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Looking for advice on short Burma itinerary

Looking for advice on short Burma itinerary

Old Jan 23rd, 2014, 05:35 PM
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Looking for advice on short Burma itinerary

My husband and I are headed back to South East Asia this July. We'll be in Cambodia and Burma for two weeks. This will be his 2nd and my 4th trip to Cambodia but neither of us has been to Burma. We are going to Cambodia to visit friends and travel a bit outside the normal Siem Reap temple circuit.

We'll spend 6 days in Cambodia, and then head to Burma. From what I can tell, the most economical way to get there from Siem Reap is Air Asia, through Bangkok. The flight leaves at 12:15 pm and arrives at 5:20 PM in Yangon, so basically kills our day in both places. But at $150 pp all in, it's really the most reasonable option. No one seems to fly the route nonstop. Bangkok Airways can get us there earlier (around 2:30 pm) but it's $380 for the same flight.

Saturday- Because we arrive so late, it gives us no time to see anything in Yangon AND no time to catch a connecting flight to anywhere else. Should we bother going in to Yangon or should we stay near the airport and take the earliest flight to Bagan we can?
Sunday-Fly to Bagan
Monday -Bagan
Tuesday- Fly to Heho for Inle Lake
Wenesday-Inle Lake
Thursday-inle Lake
Friday- Fly to Yangon
Sat AM-all day Saturday in Yangon, midnight departure back to US

I am nervous about waiting until Saturday to fly back to Yangon to catch a flight leaving at midnight. That just seems like it's cutting it too close in a country not really known for precision in air travel.

I know, it's a rushed trip, but it's what we've got. Is there a better way/order in which to arrange the days? Is there a way to avoid the night in Yangon at the start of the trip?

Thanks in advance for any advice!
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Old Jan 23rd, 2014, 05:45 PM
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There is no decent place to stay by the airport in Yangon. And the airport is not far from the city. So go into the city and have a nice dinner. If you have the energy, go to Shwedagon Pagoda once you have checked into your hotel and go to dinner afterwards. I'd fly into Yangon for your return on Saturday, as you flight doesn't leave until midnight. That would give you one more day in Bagan.

One other option to check on is Myanmar Airways International. They offer a non-stop flight from either Siem Reap or PP, depending on season. I don't know about flight times or prices, but it may get you into Yangon a few hours earlier, which might allow you to fly to Bagan that evening.

As you can see, I'd try to maximize your time in Bagan and Inle Lake.
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Old Jan 23rd, 2014, 06:38 PM
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Thanks Kathie. I agree, I would love to avoid Yangon on the first night all together if I could.

I've looked at MAI and they only fly from SR to Yangon through PP first. The flight leaves SR at 11:45 and gets to Yangon at 3pm. Right now it's $252 in March. Their online ticketing only goes that far.
Hmmmm...is arriving 2 hours earlier worth $200 more (for two tickets)?
If we could get to Bagan that night, maybe. But according to Air Myanmar's (domestic) timetable, it doesn't look like there are any late afternoon or evening flights for a connection. Where else can I look?

You think it's worth it to risk flying back to Yangon on Saturday? What would we do with our stuff for potentially 12 hours? Leave it at the airport? If we have a hotel the night before, at least we can ask for a later check out or they can store our luggage for the day.

I've heard that the traffic can be bad and it can take more than an hour to get into the city now (which is why I asked about staying out there on arrival).

I think it would be full dark by the time we got to Shwedagon Pagoda. That's a good time to see it?
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Old Jan 24th, 2014, 04:58 AM
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Shwedagon Pagoda is very beautiful at night. It looks totally different from seeing it in daylight. However, if your flight arrives at 5:30, you will not get checked into a Yangon hotel until 7at the earliest, which is kind of late to start sightseeing, after a long day of travel.

