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Yet another Santa Maria/Burma trip itinerary question

Yet another Santa Maria/Burma trip itinerary question

Mar 13th, 2012, 03:18 PM
  #1  
520
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Join Date: Oct 2006
Posts: 371
Yet another Santa Maria/Burma trip itinerary question

I haven't posted on the board for some time, but have been reading and following the Burma reports with much interest for some time. We booked a ten-day Pandaw Golden Land Irawaddy cruise some months ago and have been trying to work out the "surrounding days" with Din at Santa Maria since then. The Pandaw cruise starts in Mandalay and stops in Pottery Villages and Mingun, Mandalay, Ava and Amarapura, Yandabo Potteries Village, Pagan, Tan Kyl Tung Mt. and Sale, Taung Ba Lu School and Magwe, Minhla, Thayetmyo Frontier POst, Prome and Pyu--Din at Santa Maria encouraged us to book in mid-January when the cruise was almost sold out overnight. We have ten days before departure and two after, so that we're in Burma a total of 22 days, I think.

Our present itinerary is:

11/24--late afternoon arrival
11/25--Yangon
11/26--fly to Sittwe/boat to Mrauk OO
11/27-/Mrauk Oo
11/28--Mrauk Oo
11/29--Sittwe/flight to Yangon
11/30--flight to Heho/Inle Lake
12/1--Inle Lake
12/2--Inle Lake
12/3--1/2 day Inle Lake/flight to Mandalay
12/4--Pyinn OO lin
12/5--12/16--Pandaw
12/16--Yangon
12/17--Bago/Yangon
12/18--departure

We have other details/hotels selected, etc.--but our itinerary feels rushed and we've been thinking about eliminating Mrauk Oo, after reading some of the reports of all the Sittwe flight delays. instead, we would extend our time in Yangon, Inle Lake, and fly from Heho to Bagan for a day and a half before going to Mandalay. On the cruise we only have one day and
a morning in Bagan.

As hotels are getting quite filled, we need to make our decision very very soon. We don't like to rush from place to place, but the cruise (which several very well-traveled friends have taken and recommended) really controls the itinerary. It was the only one that we could work into our schedules, and had already booked our 11/23 frequent flyer flights to Yangon before deciding about the cruise.

Thoughts from those who have done the Mrauk Oo trip will be much appreciated. You mentioned the cost, Kathie, and it's hefty--and Shelley, your description of all the delays is what started us rethinking the itinerary.
520 is offline  
Mar 13th, 2012, 06:32 PM
  #2  
 
Join Date: Jan 2003
Posts: 33,021
We loved our trip to Mrauk U, but it's a real hassle to get there and back, and you need to have a bit of flex built into your schedule in order to do it. Your trip would be easier, no doubt, if you cut Mrauk U. Our Mrauk U photos are posted at http://www.marlandc.com/Burma2011/index.html There are three days of photos there, plus hte boat trip to and from. Take a look and see how compelling Mrauk U seems to you.

If you cut Mrauk U, you could have a good amount of time in Inle and Bagan. The amount of time he cruise allows in Bagan would not be enough for me.

Have a wonderful trip!
Kathie is offline  
Mar 14th, 2012, 05:27 AM
  #3  
 
Join Date: Aug 2006
Posts: 1,739
We enjoyed out time in MU very much , but in view of the fact that you will be spending 10 days on a cruise, do you want to spend another 12 hours on a boat to get to and from MU. If you do decide to go, I'd fly to Sittwe on 11/25, overnight in Sittwe and take the boat to MU early the next morning. This would eliminate the possible problem of a delayed flight impacting the time you need in MU. If you decide not to go, I'd add the time to Bagan and Inle Lake.
shelleyk is offline  
Mar 14th, 2012, 06:43 AM
  #4  
520
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Posts: 371
Kathie and Shelley, thanks so much for your prompt and helpful replies! I'm glad that I didn't look at your photographs until after I'd e-mailed Din our revised schedule (which still has a few wrinkles to work out). The photographs of Mrauk Oo are VERY compelling, but, Shelley, your point about the time spent on a boat to get to and from Mrauk Oo also was clarifying! Flying to Sittwe on 2/25 after a very long journey from New York just wouldn't work for us.

