Trip report from Myanmar

Dec 2nd, 2011, 06:36 PM
  #1  
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Trip report from Myanmar

Just got back from a trip to Myanmar. Rather than doing a day by day report thought I would try and set out info in a semi-logical manner. I got lots of help on the forum before I went so hope this will help somebody else.

First just a bit about me. I travelled alone - 64 year woman (hubby - a non traveller -home looking after the dogs). I travelled on a budget - so no high end hotels, but not in the back-packing range either. In Myanmar from Nov 2 - 20.

PS - Myanmar was great!

Money: You've heard it before but it can't be repeated often enough - those $US need to be in pristine condition. I had one $100 bill refused and I couldn't see anything wrong with it. I took extra money just in case bills were refused - took $100s, $50s, (mostly because I couldn't get new condition $100s), some $20s, $10s, and $1s. Money can now be exchanged at the international airport in Yangoon - on the main level. I think the bank was KZB or something like that. I was only able to exchange $500US - this is where one of the hundred dollar bills was refused). The rate of exchange on Nov 2 was 785 but this rate had dropped to 730 by Nov 13 when I exchanged money in Mandalay and Bagan. No idea of what the rate is now.

Passport: Keep your passport with you rather than in a hotel safe - you need it for various unexcepted things - getting boat tickets to Mingun near Mandalay, getting a circle train ticket in Yangoon, exchanging money at the airport, when getting a guide to go to Kakku or Sankar when in Inle Lake. There many have been others but can't remember them at the moment.

Airports: Make sure you check or have your hotel check with the airports to confirm your flights 24 hours ahead. The flights in Myanmar can and do frequently change times and/or carriers. I had one flight change before I actually got to Myanmar and then another on the flight from Mandalay to Bagan - that was a carrier and a time change. I am also aware of other travellers who had their flights changed just at the last minute. Make sure you get to the airport well ahead of time. Flights can board early - and take off early (I assume that everyone who was supposed to be on board was - but who knows?) When flying you will get a little sticker with your airline on it. All passengers for all flights are in one waiting room. A flight is announced by means of a person holding a sign with the airline name and flight number - the information on this sign may or may not be correct - one of my flights did not have the correct flight number on the sign). Someone may or may not wander around checking on the little airline tags that people wear - but I wouldn't count on it.. So basically what I am saying is be alert and on your toes

The planes themselves were fine - I flew Air Bagan 3 times and Asian Wings once. I had no difficutly getting my backpack into the overhead storage and there didn't seem to be much fuss about weight of bags. My bags probably were not overweight but I didn't see anyone checking the weight.

Mandalay airport - beware of the "helpers" in the washroom who give you soap and paper towels to dry your hands" - for a tip of course. I didn't have any small bills so wound up giving 1000K - waaay too much.

Travel agency - I used the owner of the hotel I stayed at in Yangoon to do all my internal arrangements of domestic air, hotels (I told her which hotels I wanted), tickets for the Balloons over Bagan, and transfer from the airport to the Classique Inn in Yangoon - mainly because the hotel is in a more residential area and I felt the taxi drivers might not be aware of where it was. I did all the other arrangements myself either on-line (arranging for Min Thu in Bagan) or when I arrived at a destination.

Hotels: Yangoon - Classique Inn - a very nice "boutique hotel" with only about 6 rooms. I would not recommend the standard rooms as they are right off the reception area and I found that they could be a bit noisy. I had a standard room on my first night (arrival night) - I was so exhausted the noise (voices and sound of the telephone) certainly did not keep me awake. When I returned to the hotel for two nights at the end of my trip and I mentioned that I had found the room noisy, the owner upgraded me for free to a lovely room with its own private sitting area. Breakfasts were yummy and filling. Staff was very friendly. As it is in a residentially area it is away from all the hustle and bustle but all about a 15 -20 minute walk away from the nearest restaurants - just a short taxi ride though. Short taxi ride to Shwedagon Pagoda. I would recommend this hotel. - $45/night for standard room -

