Very disappointed in Min Thu

Mar 3rd, 2013, 05:51 PM
  #1  
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Join Date: Apr 2009
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Very disappointed in Min Thu

We are here in Bagan and have so far had quite a disappointing day. Our Balloons over Bagan ride was cancelled due to high altitude winds -- quite understandable as a safety precaution but still disappointing as we likely will not be able to reschedule. We immediately set to work trying to get in touch with Min Thu because we were scheduled (after many email exchanges over the last few months) to meet him this afternoon at 3:30. When we got him on the phone he said he could not take us today or for the whole day we had scheduled tomorrow because he was in tour guide school! He never let us know this and seemed totally unconcerned that this upset our plans. We asked if he could find a substitute and he said he would. Have no idea how this will work out. Is this his usual model operation? If so I can't believe he will continue to have such a good reputation.
losaltos is offline  
Mar 3rd, 2013, 06:09 PM
  #2  
 
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A wise man once told me (and something we all struggle with when it happens to us) but things sometimes come up when traveling. Nothing is guaranteed. You're best served to go with the flow and enjoy where you are instead of getting worked up.

I'm sure there was just a mixup. I doubt he was unconcerned...that just doesn't seem like his personality at all. Our experience with him, as countless others have had, was fantastic. And he was always completely reliable.

Keep in mind that you're not dealing with Butterfield & Robinson here. He's a horse cart driver who just happens to have a website and a cell phone number ... which is great deal more technologically advanced than most drivers you'll find in Bagan. But because of that you certainly can't expect someone with an office manager and scheduler.

I'm sure it was a simple misunderstand--and that he's not blatantly ignoring your booking. As I said, it's travel. Go with the flow. I'm sure you can find a bevvy of options as far as horse cart drivers and guides go. Just speak with your hotel and I'm sure they'll hook you up.
filmwill is offline  
Mar 3rd, 2013, 06:53 PM
  #3  
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I appreciate the need t be flexible. But there was no misunderstaning. He knew he had this booking -- he admitted that. Is it not possible (even without schedulers) to simply call and let us know? We were very much looking forward to meeting him and experiencing the town with him. Sorry to be sounding like a demanding westerner but it is not acceptable to just leave hanging -- no matter where you are. Now let's see how much flak comes my way on this forum!!!!
losaltos is offline  
Mar 3rd, 2013, 07:33 PM
  #4  
 
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I think you have set your expectation too high. These horse cart drivers are very basic people and not a full blown tour operator. When we went, a few years ago, all we had to do was to ask our hotel in the morning to arrange it for us. We paid $15 to the driver + tip at the conclusion of our tour and that was it. Can't you just ask the hotel to arrange someone else?
Hanuman is offline  
Mar 3rd, 2013, 09:56 PM
  #5  
 
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I am sorry to hear about this. I am sure you are disappointed, especially since you had arranged for his services in advance, and were counting on him to show up for his commitment to guide you. As someone who used Min Thu, and thought his guiding added to our experience in Bagan, I think there is no excuse for his not following through with his commitment to guide you. Of couse you can get another horse cart driver, but that is not the point. You are disappointed and in my opinion, you have a right to be. You have no alternative but to make the best of the situation and get another horse cart driver. I hope this disappointment does not spoil your time in Bagan.
shelleyk is offline  
Mar 3rd, 2013, 10:57 PM
  #6  
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shelleyk et al: Thank you Shelley for getting my point. Of course we hired a different horse cart driver but, as you point out, that is NOT the point. We so looked forward -- based on all the great feedback here -- to learning from Min Thu. It has not ruined our trip but it was a big disappointment for sure. And, if he wants to continue to enjoy the great reputation he has earned with others, then he needs not to take his bookings so casually. Even if he had arranged for someone else to be here in his stead I wouldn't feel so negative but he did not even do that. We will enjoy Bagan and continue to enjoy Myanmar...but I do think it is fair to register these thoughts with other Fodorites.
losaltos is offline  
Mar 4th, 2013, 01:25 AM
  #7  
 
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I completely understand the OP's point (not sure why it's so hard for others to grasp). Thanks for the head's up; we're booked with Minthu later this month and this certainly gives me some concern.
LAX_Esq is offline  
Mar 4th, 2013, 06:45 AM
  #8  
 
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Not acceptable in the modern Western civilization for sure but then again take a look at where you are.....not too much of the western civilization I see out there. Thank you for reporting your grievance, it needed to be told.
Hope you have better luck the rest of the way and please come back and give us a trip report when you return. That would give us all another opinion to make a decision from when we finally make it to Burma proper.

Aloha!
hawaiiantraveler is offline  
Mar 4th, 2013, 11:09 AM
  #9  
 
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I am so sorry to hear that this happened to you. Of course it isn't ok that he wasn't able to fulfill his obligation to you. I do wonder what the whole story was. (And I agree with Filmwill, that I can't imagine MinThu being unconcerned about this, but I'm sure he didn't express it in a way that you would have expected.)