With the new schedule, we arrive in Yangon late in the afternoon of the 24th (assuming we can get the reservations on Air Asia from Bangkok), had the 25th in Yangon, 26--a day trip to Bago, 27--morning flight to Heho, 11/28--12/1 Lake Inle with various trips scheduled for each day--which we'll need to look at more closely. Shelley, your TR of arranging your own schedule each day while in Inle is appealing. We haven't gotten any prices from Santa Maria yet, so I have no basis of comparison. 12/1--fly to Bagan late afternoon; 12/1-12/2--Bagan--12/3--Bagan/Mandalay; 12/4--Mandalay--day trip to Pyiin Oo Lwin, 12/5--12/15--Padaw Cruise (I had been mistaken about the end date of the cruise!!) 12/16--Yangon; 12/17--departure--which leaves us five nights and four full days in Hong Kong.

This is definitely a more manageable schedule for us--and, although Mrauk Oo sounds/looks so special, we've stopped trying to do everything on our trips...

It's quite a bit of time on Inle, but everyone writes and speaks so enthusiastically about it, it sounds like it deserves it. And now I believe with the cruise day/morning in Bagan, we'll have almost three full days there. It's not quite clear from Din's schedule that arrived this a.m. how much time we'll have there on 12/3.

Many thanks, again, for your input.
520 is offline  
Mar 14th, 2012, 10:20 AM
  #5  
 
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Posts: 33,021
You don't need Santa Maria to schedule your time at Inle. You hotel can supply a boatman and you can choose each day where to do. Don't just get in and have them go - you'll end up doing the tourist circuit - every workshop on the lake. I wrote a blog post (on my long-neglected blog) some time ago about my thoughts on where to go on Inle
http://www.travelindependently.com/r...-for-inle-lake

SM will be glad to schedule anything for you. But they are also glad for you to choose when/if you need guides, car and driver, airport transfers, etc.
Kathie is offline  
Mar 14th, 2012, 09:26 PM
  #6  
520
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Join Date: Oct 2006
Posts: 371
Thanks, Kathie. I read your and Shelley's responses to Will's question about guides for Inle Lake and hear you. We, too,are not lovers of having guides attached to us from dusk to dawn, so we will plot our daily adventure each day at the lake. Your suggestions on the blog look wonderful.
SM sent us much the same schedule as Will has, but also included Kaung Daing village plus "full day visit to remaining highlights on the lake." We can stop to visit Kakku on the trip from Heho to Inle, right?

Bagan: We, too, would like to hire Min Thu (if he's available) while we're on our independent visit to Bagan. I'm afraid I don't remember which post you put his contact information in. Would you mind posting it again? Many thanks.

Balloon ride: Generally, we never do stuff like that, but, then, we've NEVEER been interested in taking a cruise before....Do you recommend doing the Balloon ride over Bagan?

Airport transfers: Din has told me that the SM transfer from the Yangon airport is compulsory..
Maybe that's a new policy?????

Many thanks for your help. Your reports have been immensely helpful.
520 is offline  
Mar 14th, 2012, 10:35 PM
  #7  
 
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You can visit Kakku between arrival at HeHo and getting to your hotel on the lake, but you'll have to specify that in your arrangements - it's a long drive.

You can email Min Thu at [email protected]

The compulsory transfer in Yangon must be new. Oh, are you having SM arrange your visa? If so, there are particular requirements for that mandated by the government.
Kathie is offline  
Mar 15th, 2012, 06:16 AM
  #8  
 
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If you are staying on the lake at a hotel with no road access, you will want to arrive at the boat jetty well before sunset so that you are not riding on the lake in darkness. Therefore, you will need a very early flight to Heho if you are going to go to Kakku from the airport. It's about 2.5 hours from Kakku to the boat jetty, and then it took us about another 45 minutes by boat to our hotel.
shelleyk is offline  
Mar 15th, 2012, 09:13 AM
  #9  
520
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Join Date: Oct 2006
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I wasn't going to have SM arrange our visas; according to a friend who went recently it's pretty easy to do here in Manhattan.

Thanks for the information about the length of the drive to Kakku.

We heard back from Din this morning, and the Inle Princess is completely booked for November and just about through February!! As we started working with him in mid-January, I'm a bit miffed--both at myself and at him for not pressing us to move more quickly--although we JUST made the decision not to go to Mrauk Oo, so the dates would have been different.

He suggested Villa Inle Resort, Aureum Palace Resort (government owned??!!) Inle Lake View Resort as possible substitutions! We're REALLY disappointed--but remember reading your report, Shelley, and how much you enjoyed where you stayed--and another recent report where the Fodorite hadn't stayed at the Princess and was very happy with her hotel. So will check back through trip reports and make another choice.

