Myanmar - 11 Day Itinerary?

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Apr 16th, 2006, 08:05 PM
  #21
 
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Laurie - your post gave me a chuckle... If I stayed away from every country where I disagreed with the government, I couldn't stay home!
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Apr 17th, 2006, 06:48 AM
  #22
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Isn't it appropriate that on tax day we talk about keeping money out of the government's hands?

It looks like I have 3 options in planning my trip:

1) Hire a tour company to arrange flights, hotels, drivers and guides.

2) Hire a knowledgable driver (Bob has suggested the one that he used in Myanmar) and don't bother with guides - make arrangements for hotels and flights on my own or with the help of the driver.

3) Make my own arrangements for hotels and flights and "wing it" with drivers and/or guides when I get there.

I do see certain advantages to having a tour company make the arrangements. If there are problems (overbooked flights or hotels, for instance) they can be a big help. It seems like everyone here that used guides was extremely pleased with the services they received. Any further thoughts?
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Apr 17th, 2006, 04:13 PM
  #23
 
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Craig,
I would not wait til you are there to make your internal flight arrangements. Sometimes there is only one flight a day between certain destinations. They all seem to leave very early in the morning and fog can cause delays. I was there in Feb and it's a fairly high season. All the internal flights we took were completely full. With only 11 days, you would probably not want to risk having your plans dictated by flight availability.
I am normally a complete do-it-yourselfer when it comes to travel arrangements. However in the case of Myanmar, as you did with India, I decided it was the way to go. In a country where you cannot use a credit card, nor are there ATMs, it was nice to have everything but our personal shopping, tips and incidentals all prepaid. As it was, we ran very short of cash at the end.
After doing all the homework, I picked the itinerary, the hotels and the things we wanted to see. Then I shopped for an agent in Singapore to make the bookings via an agent in Myanmar. I wanted a contact in both places....on the ground in Myanmar, in case we had a problem there, and also one locally so that if any issues had to be sorted out after the fact, I had someone with whom I could deal face to face. This method worked quite nicely for us. Our guides were very flexible....they suggested things that were not on the original itinerary and often re-arranged our daily schedule to accommodate our interests.
With regard to meals....I asked that the dinners NOT be included in Yangon, where I figured it would be easy to find restaurants on our own and it was. Dinners WERE included in Bagan, but each day our guide offered us a choice of restaurants. (This was a good decision, as it would have been trickier to find restaurants there.) At Inle lake the dinners are necessarily included, since you will be eating at your hotel. You don't want to be motoring around the lake in the dark.
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Apr 17th, 2006, 04:45 PM
  #24
 
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Craig, one other person who likely has some recommendations about Burma is Gloria. I haven't seen her here recently, which makes me suspect that she may be off traveling somewhere. I'm sure Bob has her email address.
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Apr 17th, 2006, 05:22 PM
  #25
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Thanks, Kathie. I've also noticed that Gloria has been out of action for a while. I know she has spent some time travelling in Myanmar. Bob has tried to e-mail her directly with no results. I hope all is well with her.
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Apr 17th, 2006, 08:52 PM
  #26
 
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Craig, I hope your trip planning is going well. Like others, I really enjoyed Myanmar and think it's one of the most fantastic places I've visited. I've been to both Myanmar and Bhutan and can say they are both very special and unique places. You'll enjoy Myanmar and can visit Bhutan on a future trip. Along with Mongolia, I think these countries among the most spectacular and undiscovered in Asia.

I think the itinerary in your original post looks really good. I did almost exactly the same thing. You'll definitely want three nights at Inle Lake since there's so much to do in the area. Kakku is interesting and the drive there is very scenic. I enjoyed Taungyi and the local market on the way there too. If you like shopping and local restaurants, Yangon is a very fun and interesting place. I enjoyed it a lot. Mandalay was not as interesting to me as the other places, but had some good shopping, especially for puppets. Bagan is spectacular. For me 2 nights was enough to see the highlights. I could have stayed even longer around Inle Lake because it was so peaceful.

As for hotels, I agree with others who have recommended the Savoy in Yangon. It's really charming and my favorite hotel in the whole country. It's friendly, stylish, and cozy. At Inle Lake, I thought the Lake View Resort was excellent. The Princess is also a beautiful place. The hotel in Mandalay was a cheap simple one - I don't remember the name. At Bagan, I stayed at the Hotel at Tharabar Gate. It was pretty nice, but prefer smaller places.

I wrote to a few local travel agents before arriving and then chose one to work with. I went to their office in Yangon the day after I arrived and decided on the itinerary. We only booked internal flights, hotels, and a few days with guides. No meals were included except for some breakfasts - we asked for room only. We tried to eat in simple local places as much as possible. We chose not to book every day with a guide and left plenty of days free. Basically, you can arrange anything you want.