You said he was unable to guide you because he was "in tour guide school." I don't know just what this means except that when we were there in 2011, he had a new license on his horse cart. When we asked him about this he said that the government had started a new licensing program. MinThu's horsecart was handed down through his family from his grandfather. That was the traditional way people became horsecart drivers. Now the government is handing out licenses, which determines who can be a horsecart driver. And someone mentioned to me that the government was getting involved in licensing guides. People who had worked for years as a guide would not be allowed to continue without government certification. I know that a year or so ago, MinThu was required to go to Yangon (with little or no notice) for something in regard to becoming a licensed tour guide. So I'm guessing that this "tour guide school" is another step in the licensing process.

I hope the rest of your trip goes smoothly. On our first trip to Burma, we had the ballon ride cancelled twice. On our second trip we didn't even try!

I look forward to your trip report.

Aloha from Kauai!
Kathie is offline  
Mar 4th, 2013, 09:49 PM
  #10  
520
 
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Unfortunately, Losaltos, we had a similar experience with Min Thu when we were in Bagan in early December. We had booked two days with him many months before and had confirmed; he and his cousin/brother met us at the Bagan airport as arranged, and we agreed about our start time for the following morning. Unfortunately shortly after we started out the next morning, my husband was hit with a very bad case of turista, and we had to return to the hotel. I said that I'd go out with Min that afternoon, and he picked me up at the agreed upon time. we only had time to go to one temple, before we had to go to the office for Balloons Over Bagan to cancel my husband's ticket for the next morning. The office didn't open until 5:00 p.m. and the hotel, the Inn at Tharabar Gate, had told me that it would be best to go to the office in person to make sure the cancellation was handled correctly and that my ride stayed confirmed.--Unfortunately, and I know in the spirit of being helpful, Min insisted on calling our travel agent to have him take care of the cancellation. Their conversation was completely in Burmese, although I had repeated several times to be sure to say that I would be going. Well, you know what happened--we got to the B over B office and found out that both tickets had been cancelled and resold! It took an hour of being at the office and a lot more discussion in Burmese and English, but a switch was able to be arranged and a space for me reinstated. This wasn't Min Thu's fault, he was trying to be helpful--but it would have been wiser just to take me to the office as I requested and as the hotel concierge had advised. When he took me back to the hotel, I, of course, paid him for the full day--at which time he told me that he wouldn't be able to take us out in the morning as he had a "new customer" that he had to meet!! We weren't exactly old customers, and I was taken aback, but given my husband's precarious state (he slept the entire day, couldn't eat at all) I wasn't sure what the situation would be. I agreed to a pick up time for 3:30 the next afternoon, and Min Thu took us to two temples, gave us a pretty rote explanation of the difference between the various temples, and then spent the majority of the time on his cell phone. He was essentially uninterested in us or our interests. It was a serious disappointment and if I hadn't had the wonderful experience of the Balloons Over Bagan ride AND we hadn't known that we would be returning to Bagan with the Pandaw cruise, we would have been very out of sorts. Happily, when we came back, my husband was completely back to himself, and our Pandaw guide was wonderful. We saw a number of temples, saw Bagan at sunrise from the Irrawaddie and at sunset from the top of a different--and less crowded temple than the one we'd been at with Min Thu and had a terrific experience.

I completely sympathize with your being upset and disappointed. I've been delinquent about posting a trip report--and I, also, was hesitant to write about the very disappointing experience we had with Min Thu, but do feel an obligation to be honest about one's experiences. While we were out with him, he did talk about having taken the test to be qualified as an officially approved tour guide several times and not passed it. Perhaps the course he said he was taking was one to prepare for that test. No matter; he could have notified you in advance that he wouldn't be able to serve as your guide. I hope you found another and were able to fully enjoy the beauties of Bagan.
520 is offline  
Mar 4th, 2013, 10:09 PM
  #11  
 
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520, I'd be curious to know the price difference between Min Thu and your Pandaw guide.

For me, my expectations were simply based on cost. At his rate of $20 for a full day of touring, I wasn't expecting much more than that $20's worth. For that price, all I expected was a driver with a good grasp of the English language. And he definitely over-delivered in that and many other departments.

One problem may be that some folks her have read the various trip reports here about Min Thu and expected some sort of high-caliber, dynamic tour guide. Kathie's report in particular sticks out to me (if I recall correctly) reporting that he was a horse cart driver first and foremost and a tour guide secondly -- that he's a better match for folks who prefer to read up a bit first on what they're going to see on a given day rather than go in blindly.