We also can't get a room at The Governor's Residence the night we arrive, the 24th--and am going to ask about The Strand, although that now seems very unlikely, too--but we are booked there at the end of our trip. We may, instead, stay over one day/night in Bangkok and fly into Yangon early the next morning. It would give us a chance to rest after our long journey. I have to check flight schedules--and see whether we can get something early on Air Asia, preferably-- (I've heard/read much about how difficult it is to work on their site--and other negatives--but it's SO much cheaper.)


Thank you for Min Thu's contact info. I'll contact him to see if he's available. Kathie/Shelley--did you go on the Balloon ride over Bagan? It's now $260 pp and winter rates will be higher!!

(The edit function no longer seems to be available here on the Fodor post reply site, and last night whenever I tried to correct something in "preview," everything would delete. I wound up retyping my post three or four times, so I hope there are no egregious errors here--and that the post is reasonably coherent!!)

Thanks again for your input.
520 is offline  
Mar 15th, 2012, 09:48 AM
  #10  
 
Join Date: Aug 2006
Posts: 1,739
Paramont Inle Resort is totally different from the Inle Princess-3 star vs 5 star, small vs large, no road acess vs road acess, directly on the lake vs not directly on the lake. If you have your heart set on Inle Princess, perhaps you can be waitlisted there , while you hold a reservation at your second choice. Find out what the cancellation policy is for both resorts.

We really liked the Paramont Inle Resort. However, I would advise you to read the reports on Trip Advisor from those who have recently stayed there. It is definately not a 5 star experience. If that is what you are looking for, you will probably not be happy there. That was not we wanted or expected, so we were happy to be there.

I am sure that you will have a wonderful time at Inle Lake regardless of where you stay. You will on the lake, not in your room, for most of the day.
shelleyk is offline  
Mar 15th, 2012, 09:51 AM
  #11  
 
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We did not do the Balloons over Bagan. We saw many temples in the 3 days we were there, and did not have the desire/need to see them from the air.
shelleyk is offline  
Mar 15th, 2012, 10:07 AM
  #12  
520
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Thanks for the quick response, Shelley. I was looking at the Paramount, and read some of the TA recent reports--which we're VERY enthusiastic. We stay at a wide range of places when we travel--low and high. It's more about the atmosphere and service than about luxury. That being said, we will put ourselves on the wait list at the Princess as, aside from Fodorites, I know quite a few people who have stayed there and loved it.

And thanks, also, for the feedback on Balloon over Bagan. It's unlikely--but, again, a few of those we know who have been to Myanmar several times did mention/suggest it.
520 is offline  
Mar 15th, 2012, 10:17 AM
  #13  
 
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Posts: 33,021
We loved Inle Lake View. I highly recommend it. You can read details in my first report, but the woman who owns it is doing wonderful things in terms of local economic development. Also, it has the advantage that you can get to/from the resort by road.

We ended up not doing BoB, as our flights were cancelled on our fifrst trip - twice. We didn't feel the need to do it second trip.
Kathie is offline  
Mar 15th, 2012, 10:51 AM
  #14  
 
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Also, don't hesitate to ask to be waitlisted for a place you really want to stay. I found that things did eventually open up for us in Nov/Dec. This year is likely to be more crowded, more people jockying for the rooms, but you have a good head start.

Any hotel called Aureum is owned by Tay Za. Also avoid any called Treasure.
Kathie is offline  
Mar 15th, 2012, 11:29 AM
  #15  
520
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Thanks, Kathie. That's reassuring--and kind of what I was figuring. It is, after all, eight months and a half months before the time we plan to be in Inle Lake--and also, thanks for the heads up
about Inle Lake View. And the Balloon trip. It's becoming more unlikely! (Will read your first trip report. )
520 is offline  
Mar 15th, 2012, 08:52 PM
  #16  
 
Join Date: May 2007
Posts: 1,653
My two friends did the balloon ride and loved it. They said it was one of thier highlights.
live42day is offline  
Mar 16th, 2012, 09:48 PM
  #17  
520
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The rate for the Bagan Balloon ride this coming winter will be $310--so that pretty much seals the deal for us!!--Think we'll do fine without it as we've now booked two 1/2 independent days in Bagan and will have another full day there with the Pandaw cruise.

Thanks to your trip report, Live42day, we have booked the Princess Garden in Nyaungshwe/Lake Inle. It sounds charming. We are wait listed at the Inle Lake Princess, but I'm not sure that we'll change our plans should it come through. The Princess Garden has an almost perfect five star score on TA out of its 77 reviews! Most impressive.
520 is offline  
Mar 17th, 2012, 01:33 PM
  #18  
 
Join Date: May 2007
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And it deserves every star. We loved it and I am sure your will do.
live42day is offline  
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