Go Back  Fodor's Travel Talk Forums > Destinations > Asia
Reload this Page >

Leaving Seattle for Burma next Week: Still have Questions

Leaving Seattle for Burma next Week: Still have Questions

Old Nov 14th, 2009, 02:42 PM
  #1  
Original Poster
 
Join Date: Oct 2009
Posts: 10
Likes: 0
Received 0 Likes on 0 Posts
Leaving Seattle for Burma next Week: Still have Questions

Hi All,
We decided to go to Burma/Myanmar only about a month ago, at first planning to do the Orient-Express Road-to-Mandaly Cruise. We became concerned however, that we wouldn't get to be out and about on our own much, interacting with locals, dining where we wanted, etc. Addtionally we're not much for tour groups. So Plan B came to be and all of your contributions have been invaluable.

An especially big thank you to Craig for your thorough report from your 2007 trip. You are a household name now, with the phrase “Craig says…” having been uttered from my mouth about 20 times a week. Hanuman, dogster, you guys have been great reading too and the excellent questions from ekscrunchy, Kathie, nywoman and wonky have benefited us as well. What a cool group you all are, including anyone else I missed mentioning. You have no idea how much help you’ve been so far.

I am logging on everyday now to see what morsels of wit and wisdom Kathie and nywoman are offering as they report in. So if you find yourselves reading this, kathie and nywoman, any guidance you can offer would be welcome.

We sent out 2 inquiries for TAs in Yangon on Oct. 30, one to Santa Maria and one to Good News Travel. Santa Maria responded first and was more forthcoming with room and flight details. Good News was always a day or two behind in responding but their tour itinerary looks excellent and was very well detailed. They are highly recommended in To Myanmar with Love and mentioned in LP too. Tough decision but we chose to go with Santa Maria since they were first to confirm they had all the hotel rooms and flights we had requested along with pricing. I learned about them through your recommendations, so thanks.

Our itinerary is fairly standard. 14 nights in Myanmar: 2 nights Yangon, 2 nights Bagan, 2 nights Mandalay, 3 nights Inle Lake and 4 nights Ngapali for some much needed R&R for Krista, 1 more night in Yangon. Bookend nights at BKK at the Novotel Airport Hotel.

Hotels are Govenor’s Residence, Hotel @ Tharabar Gate, Rupar Mandalar, Inle Princess Resort, and Sandoway Resort in Ngapali.

We are doing the Balloons over Bagan at sunrise. I love the idea of riding bikes there in Bagan too. We are staying at Hotel @ Tharabar Gate so should be a good set-up for that. Taking Craig’s advice, I had them omit the Mt. Popa trip. We want to make sure we have enough downtime and independent time so that we are not constantly scheduled.

Also in Bagan, Good News Travel had us doing a sunset boat ride on the Irrawaddy instead of the sunset on the top of a temple. Right now S.M. has us on top of a temple, but my guess is I could change that. Any one have any thoughts about which would be the better way to go?

At Inle Lake we are doing the Sagar boat excursion to the south part of the lake which sounds wonderful.

I am wondering if I should have bypassed Mandalay altogether and allocated those nights to other places, as it looks like some of you have done. It’s a little late to be making those kinds of changes now though, so Mandalay it is.

My other questions have to do with:

Mosquitoes (they love me, unfortunately): What’s the story on them, where are they the worst and when? Of course we have our Malarone Rx and deet, but don’t want to be worrying about Dengue, etc. Or if they are really not a problem for where we are going, I would love to know that too.

Attire for women: Are shorts above the knees (excluding in temples) okay in general or is it like in Rajasthan where it’s really not well tolerated by the culture?

Souvenir limitations re-entering the US: I read what the US State Department has on the website, but I found it confusing. No gems, I know, but are there any limitations on bringing back handicrafts of any kind, i.e. lacquer ware? It sounds like it’s not a problem as long as the items are handcrafted. Confirmation on this would be appreciated.

Permissible Guide Books: I take it that the books, LP and To Myanmar with Love would be okay to bring into the country, yes?

Excess baggage: Craig do you remember what the fees were? We’re still packing so not sure if it will be an issue but wanted to get some sense of the costs just in case.

