Please critique my Myanmar itinerary

Old May 30th, 2011, 09:42 AM
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Please critique my Myanmar itinerary

This is the first pass at my itinerary for our upcoming trip-
Day1 -Fly to Yangon. City tour
Day2-Day trip to Bago.
Day3-Fly to Bagan-Car pick up at airport and visit local market and temples by car.
Day 4,5,6-Visit temples by horsecart.
Day7-boat transfer to Pakoukeku, see market there, drive to Monywea and visit Thanboddhay, Reclining and Big Buddah, Setkya Paya and Bodhi Tautong, before checking into Monywa hotel Does this seem doable.? Sant Maria says it is, but it feels very rushed to me, at least on paper.
Day 8-visit Powintaung cave> Santa Maria says an hour at the cave is enough. My guidebook says spend 3 hours there. Anyone know which is correct? Drive to Mandalay, visiting Sagaing and Inwa on the way.
Day9- Mingun boat trip in the morning. Mandalay city tour in the afternoon.
Day 10-Drive to Amarapura to visit the monastery. Return to Mandalay for more city highlights, and drive to the U-bein bridge to be there from 4-5:30 for sunset.
Day11-Fly to Heho-viti Pindays caves and drive to Kalaw.
Day12-Visit Kakku via Taunggi and proceed to Inle.
Day 13 and 14-Boat trips on lake, including to southern part.
Day15-Fly to Yangon and see rest of city sights.
Day 16- Fly out of Myanmar.

Any comment on how to improve the itinerary or its pacing.

I have gotten a price from Santa Maria for this itinerary with a private car and driver, and another price for a car drivver and guide for the entire trip which is obviously considerably more. . Is a private car and driver necessary for the whole trip, and are there any days where a guide would not be necessary for the day.
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Old May 30th, 2011, 10:36 AM
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Hi,

About the caves near Monywa - I think one hour wouldn't be enough. We spent there about 2,5 hours.

Thanboddhay and the Reclining and Big Buddha are nothing special (for me). They are on the way to Mandalay, so may be it will be better to visit them on day 8. I think it is too much (almost impossible) to see the caves, Sagaing and Inwa in one day - you need at least one hour to reach the caves from Monywa, and one hour back, and around 3-4 hours to reach Mandalay from Monywa. So it will be a long driving day. And both Sagaing and Inwa deserve more time, especially Inwa.
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Old May 30th, 2011, 10:55 AM
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Hi Shelly, it's fun to see how your itinerary is shaping up.

In consulting with several travelers as well as Santa Maria, we are doing the three ancient cities in one day from Mandalay. Your days 7 and 8 do sound rushed to me, but I note you have what I might consider "extra" time in Mandalay. You have what looks like two half days, and I figure I need a half day for crafts shopping and seeing a bit of the city. There is little old in the city, and the whole palace area is a re-creation. So I think you could do a bit of re-arranging there that would give you more time without interfering with the rest of your itinerary. We will have a car and driver for our whole time in Mandalay, but at no other time. We have not requested a guide.

I don't think you need a car and driver for your time in Bagan, after all, you'll be taking a horsecart most of the time. Of, course, I highly recommend Min Thu for your time in Bagan.

You'll need the car and driver (not so sure about a guide) for HeHo to Kalaw to Kakku, but not once you reach Inle Lake. In the area that is Pa-O you are required to have a Pa-O guide, so no need for any other guide (Kakku and the area outside of Taunggi, plus south Inle Lake).

It sounds like a wonderful trip, Shelly! I will, of course, be very interested in your report on the places we will not have time to go. We are still hoping our time will work out so we can get to Bago.
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Old May 30th, 2011, 11:19 AM
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PS, Shelly please look at my proposed itinerary on my planning thread and offer any thoughts you might have. Thanks!
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Old May 30th, 2011, 11:32 AM
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svetulka-Do you think it makes any difference temperature wise whether we visit the caves in the morning or afternoon?
Is there any shade other than in the caves? Did you have a guide for the caves, or did you do them on your own? I think based on your opinion and what I have read, I will insist on allowing 2.5 hours at the cave.

Kathy-The extra day in Mandalay was put in at my insistance. Believe it or not, Santa Maria's first itinerary had me doing Day 7-10 in three days, not four. I think I will have to rework those 4 days again.

I plan to use Min Thu in Bagan and have already been in touch with him. Do you think almost 4 days in Bagan is too much tine there? We do not plan on doing the balloon ride, so we will be seeing temples for four days.
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Old May 30th, 2011, 12:35 PM
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Shelly, 4 days in Bagan would not be too much for me! But it depends on your interest in temples. Of course, there are also villages, markets and lacquerware to see. As at Angkor, we took a long break in the middle of the day for lunch and a dip in the pool.

We spent three full days at the temples last time, and we wished we had more time. We only visited one village and one market, and didn't see the lacquerware at all.
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Old May 31st, 2011, 06:59 AM
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Hi Shelly, I just received a response from Santa Maria. I am just now booking my hotels. I was surprised to discover that some of my first choices are booked. It looks like it will be a busy high season for Burma. So if your hotels aren't booked yet, I'd suggest you do so as soon as possible.
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Old May 31st, 2011, 08:09 AM
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Kathie-Thanks so much for the heads up. We are planning to go sometime in Jan., but don't have definite dates or plane tickets yet, so I hadn't even thought about hotels.

