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WinterTravel Nov 11th, 2008 04:12 PM

Myanmar Itinerary - looking for reactions
 
Hi again. We are rescheduling the trip to Burma that we had to cancel last year. We have planned a slightly more relaxed itinerary this time -- adding a night to each place to allow for some R&R rather than being "on the go" all the time. We'd love suggestions/reactions from those who have been to Myanmar. Any tips on the best type of rooms to request at each hotel would be great too (we will be there in dry/cool season).

Thought it might be helpful for us to give the following background:
- we like cities/towns and are big wanderers who like to just wander around and watch people living normal life (we really enjoyed Vientiane in Laos, when many other Fodorites did not if that is a sign of any kind).
- as big wanderers, we do not like to be on a march every day; we like to see sights, but also to go with the flow and not plan too many things for each day.
- we try to seek out the authentic rather than the touristy (like to get off the beaten path in places).
- we need a little down time at the start of the trip to rest (will have significant jetlag); we often stay in Bangkok to get over jetlag but are thinking of finishing trip in Bangkok instead this time.

Itinerary:
Day 1 - arrive in Yangon from Bangkok (after 1 night there to get over long flight). Stay at The Strand.
Day 2 - Yangon (rest day for jetlag)
Day 3 - Fly Yangon to Bagan. Stay at [email protected] Gate.
Day 4 - Bagan
Day 5 - Bagan
Day 6 - Fly Bagan - Inle Lake area. Stay at Inle Princess.
Day 7 - Inle Lake
Day 8 - Inle Lake
Day 9 - Fly Inle Lake area to Yangon. Stay at the Strand Hotel.
Day 10 - Yangon
Day 11 - Fly Yangon to Bangkok (for 4 night stay there)

Hanuman Nov 11th, 2008 05:05 PM

Winter,

I have a few suggestions based on my own experiences.

The domestic flights will change as per the time of year you're visiting. It was counter clockwise(Yangon, He Ho(Inle), Mandalay, Bagan etc) when I was there during the winter time but I believe it's the other way around during the other time of the year.

Upon arrival in Myanmar I would connect immediately to Bagan and stay in Yangon at the end of my trip instead of splitting the stay in Yangon to 2 separate trips.

For Bagan I like the Auriem Palace hotel and when I was there it was the best and most modern hotel in Bagan.

If you're there during the ballooning season I would definitely do it in Bagan.



rhkkmk Nov 11th, 2008 05:47 PM

i see only two full days in yangon...i was there 5 and we hung around mostly and wandered too....i think 2 might not be enough, but we also like to shop...

Mitch04 Nov 11th, 2008 06:34 PM

My wife and I have recently returned from Burma, but we did a multi-night cruise with the Pandaw that was exceptionally good, so we had no problems with accmmodation as we slept and ate all our meals on the vessel.(www.pandaw.com )

We stayed 2 nights at the Chatrium on arrival (very pleasant, excellent bathoom/toilet and nice pool area, and reasonable at around $50 a night including a smorgasbord breakfast).

On our return from the cruise, we stayed at the Savoy Hotel, which was about $80 a night including breakfast. It was outstanding, and had a delightful pool area also.

We looked at The Strand, and actually had high tea there. But the place was like a bloody morgue, and no guests where staying there at all. Looked a nice hotel, but it had no pool and without any guests it just seemed rather pathetic. True, it's centrally located, but at the price it seems an extravagant expenditure when The Savoy was just as good if not better - and far more lively during the evenings. The pool was also a bonus each day.

We also checked out The Governor's Residence ($170 a night, lovely and huge pool, but somewhat out of the way) and the centrally located Traders Hotel ($100 a night), but the pool area looked dismal.

Spend $350+ at The Strand a night, by all means - but it seems rather silly when you get basically the same plus more at The Savoy for $100 (current rack rate).

The taxi was about $10 return between the Savoy and downtown Rangoon.

My trip report is listed in here, so search for it. It's about having to abandon ship on the first night when the vessel was hit by a freak hurricane *lol*.

Otherwise, email me.

WinterTravel Nov 11th, 2008 06:49 PM

Thanks for the input thus far!

Hanuman - our plan to stay in Yangon at the front end too is really just to get over jetlag so that we are at full energy by the time we get to Bagan (so we can fully enjoy the balloon ride, etc!). If memory serves from other threads, you stayed at the Inle Princess - were the lake view rooms worth the price difference? Thanks for the suggestion of Aureum - it does look nice, but we steered away from it in our attempts to keep as many of our $ as possible out of junta-affiliated hands (have read several places that its owner is a crony of the generals).

rhkkmk - thanks for the thoughts on Yangon. As of now we have two full days plus two 1/2 days (airlines permitting), but we do have the possibility to add another day on the front end. Would you recommend that? Any recommendations for great walks/shopping in Yangon from your time there?