We leave on 11/20. Any answers and suggestions would be very welcome! Thanks!

Steph
stephd is offline  
Old Nov 14th, 2009, 06:38 PM
  #2  
 
Join Date: Jan 2003
Posts: 6,160
Likes: 0
Received 0 Likes on 0 Posts
Your itinerary looks good to me but I would try and add one more night in Bagan. I didn't like Mandalay that much but since you have 2 weeks in Myanmar I think you should visit there as well. Here are some answers to your questions:

Mosquitoes - I found them everywhere, less in Bagan, but a lot in Madalay and Inle. Big juicy ones that come out from dusk to dawn. Use deet based insect repellent and cover up with long sleeves and pants and spray your clothes with deet as well.

Dress code for women - I would avoid shorts for women but if you're going cycling all day then perhaps bring along a sarong to wear over the shorts when entering temples, markets or restaurant.

Kathie and Nywoman are there right now and you might be able to check their real time report, when they a chance to do it and when they can get online. Craig will be able to give you more precise answers regarding the tours etc and he took good notes while he was there.

Look forward to your report on Ngapali as I only saw the place from the airport.
Hanuman is offline  
Old Nov 14th, 2009, 06:46 PM
  #3  
 
Join Date: Jan 2003
Posts: 6,894
Likes: 0
Received 0 Likes on 0 Posts
Hi Steph - sounds like a great itinerary.

Mosquitos - I don't think you will have much to worry about - it is the dry season and you probably won't see many at all.

Attire - I am against both males and females wearing shorts anywhere in Asia except on the beaches. Modest dress is best, especially if you want to interact with the locals. However, there are many tourists that do wear shorts - they tend to stand out though.

Souvenirs - we had no problem bringing back handicrafts and art work. We had nothing to declare though over the $800pp limit. Technically I believe that you are NOT allowed to import ANYTHING from Myanmar. If questioned, you might just say that whatever you are bringing in was purchased in Bangkok - they have no way of knowing.

Guide books - don't worry about guide books but don't read anything that could be considered subversive in public areas such as airports.

Baggage - the excess charge appeared to be negotiable - we paid $15 - $40 and it was likely just pocketed by those that assessed it. We had a ton of stuff though.

Have a wonderful trip and don't forget to report back!
Craig is offline  
Old Nov 14th, 2009, 06:50 PM
  #4  
 
Join Date: Jul 2003
Posts: 251
Likes: 0
Received 0 Likes on 0 Posts
You lucky things! Bagan was my favourite, but I also like Mandalay, because of not in spite of its dustiness.
The beer - if you are keen on that kind of stuff - is very good and nearly always served well chilled. That was one of my favourite memories of the place!
Enjoy and try to give as much money as possible to the smaller, private businesses!
Nigello
Nigello is offline  
Old Nov 14th, 2009, 10:08 PM
  #5  
 
Join Date: Oct 2003
Posts: 11
Likes: 0
Received 0 Likes on 0 Posts
We are just back from Myanmar/Thailand in Oct 2009 and would gladly return. What a fabulous trip!!! Our travel agent was Myanmar Frangipani Travels and Tours. Website myanmarfrangipani Travels and Tours home page (on Goggle) and specifically [email protected]. The owner U Min Lwin OO ("Min Min") perfectly handled details/took the hassle out of the visit. With a degree in physics, he is detailed oriented but pleasant, personable and fun to be with. With the current job market he can't use his talents in science but has travel perfected.

Mosquitos- To comment on your question about mosquitos (they love me too!), I found using Cutter stick the most helpful; stayed on the longest and seemed to offer the best protection. We also brought the Cutter swabs and liquid but the Cutter stick worked the best. Wearing longer pants and longer sleeve blouses (crinkle cotton to wash in sinks) and nylon cargo clam diggers worked well to keep the critters off. The Burmese wear longis - long elegant wrap type sarongs- both men and women for protection. It is quite lovely and practical- you may also want to buy one in Yangon at Scotts market for about $5 US. This will also come in handy when you visit temples were modest dress is required.
Regarding Mandalay, there are wonderful things to see and do there. To enrich you trip and make it meaningful, you may want to visit an orphanage. Min Min and guide Sai arranged for us to visit the Myanmar Buddhist Orphanage Association (MBOA) to drop off a cash donation and meet with the Abbot, tour the orphanage and the classroms. The MBOA is supported locally, receives small government support and some international assistance. They have a mission statement (which they can give you), do good work in meeting the multitude of needs for the boys there as well as a small class room of girls who attend school during the day and live in a girls orphanage. They have a library and computer room for the boys ; older ones help the younger ones. Check the Myanmar Frangipani Travel and Tours home page and click orphanage support for more information.
Also in Mandalay is Sagaing Hill which has 300 monasteries and nunneries; the main temple on top gives a panoramic view of the city and surroundings.

