Photo: Temple outside Monywa.

Burma forum

Proposed trip to Burma

Posted by pajero on 15/5/2011 at 02:33

Hi
The following trip to Burma has been proposed to us. We are 67 years old and are not back packers i.e. more spoilt.
In addition to Burma, we will also be seeing Cambodia, Laos and Yunnan before arriving in Burma.
Our main concern is.... will we be seeing different things after having visited Cambodia, Laos and Yunnan.
Any comments would be welcome.
Cambodia:
Day 1 Bangkok-Phnom Penh by morning flight
Sightseeing Phnom Penh
Day 2 Phnom Penh-Kratie
Day 3 Kratie-Rattanakiri
Day 4 The Tampoum totems
day 5 The Kroeun Territory
Day 6 Rattanakiri-Stung Treng- Kratie
Day 7 Kratie-Khong Island
o/n Khong Island

Laos:
Day 8 Khong-Khone-Khong
Day 9 Khong - Pakse
Day 10 Pakse-Vientiane by flight
Day 11 Vientiane-Luang Prabang by pm flight
Day 12 Luang Prabang
Day 13 Luang Prabang

Yunnan:
Day 14 Kunming
Day 15 Lijiang
Day 16 Lijiang
Day 17 Dali
Day 19 Dali
Day 20 Tengchong
Day 21 Tengchong-Ruli

Myanmar:
Day 22 Ruili-Muse-Lashio
Day 23 Lashio-Pyin Oo Lwin
Day 24 Pyin OO Lwin-Mandalay
Day 25 Mandalay [Amarapura-Ava-Sagaing]
Day 26 Mandalay-Bagan by boat
Day 27 Mandalay-Bagan
Day 28 Bagan
Day 29 Bagan-Heho-Inle Lake
Day 30 Heho-Yangon
Day 31 Yangon-Bangkok

#1 pajero has been a member since 6/9/2009. Posts: 15

Posted by SBE on 15/5/2011 at 13:30

The following trip to Burma has been proposed to us.

By whom? Have they ever been to Burma because what they proposed looks physically impossible to me given the poor transport infrastructure in Myanmar and the distances involved. Even if it is somehow possible it would be exhausting for a 20 year old never mind someone who's almost 70. You'll be spending the entire trip getting from one place to the next and will have no time to stop and see anything. Have you checked how easy the China/Myanmar overland border crossing is going be.

#2 SBE has been a member since 14/4/2008. Location: Global Village. Posts: 2,004
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Posted by riverspot on 15/5/2011 at 14:04

I agree about the energy taxation levels but I suppose a matter of personal choice. Like me, if you haven't got a lot of time left on the planet you want to fit in as much as possible eh?

I can however muse (?) on the Ruilli crossing having "done it" last year. It requires a fair bit of money to grease the wheels of bureaucracy and get all the paperwork handled - I had thoughts of being independent but definitely not possible as it can only be done by "official" travel agents in Burma as the Northern part of the trip requires special permits. The paper trail started from Kunming so my reckoning is not to get down to the border without preparation - it would be a long trip back. Even with our guide / escort waiting and liaising with Chinese border officials it took a lot of time and patience to be allowed out of China. You can't rely on speed here - simply go with the flow. In a totalitarian country no-one wanted to let us go lest they made a mistake. We left a Ruilli hotel (complete with it's lovely collection of condoms and massage oils on sale in the room) at about 8.00am and what with all the waiting - got to Lashio late the same day - about 5.30pm from memory. Then on to the public bus to Mandalay the next day - great fun and a route not often travelled. Our guide told us that our crossing in late May was the first one since mid-January ... no wonder the border officials were a bit wary.

#3 riverspot has been a member since 3/1/2008. Posts: 25

Posted by Tilapia on 18/5/2011 at 00:22

Hi Pajero,

I would say that after traveling through most of SE Asia over the last 25 years, or so, nothing I saw anywhere compared (in an overall sense) with Burma. It was, by far, the most amazing place I've ever had the pleasure of traveling in and, as far as I'm concerned, contained the best of SE Asia. What you see and experience along the riverbanks, in the villages and towns, and with the people will be quite unlike the other places you'll be visting. I highly recommend the place.

