Traveling to Burma with 15 month old

Mar 22nd, 2012, 04:32 PM
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Traveling to Burma with 15 month old

I am in the initial planning stages of a trip to Burma in January. I will be traveling with my husband and 15 month old son. I have been doing some research and have contacted Santa Maria Tours today to begin planning. We have 10 - 12 days to spend in the country and want to see Yangoon, Mandalay, Bagan and Inle Lake. I would like to get some advice on what we should include that would be of interest to our son. We won't be able to include long driving days or treks. He will like horse cart tours, jumping cat monastery, the cat house near Inle, and there will be enough to see at temples and markets to keep him occupied. I have also read about a snake temple near Mandalay where the monks wash the snakes daily. Is there anywhere we can visit elephants? Has anyone done local family visits or visited a school? Has anyone been to Burma with a small child?

To give a bit more background, our trip will be three weeks in total. We will spend a few days in Bangkok before or after Burma and a week in Japan visiting friends on the way home. This will be our fourth international trip with our son, so we are getting pretty good with handling the logistics of traveling with an infant.

Any advice you can give is appreciated. Thanks!
lisacanada is offline  
Mar 22nd, 2012, 04:58 PM
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IMO your son might be too young, he will be 15 months come Januray? He might not find much interest in Burma and having him along might hamper your trip as well. For example, at Inle you will spend a lot of time in an open long tail boat and I wouldn't take a boy that young on it. Also in Bagan, most peole enjoy a horse cart ride on the dusty trails and again this might not be suitable for a 15 months old baby.
Hanuman is offline  
Mar 22nd, 2012, 05:10 PM
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At 15 months, he won't remember this trip.

But I would be most concerned about the health issues. Make sure your son has all of his routine immunizations, especially for childhood illnesses like measles, mumps, rubella, chicken pox as well as tetanus. Burma is also a malarial risk area.

Nothing in Burma will be child-proofed. You'll need to watch electrical outlets (some of which are unsafe for adults), you'll have to be careful on the boats and docks at Inle. Burma isn't really the place to see elephants, Thailand is right for that, but he may be too young.

Also, health care in Burma is exceptionally poor. If your son got sick, you'd need to get to Bangkok ASAP. Note that milk and milk products in Burma are not safe for your son.

I hate to discourage you on this, as I love Burma, but this might be a trip to leave him with his grandparents.
Kathie is online now  
Mar 22nd, 2012, 06:20 PM
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We took our 18 month old son to Burma -- but this was 25 years ago! We all lived to tell about it and have in fact recounted our adventures with great enthusiasm over the years, but I'm not sure I would recommend it.

We stayed at the unrenovated Strand and at the time not only was there no milk, there was no water either. Luckily the flight attendents on our Cathay flight to Bangkok knew more about conditions in Rangoon than we did and loaded us up with UHT milk cartons; otherwise it would have been beer for breakfast for all of us. We have wonderful photos of our son in heading for the precipice of a temple of Pagan with me in desperate pursuit. His feet never hit the ground.

Of course Burma's made some progress over the past two decades, but the infrastructure issues remain -- health and safety being formost when traveling with a child. One thing that I'm sure hasn't changed is the warmth and kindness of the Burmese people amid great hardship. We left all of our son's clothes and books behind.
marmot is offline  
Mar 22nd, 2012, 06:39 PM
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We have traveled through Thailand, Cambodia, and Laos pre-baby and thought those would all be doable with an infant. Is Burma that different? We would buy medical evacuation insurance, and take a life jacket for Inle. We also have a baby tent with mosquito net we take with us. We certainly don't travel light anymore! I know he won't remember a thing, but we love to travel and love to experience new things with our son. Lots of things to consider, I appreciate the input. Been thinking about flights and we can fly Vancouver Hong Kong in business class on points. Is there a direct flight from Hong Kong to Rangoon/Yangoon? I haven't been able to find anything.
lisacanada is offline  
Mar 22nd, 2012, 06:56 PM
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Lisa--I don't want to distract from your thread but I would love to learn what your "essentials" list has been for traveling with your baby so far. We're taking our 13 mo old to Bali in the summer and I'm trying to glean from others what they've found most useful. If you would be willing to share, my email is [email protected] Good luck with your itinerary!
alovesa is offline  
Mar 22nd, 2012, 08:05 PM
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Since I myself got seriously ill in Burma, I would be afraid to put a 15 month old at risk for that.I alternately thought I was going to die the 1st 24 hrs and then afraid I wouldn't.
What I had would have dehydrated him at his size, and put his life at risk.
I take my own risks, but would not risk a toddler's life. . If you think you can keep him from touching anything and from putting his hands near or in his mouth..... I'd be afraid to bathe him except with bottles of purchased water. The kids I saw were bathing in the lake or the river - but they have developed immunities.
Electrcity is unreliable and I didn't see milk products available. Life is basic in Burma and if you are outside Rangon and have an issue, you might not be able to get to BKK for medical care for 24 hours. Flights outside of Rangon go only in the daylight hours and you could get stuck.