As others have mentioned, although you may usually be an independent traveler, in the case of Myanmar, it's better to work with a local agent, at least for flights and hotels. You'll get better rates than if you try to book on your own. I check all of this carefully. The agent I used got us a special discount rate at the Savoy with an upgrade too. This wasn't available directly from the hotel. We ended up getting specials at all of the hotels and discounts on the domestic flights as well. This is just how things work in Myanmar. The agents have the best deals.

I ended up choosing Santa Maria Travel because they were really professional and had some good prices for hotels. They are a small locally owned agency. We made all of the final decisions and payment once we got to their office in Yangon. They never tried to push us into a package tour and just let us do what we wanted. I recommend then very highly.

If you're interested in shopping, then that's a whole other topic, but I can suggest the Pleasures and Treasures Guide for Myanmar.

Hope this helps for Myanmar. I think you made a good decision to go there now and save Bhutan for the next trip. Anyway, there are both amazing places.
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Apr 18th, 2006, 04:19 AM
  #27
 
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Craig, I agree that you should pre-book and pre-pay when possible hotels and flights. When I was in Burma, Visa was accepted but I don't know if this is still the case. I didn't find an agent necessary, in fact, I began my planning thinking I should use an agent but the agent came back with a totally unacceptable price (saying that it was the 5 star hotels I was choosing). I ditched the agent and did everything myself, booking the same hotels, and saved over $3000. This was part of a three week trip Eric and I took to Laos, Burma and Bangkok. Goes to show you what the mark-up is that some agents charge. To be fair, this was an agent in New York, who had to take her cut, and she used a local agent, who had to take their cut. The agent's trip did include a couple of tours and guides but we were able to find our own and they were very inexpensive. The only food the agent's price included was breakfast (which I got as part of the hotel prices) and I think one or two lunches. Other than breakfast, I prefer to find my own places to eat.
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Apr 18th, 2006, 08:41 AM
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Needing suggestions for how to plan an August trip from Thailand, wanting to keep costs down ($100 a day) for 10 days. This is for two 22 year olds who've been working in Bangkok this year.
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Apr 21st, 2006, 09:14 AM
  #29
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Topping with hopes that Gloria (who has been posting again) will see this and respond...
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Apr 21st, 2006, 02:10 PM
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If you cut out Mandalay I would definitely spend the time in the shan state which is beautiful and gives you a glimpse at one of the very important ethnic minorities in the country. It was a highlight for me -- Mandalay was not. I would NOT increase your time in Bagan. 2 nights is more than enough.
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Apr 21st, 2006, 02:13 PM
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Craig-- I just read the rest of the thread. Will write a more complete ansswer tonight or over the weekend.
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Apr 22nd, 2006, 03:13 PM
  #32
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Welcome back Gloria - hope to hear from you again soon.
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Apr 24th, 2006, 11:05 AM
  #33
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After consulting with my wife Jeane, we have decided that this itinerary might work for us - your thoughts?

Day 1 Bangkok
Day 2 Bangkok
Day 3 Bangkok - Yangon (early AM)
Day 4 Yangon - Bagan (early AM)
Day 5 Bagan
Day 6 Bagan
Day 7 Bagan - Inle Lake (early AM)
Day 8 Inle Lake
Day 9 Inle Lake
Day 10 Inle Lake
Day 11 Inle Lake - Yangon (1/2 day)
Day 12 Yangon
Day 13 Yangon - Bangkok (1/2 day)
Day 14 Bangkok

Is there enough to do using Inle Lake as a base for the 4 nights?

We are ok with skipping Mandalay. Are we allowing sufficient time for shopping in Yangon or should we take a day away from Bagan?

Thanks in advance.
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Apr 24th, 2006, 12:17 PM
  #34
 
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Just wanted to say thanks to Kathie for her thoughtful sensitive post. We too were planning to visit Burma and changed our mind after talking to a friend who works in the area of Human Rights.

Another great resource is
http://www.burmacampaign.org.uk/
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Apr 24th, 2006, 01:59 PM
  #35
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I would hope that this thread does not turn into a debate about whether to go or not to go to Myanmar. Biased "resources" are of no help to anyone considering a trip. We have considered the pros and cons and decided to go. Please see my request for comments on my latest proposed itinerary 2 posts above.
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Apr 24th, 2006, 01:59 PM
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Craig -- I think your itinerary looks good. There is plenty to do in Inle Lake or you could spend a day in the shan state.

