Myanmar without taking internal flights

Apr 1st, 2012, 01:47 AM
Original Poster
Join Date: Feb 2003
Posts: 282
Myanmar without taking internal flights

Hi good folks,

I know Myammar is a hot topic these days and I am sorry if I'm being redundant. My friend and I are thinking of travelling to Myanmar in October but without taking
any domestic flights. One of us is afraid of flying the local airlines, but I won't say who.

Anyway, assuming we want to hit the big 4 plus other interesting stops along the way, is it possible to do it fairly comfortably with only using trains and/or car with driver? We are thinking about a 2 week trip or possibly slightly longer if necessary. The big 4 of course would be Yangon, Mandalay, Bagan and Inle Lake. I know the distances are pretty far and have read some of the time tables that show 12+ hours on the trains...but if there are hidden spots in between could we break up the trip?

I have heard bad things about the trains but don't know if the upper class train cars are really that bad. And if the roads are as bad as they are made out to be.
I'm sure there's a large hole in my question...but since I'm just starting my research thought I'd ask you good folks.

Thoughts anyone? Thanks much for any insights you can share!
kuluk is offline  
Apr 1st, 2012, 03:39 AM
Join Date: May 2003
Posts: 51
Yes! It's certainly possible.

We actually did a similar itinerary - but flew from HeHo (Inle Lake)back to Yangon.

Road transport is slowish - train even slower. Mandalay to Bagan can be done by river boat - interesting, but uncomfortable and slooooow!

Roads are bad. Train slow and not good.

I actually can not recall any major 'air' incident in Burma - but then the regime is not noted for disclosure of any 'problems'.

The roads and rail are far from safe. We were involved in an accident on the road from Bagan to Kalaw (heading towards Inle Lake). Vehicle damage only luckily. Not long before we were there there had been a major derailment on the Yangon - Mandalay Express - many killed.

We really enjoyed our time in the country (in 2000). Now it's really exciting as 'change' appears to be possible at last.

Sorry if I sound negative - because I'm not. We enjoyed our time in Burma - and may go again soon. BUT - you need to be aware the reality of the country.
obione980 is offline  
Apr 1st, 2012, 06:06 AM
Join Date: Nov 2004
Posts: 1,895
The internal flts are on modern and well-maintained aircraft and were a lot more enjoyable than our US internal flts!
moremiles is offline  
Apr 1st, 2012, 07:50 AM
Join Date: Feb 2006
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I visited exactly those locations by car and driver in 2004. I was avoiding the airlines not because of safety concerns, but because I would be sending more money to the government, and I didn't take the boat from Mandalay to Bagan for the same reason. I spent 12 nights in Myanmar, but more would have been better.

My route was:

30-Dec-04 Fly to Yangon (from Bangkok)
31-Dec-04 Yangon
01-Jan-05 Yangon---Taungoo
02-Jan-05 Taungoo--Inlay Lake
03-Jan-05 Inlay Lake
04-Jan-05 Inlay Lake
05-Jan-05 Inlay---Mandalay
06-Jan-05 Mandalay
07-Jan-05 Mandalay---Bagan
08-Jan-05 Bagan
09-Jan-05 Bagan
10-Jan-05 Bagan---Pyay
11-Jan-05 Pyay---Yangon
12-Jan-05 Fly to Bangkok
thursdaysd is offline  
Apr 1st, 2012, 07:54 AM
Join Date: Jan 2003
Posts: 32,689
If you want to travel in some comfort, hire a car and driver for your two weeks. The trains are renowned for being slow and uncomfortable, and the buses are variable - some are fine, others are falling apart. The buses either have the temps set to "frigid" or have no AC at all. October is likely to be rainy, but that may mean it's less crowded. You may have to extend your time if you want the "big four" plus some other stops. As always in Myanmar, contact a travel agent to set this up.

There was a recent air incident (last couple of months) - the pilot landed so hard it collapsed the landing gear. The flight crew "fled" and the passengers were left to fend for themselves. Some of the places look new and shiny, like the Air Mandalay and Air Bagan planes, but none are less than 20 years old. I would try to avoid Yangon AIr next time, as their planes were cobbled together with mis-matched parts in the interior of the plane, which I'm guessing may reflect the state of the engines.
Kathie is offline  
Apr 1st, 2012, 07:56 PM
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Posts: 282
Thanks everyone for your suggestions and comments.

Thursdaysd, did you take a car for the entire trip or did you take any boat trips?

Kathie: I think the incidents you refer to are why my friend is afraid to fly domestically!

And I'm particularly interested in shopping..of all kinds...were there any places that stood out as really interesting or unique to the area?

Mahalo again to all!
kuluk is offline  
Apr 1st, 2012, 08:44 PM
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I took boat trips on Inle Lake, of course, and one across the river at Mandalay to visit Mingun, and a sunset cruise at Bagan, but not to get from one town to another. Can't help with the shopping.

Turns out I have a photo of the train. Go here: and look for photo #340 (page 29). There are some shots of souvenirs, too, but I still (!!!) haven't edited the photos.
thursdaysd is offline  
Apr 2nd, 2012, 06:49 PM
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Thanks Thursdaysd! I'm hoping this trip comes together for me..
kuluk is offline  
Apr 7th, 2012, 08:58 PM
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The travel agent I am working with has suggested these hotels. We are on a bit of a budget, we asked him for 3-star hotels with a little traditional flair when possible. Can anyone comment on these hotels or suggest other possibilities? Thanks!