Inle Lake - Princess Garden Hotel in Nyaungshwe. My favorite hotel during my stay. The hotel is about a 5-10 minute walk from the center of Nyaungshwe in a quiet area . There are 8 inidividual bungalows - no TV or AC, but had a large fan and I didn't really need that much as it was quite cool at night. Lovely swimming pool (didn't have a change to use it).
Terrific breakfasts - have a good appetite if you want to be able to finish it all. Best of all were the owners - Ko Aung and Mee Mee - they were simply fabulous and the rest of the staff were all very friendly as well. Ko Aung was so helpful in arranging boat trips and a car and driver to Kakku. He also went to effort of finding someone else in the hotel to share the boat trip to Sankar with me so it wouldn't cost me so much money. Highly recommended - $25 per night

Mandalay - Peacock Lodgte - small family run B&B/guesthouse away from the noise and congestion. Room was large, had A/C, small fridge and TV. Nice to be away from the noise and dust of central Mandalay. Much more basic. No restaurants close by but they would make noodle or rice dishes with about 1/2 hour's notice. Have a tuk-tuk driver attached to the hotel. Recommended - $18 / night.

Bagan - Kumurdara Hotel - the largest hotel I stayed at. Again lovely location in New Bagan. Had a junior suite which was very nice, have heard that the superior rooms are not nearly so nice. The hotel is very close to temples which I was able to see from my balcony. Also some small temples were close enough to walk to in less than 5 minutes. The breakfast buffet was certainly nothing to write home about - cold, undertoasted toast, fried eggs or rice and some fruit. Was not impressed with the lunch/dinners either. Again it is out of the way so not close enough to walk to any other restaurant. - mind you horse carts are available so could have taken one to go somewhere else but I just couldn't be bothered. Recommended - except for the food - $40/night for junior suite.

Well that's it for now. Will try to gather my thoughts together a bit more and let you know my experiences in each area.
joan47 is offline  
Dec 3rd, 2011, 01:04 AM
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Hi Joan, glad to hear you enjoyed your trip. I look forward to more details. We are now in Bangkok, having just flown from Yangon today.

Did you use $500 in Kyat? We exchanged US$300 or the two of us for just over two weeks, and it was exactly the right amount for us.
Kathie is offline  
Dec 3rd, 2011, 01:37 AM
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Super advice/report specially about the USD.