When I was in a situation similar to yours, flying into Yangon arriving at 6PM and needing to make an early morning flight out the next day to Mrauk U, I stayed at the airport. This was 2 years ago and I do not know if the hotel is still open because it was a very big hotel with only about 25 guests there. If you want details about the hotel click on my name to get my Burma TR. The room was clean and well a/ced. The only downside is that the dinner service was very minimal. Knowing that, if I were in your situation, I would sleep at the airport.
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Old Jan 24th, 2014, 06:28 AM
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Only a local agent can tell you what the air schedule is likely to look like while you are there. The published schedules online won't tell you. And you don't want to fly Air Myanmar in country, only the International arm. You can look at Air Mandalay and Air Yangon timetables online, but your best bet is an agent.

Shelley, I had forgotten you had an ok experience staying near the airport. I talked with a couple of other people who had awful experiences. So, Kristina, if you decide to stay near the airport, make sure to get Shelley's recommendation.

An hour now to get into town - that is unbelievable!

As Shelley says, seeing Shwedagon at night is a good time.
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Old Jan 24th, 2014, 10:11 AM
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OMG an hour to get into town... My how things have changed! Also agree Shwedagon at night is breathtaking.....
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Old Jan 24th, 2014, 10:27 AM
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Ditto, we went to Shwedagon at night, so glad we did. Had dinner first at Singapore Kitchen, then walked over, taxi back to hotel.
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Old Jan 25th, 2014, 09:30 AM
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Another word of encouragement to make time for Shwedagon Pagoda, day or night. I'm certain you'll be glad you did. It will surely make a lasting impression.
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Old Jan 26th, 2014, 03:56 AM
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Check out Silk Air, part of Singapore Airlines. We found them very reasonable for our flights to/from Burma via Singapore. Budget price, but way above budget quality.

Don't worry about having time to kill in Rangoon, just take a camera and walking shoes. It's brilliant if you have an eye for art and photography. The old part of town and the port will knock you flat for days if you have interest in architecture and history and walking. It certainly kept us busy.

The Shwedagon pagoda around sunset is one of those "pinch yourself" moments, you can't believe its beauty with the setting sun burnishing the gold. It is still one of my favourite places in Asia, and that's saying something, as there are hundreds of others up there with it.

Getting out into the country is easy if you have cash and stay somewhere with a good concierge who has lots of cousins. We have travelled all over Asia this way, just by handing over the readies. Not so easy in Burma if you go through a licensed tour agency, as they have to pass money along to the military controllers. Cash in hand is king.

Road travel in Burma is something I still shake my head about. We have driven some questionable pieces of machinery in some questionable places, on tracks that could never be considered roads, but in Burma the drivers of public conveyances have navigators to spot oncoming traffic.

One of the military dictators back in the day decided to ditch English colonial driving on the left of the carriageway and transferred driving to the right of the carriageway, but Burma has been poor for 40 years and so the vehicles are still driven on the right, so a spotter has to be in the front passenger position to spot oncoming traffic.

And I know I have been criticised previously for my comments about aircraft in Burma, but trust me, these things still have ashtrays in their armrests. They don't weigh luggage because they don't weigh anything else that goes into the hold, and they fly at 8,500 feet because they fly around mountains and the mountains and the clouds are higher than the air they fly in. Kid you not.

What else did you wish to know about Burma, apart from the fact that it's beautiful, and so are its people, and you will not be disappointed as long as you have a friendly mind.
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Old Jan 26th, 2014, 03:37 PM
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Thanks so much for all of the replies. I've emailed Zaw at Santa Maria travel (twice now) but haven't heard back.

Shelly K and FromDC (and Kathie)-I have checked out all your trip reports and saved tips for later, thank you!

tennismaine-thanks for the tips.

mareeS55- Unfortunately, Silk Air won't work for us. There's no direct route from Siem Reap so it would take 23 hours, an overnight in Singapore and $656!
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Old Jan 28th, 2014, 11:30 AM
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I heard back from Zaw at Santa Maria travel.