I hope that helps with your question.

One thing I would say about your itinerary is that you are not in Burma long enough. Bagan is certainly worth more than one full day. The boat trip from Mandalay will take, at least, 10 hours, and that will be it for the majority of the day once you get to your hotel. This will leave you with only one full day to explore one of SE Asia's jewels. Also, Mandalay, Yangon and Inle all deserve more time.

I'm not suggesting that you see everything, but I am suggesting that anyone who proposes only one full day day each in Yangon, Mandalay, Inle, and Bagan is trying to (pardon the expression) put 10 pounds of sh*t into a 5 pound bag, and isn't really concerned about what you see or don't see.

Travel there can be time-consuming and exhausting. An exception is the river travel which is still time-consuming, but quite enjoyable. I think that you'd be far better served by staying in fewer places for longer and spending less time on the road or in the air.

For example, Mandalay may not be the nicest place to hang your hat, but the areas around it are really incredible. Sagaing, Mingun, Mahamuni, Mandalay Hill, as well as the places you've already mentioned. In the city itself are lots of cottage industries (tapestry-weaving, puppet-making), interesting neighbourhoods, and the very eye-opening riverbank life.

Yangon is full of interesting nooks and crannies. Candle-lit street markets, fantastic restaurants and stalls, colonial architecture, temples, chedis, parks. The Schwedagon Pagoda is worthy of sunrise AND sunset visits.
Just some food for thought ...

Either way, just going there will be a great experience, regardless of how much time you have. Enjoy!

#4 Tilapia has been a member since 21/4/2006. Location: Canada. Posts: 1,491
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Posted by pajero on 18/5/2011 at 03:02

Hi Tilapia

Thanks for your thoughts.
We have been leaning in the direction you mentioned. Am thinking of skipping Cambodia altogether and spending a few days in Luang Prabang as opposed to covering a few places in Laos.

This should give us more time for Burma.

Thanks again.

Again thanks for your input.

#5 pajero has been a member since 6/9/2009. Posts: 15

Posted by SBE on 18/5/2011 at 18:37

I saw you'd posted the exact same questions on various branches of Thorntree and received similar responses to those you've received on Travelfish. Everyone says the same thing... you will not have time to actually stop and see anything. Unless whole the point of this trip is to be able to say to your friends back home "I've been there" (without having actually stepped out of the car/bus/train/plane/hotel room) the proposed itineraries seem a total waste of time, energy and money.

In fact when I read your original "proposed itineraries" they were so ludicrous that the word "troll" immediately sprang into my mind. It's a waste of people's time helping trolls to fine-tune ludicrous itineraries ... that could well be why you haven't received that many helpful suggestions so far. Sorry if that sounds harsh but I think that's what has been happening.

If you posted your now revised itinerary people might be able to help more. I agree with Tilapia that Burma is a unique place, totally different from the rest of SE Asia. Though this is gradually changing now with increased numbers of tourists, the political isolation of the country means western influences are far less evident there than other countries. It's more "authentic", people still use buffalo carts and dress in traditional costume, everything is slow paced. The light there is amazing ...it's probably one of the best countries in the world to go if you're a keen photographer. The locals are gentle and shy and not yet too jaded by mass tourism except maybe in the main tourist areas where the number of wannabe guides and vendors seems to have greatly increased in the last few years and is beginning to get a bit annoying (particularly in Bagan)... persistent but not aggressive and nowhere near as many touts or tourists as at Angkor Wat. Bagan is still one of the (almost) unspoilt wonders of the world though... temples as far as the eye can see with a backdrop of the lazy Irrawaddy river and hazy hills in the distance. Bagan is best explored on foot, by bicycle or by horse and cart to experience the atmosphere properly. I think you need at least three days there.