Further advice regarding money- We found that having small denominations of US dollars ($1, $5, $10 ) and some ($50 and $100s) very helpful. We went to our bank and got them to issue very crispy unmarked, untorn US bills and wore them in a waist security pack. Very helpful in markets , restaurants as kyats do not come in larger denominations.

Handicrafts in Myanmar are also found everywhere in Thailand; there is no US embargo on Thai handicrafts. (We went to Chiang Mai Thailand for 6 days after Burma)

Regarding books - we were careful not to bring in anything that might offend the current government but gave away novels/fiction/non controversial stuff including magazines after we finished reading.

Otherwise, we wish you well and know that you will have a great time with the gracious people of Myanmar. The US is currently negotiating with Ang Su Kyi and the generals regarding loosening the economic sanctions but we are not certain about the timetable.
Aloha- Vicky and Bill
wmbolman is offline  
Old Nov 15th, 2009, 09:09 AM
  #6  
 
Join Date: Jan 2006
Posts: 1,491
Likes: 0
Received 0 Likes on 0 Posts
Bookmarking - thanks for the info and have a great trip!
julia1 is offline  
Old Nov 17th, 2009, 09:06 AM
  #7  
Original Poster
 
Join Date: Oct 2009
Posts: 10
Likes: 0
Received 0 Likes on 0 Posts
Thank you for this much needed information! I just found your original trip report Hanuman, and wish I'd read it earlier. Now every other phrase starts with "Hanuman says..." Since we're staying at Princess Inle Resort we've packed warmer clothes for Inle Lake based on your expereince. We're preparing for accpetable but not fabulous food while in Myanmar. Too bad on that. We're planning on shorts at the beach only now Craig, and thanks for the Cutter stick recwmbolman , I'll search that out. Tomorrow we pick up the crisp new cash we ordered from the bank --it wasn't a problem at BofA.

We are thinking of changing our itinerary to include 1 night only in Mandalay, allowing us 3 nights in Bagan as Hanuman suggested. It's not too late to do it. Any thoughts around this idea anyone?

Is it important to avoid ice in even the "finer" hotel restaurants? Do they have adequate filter systems or should we just plan on avoiding it no matter what. I know sometimes they'll tell you it's OK even when it isn't.
stephd is offline  
Old Nov 17th, 2009, 04:50 PM
  #8  
 
Join Date: Jan 2003
Posts: 6,160
Likes: 0
Received 0 Likes on 0 Posts
Hi again,

We were there over the new year period so it was cool to cold everywhere in Myanmar. You are going approximately 1 month earlier so the weather might be still warm. Kathie, who is in Myanmar at the moment, has reported that Yangon was very warm a few days ago so I would bring clothes for both hot and cold temperature(bring or wear layers as appropriate).

We stayed at the Rupar in Mandalay as well and I think one night in Mandalay should be enough, others like Mandalay but I think you will enjoy your time more in Bagan.

Keep checking Kathie and Nywoman live report for real time conditions in Myanmar.
Hanuman is offline  
Old Nov 17th, 2009, 05:35 PM
  #9  
 
Join Date: Jan 2003
Posts: 6,160
Likes: 0
Received 0 Likes on 0 Posts
Forgot about the ice. We didn't have any problem with the ice at any of the hotels we were staying at. I would take cautions about ice from the markets, street vendors and restaurants.
Hanuman is offline  
Old Nov 17th, 2009, 06:11 PM
  #10  
Original Poster
 
Join Date: Oct 2009
Posts: 10
Likes: 0
Received 0 Likes on 0 Posts
Thanks Hanuman. Yeah, I see the weather in Yangon and Mandalay is very warm. We're packing for days of heat and 3 cool nights and mornings at Inle Lake. I'll let you know what happens if I order a hamburger at Rupar Mandalar!