It's a risk I would probably not take.
wintersp is offline  
Mar 23rd, 2012, 02:52 AM
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We took our 18 month old to Burma two years ago and loved it, didn't find it tricky nor difficult. It was a bit of hardcore travel as well as we took internal flights from Yangoon to Inle Lake, then Mandalay, Bagan and back to Yangoon. We made sure she had Hepatitis prevention and took a lot of mosquite repellent for kids with us. Furthermore I brought some sterilising tablets with me and put them into the bath water. Otherwise no issues at all. Just for emergencies I looked up some addresses for foreign physicians and clinics and brought them with me. We also tried to stay at upmarket hotels, which were just fine. None of us got sick and I think that she liked to go on horse carriage rides etc. Bring a buggy though, was quite useful and if you have a backpack, that would be great as well. Go for it, it'll be fun.
ADNetti is offline  
Mar 23rd, 2012, 06:07 AM
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Children survive, and even thrive, in situations where medical care is substandard. Most don't have a choice. As ADNetti reports, based on a sample of size 1, small children can be taken to Burma and not experience problems. But that's not really the issue. The question is why would you want to expose your child to non-neglible health risks? What are the benefits for the child of this trip?
Marija is online now  
Mar 23rd, 2012, 06:52 AM
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Lisa, there are no direct flights from Hong Kong to Yangon. Bangkok, KL, and Singapore have flights to Yangon.

Yes, Burma is different from Thailand, Cambodia, and Laos. Availability of goods and services is much different in Burma. You cannot rely on electricity (expect to go off multiple times a day!), a great many places you will eat have no refrigeration (this is a good time to remember food and water precautions!).

A woman who owns a hotel at Inle talked with us a long time about what she does to try to ensure a safe food and water supply for her hotel and restaurant. She does her own water treatment, grows her own vegetables and washes them in purified water, imports milk and milk products from Thailand or Singapore, imports meat from Thailand and Singapore, etc. This is a native Burmese woman, and she considers much of the food supply in Burma of dubious safety.

Your child, like AD's might do just fine. But the risks are significant, and that is what you should consider carefully before you go.

BTW, Burma has the highest number of deaths each year from malaria of any Asia country. That isn't death rate, but absolute number of deaths. Part of the reason for this is that much of the malaria treatment medication in Burma is counterfeit. Indeed, I wouldn't buy any medication of any sort in Burma.
Kathie is online now  
Mar 23rd, 2012, 07:17 AM
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this August we're taking a 2 yr old and 9 month old to Thailand and Laos for 3 weeks. Lisacanada and ADNetti - would you mind sharing any general baby traveling tips you found useful in these areas, particularly safe bug repellant? i'm at [email protected] if better shared there.

thanks very much.
matt817 is offline  
Mar 23rd, 2012, 09:26 AM
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You've been given enough reasons not to go to Burma with your 15 month old, most of which I agree with. so I won't add anymore reasons. However, I want to give you something else to think about. After we bought medical evacuation insurance for our trip to Burma, someone asked me if I was sure that the Burmese authorities would allow a medevac flight to land to pick us up, if needed. I never checked since I had already bought the insurance, but maybe you should. Being med evaced out of Burma is probably not as simple as being flown out of a western country, and non routine medical care in Burma is not good.
shelleyk is offline  
Mar 23rd, 2012, 10:13 AM
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Shelley, you are quite right about med evac from Burma. Someone over on Thorntree told about meeting a woman at Inle Lake who had badly broken her leg. She wanted to be med evac'ed out, but the authorities wouldn't allow the plane to land. It took days before she was able to be med evac'ed to Bangkok.
Kathie is online now  
Mar 23rd, 2012, 07:17 PM
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Wow, I am shocked that these posts are actually coming from a travel website. Last time I was in Burma, there where thousands of healthy 15-month old babies all over the place. Of course accidents and bad things can happen.... Back home in the states too. One always hopes they can travel safely and without negative incident, but the truth is that these sorts of things are statistically more likely to happen at home. There is no real reason not to travel to Myanmar with your young one. Of course they will not remember the trip, but you will. (Although my little dude claims to remember bits and pieces of our early trips together...) And traveling at this age is very common and you will see others there with their young ones too. Puuleeezzze! Fair weather travelers! ;-)