So for us, our expectations were just that he'd get us from Point A to Point B and so he definitely did that and a heck of a lot more. He arranged many wonderful moments for us that we never even asked for and was able to communicate a ton of information that we could never have found in our guides. All in all, we were satisfied. But I understand he's not for everyone.
filmwill is offline  
Mar 4th, 2013, 10:55 PM
  #12  
 
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filmwill, I believe you missed the mark regarding 520's post. You write that your "expectations were just that he'd get us from Point A to Point B and so he definitely did that and a heck of a lot more." 520 writes that Min Thu didn't even do that, i.e., that she booked Min Thu in advance yet he bailed on her at the last minute in order to go work with some other "new customer." To me, that's not getting anyone from Point A to Point B, and this is the exact same problem that losaltos had with Min Thu.

We've been really looking forward to meeting Min Thu, and I hope it's not a situation where he's gotten too popular for his own good.
LAX_Esq is offline  
Mar 4th, 2013, 11:26 PM
  #13  
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To bring this up to date: After MT canceled we got another driver outside the hotel, someone from MT's village, ands pent the day with him. When we met MT's friend he told us that MT would meet at a restaurant at noon. At 11:30 our driver called to tell him where to meet us and MT said that he could not come and that "if we wanted to speak with him" we could call him at 2:30. There was really nothing to say at that point, so we did not call him. We did, however, send an email to him saying that we were disappointed not to have met him and sad that he had cancelled without letting us know. It was a gentle email, but to the point. To date we have heard nothing from him and I doubt we ever will. Today we hired a car with AC (however lovely the horsecarts are, it is very ennervating to drive all day in 104 degree heat!) and went to four more payas plus some lacquerware shops...then lunch outside at Green Elephant. All in all a nice time in Bagan despite the canceled balloon and MT's MIA status. But boy is is HOT!!!!
losaltos is offline  
Mar 4th, 2013, 11:28 PM
  #14  
 
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How did I miss the mark? He got *us* from Point A to Point B and didn't dump *us* for new customers. That was my experience -- and that of other posters here. Some folks have had good experiences and apparently others not.

Am I not allowed to report my experiences as well? I guess only the negative ones are allowed, then? My entire post, if you care to re-read, was about my experience and my expectations.

He certainly may be much busier than normal. I doubt he has the wherewithal to manage a busy schedule. Again I defer to the fact the for $20 we certainly weren't expecting much. He's certainly not hiring a secretary anytime soon. I think it's worth the flip of the coin for the money you pay. If you want more security, go with a higher-end option.
filmwill is offline  
Mar 5th, 2013, 04:55 AM
  #15  
 
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I believe there is a solution to the problem of Min Thu's not showing up for his commitments.... He should not make "firm" commitments. If he is honest with his clients when booking them and tells them that he will try to be available to them, but may not be able to for various reasons, then the client can determine if he/she wants to accept this. I believe based on Min Thu's reputation, that most people would accept this type of tentative "reservation", hoping it would work out, but not being totally disappointed if it did not.
shelleyk is offline  
Mar 5th, 2013, 05:05 AM
  #16  
 
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Also, I'm just wondering how some of the posters would feel if they made a reservation at a Hyatt Hotel for a vacation and when you showed up you were told you that they did not have room for you because they overbooked, but you could stay at a Motel 6 around the corner. Any disappointment? To me Min Thu's behavior is similar, and i don't care whether he is charging $20 or $200 dollars an hour, it is not acceptable behavior. Again, I like Min Thu, and I thought his guiding was exceptional. But what is wrong is wrong. And standing upp clients is wrong.
shelleyk is offline  
Mar 5th, 2013, 05:56 AM
  #17  
 
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To Min Thu - welcome to the modern Western world and standard. Less than a year after the sanction against your country is lifted you are now personally black listed.

Cest la vie!
Hanuman is offline  
Mar 5th, 2013, 06:09 AM
  #18  
 
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What an extreme statement. No one has blacklisted Min Thu.
shelleyk is offline  
Mar 5th, 2013, 09:03 AM
  #19  
 
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>>When he took me back to the hotel, I, of course, paid him for the full day--at which time he told me that he wouldn't be able to take us out in the morning ...<<

>>all we had to do was to ask our hotel in the morning to arrange it for us. We paid $15 to the driver + tip ..l<<

>>At his rate of $20 for a full day of touring, I wasn't expecting much more than that $20's worth.<<

So, if you get a driver at the last minute then it is $15 but if you book in advance then it is $20. I guess that is understandable. I could see charging a premium price for an advance booking given the risk that the tourist would be a no-show.

There have been a few comments about the expectations of Western tourists.

What would the expectations be of Burmese who had agreed to the premium price and actually showed up and paid it for one day? Would the expectation of the Burmese be that the driver would show up the next day? on time? Would Burmese customers be understanding or disappointed at being abandoned at the last minute for a new customer?

Seems like there is no point in recommending a certain driver or booking one in advance if the expectations should be so low.
mrwunrfl is offline  
Mar 5th, 2013, 09:41 AM
  #20  
 
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If you apply a Western standard to that $20/day rate then it is not much money and not much should be expected.

What is $20 worth to a horse card driver in Burma? This is a country where a skilled laborer earns $34/month and a low-level civil service job pays less than that.
mrwunrfl is offline  

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