So you had no problem bringing in your own wine?
stephd is offline  
Old Nov 17th, 2009, 06:30 PM
  #11  
 
Join Date: Jan 2003
Posts: 6,160
Likes: 0
Received 0 Likes on 0 Posts
This a was a couple of years ago and no I did not have any problem BUT there were 3 of us and we brought along 3 or 4 bottles so we were within our duty free limit. Surprisingly Yangon airport duty free does have some good prices for wine and champagne.

Hope you will have as much fun in Myanmar as most of us at Fodors did!
Hanuman is offline  
Old Nov 17th, 2009, 09:13 PM
  #12  
 
Join Date: Jan 2003
Posts: 6,160
Likes: 0
Received 0 Likes on 0 Posts
I just remember that the link to the photo on my original trip report is no longer valid. If you would like to see our photos click on the link here - http://khun-pook.smugmug.com/Travel/.../4034196_UHox2
Hanuman is offline  
Old Nov 18th, 2009, 09:13 PM
  #13  
Original Poster
 
Join Date: Oct 2009
Posts: 10
Likes: 0
Received 0 Likes on 0 Posts
These photos are exquisite! We are now SO excited. You are an excellent photographer and have a beautiful family, my friend.
Our itinerary is now for 1 night in Mandalay and 3 nights Bagan instead of 2 and 2.
stephd is offline  
Old Nov 18th, 2009, 09:43 PM
  #14  
 
Join Date: Jan 2003
Posts: 33,245
Likes: 0
Received 0 Likes on 0 Posts
Hello from a Seattleite in Rangoon.

It has been very hot all over Burma. One of the Balloons over Bagan pilots told us it is 10 degrees F hotter this year than usual. At Inle, everyone said it was warmer than usual.

I think you are going too many places. One night i9n Mandalay will give you no chance to see anything. Cut it. You really want at least three nights each place, and evn that is only twp full days.

Personally, I would not have the agency book day trips for you, unless it is something yo9u cannot do on your own (like driving to Kakku from the HeHo airport on your way to your hotel).

Bikes at Bagan? A friend did this, but lasted only only 10:30 am because of the heat. I highly recommend using a horse cart.
Kathie is offline  
Old Nov 18th, 2009, 09:58 PM
  #15  
 
Join Date: Jan 2003
Posts: 6,160
Likes: 0
Received 0 Likes on 0 Posts
Thank you for the complements Stephd. Kathie has just posted above so you have real time reports on the weather condition in Myanmar! One thing though, the past couple of mornings it has been quite nice and cool in Bangkok. Perhaps a brief cool spell or the beginning of our winter.
Hanuman is offline  
Old Nov 19th, 2009, 12:17 AM
  #16  
 
Join Date: Jan 2003
Posts: 33,245
Likes: 0
Received 0 Likes on 0 Posts
A few other comments:
Mosquitoes are plentiful in the evenings both at Inle and Bagan. It is so dry at Bagan I was surprised at how many mosquitoes got me.

On money, we discovered that while vendors in Bagan will accept US currency, it is very difficult for them to exchange it and they get very bad rates. Do them a favor and pay in kyat. We also had many vendors who wanted us to exchange money with them (their dollars for our kyat) We didn't have enough kyat to do that often.

What can you bring that the locals want? t-shirts with US place names on them, lipstick, pens were often asked for by adults. Next time I'd bring some to trade.

Wwe have loved our visit here. It is unlike any places else we've visited, and we've been all over SE Asia. Burma is caught in a time warp. Think of Burma as being in the pre-computer age. Neither of us have been able to get to our email. There is an easy work-around for gmail so you might want to create an account.

You are being tracked wherever you go, not just the usual hotels listing all names and passport numbers and turning them in to the police daily, but each time you enter a permit area, your passport and visa number will be recorded, even when you buy your Bagan pass at the airport or enter the Archaeological Museum. This isn't to make you paranoid, just a fact to be aware of.