I spent a lot of time debating whether to go or not and ultimately decided that I could do more good by going and by supporting the democracy movement with funds from home. Having been back I don't regret it and literally every single person we met thanked me for coming and asked me to spread the word about burma to the outside world -- let people know what is going on and also let people know that they want tourists. It is the only way many of them will ever have decent jobs and hard currency. I am 1000% sure that we did some good by being there and I continue to support those NGOS who are trying to effect change here.

However, if you go and only look at temples and "sights" you won't do any good. The important thing is to talk to people -- make contacts.
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Apr 24th, 2006, 02:04 PM
  #37
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Gloria - thanks for your response. We are more about people than just looking at temples and sights. You may have read about our recent experience with the Cambodian school children in Siem Reap. Unfortunately we usually don't have much time and that is why I am asking if I am doing it the right way.
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Apr 24th, 2006, 05:57 PM
  #38
 
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Craig,

With regard to your shopping question, it depends what is on your shopping list. For gems you would want to shop in Yangon. Also, there are dozens of stalls selling oil paintings at Scotts Market at ridiculously low prices. But don't forget there is also shopping in Bagan. The lacquerware there is a better quality than you will find elsewhere. One of my favorite purchases from Myanmar is an intricate Buddha's foot, hand painted on cloth, that I bought at one of the temples in Bagan. The asking price was so low ($US 10) I did not even try to bargain. Matted and framed on my wall, it draws comments from everyone who sees it. We also made small purchases at the craft villages around Inle Lake....hand woven silk shawls and tribal silver jewelry. At a local market by the edge of the lake, I bought a gourd that had been etched and painted by a Shan tribesman and made into a wonderful water container.

If you decide to visit Pindaya Cave on the way to Inle Lake (which is the most time efficient way to see it) that side trip alone will eat up your first day, after landing in Heho. You will not arrive at your hotel until sunset, (which is actually quite a spectacular time to arrive, as you glide up to your resort on the water.)
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May 2nd, 2006, 10:36 PM
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I spent 2 weeks in Myanmar November 2005. I started with a 9 day itinerary, l day Yangon, 2 Bagan, 2 Mandalay, 2 Inle Lake l back to Yangon and next day back to BKK. In retrospect, this was not enough time BECAUSE - those little short flights are often late (one even cancelled) and you will spend almost the whole day in waiting, flying and traveling. Airports are an hour (Heho and Mandalay) etc. I would make it 3 each place when I go back (and I am already planning a trip for Nov 2006).

I used Rubyland travel (www.rubyland.net) and was very impressed with them. They had to bail me out a couple 3 times - no plane ticket from Bagan to Mandalay (they called a friend and one materialized) the cancelled flight in Mandalay dominoed to all the rest of the reservations. Then I was ill in the return to Yangon and stayed 4 days. They brought a physician to my hotel and went out and returned with my prescritions and truly took care of me - having to reasrrange my tickets constantly.

However, when I return I will not use them to hire my guides. I can recommend Sai Moon Sein in Mandalay tel: 02-80351, email: [email protected] and Konge at Novelty Tours at Inle Lake. He is (0812)29232 or No 10 Mine Rd, Nyaung Shwe. At Bagan, I simply hired a horse cart. I feel strongly about hiring the guides personally because of the layers of cuts taken by the big cats (yes, the Yangon Travel Agents and many others down the line before it gets to the guide).

I met a couple in Mandalay and Inle Lake who made all their arrangements over the internet (and sometimes on the spot) and had a very successful trip. You can make all the airline arrangements yourself over the internet and pay and pick up your tickets when you arrive in Yangon. I did this with Air Mandalay but at the last minute when things were incomplete I fell back on the travel agent I mentioned.

BTW, the guides will come with car and driver. Mandalay was important, to me, because of the craftsmen - gold leaf makers, marble carvers, etc. as well as the place where I saw the most monks and monasteries.

I stayed at the Princess one night and I found the fantasy of staying on the lake to be far more interesting than the reality. Once was enough for me.

I second Art on his hotel recommendations except for Inle - and I guess if you've never experienced over the lake accommadations, you need to for one night.

I know it is a cliche, but Myanmar is about the people. The guides are well informed with very good English and all want to work out for you what you want to do. The Inle Lake kids all wave at the tourists (without their hands out as in many places). It seems genuine.

I will look forward to hearing a trip report in Feb or March and trust you will fall in love with Myanmar like so many before you - it is a very special place and a step back in time.


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May 13th, 2006, 09:56 AM
  #40
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Craig, After much discussion, research, web searching etc., we have just changed our trip plans from Vietnam to Myanmar for this Feb also. When will you be there? Will be interested in chatting with you & sharing info at the CT GTG.
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