He suggests that on arrival to Yangon we stay near the airport as the early flight to Bagan leaves at 6:30am. That gives us less than 12 hours so it makes sense, though it bugs me that we lose a FULL day in travel from SR to Yangon and see nothing but airports.

He also said that 3 days at Inle Lake is too much and suggested that we check out Pindaya cave after landing at Heho Airport. Thoughts on this?

If we stay at the airport then for sure we will return to Yangon on Friday so we have the day there.
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Old Jan 28th, 2014, 12:18 PM
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Rather than Pindaya, I'd go to Kakku between the airport and your hotel. You need an absolute minimum of two full days at Inle, as you will want to go to Sankar one of those days, and there is plenty to see on the main part of the lake for another full day (or more). Don't have Zaw get you a boatman or guide. You will get a guide when you enter Pa-O lands. Have your hotel arrange a boatman for you. And make sure you let the boatman know where you want to go, otherwise you will see the "tourist circuit." If you want to visit some of the workshops, fine, but you won't want to spend your whole day at workshops. I am very interested in textiles, so we went to the weaving workshop. It's the only place I've seen anywhere that makes textiles from lotus fiber. Don't miss InDien - go first thing in the morning and you will have it to yourselves. Avoid the floating market, but visit one of the five-day markets that isn't the floating market.
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Old Jan 28th, 2014, 12:31 PM
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We got the same "advice" from Zaw about spending less time at Inle but I went ahead with the itinerary I had in mind. We loved it, we were there for 3 full days and 4 nights, it was our favorite part of our trip. The only part I didn't like were some of the really touristy "workshops" but you can avoid them.
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Old Jan 28th, 2014, 12:50 PM
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I agree with kathie and FromDC. Skip Pindaya, go to Kakku and spend at least 2-3 full days at Inle Lake.
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Old Jan 28th, 2014, 01:07 PM
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Agreed. We spent 3 nights at Inle, each one of them worth it.

If you do stay near the airport in Yangon, I would definitely make a concerted effort to go see Shwedagon at night -- and maybe grab some dinner in the city.
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Old Jan 28th, 2014, 08:01 PM
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Thanks everyone, it sounds like I need to do some more research as to where we want to go around Inle.

filmwill- we will get the opportunity to see Shewedagon when we go back at the end of the week. We'll spend one night there and have about a day and a half in the city. Not sure it's worth it to go in just for dinner when we are there for a total of 12 hours (including time to sleep).
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Old Jan 29th, 2014, 05:48 AM
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Kristina, here is an article I wrote several years ago about Inle that may be helpful: http://www.travelindependently.com/r...-for-inle-lake
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Old Feb 8th, 2014, 09:06 AM
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Does anyone have hotel recommendations for Bagan? I keep seeing the hotel at Tharabar Gate recommended over and over, but at $170 a night, I think that's a bit steep.
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Old Feb 8th, 2014, 12:44 PM
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The Tharbar gate has the best imaginable location. I know that there are some smaller hotels nearby, but I don't know the names. You want a hotel in Old Bagan. I'll see if I can find the names of some nearby hotels.
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Old Feb 8th, 2014, 03:54 PM
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We are concluding our 18 days in Burma. We stayed at the hotel @ Tharber Gate for four nights. As mentioned the location is perfect. Our room rate was $150 a night thru Santa Maria. I esp appreciated being able to walk from the hotel to restaurants and various little shops/stalls close by. There was a hotel not to far from us that we kept passing, I'll see if I can figure out what it was.

I agree with those that say spend more time at Inle Lake. I loved our four nights there. We ended up not doing the three hour drive to Kakku because we loved being on the lake so much. After reading the recommendations to go or not to go to Pindaya, we also skipped that. We managed to avoid the crowds on the lake in most places. We set out on the boat before 8 and it was just wonderful to watch the locals begin their days.
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