WinterTravel Nov 11th, 2008 06:54 PM

Mitch04 - thanks for your thoughts as well. We would not have considered The Strand but for the availability of special promotional rates that appear to be super (we're awaiting confirmation from the hotel itself). The Savoy is booked for our dates and the Governor's Residence quoted rates over $250/night. Saw your trip report several weeks ago - what an adventure!

rhkkmk Nov 11th, 2008 07:02 PM

i think i would add the time if you can....we had a driver the whole time so he took us from place to place....we wandered the market, along the waterfront (which remended me of 1850---highly suggest to spend some time there), through a huge park in the very spread out downtown area....

good place to purchase art work by the way....we bought a couple of oils and one water color...

i have a driver for you if you need one???

dogster Nov 11th, 2008 07:14 PM

Hi Winter, I've spent three months in Myanmar over four trips. Your choice of hotels is fine. I've stayed in all of them.

Strand: yup, those promo rates are good aren't they? Get a room at the front. That way you can walk out onto the balcony overlooking the road. [These are the rooms you can see in a front pic of the hotel.]

Tharabar: Get a suite. They're way nicer.

Princess - water front rooms are absolutely worth it.

I've spent tons of time in Yangon. I find it interesting just to wander - but thousands wouldn't. Heh. It's a strange place. Well, Burma's a strange place. The more you think you know - the less you really do.


Hanuman Nov 11th, 2008 07:19 PM

Winter,

For the Inle Princess we stayed in the "Mountain" view room. The resort is not on the lake itself, a good thing since the boats are quite loud, and it's situated next to a large canal with a no motor boat restriction. The room that we stayed in was of the cheapest category and it fronted a small canal and had the same design as the other room categories. Some of the rooms had outdoor shower which we found the temperature to be too cold to use. I would definitely recommend the cheaper rooms especially since you'll be on the lake the whole day.

We also stayed in the Strand and it was quite full when I was there. The restaurant and bars were near empty every night but the rooms and Butler were very nice with a very good bed.

dogster Nov 11th, 2008 07:24 PM

I respectfully disagree. I don't recall motor-boats hurtling past my delicious balcony jutting out over the calm, still waters of the canal... lost, with a beer in my hand, watching the last rays of the Burmese sun... I think you get the idea. Heh.

I do remember the food there being pretty rank.

Hanuman Nov 11th, 2008 07:36 PM

dogster,

I said the canal that the Inle Princess fronted had a NO motorboat rule. They used the "leg powered" paddle instead. So you definitely did not see or hear a motorised canoe whizz by unless they had their engine turned off and were paddling instead.

IMO the best place for a cocktail at sunset is the main "hut" or restaurant. Do watch out for mosi at dusk!

dogster Nov 11th, 2008 07:52 PM

you are correct. I mis-read your post. I'll perform penance right now. I am humiliated and tragic. Pathetic. Apologies.

But I still think the water rooms are best. lol.

Hanuman Nov 11th, 2008 07:57 PM

No worries mate! When I was there the price difference was over $100 a night between a mountain and lake view rooms. The more expensive the better!

Robbietravels Nov 11th, 2008 10:34 PM

A few reflections from my 2005 Burma journal. I quote "we took a 6:30 am flight from Rangoon to Bagan, apparently most domestic flights depart at this unspeakable hour". We were there in late December.
If your wandering interests include villages as well as cities, I recommend Myin Ka Ba village in the Bagan region. The villagers were wonderfully friendly. One told me of a religious celebration that was happening in two days, so we returned for the festivities.
DH and I stayed at the Inle Princess in a Lakefront Chalet and the view were, as dogster describes, delicious. Time moves very slowly when sitting on the balcony watching the light change at dusk. Yes, IMO the waterfront rooms are special and worth it.
If you are going in the winter months, it is very cold in the rooms. Small heaters are no match for the low temps at night and the 25-30 ft ceilings. Ask for extra heaters immediately upon arrival.
Favorite Inle activities were 1) the Lont Kant Market (the local market of the Intha people in southern Inle); no other westerners the entire morning and 2) the ruins at Kak-Ku.
When you arrive or depart Inle at Heho airport there's a terrific noodle shop across the street from the entrance to the airport. Great noodle dishes and good 20 minute back massages ($1) while you eat.

afterall Nov 12th, 2008 01:55 AM

Well you said you are looking for reactions - and mine is you shouldn't be going there. End of story.