Yangon : East Hotel
Taungoo : Royal Kaytumadi
Kalaw : Dream Villa Hotel
Inle : Inle Resort
Mandalay : Mandalay City Hotel
Bagan : Golden Express Hotel

Also, this is the itinerary he suggests, we are hoping to catch the lake festival in Inle around Octover 16.

Throughout by car
Oct 6 : Arrival
Oct 7 : Yangon Sightseeing
Oct 8 : Yangon-Nay Pyi Taw ( 4 hrs ), NaypyiTaw-Bagan ( 5 hrs )
Oct 9 : Bagan Sightseeing
Oct 10: Bagan Sightseeing
Oct 11 : Bagan-Mt. Popa ( 1 hr ), Mt. Popa-Mandalay ( 4 hrs )
Oct 12 : Excursion to Amarapura, Sagaing & Inwa
Oct 13: AM: Excursion to Mingun by boat, PM: Mandalay Sightseeing
Oct 14 : Mandalay-Kalaw ( 6 hrs )
Oct 15 : Kalaw-Pindaya ( 2 hrs ), Pindaya-Inle ( 2 hrs )
Oct 16 : Inle Lake Sightseeing
Oct 17 : Inle-Taungoo ( 8 hrs )
Oct 18 : Taungoo-Bago ( 3hrs ), Bago-Yangon ( 1:30 hrs )
Oct 19 : Departure

Again, many thanks for any insights or comments!
kuluk is offline  
Apr 8th, 2012, 07:14 AM
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Sorry, I don'y know those hotels so can't help on that matter.

In terms of your itinerary, I'd suggest that you head to Bagan your first full day in Burma. Save your Yangon sightseeing for the end of the trip. You want to make sure you have a little "wiggle room," as travel within Burma is not always reliable.

You only have one day for Inle sightseeing. This is not enough. IMO, you need two full days on the lake minimum, one day to go to Sankar and one day for sights (esp. InDien) on the northern part of the lake. Personally, I'd substitute Kakku for Pindaya.

I don't see the point of going to Kalaw just to spend an overnight. I'd cut that from your itinerary so you have enough time to see Inle Lake. I'd even cut some time from Mandalay in order to get adequate time at Inle. I found Mandalay interesting, but Inle and Bagan (and Mrauk U) were the real "wow" experiences.

This looks like an exhausting trip. You have scheduled 36.5 hours of driving on this trip, and I expect it will turn out to be significantly more. Both roads and vehicles in Burma are bad. Your first day of driving you should have good roads, after that the roads will get much worse.

You could make this trip more humane by taking just one flight: Inle to Yangon. In any case, I'd cut a couple of stops to spend more time in a few places.
Kathie is offline  
Apr 8th, 2012, 06:23 PM
Join Date: Mar 2006
Posts: 1,072
There is a posting on Lonely Planet from the last 2 months titled, "Myanmar without Flying". The regulars over there offer some good information.

Yes, I have stayed at the Mandalay City Hotel. Has a pool, is a real oasis in the center of the city. However, I must have had beginners luck since lately I've read a TR on here and some reviews on TA that say to ask for a room away from the mosque to avoid being awakened at 5:00 am.

I believe I stayaed at the Golden Express Hotel in Bagan also. (I'll check on TA and be sure). The seem to be building more buildings to the property away from the office and I stayed in a very new building. I had a spacious room and everything was fine. The view from the surrounding balcony included overgrown fields with temples.

I read that there is a new road from Yangon to Mandalay. You might want to consider going from Yangon to Mandalay first, boat to Bagan and then Bagan to Inle - hopefully with a stop in between. As Kathie, suggested, flying from INle to Rangon would save you a lot of discomfort.

Shopping: Bagan Maung Aung Myin Art Gallery of Bagan for lacquerware. It has been recco on this board before. And Mandalay is known for its crafts - stone carving, tapestry, silk, gold leaf making, etc. Otherwise I read that most people do a lot of their shopping in Yangon. There will be at least one market around Inle also.

Enjoy Myanmar - it's like no other place I have been.
wintersp is offline  
Apr 8th, 2012, 06:37 PM
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Forgot to say that Golden Express also has a pool.

The planes in Myanmar are not 'modern and well maintained' aircraft. They are old propellor planes except for Air Bagan = who flies a few Fokker jets. As far as well maintained -??? It would be the first thing I saw in Myanmar that I would apply that phrase to! My folks are airline folks and they are having a hard time coming to grips with flying over there. I'm such a fatalist that I'll just get on anything...

Sometimes ignorance is bliss!
wintersp is offline  
Apr 8th, 2012, 07:42 PM
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Posts: 282
Thanks again for the comments and suggestions.

I would love to fly but "someone" will not. We are now thinking about spending about 28 days in Myanmar...I have to work, but "someone" does not, so it's still a work in progress...I will definitely ask the agent to put more time in Inle, regardless of any changes in schedule.

We rearranged the schedule to go backwards so that we could catch the Inle festival...since I have never been to Myanmar it is very confusing!

I am developing a lot of empathy to those who don't know Indonesia and ask for advice LOL!!!!
kuluk is offline  
Apr 9th, 2012, 05:26 AM
Join Date: Dec 2005
Posts: 1,703
We were in Burma a little over a year ago, with a private guide/car in each location, but internal flights between. We had absolutely no difficulty with flights. This may not convince your 'someone' but I have been on a lot scarier flights in other parts of the world.
Carlux is offline  

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