Yi Khin) who was excellent to deal with. We had a comparative quote with Santa Maria too.
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Old Nov 29th, 2011, 02:01 PM
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I second Burma/Myanmar. You can get a visa at the consulate in BKK. Usually can do this overnight - if it is not a weekend.

Someone on Lonely Planet said the VOA is working again for a particular TA. You might check their boards on Myanmar and see. If you are in the US, I believe you might still have time to get one from their consulate in the US.
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Old Nov 29th, 2011, 02:25 PM
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Thanks all. I have emailed Santa Maria and hope to hear back. If it's a go, I assume their general itinerary for a quickie overview trip would do, but if you have suggestions for a 9 night itinerary that you think would be really good, I would be happy to hear suggestions.
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Old Nov 29th, 2011, 04:10 PM
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We basically used a standard tour that Santa Maria put together. We dropped one location (golden rock) in favor of spending more time in Inle and adding a trek. If we were going again, we would drop Mandalay. I wanted to skip this location based upon what I read on this forum...but my husband really wanted to go. Afterwards his comment was--skip Mandalay! So if you are short on time...I would cut that location. But be sure to hit Bagan, Inle Lake and of course a day or so in Yangon. The trek was also great.

I had good luck with communication with Santa Maria. They ended up arranging our visas and that worked well. If I recall, it did take several weeks for them to get the paperwork taken care of. They were responsive with email...except for one period of about a week when Zaw told me he was out of the office. Once he was back, things were worked out and all went well.
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Old Nov 29th, 2011, 04:40 PM
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Burma is fabulous (posting from Yangon), but you'll need to do some research pronto. Plan just two locations plua some time in Yangon. I'd recommend Inle and Bagan. There is so much tp know about Burma and travel there, start reading the LP = a ne edition is gue out in Dec - all the other trip reports here and take alook at my Burma reading list (which I should updat).

Good luck. Burma is welcoming th largest number of travlers ever, so reservations can be ahard to ome by.
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Old Nov 29th, 2011, 07:00 PM
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I would go with Bagan and Mandalay. But then again I love the history of the ancient cities. I know others may disagree with Mandalay but different people like different places and viva le difference.
Bagan is undisputedly one of the best sites in Asia, possible one of the best in the world.
I would also recommend a second quote, if not from Shan Yoma then from another company.

As Kathi said get in quick or you may miss out.
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Old Nov 29th, 2011, 09:32 PM
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Kathie- I agree that a few locations would be best given our short amount of time. Both Inle and Bagan sound good. I also noticed though, that everyone speaks so highly of the U Bien bridge. Too much?
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Old Nov 30th, 2011, 05:43 AM
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U Bien bridge is nice...but for us --it didn't compare to the sunsets over Inle and at Bagan. My two cents is that it isn't worth adding Mandalay. Stick to Bagan and Inle if time is an issue.
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Old Nov 30th, 2011, 06:47 PM
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I'd also stick with Bagan and Inle. Going to Mandalay to see Ubien isn't worth it with your short time. Bagan and Inle are really wow experiences. At Inle, don't take the tourist circuit. I did a blog post on what to see at Inle: http://www.travelindependently.com/r...-for-inle-lake
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Old Nov 30th, 2011, 10:28 PM
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Thanks Kathie. I will read the blog. Unfortunately I'm doing this while out of town, and driving all day for several days so can't do much research until I get home. Santa Maria answered my emails in a very timely way and once I told them I would rather limit the areas to visit, they sent an amended generic itinerary that I will pass on for suggestions when I get home. Your friend Min Thu sounds very interesting and if I could get his contact info, I would really appreciate that.
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Old Dec 1st, 2011, 03:18 AM
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I hope you can get Min Thu for your time in Bagan. He has increasing numbers of fans, so scheduling may be a matter of luck. [email protected]

BTW, his brother drives a taxi and can do airport transfers for 6000 kyat each way... much cheaper than the travel agency!
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Old Dec 3rd, 2011, 10:54 AM
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I agree that with your limited amount of time I would go for Inle Lake and Bagan. I spent 5 days in Inle Lake - could easily have spent another couple of days - had 5 days in Bagan - 4 would have been better. I'd have to say that Inle was my favorite spot - just so many things to do and places to go. Definitely go to Sankar if you go to Inle Lake and speak with the doctor in the hospital there - really really interesting.
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Old Dec 4th, 2011, 11:39 AM
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Well...it's starting to pull together. Min Thu is available and his brother is available for airport transfer. Santa Maria is quoting hotels for the 3 locations of Summit Parkview in Yangon, Bagan Thande and Paradise Resort in Inle. Comments on these?
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Old Dec 4th, 2011, 04:59 PM
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I'm so glad that you can use Min Thu and his brother in Bagan.

I haven't stayed at any of the hotels you mention, hopefully, somone else can comment.

Your trip is really coming together.
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