Myanmar Help

May 4th, 2015, 10:36 AM
Original Poster
Join Date: May 2015
Posts: 1
Myanmar Help

Hi Fodorits,
Need help with my Myanmar itinerary. My partner and I have travelled most of the world on our own but neglected Asia. We do our own arrangements and wing it when we can and stay away from group tours. After doing preliminary research I;m convinced we need a local travel agent for Myanmar.
The following is my proposed itinerary for traveling in Nov.

3 nts Rangoon
2 nts Mandalay
2 its on Pandaw Cruise
3 nts Bagon
3 nts Inle Lake

We do have 6 nts before Rangoon that are free and I am thinking of Cambodia. My thoughts are that I might be short changing Myanmar and if we go to Cambodia, is dividing the time between Siam Reap and Lang Probang realistic or should we just stay 4 its in Siem Reap and add the other two nts to Myanmar and perhaps go to the Golden Rock? At times I am having 2nd thoughts about the 2 nandaw Pandaw Cruise. Have any of you travelled with them?
It seem Katie and several of you have spoken so highly of Santa Maria Travel that I probably will contact them as soon as I have finalized my itinerary.
Thanks for any help you can give me.
Edward425 is offline  
May 4th, 2015, 11:00 AM
Join Date: Jan 2003
Posts: 32,988
A local agent in Myanmar can be very helpful to you. No need for any group tours or anything, but they can book your hotels and plane tickets. They can also provide guides if you would like. I prefer no guides, hiring someone on the spot if needed, but ask for what you want. (Agencies will usually initially give you a price with guides. If you don't want a guide tell them so and they will take it out of your pride quote.)

If you have an extra 6 nights, I'd suggest spending them in Myanmar. I think you need 4 nights at Inle, and if you have much interest in temples, I'd spend 4 nights in Bagan as well. I'd also highly recommend you consider going to Mrauk U. It's a bit complex getting there - fly to Sittwe, boat to Mrauk U - but well with it. If your budget allows, I'd highly recommend staying at the Mruak U Princess. It's a lovely property. The price includes breakfast and dinner and the food is excellent (something that cannot be said for most places in the country). The temples there are temple-fortresses - amazing! Because of logistics, in order to get to Mrauk U it takes some time - you will have a "wasted" day in either Sittwe or Yangon. You can add the Golden Rock if you'd like.

Pandaw is the best of the cruise companies - they have been cruising in the country for longer than any other company.

I would not try to cram in either Angkor or Luang Prabang with this trip. Go to both on your next trip.

If you are planning on going this November - contact Santa Maria as soon as possible.
Kathie is online now  
May 4th, 2015, 11:32 AM
Join Date: Jul 2014
Posts: 303
Pandaw boats are lovely, took a Mekong cruise on one.

You won't want to do Angkor as an 'add-on' give it plenty of time, it's truly a great city and takes time to take it all in.
needmorevacation is offline  
May 4th, 2015, 11:11 PM
Join Date: Nov 2009
Posts: 927
Hello Edward425,

Yes, you definitely need a local Burmese tour company to book your hotels and domestic flights. However, you can arrange your own guides directly, if you need them. Others on this forum swear by Santa Maria, but we found them to be unresponsive. We ended up using Shalom Travel last year. Sammy found great hotels for us, and even helped us contact some guides that we had chosen on our own, even though he was not making any commission from the guides. He did a great job, and we're not easy to please.

I think two nights in Rangoon is sufficient, with one night at the beginning and one night at the end, especially to give yourself a cushion. Did you know that many of the domestic flights get delayed? We finished our trip in Bagan, and our flight back to Rangoon was delayed for four hours because of "fog." We did different walking tours each time in Rangoon, and found it fascinating, but sufficient.

Inle Lake was so touristy, that tour two full days there are plenty, in fact, we wish we had skipped it. We had seen water villages before in Cambodia, and the so-called craft demonstrations were fake. The five day market was interesting, though.

We found two and a half days sufficient for Bagan. However, there a people selling junk art prints at every temple now, and you have to step over their "artwork" to walk in the temples. They are really spoiling the ambiance.

I really liked Mandalay. It was a fun city, and I liked the Chinese influence. Two days there is sufficient.

The highlight of our trip was three nights in Kengtung. The daily market was fascinating, and we took three day trips to see indigenous people, with the help of a wonderful guide. And no tourists but us!

Flights in Asia are very cheap, so it is feasible for you to go to Siem Reap. You need two full days for the temples, and then maybe a day to see a water village (choose one away from other tourists). You can also get a taxi or boat to take you to Battambang for a night or two. I think this stop in Cambodia is sufficient, and I would skip Laos for now.
CaliforniaLady is online now  
May 5th, 2015, 10:33 AM
Join Date: Jan 2003
Posts: 32,988
Certainly all of Burma is more touristed than it was just a few years ago. However, if you do your research and plan well, there are still plenty of places where you will see no other tourists.

When California Lady says that Inle was so touristy that she wishes she hadn't visited, I can only surmise that she didn't tell the boatman where to go, but took the "tourist circuit" which consists of workshops on the lake. I agree, that isn't worth it. But if you instruct your boatman to take you to the Buddhist sites, and if you spend a day in the southern part of the lake (Sankar), Inle is magical. Maybe California Lady isn't very interested in Buddhist temples, since she felt two and a half days was sufficient. We are all different - schedule your time according to your interests. We loved Bagan found three full days there ok for our first trip, but went back and spent more time the next trip.

We have two sets of photos from Burma, and looking at these might help with your decision making. There are slo photos of Angkor and of Luang Prabang.
Kathie is online now  
May 5th, 2015, 01:55 PM
Join Date: Nov 2009
Posts: 927
Kathie, the southern part of the lake (Sankar) was closed when we were there, since the water level was too low. We saw all the Buddhist sites at Inle Lake, and enjoyed them, but, since Sankar was closed, the historical sites took essentially a full day, and not much more. There was really nothing else left to do, so we went to the workshops. We researched the trip thoroughly before we left, but the closure of Sankar left us with not much to do, and it is a distinct possibility it could happen again.

I agree with you that Burma is full of too many tourists, and that is exactly why I suggested leaving off Inle Lake, and going to Kengtung instead.
CaliforniaLady is online now  
May 5th, 2015, 02:11 PM
Join Date: Jan 2003
Posts: 32,988
I'm sorry to hear that Sankar was not accessible when you're there.
Kathie is online now  
May 5th, 2015, 02:32 PM
Join Date: Nov 2009
Posts: 927
Oh, thanks, Kathie. You gave some great advice to the OP. We wanted to visit Mrauk U, but it was closed at the time due to "political instability." I think we both agree that Burma is being overrun by big tour groups, and it's nice to find places off the beaten path there.
CaliforniaLady is online now  
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