Kalaw - Sleeping and trekking
24th March, 2010
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LP Guide makes a mistake - Kalaw
Don't stay or trek with Harri Singh
The most recent Myanmar LP guide recommends 'Harri Singh' and his guest house the '+Golden Lily Guest House'+ for sleeping in Kalaw. After doing exactly that, and talking to many locals at my favourite bar in Myanmar (the Hi Snack and Bar - a real music scene and a memorable WC!), I have found Harri Singh's establishment to be rotten and aggressive.
Aggressive business tactics - Slander
At the Golden Lily GH we were given a laminated 'letter from a traveller', apparently from a German woman, written in suspiciously bad English, informing us that all of Harri Singh's competition in Kalaw (specifically Toe Toe and Uncle Sam) is corrupt and in league with the government etc. etc. Harri Singh told us himself that these trekking guide companies are not friendly with the local villages that we were to pass through and couldn't speak the necessary languages.
We decided to trek with one of Uncle Sam's guides (the experienced Thak Soe), and Harri Singh couldn't be further from the truth. Our guide had grown up with the villagers we met as a boy selling veg, he spoke several thousand languages (or so it seemed) and showed us proof of Uncle Sam's generous community spirit dotted around the place (a couple of schools and a bridge)
Suspicious dealings with officials
Golden Lily was the only GH that didn't require us to sign in with passport numbers etc.. This means that they don't pay tax on the money we give to them. Good news? I'm afraid not. A GH as prominent as the Golden Lily of LP fame couldn't get away with such dealings without paying off the local corrupt official. Although it's hard to recommend more tax be paid in Myanmar, at least 2percent(!) goes to education and health - but I won't go into that too much here!
Unpopular with the locals
This could be the most or least persuasive argument. On spending some time with some locals, we've found that Harri Singh and his crew are very unpopular, and not just for the reasons above. When I mentioned their slanderous comments to the grandfather figure of Uncle Sam one morning, he said 'one day the truth will come out'. On the same subject another local man made a pointing gesture and said 'when you point one finger, three fingers point back at yourself'. So here I am pointing the finger!
On the subject of Kalaw and trekking. We did a 3 day hike for $9 a day from Kalaw to Inle Lake with a great guide (Thak Soe) and a brilliant cook ('Kwe-chit') from Uncle Sam's. This was a definite highlight of our 3 weeks in Myanmar and 6 months in SE Asia.
#1 Posted: 13/6/2010 - 16:23
I thought the Golden Lily was the worst guesthouse I stayed at in the whole of Burma. I can confirm they didn't take passport details, the only GH I stayed at that didn't do this. I didn't do any trekking when I was in Kalaw because of the weather, but I didn't like the attitude of the owners one bit either. They struck me as particularly grasping and dishonest.
Problems with the Golden Lily not mentioned in LP:
1. Privacy issues.
There is a common balcony for the rooms and the curtains are so thin they are see through.... I didn't realize that until the second day... uh oh, mustn't wander around naked in my room and don't do anything naughty with the lights on!
2. Security issues.
One day I was sitting outside on the balcony and a fellow guest asked me for my room key. Err.. why exactly do you need MY room key? His response, "I locked myself out, didn't you know that everyone's key fits ALL the doors?"
Duh no actually I didn't!
The Golden Lily menu has the standard tourist breakfast on it... ie 3-in-1 coffee (which I personally think is vile) or tea, one slice of white toast, one fried egg and fruit. The Golden Lily's "fruit plate" consisted of a few very dried up and withered carrots and turnips ... they obviously didn't want to shell out money buying fruits that people might actually want to eat!
LP really needs to get its act together. Their latest Burma edition was hot off the press when I went yet most of the accommodation information was ten years out of date.
In Hsipaw the "not-so-recommended" place was closer to the bus station so I went to have a look at it anyway. LP's main complaint about this place was that there was a clock tower right next to it which loudly chimes every 15 minutes and keeps you awake. This was NOT true ... the clock in question hadn't worked for over ten years but hardly anyone stays there because of LP's negative write up. We were the only guests and we did a very good day trek with them.
Another place I stayed at in Inle Lake (Remember Inn) was also given a bad review in LP yet it was absolutely fine there, one of the best places I stayed in fact. No rip offs at all, helpful, friendly, excellent breakfasts and free pick up from the bus drop off. The walls of the GH were covered in testimonials from guests disagreeing with LP's write up but how many people will read them compared to the number of potential customers reading the LP guide?
LP really need to get their act together, they can make or break businesses especially in a country like Burma.
#2 Posted: 13/6/2010 - 19:21
20th August, 2004
correct to assume that Uncle Sam is same same of Sam Trekking Guide and Sam's Family Restaurant mentioned in the LP? will very likely be availing ourselves of their services on upcoming trip
#3 Posted: 23/7/2010 - 04:16
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