Myanmar - starting point

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Jan 9th, 2014, 10:21 AM
  #1
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Myanmar - starting point

I have flights booked to Yangon for November. I started working with Santa Maria, but I have not been impressed with their responsiveness, so I contacted IOT for suggested 10 day itineraries.

My question is: does it make more sense to fly into Yangon or Mandalay? From Myanmar, we want to go to Chiang Rai, but I think we may have to fly to Chiang Mai instead. It looks like the flights to Thailand leave from Yangon so should we start in the north and weave our way south? We didn't really plan to go to Mandalay, but if it makes sense to build our trip that way, I'll switch things up. We've been to Chiang Mai, but we want to spend more time exploring northern Thailand.

Aside from Bagan and Inle Lake, are there any "must see" places you'd recommend? We'll have private guides, and would prefer not to have a cookie cutter type trip.

Thanks in advance for your help and suggestions.
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Jan 9th, 2014, 10:36 AM
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As far as I can tell, the usual itinerary starts in Yangon and makes a circle - Bagan, Mandalay, Inle lake (or the other way around) & back to Yangon. If you don't want to go to Mandalay, then don't, I found it has little to recommend it in itself. That leaves you where you likely need to be, then, departing from Yangon to Chiang Mai. I'm sure you know, it's not far from Chiang Mai to Chiang Rai.
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Jan 9th, 2014, 10:48 AM
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I should mention, while I realize you don't want a "cookie cutter" experience, the infrastructure for tourists is such that, as far as I can tell, the locations I mentioned are the primary attractions that include places for visitors to stay.

One excursion from the north end of Inle Lake I enjoyed very much was to Kalaw where we spent 2 nights. Warning: If you go to Kalaw don't take the train, truly awful. It's perfectly easy to reach by road. Read more here:

http://www.travelgumbo.com/blog/the-...n-in-the-world
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Jan 9th, 2014, 12:24 PM
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If you don't have an interest in going to Mandalay, then skip it. With a mere 10 days, I'd skip it.

You'll do best is you choose your itinerary and ask the agency to book flights and hotels for you. You can't expect an agency to know what you want or your style of travel.

Bagan and Inle Lake are the two "wow" places of the main attractions in Burma. From Bagan, you can go to Mt. Popa if it interest you.

From Inle Lake, there are two places I'd recommend: Sankar, at the southern end of the lake. It's a full day trip and well worth the time and money. Also, consider Kakku as another day trip. Not on the lake, it's a group of several thousand stupas.

I have two trip reports here, from 2009 and 2011 which may help you. Some of the info about money and such is old now, but the info on the sights hasn't changed. Also, take a look at our photos at www.marlandc.com to giver you more of an idea about these places.
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Jan 9th, 2014, 10:47 PM
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10 days will go by really fast. I'd start from Yangon and do a loop through Mandalay, Bagan, and Inle Lake. A day trip to Mount Kyaiktiyo would be great but I doubt you can fit that in. Travel by plane to save time.

As to where you should spend your time, I think it all depends on your preference. In terms of history, culture and architecture, nothing compares with Bagan. Inle Lake was really calm and relaxing, and I personally would have extended my stay there.

Read more here: http://asiaescapades.wordpress.com/2...burma-myanmar/

Cheers,
Johahn
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Jan 10th, 2014, 05:31 PM
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Thank you for your insight and sharing your beautiful pictures. I hate to have to travel in a circle back to Yangon, but I'll make sure we spend some extra time around Inle Lake, particularly Sankar and Kakku. I'm sure I'll be scouring all of your trip reports before I nail things down, but I appreciate your help.
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Jan 30th, 2014, 02:55 AM
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As others have said, it depends what interests you!I'm going to offer an alternate suggestion:
I'd consider flying into Mandalay 1 day, then fly to Bagan 2 days, Yangon 2 days then get a driver and go to Mount Kyaiktiyo (Golden Rock)for one night and on to HpaAn, Mawlamyine and down to the Thai border which is open at present!
WE had 28 days but the highlights for us were Golden Rock, Mawlamyine, and Balloons over Bagan
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Jan 30th, 2014, 06:11 AM
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nay and miriam, did you not go to Inle?
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Feb 3rd, 2014, 09:55 AM
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If you had to pick between Sankar and Kakku, which would you choose? I was told that Sankar is 4 hours each way, which clearly is a very full day trip. Our travel agent also suggested flying into Kakku, spending the night there, then driving to Inle Lake.

What are your thoughts? I love the idea of seeing rural areas, but can't get a sense of the road conditions or duration of the drive.

TIA.
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Feb 3rd, 2014, 10:53 AM
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If I could only choose one, I'd choose Sankar. It is a full day trip, but it certainly didn't take us 4 hours each way, more like 2.5 each way, as I remember. BTW, don't have the agent include a boatman in your costs, hire your own, best from your hotel. Specify where you want to go, don't do the "tourist circuit."

