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Santa Maria correct contact info?

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May 17th, 2017, 07:54 AM
  #1
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Santa Maria correct contact info?

I am trying to contact Santa Maria for Myanmar tour. I went to their website, filled out a form they request with all my personal and travel information, and submitted (did it twice already). It stated on their website they would reply within 48 hours. However, I did not get any replies.

I could not find any direct email contact either. What do I do wrong? Should I contact them another way?

Thanks!
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May 17th, 2017, 08:48 AM
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While many here sing the praises of Santa Maria, I found them wholly unresponsive, as you have so far. It's been 4 years now since I did my Burma booking but I suggest you do as I did and move on, find another agent to help or just do it yourself.

With the exception of 3 internal flights I booked everything myself and it should be significantly easier now. It isn't as if there are many questions about where you'll be going. Details, maybe, but you can ask us here for input in that regard.

At the time, my Yangon accommodation stepped up and booked the flights for us. I recommend you not sit on your hands waiting for an apparently overburdened agency to help as the clock ticks.
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May 17th, 2017, 09:00 AM
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Amen, MmePerdu. We had a similar experience with Santa Maria in 2013. They actually did respond, but too slowly, and never seemed to want to help. My son, who planned our trip, ended up using Sammy at Myanmar Shalom. He did a great job putting our trip together.

My mother always said that there are lots of fish in the sea. So it never hurts to try a second company, and get a second quote.
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May 17th, 2017, 09:13 AM
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"My mother always said that there are lots of fish in the sea."

A wise woman. And it cannot hurt to try to do it yourself. I find great satisfaction in putting together my own itineraries and, for Burma, the choices are so straightforward it's relatively simple. If someone turns up who actually appreciates your business then anything you've done can be incorporated. In the meantime you'll have moved forward.
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May 17th, 2017, 11:00 AM
  #5
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For this trip, I would like a private guide for most of the areas, and a private car/boats in some cases. Also, in general, with such a short amount of time, I want to make sure that everything works efficient, so wanted some help from an agency.
I did contacted Damsel Tours that was highly praised as well here, and seems to be Fodor's Choice as mentioned in Thailand/Myanmar book.
They responded right away, and I like how our correspondence going so far. So, we may go with Damsel.

The only thing that worries me is that there are a lot great reviews for that agency from one time posters (reviewers).
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May 17th, 2017, 05:29 PM
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I think the online form on the Santa Maria website doesn't work well. I use [email protected] to contact them.

Frankly, you don't need a guide virtually anywhere in Myanmar. You will need a car and driver for some places. I also don't recommend arranging for a boat for Inle via a travel agent as you will pay double what you would pay for your hotel at Inle to arrange a boat.

While I don't know Damsel Tours, there are many excellent agencies in Myanmar. I would not use an agency that is not based in Myanmar - you want someone who knows Myanmar and has relationship s with hotels, drivers, etc.
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May 17th, 2017, 07:01 PM
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If you really don't want to be in charge of your own fate and you do want to be locked into pre-booked, likely generic arrangements, then hire a travel agent to do it all for you. I know there are those who do want that and cost isn't an issue.

From my perspective, cost aside, the biggest disadvantage of being locked into a completely pre-booked itinerary is that you're locked in. In many places in the world part of the joy of travel is a certain amount, if not complete, freedom to make decisions based on what you feel like doing on any given day.

You haven't told us how long your "short amount of time" is. But even short trips can be enhanced by having basic things booked in advance, accommodations and medium to long distance travel for instance, but leaving details open to discovering what there is to do and how to do them. Most are easily arranged by your hotels with little notice.

The only parts of trips I've regretted were those I didn't trust to instinct and forced myself into premature decisions, often resulting in abandoning them and the money I paid in exchange for what I found I really wanted after arrival.
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May 17th, 2017, 07:35 PM
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MmePerdu,

My husband and I have been traveling for over 20 years as much as our busy work schedule permits. We try not to take sick days, we do not days off just to relax, because we would not want to take our precious time from travel, because our vacation time is short.

With that, I enjoy nothing else more than planning our travel. I love to plan them, discuss, research, ask questions, anticipate, and of course, enjoy them to they fullest when it finally happens.
And I really enjoy make my own travel plans, and execute them or change them on the fly, or whatever we feel like...
And most of the time this is how we travel...

And of course, I know about disadvantages of pre-booked travel.

However, when we have less then 2 weeks for an entire trip in a large country, where logistics may not be that simple, and were we may not get a chance to return, I want to make sure everything goes efficient and smooth. In the past, private guides made this happen for us is some of the places where we thought we needed them. It is not like money is no object; it is more like splurging on something important for us.

In another thread, where I was asking for recommendations on itinerary, I explained that we have 11 full days. We plan to spend 1-2 days in Yangon, 2-3 in Bagan, 3 at Inle lake, and still deciding where to spend a few remaining days.
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May 17th, 2017, 07:46 PM
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Thanks, Kathie! Damsel actually is located in Myanmar (or at least Myanmar address is listed at there website).