Would you have gone to SA during Apartheid?

Craig Nov 12th, 2008 03:22 AM

WT - I don't have much to add to my numerous responses to your posts over the past two years. Sounds like you've pretty much got it all figured out and customized to your needs. If it were me however, I'd spend that second jet lag day in Bangkok rather than almost immediately hopping on a plane to Yangon. You will still have the better part of a day to wander in Yangon and another day and a half at the end of your trip.

You will be happy with your hotel location in Bagan, I think. You will be in or near good areas for wandering around the villages. I do think you'd appreciate another day at Inle Lake. Two days is enough to explore the lake by boat and get to some of the more remote (non-touristy) villages but not enough time to visit places like Taunggyi and Kakku. Don't count on doing much on Day 6 - you won't arrive at the Inle Princess until the afternoon - even later if you choose to visit the Pindaya Caves before heading to the lake.

WinterTravel Nov 12th, 2008 07:09 PM

Thanks everyone!

We will reserve a Lake Front Room at Inle Lake (thanks Dogster!)... and will be sure to pack our longjohns for sleeping (and to ask for the heater when we check in, thanks Robbie and Hanuman!) Is it cold on the lake during the day as well, or just at night? Should we expect mozzies in Winter, or does the cold deter them? Is it practical to eat dinner elsewhere, or are we likely to have to eat at the hotel all three nights?

rhkkmk - we really enjoy looking for paintings. Did you have luck at particular galleries? Do you suggest getting a driver for Yangon (or is it walkable/cabable for the most)? We look forward to a waterfront walk (time travel sounds great!).

Craig - do you recall the names of the non-tourist villages around Inle Lake that you mentioned. We would love to know in advance to ensure that we get off the beaten track.

Thanks again everyone!

rhkkmk Nov 12th, 2008 08:10 PM

i think you would be happier with a driver as things are quite spread out...at least for part of the time...things are very rustic, by this i mean not geared up for mass tourism....i can't remember about cabs, but i know there are some....we did take one one nite for dinner and had him wait for us...

L'Opera is a wonderful italian place outside the main part of town....it has a sister hotel in bkk on soi 39 which is also excellent...

karen only recorded the gallery as "art studio" so i am not sure if that is the name...it was on a residential street near to the imprisoned ladies' home (forget her name)...there were a couple of other galleries on that street i think....kway took us there...

let me get his contact info--the driver

rhkkmk Nov 12th, 2008 08:13 PM

his name is kway naing

[email protected]

he is in his late 30's and has two kids...his wife is a teacher...he is a real nice guy...other fodorites have used him too...

dogster Nov 12th, 2008 08:43 PM

Glad things are working out Winter: if you'll permit - this is probably as good a time as any to mention some other stuff.

I think you need to know that there will not be one moment on your schedule where you will get 'off the beaten track'.

There may be no other tourists there that day, but every inch of your travels you will walking a proscribed path and, whether you think you have or not - you'll NEVER get off that path.

And if you think you're going to sit down and have cups of tea with the locals and chat - and all that other good stuff - well, it ain't gonna happen. Sorry. But that's the truth. Maybe your guide's family - but your guide is Government approved - and so are their families.

There are a lot of good reasons for that. We can canvass them some other time.

Particularly at Inle Lake. Mega-particularly if you follow Craig's suggestion and go to Taunggi and Kakku.

That said, Burma is amazing - but you'll look, not talk, you'll see, not meet. The minute you step outside the tourist path your every move will be watched - sometimes by the very guides who are escorting you.

Taunggi and Kakku for example - my local Government guide [you have to have one] left a little early so he could write the report on my trip that day for the Burma Stasi. Creepy - yup.

Don't forget for a moment that you are somewhere kinda wierd. Don't think for a moment that your money is going anywhere other than directly into corrupt pockets.

It's not just the Government that's corrupt. They don't have the exclusive licence on that. The whole of the tourism industry is, almost by definition, in league with, controlled by or connected to the Government. They wouldn't be operating if they weren't.

I hate to have to tell you - but the Strand [my fave hotel] is OWNED by the Government. Lol.

I hope this is useful background. It's a total no-win, in a politically correct sense - but I, like you, see much sense in going.

O.K. lecture over.


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