By the time my boy was 15 months old, he'd been to Myanmar, Thailand, Laos, Jordan, Egypt and Europe. Now he's 9 and he's been to 32 countries and Viet Nam next weekend! We're always thankful when we conclude a trip without incident and always pray for it to continue like this. He's trekked the mountains of Siberia, spent two weeks on a fishing boat on Lake Baikal, zodiac'ed the rocky shores of the Commander Islands, climbed the calderras of the Kuril Islands, camped in the wilderness of Kamchatka, tracked a male polar bear in Spitsbergen (4 years old!)....he's the youngest foreigner on record to see a wild panda in China...trekked the rainforests and spiny forests of Madagascar, safari'd the Kalahari wilderness, kissed whales in Vizcaino, met grizzlies in BC, bathed with snow monkeys in Nagano, tracked Amur leopards and Siberian tigers in Primorye Russia, trekked mud flats to see the world's last Siberian cranes, helped me photograph one of the world's rarest deer species in Thailand, etc etc etc. Take a look at the below to see what sorts of experiences you can give your young one:

(Click the "trip reports" link)

Go to Myanmar with your little one and have a GREAT trip!
cokesmith is offline  
Mar 23rd, 2012, 07:50 PM
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Just because you CAN doesn't necessarily mean it is wise. And to take a toddler along without at least weighing the unique risks is just stupid.

"One always hopes they can travel safely and without negative incident, but the truth is that these sorts of things are statistically more likely to happen at home "

Somehow, I doubt most of us worry about malaria, fatal diarrhea, or the inability to find ANY decent urgent care within a few hours in most countries.

No one is saying liscanada shouldn't travel with her son. they are just pointing out that Myanmar has some issues that other countries don't.
lcuy is offline  
Mar 23rd, 2012, 08:51 PM
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I think every family has its own adventure/risk ratio. Asking "what could go wrong?" questions about the down side is, to me, just good planning, good parenting and good sense.

A few practical comments about travel with babies/toddlers in underdeveloped parts of Asia:

Leave the stroller at home. Sidewalks are pockmarked, roads are flooded, paths are muddy. There are steps everywhere. You'll end up carrying the darn thing plus the baby.

Babies will not respond to sensible anti-jetlag suggestions like "try to go back to sleep." When they're awake they're awake and when they're asleep they're asleep. By natural assimilation, it takes longer for a baby to adjust than an adult so plan on some wide-awake small hours and have something to eat on hand in your room, when room service may not be operating. In my experience it took about 4-5 days for my son's baby-body clock to adjust fully to Asia and that meant all of us were in his time zone, not the opposite.

I wrote this on another thread but I think it bears repeating because it's not so obvious: Many Asians even those who live on or by water cannot swim. Shockingly, many boat boys and pool attendants can't swim either. The same is true for baby sitters at beach resorts. Be vigilant when you leave your child around water of any kind -- any that includes lily ponds and water features.
marmot is offline  
Mar 23rd, 2012, 08:55 PM
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cokesmith, just because we're cautious about our kids' health, it doesn't mean we're wusses. A lot of us are avid travelers AND responsible parents. And there's nothing wrong with presenting our individual philosophies on this forum.

lisacanada - Not sure you'll enjoy the long flight with your toddler as much as you did with your infant. Fifteen months is prime time for running around, grabbing and putting everything in the mouth.

As far as Burma, although we only went there on a brief day trip from Thailand, from what we saw, I would not consider it a suitable destination for a 15-month old. Nor will it be much fun for you. We did visit two schools, including one in a monastery where just about every kid was visibly sick. And the vehicles are almost comically unsafe.

Like many others on this board, we are big travelers. We go to Europe and South America for work and to more exotic locales for vacation. We are lucky to have been to six continents with our boys, now 18 and 21, but decided early on not to take them where they'd need malaria meds until they were teens.

And when our younger son ended up in a foreign emergency room when he was eleven, we were extremely relieved to be in Australia, where we could trust the medical infrastructure. That experience in Burma would have turned into a horror story.
crosscheck is offline  
Mar 23rd, 2012, 09:14 PM
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Crosscheck - seriously? Burma is an amazing destination. "Nor will it be much fun for you.." I beg to disagree. (Just expressing my "individual philosophy"...) But I guess if you put "urgent care within a few hours" as a determinant criterion, it would limit you to a pretty urban and developed-nation itinerary. If that's your bag, then good on you.
cokesmith is offline  
Mar 23rd, 2012, 10:09 PM
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cokesmith, You were my hero for your amazing blog and photos. Now you sound like a travel nazi! Just because some of us think Burma is not appropriate for toddler travel, we're not saying to rule out the whole "developing" world. Also, it's fine to give your opinion, but it's not cool to criticize the travel styles of others.

Of course Burma is an amazing destination. Nobody here is questioning that. But a lot of us feel that it's not a great idea to travel 30+ hours with an active toddler and then have to worry about malaria, lack of milk, jet lag and risky transportation.

I would recommend Guatemala as an alternative - exotic, no time difference, just 4-5 hrs. away and little kids rule!
crosscheck is offline  
Mar 23rd, 2012, 10:31 PM
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Ummmkay....I've been duely spanked. I'll guess I wish you a great trip Lisacanada, where ever it may take you.
cokesmith is offline  

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