Yes, I agree, we can arrange a car/driver, still need an agency.

Are those boats arranged on a private basis or with a group? Damsel mentioned there are some type of VIP boats, that are better and less noisy.

I will use your recommendation on arranging a boat via hotel then.
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May 17th, 2017, 08:17 PM
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Ooops, apparently I offended, not my intent. Carry on.
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May 17th, 2017, 08:35 PM
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Helen, I didn't respond to your planning thread, but I wanted to offer my opinion on Kengtung, which you mentioned in your opening post.

We spent three nights there, and we had an amazing time. It was hands down the favorite part of our trip. We had an amazing hiking guide who took us to various villages, and we met some amazing villagers. We stayed at a hotel in town, and hiked in different directions for two days, while sleeping in the hotel each night. On our departure day, we went to a village accessible by car. The city also has an amazing market each morning, and villagers come down from the hills to shop--it was quite fascinating. The best part is that we were virtually the only tourists visiting these villages, in contrast to the annoying tour groups we found everywhere else in Burma.
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May 17th, 2017, 08:51 PM
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You can arrange boats on a private basis either through your hotel at Inle or at the dock (somewhat harder to do at the dock as the boatman would prefer to have more people in his boat and to charge per person. I recommend you get a boat of your own as then you can go where you want to rather than being hauled from "workshop" to "workshop." My hotel arranged out boat and boatman for us. Note that the boatmen rarely speak much English.

Sorry, I don't know anything about any kind of VIP boats - maybe someone else does. But I have to admit I'm always suspicious of people who say they can arrange VIP anything.

Also, I don't know much about trekking around Inle Lake (though it is very popular and you are likely to run into many other trekkers), but I often recommend Kengtung for trekking. Obviously, if you are trekking, you want guide.

While it has gotten easier to make your own arrangements in Myanmar, I still recommend that people use an agency there. You plan your own itinerary and ask them to book flights, hotels, car and driver, etc for you.
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May 17th, 2017, 09:27 PM
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Kathie, at the time of our 2013 trip, it was actually required to have a guide for Kengtung hiking. If fact, we had to stop for permits with our guide and driver. I'm not sure if the situation has changed since then, but the trails are confusing, so I would not want to go there alone.

Also, our amazing guide speaks several dialects, and was able to converse with the hill tribe people. He acted as our translator the entire time.
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May 18th, 2017, 08:37 AM
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MmePerdu, no problem, I am not offended. I just wanted to explain my view, and why we do not always travel the way we would like to.
I am disappointed myself that we do not have enough time to enjoy travel properly, and often need to plan in advance every minute of our vacation
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May 18th, 2017, 08:40 AM
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CaliforniaLady, thank you! Yes, Kengtung sounds attractive, but I do not think we can make it within our timeframe.
This is why I was thinking of Loikaw as seems more convenient to travel from Inle Lake

Actually, I think you traveled with Shalom Myanmar (I was reading previous posts), so I may ask them about Kengtung logistics.
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May 18th, 2017, 08:43 AM
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CaliforniaLady, many areas of Myanmar are sill permit areas. When I was last there (2015) we were on a cruise on the Chindwin River which also required a permit.

I'm glad you had such a great guide in Kengtung - everyone I've recommended the area to seems to have had a similar experience.
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May 18th, 2017, 08:46 AM
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Thanks Kathie! We are not looking for multi days trekking, but rather day trips with walks to villages, and overnights in town.

I got it about long tail boats.

Just another 'stupid' question on this... There are some long boat rides involved to reach certain lakes destinations. Do they have bathroom facilities on these boats, or they make bathroom stops?
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May 18th, 2017, 05:56 PM
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Helen, I agree with Kathie in that you would be happiest getting your own boat and boatman, which is what we did. My son originally contacted a guide named Joyce, but she was booked, and so she recommended the boatman we used. As Kathie said, you can also get one via your hotel. I thought the boatman was fine, but my son didn't like him at all--I think it had to do with his lack of English skills, and understanding what we wanted. Looking back, it would have been helpful to have a guide as well, at least to act as a translator.

Regarding Kengtung, it does indeed require another plane ride, but it's a personal decision only you can make. I probably would put the experience in the top ten of places I have been, mostly because of our wonderful guide. My son actually found him, but Sammy at Myanmar Shalom contacted him on our behalf, and we paid him directly. His name is Sai Sam Tip.
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May 18th, 2017, 06:58 PM
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CaliforniaLady, thank you! This info is very much appreciated!
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May 18th, 2017, 09:17 PM
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helen, are you referring to boat rides on Inle lake? If so, these boats are not longtails, they are small and there is no cabin, let alone bathroom facilities. But none of the rides on Inle Lake are especially long. The longest is perhaps 3 hours between stops. You will make stops along the lake that will have restroom facilities.
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