Lots of counterfeit $100 worldwide many places

just will not takethem period so $20 and under

crisp new no tears not even small tears work best for me.
qwovadis is offline  
Dec 3rd, 2011, 03:31 AM
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Qw, to get the best exchange rate in Burma (as in many other places) you need to exchange US$100 bills. You get signifigantly less for $20 bills. Counterfitting isn't as much a concern with the newer bills, which is the only kind they accept in Myanmar.
Kathie is offline  
Dec 3rd, 2011, 04:57 AM
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Hi Joan-Great start to your report. For those of us with extra time in Yangon, do you recommend the circle train ride? In Mandalay, did you find it easy to get a ride from the jetty, and other places in town back to your hotel? What was the approximate cost of a 10 minute taxi ride? I'm looking forward to the rest of your report.
shelleyk is offline  
Dec 3rd, 2011, 08:51 AM
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Welcome Back Joan. I have been hoping you would post before I left. I look forward to the rest of your report and any tips you may have for us. Funny that HSBC only had pristine $100 bills and had to scramble for anything smaller.
I am glad you liked the Princess Garden as that is where we are staying too.
live42day is offline  
Dec 3rd, 2011, 08:52 AM
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Hi Kathy - I actually exchanged $750 US and that worked out just about right. I used kyat for everything except the entrance fees, departure tax and Pao guide fees. My hotels, domestic airfare, Balloons over Bagan ticket were paid for in US dollars to the Classique Inn when I arrived in Yangoon. Used kyat for taxis, tuk-tuks, excursions, meals, donations etc - the trip to Kakku 55,000 kyat, Sankar 20,000 kyat, taxi for the day with Min Thu's brother 35,000 kyat, 3 days with Min Thu 60,000 kyat, etc - all adds up especially the taxis to and from the airports. Wound up buying 2 tee shirts at the airport as souvenirs to pretty well use up the remainder of my kyat.
joan47 is offline  
Dec 3rd, 2011, 09:01 AM
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shellyk - yes I would definitely recommend the circle train. I wound up having to ask an official at the train station how to find the ticket office, and he was nice enough to direct me. The cost is $1 US and you need your passport to get the ticket. The train runs every half hour - can come in on different tracks so the guy in the ticket booth will let you know what track it is coming in on. Sit on the left hand side of the train - better views of the city/village life for the most part. The train was pretty empty when I got on, but it fills up quite quickly at the different stops - so it is really interesting for people watching. The trip takes about 2 hours. I got off at a station that I thought was the Yangoon station and then figured out it wasn't so had to jump back on to the moving train - adds a little excitement to life. As it was, the trip seemed to be taking over the 2 hours and I wasn't sure where I had actually missed the station (I get a little paranoid) so I got off at a random station and took a taxi to Scott market - which worked out fine. Keep your ticket as a guy does come through and checks tickets. I was the only foreigner that I saw on the train.
joan47 is offline  
Dec 3rd, 2011, 09:13 AM
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shelleyk - sorry forgot about your other questions. I had the tuk-tuk driver from the Peacock Lodge take me to the boat jetty. He came and picked me up again when the boat docked - there were other tuk-tuks around so I'm sure it wouldn't be a problem to get one. I used the tuk-tuk from the hotel for all my transportation around Mandalay. (except for transfers to/from the airport) The trip out to Amanapura and Sagaing - was 23,000 kyat and the cost for one day - to/from boat jetty and touring around Mandalay was 17,000 kyat.
joan47 is offline  
Dec 3rd, 2011, 11:28 AM
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Thanks for all of the info, especially the details on the train ride. Sounds like an adventure. We will definately try it.
shelleyk is offline  
Dec 3rd, 2011, 05:07 PM
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Thanks, Joan for the additional details. Shelley, nywoman also did the circle train and loved it. You might also look at her report.
Kathie is offline  
Dec 4th, 2011, 02:33 AM
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Hi Joan, what is your exchange rate in Yangon? I will vist Myanmar in the end of this year..
baron33 is offline  
Dec 4th, 2011, 02:48 AM
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We got 780 to the dollar in Yangon at one of the bank exchanges as of Nov 16. Te rate was the same when we left over two weeks later. Rates in other places in the country are typically lower. Joan reported 785 in Yangon earlier in the month.
Kathie is offline  
Dec 4th, 2011, 03:29 AM
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Thanks Kathie, becasue my friend tell me to exchange in Bogyoke Market to get higher rate...
baron33 is offline  
Dec 4th, 2011, 09:54 AM
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barron33 - I believe that the rate at the bank in Yangon is equal to or better than the black market rate now.
joan47 is offline  
Dec 4th, 2011, 03:48 PM
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baron, Joan is right - the bank exchange rate is the best available now. This is a new situation, in the last 6 weeks or so. So if your friend was in Burma more than two months ago, his info is old.
Kathie is offline  
Dec 4th, 2011, 10:13 PM
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Thanks for Joan and Kathie...it is the most update news to me! Hope the bank is not difficult found ^^
baron33 is offline  
Dec 4th, 2011, 10:24 PM
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There is a bank exchange in the Yangon airport (International terminal) and in the Mandalay and Bagan airports as well. There is an exchange in downtown Yangon, just two blocks from the Strand Hotel.
Kathie is offline  
Dec 4th, 2011, 10:48 PM
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So the exchange rate in Yangon airport will be same as in downtown? (I think they should be same but double confirm)
baron33 is offline  
Dec 4th, 2011, 10:54 PM
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Another problem is that you know samll bill and large bill would have different rate in black market, but are they same in bank?
baron33 is offline  

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