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Trip Report Trip report from Myanmar

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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.

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