Flying into Kakku???? Kakku is a "stupa forest" of several thousand stupas. The closest airport is HeHo, which is the airport you fly into when you fly to Inle Lake. We had our agent arrange a car and driver to meet us at the airport and drive us to Kakku then to our hotel. So your agent must have misunderstood what you were asking... Kakku is sort of in the middle of nowhere - there is a restaurant across the road from it, but no place to stay near Kakku.

Road conditions are poor everywhere in Burma. Drives all take longer than you expect and are not especially comfortable.
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Feb 3rd, 2014, 05:09 PM
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My bad; the five letter K names confused me. He has us flying into Kalaw, then driving to Inle Lake. If the roads are as bad as I imagine, I'm not sure that's a good plan anyway.

Is it really that much cheaper to hire our own boatman? Do we have our travel agent involved in any of this or just plan it on our free day? Any suggestions on locations would be appreciated so we can avoid the tourist circuit (or let me know what the tourist circuit is comprised of).

Thank you.
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Feb 3rd, 2014, 05:44 PM
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With just 10 days, I'd stick to Bagan, Inle and Yangon. Travel agents typically want to send a guide with you everywhere, and there aren't many places where you need a guide. At Inle, have your hotel arrange a boatman for you and have them tell your boatman where you want to go (boatman rarely speak much English). Here is an article I wrote about where to stop on Inle: http://www.travelindependently.com/r...-for-inle-lake

How many days do you have at Inle? You need a minimum of two just to see the main part of the lake and Sankar, and it's better to have three days there.

Tell us what your itinerary looks like so far and we can be more helpful.
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Feb 4th, 2014, 04:42 AM
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In Bagan we used MinThu as a guide. He was discovered on this board by Kathy and others have recommended him too. He was fabulous and I'm sure greatly enhanced our enjoyment and understanding of Bagan.

We just arrived at Inle Lake and have worked with our hotel for planning two days. We'll figure out our third day and likely work with our hotel for that too. We have been told it will be about three hours each way for the drive to Kakku.

BTW Min Thu is getting married later this month.
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Feb 4th, 2014, 06:17 AM
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Yestravel, so glad you enjoyed MinThu. He has promised me photos of the wedding. Enjoy Inle Lake.

internet, your comment about flying into Kalaw went right past me. Unless there is a new airport, you can't fly to Kalaw.
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Feb 4th, 2014, 03:15 PM
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This is the gist of what was suggested to me. One of the itineraries had us stay two nights in Yangon at the beginning and fly from Heho to Yangon to Chiang Mai at the end. My concern is with the connections, since the non-stop flights to CM only go out twice a week.

Day 1 – Yangon
Day 2 – Bagan
Day 3 – Bagan
Day 4 – Bagan (or fly to Kalaw as one agent suggested. I'm not sure what flight he meant)
Day 5 – Inle Lake
Day 6 – Inle Lake
Day 7 – Inle Lake
Day 8 – depart Inle Lake to Yangon
Day 9 – Yangon to Chiang Mai

We are not tied to 9/10 days in Myanmar. We plan to spend a couple of days in Chiang Mai. We were there last year but felt there was much still to explore. From there we go to Kuala Lumpur, Singapore, then home. Three weeks total.

Yestravel, we are also in the DC area. I've enjoyed and followed some of your advice in your trip reports.
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Feb 4th, 2014, 03:55 PM
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The airport for Inle Lake is Heho, none at Kalaw. I suggest, for such a short trip you skip Kalaw, a small town I liked well enough but nonetheless, spend the time at one of your other stops. You can remove it from your list and just have the 3 days each at Bagan & Inle.
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Feb 4th, 2014, 06:13 PM
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MmePerdu and I are in agreement. Skip Kalaw and give yourselves three full days in each Inle and Bagan.
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Feb 5th, 2014, 04:59 AM
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Thank you MmePerdu and Kathie. I'll do as you've suggested. Kathie, I appeciate your recommendations for Inle Lake and will incorporate them into my itinerary. I've already been in touch with MinThu and think I'll try to use him instead of a guide provided by the travel agent.
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Feb 5th, 2014, 04:14 PM
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I can't imagine getting a guide more enjoyable than Min Thu. I agree three days at Inle and three Days at Bagan would be a good use of your time.
At this point we are considering skipping the three hour very bumpy drive ti Kakku. May just spend the last day on the lake too.

Kathie, if it's ok with Mon the would you be kind enough to share his wedding photos? Would love to see them.

Glad you've enjoyed my TRs. Thanks. Still freezing in DC?
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Feb 6th, 2014, 05:27 AM
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As long as Min Thu can commit, we'll definitely use him. Still trying to decide on a hotel in Inle Lake. We'd prefer one that we don't have to take a boat to, so suggestions/thoughts would be appreciated

It's warmer in DC than it has been, but we're expecting our third pseudo-storm this weekend (probably only passing snow showers). You picked a good time to be away, yestravel.
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