If you have more questions, I'll try to get online later tonight and answer what I can.
Kathie is offline  
Old Nov 19th, 2009, 06:32 AM
  #17  
 
Join Date: Nov 2009
Posts: 1
Likes: 0
Received 0 Likes on 0 Posts
Ladies, hope you have a fab-u-lous time. You forgot to borrow my outfit from our dinner. Look forward to reading the blog. Also, I did not see any pics.
RandallD is offline  
Old Nov 19th, 2009, 07:38 AM
  #18  
 
Join Date: May 2005
Posts: 44
Likes: 0
Received 0 Likes on 0 Posts
I love Myanmar and it's people.
I agree one night in Mandalay hardly makes sense. Mandalay, sounds so romantic but in truth it is a large not particularly attractive city. The surroundings are nice, I really wanted to visit U'Beins bridge for sunset as it is such a Burmese icon. Also the ancient capitals around Mandalay. It was the custom for each new monarch to build his own capital so there are several in the area, Mandalay being the last. We enjoyed the boat ride to Mingun, The Worlds Largest Book, climbing Mandalay Hill in the late afternoon, Mahamuni Pagoda. Visiting a gold leaf factory is fascinating. There really is a lot to see and do in Mandalay. But off hand I can't think of one thing which of itself would make a one night stay memorable.

In my experience (3 trips the last one for 10 weeks volunteering at a school for 3-5 year olds) they don't check what you are bringing in. I had some news magazines to give to people I met, Time, Newsweek etc. also left books and even took some for people met on previous trips. Nobody checked. They used to say Lonely Planet was banned but you see an awful lot of them there.

They will ask for an inventory of your jewelry and valuables but don't really check the information you give them. I have always been asked on the way in but never on the way out, go figure. They do seem to like making notes of everything in triplicate on scraps of paper but what they do with them I have no idea.

I have dozens of photos and trip observations at
http://www.wright-photo.com/burmamap.htm

Have a wonderful trip and beware you may leave your hearts behind. Sue
Sukie is offline  
Old Nov 19th, 2009, 06:24 PM
  #19  
Original Poster
 
Join Date: Oct 2009
Posts: 10
Likes: 0
Received 0 Likes on 0 Posts
Oh dear! So much great advice--this is really helpful. We leave early tomorrow morning. Kathi and Sukie thanks for this information and Kathie you are also a Seattleite! I have lots of unused lipstick and Krista has lots of T-shirts, so that's good. Randall are you in town? Perhaps you could run that litte number on up to the house this evening so we can pack that too...For the photos I was referring to, scroll up to Hanuman's link. They are great.

Good to know about the heat and mosquitos. Hopefully your hunch is right, Hanuman, that the weather is about to cool down, but if not we know now what to expect. We have DEET--hopefully enough. Will take change $USD into kyat in yangon--thanks for that. Thanks also for the warnings re the

Okay this Mandalay issue is drving me crazy. I thought we might do the Sagaing, Amapura trip and see the bridge, but it sounds like there's no one thing that makes Mandalay great, but rather it's the cummulation of all the sights that makes it compelling. We are three nights everywhere right now except Mandalay. If we cut it then where should we add the extra night?
stephd is offline  
Old Nov 19th, 2009, 06:44 PM
  #20  
 
Join Date: Jan 2003
Posts: 33,245
Likes: 0
Received 0 Likes on 0 Posts
Add the extra night to either Bagan or Inle, depending on your interests. I expect I'll visit Mandalay next trip to see the old capitals, but one night doesn't really give yo0u a full day to do that. I think you'll find that less (destinations) is more (fun, interesting, informative).

I hope Hanuman is right about the weather for your sake. We're still in Rangoon, fly to Bangkok tomorrow and it is still very hot. Apparently the wind patterns have been unusual this year, so the weather is coming from the south right now, rather than the north.

I'm sure you'll have a wonderful time in Burma. Do post a report when you return.

Bon Voyage!
Kathie is offline  

Thread Tools
Search this Thread

Contact Us - Archive - Advertising - Cookie Policy - Privacy Statement - Do Not Sell My Personal Information


All times are GMT -8. The time now is 12:37 AM.