Were the hotels that were filled small boutiqu type hotels? If so, that wouldn't impact us too much as we are going for 3-4 star hotels and the big ones would be ok with us as long as they are clean and air conditioned. However, I do think I had better start my research on hotels so I at least know what my choices would be once our plane tickets are booked.
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Old May 31st, 2011, 08:57 AM
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The places that are full are the Thiripysaya Sanctuary in Bagan (except for the $240 suites!) and the Rupar Mandalar (a 16 room boutique hotel in Mandalay) and one night in Yangon at the Strand. Last time we went to Burma, we reserved later than this and getting rooms anywhere was not a problem. You might be fine, but I'd suggest getting reservations soon. By the way, Santa Maria was very helpful with hotels suggestions, and their prices are lower than anywhere I've been able to find on the web.
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Old May 31st, 2011, 11:58 AM
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Shelly,I don't think that there will be a big difference between morning or afternoon visit to the caves if we are talking for January. We were there in April and we visited the caves in the afternoon. It was about 40 degrees in Monywa and it was terribly hot traveling in the open jeep but once we reached the area of the caves - the temperature dropped a bit and it was bearable even pleasant. There are some trees and shade (not very thick). You can also buy water there.
We went to the caves with a guide but he wasn't very useful (I think he didn't expect that we'll spend more than 1 hour there and he was bored). I think you can go without a guide and just take your time and enjoy the caves and the murals inside.
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Old Jun 1st, 2011, 04:39 AM
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svetulka-Thanks for the info. It will be helpful in planning our day in Monywa. BTW-what was the rest of your itinerary?
Do you have any other tips/recommendations for my trip?
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Old Jun 3rd, 2011, 12:14 PM
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Shelly,

Our itinerary was:
Day 1 - Yangon
Day 2 - Kyaikhtiyo and the Golden Rock
Day 3 - Bago and back to Yangon
Day 4 - early morning flight to Heho and transfer to Inle Lake. Sightseeing around the Lake
Day 5 - Inle Lake
Day 6 - Kakku & Taunggyi
Day 7 - afternoon flight to Mandalay. We had time to go to U-Bein bridge for the sunset
Day 8 - Amarapura, Sagaing and Inwa
Day 9 - Mingun in the morning and sightseeing around Mandalay in the afternoon
Day 10 - drive to Monywa. On the way we visited Thanboddhay Pagoda and the big Budhas. In the afternoon - the Caves
Day 11 - drive to Pakkoku. We stopped in 2 small villages on the way. Criuse to Bagan
Day 12&13 - Bagan
Day 14 - Bagan and late afternoon flight to Yangon
Day 15 - Yangon

Yangon:
* you will probably visit Shwedagon Pagoda in the late afternoon (it's really great when it is lit up by the sun) but try to see it in the early morning too - no tourists, only local people doing offerings. The feeling in the morning is different.
* go to the jetty area in the late afternoon to see the people boarding the boats after the end of their working day
* the National Museum is closed on Monday

The trip to the Golden rock was just great. This part of the country is very green and somehow different from the other parts we visited. The road goes through many lively and colorful villages. And Kyaikhtiyo is not just a strange golden rock. The place is very spiritual and after the sunset it becomes different, very lively - a lot of people, whole families, praying and doing offerings. It's worth spending a night on the top so to have time to feel the place. We saw just few foreigners. You can meet people from all around the country there. After Inle Lake this is my favourite place.

Inle Lake - except all the places and activities that you probably already know, I can highly recommend to take a canoe and stroll around one of the villages in the late afternoon (around sunset time). You can see the fishermen coming back home, people taking their bath in the lake, everybody is welcoming you, smiles all around. We spent two calm and very beautiful hours.

We had guides with us all the time (4 different people for the different areas we visited). It was very valuable because they were very different from one another (also different age)and gave us their views on the life and the situation in the country. Also they took us to some local events, very small and ordinary for them but very interesting for us.

Wish you success in the planning.
Enjoy your time in Myanmar! It is a wonderful country with great people.
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Old Jun 4th, 2011, 04:12 AM
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svetulka-The Golden Rock was a consideration for a while, but I decided to pass because of the strenuous climb to the top, which I did not want to do in the heat.

It sounds like you had a wonderful trip. Which company did you use to plan it?
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Old Jun 4th, 2011, 11:47 AM
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We used Exotissimo and we are very happy with their service.

About the Golden Rock - it is not an easy climb but for sure it is not as difficult as it is described in LP guidebook. The climb took us about an hour but you can walk in your own speed. There are a lot of places where you can stop for a rest and to have a drink enjoying the great views around, also you can hire a palanquin to take you up, or you can walk but hire somebody to carry your luggage.
We were there in April, the hottest month, but in the mountain it is a bit cooler and if you don't walk fast the temperature is not a problem.
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Old Jun 5th, 2011, 12:37 PM
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svetulka-Golden Rock sounds like it was a lovely experience. I'll rethink including it, but right now I am thinking of not including it on this trip. I am not a big fan of the heat, and I think it would be best if I conserve my energy for the things I have planned. I think I am older than you, and although I wish I could do what I was able to do in my forties, the sad truth is I cannot.

Thanks again for all your great input. I really appreciate it.
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