Inle, the other top tourist destination in the country, is another place you need to spend more than one full day at. Recommend you do an evening canal tour by canoe (don't worry, someone else will be paddling) as well as one of the more shopping orientated lake tours on the noisy motorized boats. Any guesthouse can arrange a very inexpensive afternoon/sunset canoe tour through the quieter canals, lasts a couple of hours and is a great way to relax and get a first taste of Inle if you arrive late morning or early afternoon. You'll be taken along backwater canals, see local people in their houses and no doubt drop by at a peaceful monastery for a quick visit and be the only tourists there. Next day you could do the all day lake tour. These generally take you to a colorful traditional market first and then to the different handicraft makers on the lake (where you can buy souvenirs like lotus silk scarves and silver and cigars and hand made paper umbrellas etc). If you're a keen photographer, some of the traditional markets are better than others so it's good if you have a slightly flexible time schedule and can choose which day to go. There are other things to do and see around Inle too...do a search and they'll come up.

If you only have one week in Burma you could reasonably do Inle (2 days) and Bagan (3 days) plus a minimum of 2 days for getting in and out of the country even if you're flying everywhere. If you want to see more of the country you'll need more than a week there.

Anyway, hope that helps clarify why it is that you need to go a lot slower if you're going to get anything worthwhile out of your trip. The other essential consideration is transport and logistics. So post the revised itinerary!

#6 SBE has been a member since 14/4/2008. Location: Global Village. Posts: 2,004
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Posted by pajero on 18/5/2011 at 21:32

Am inclined to drop Cambodia completely and focus on the others.

My inclination is to spend 4-5 days in Luang Prabang and the immediate surroundings.

As for Burma, Inle (2 days) Bagan (2 days) Mandalay (3days) and 2 day boat trip Mandalay to Bagan)

As for Yunnan, not too sure, but have Yuanyang Rice Terraces, Lijiang and Tiger Leaping Gorge on the list.

Open to suggestions and maybe some additional locations.

#7 pajero has been a member since 6/9/2009. Posts: 15

Posted by Tilapia on 18/5/2011 at 23:47

Hi Pajero,

The boat trip to Bagan is only 10 hours, though you very well could turn it into a 2-day trip if you hop off for a visit at Pakokku. It's a little way north of the river, but the boat stops here on the way to Bagan each day.

I loved Moulmein (Mawlamyaing), Thaton, and Kinpun/Kyaiktiyo where the Golden Rock is (which was amazing.)

Enjoy.

#8 Tilapia has been a member since 21/4/2006. Location: Canada. Posts: 1,491
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Posted by SBE on 19/5/2011 at 06:36

Pajero, one important thing you haven't mentioned is when you're planning to go to Burma. Weather makes quite a big difference in Myanmar... excessive dust or mud, roads could be impassable due to landslides etc.

OK here's another suggestion which may or may not be feasible... it's not yet clear what your transport plans from China are exactly.

If you go to Moulmein as Tilapia suggests, then you could (maybe) fly from Mandalay to Bagan and do the Moulmein- Hpa An river boat trip instead.

Moulmein to Hpa An is a far more scenic and interesting boat ride and it's a shorter trip too, just 6 hours.

Problem is you have to get to Moulmein first (count the best part of a day from Yangon by train) and the boat only leaves twice a week, on Mondays and Fridays.

Unless the schedule has changed since last December it leaves Moulmein at 12.30pm and arrives in Hpa An just after dusk (so you get a very nice sunset thrown in for free too). In the other direction the boat leaves Hpa An at 5.45am also on Mondays and Fridays and arrives in Moulmein around midday.

Hpa An is not particularly beautiful and not really geared to the demands of Western tourists yet, but the countryside around there is simply stunning ...think bright green paddy fields (in the right season), spectacular karst scenery, caves and lakes etc.
Wonderful day trips can be arranged from Hpa An, yet relatively few tourists make it there. Time constraints no doubt, and if comfort levels are important to you then the accommodation/restaurant options are certainly better in well known tourist destinations like Inle and Bagan

#9 SBE has been a member since 14/4/2008. Location: Global Village. Posts: 2,004
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Posted by pajero on 19/5/2011 at 06:40

Our trip is planned for November.

It has been recommended that we start our trip in Yunnan as it gets cold there as November rolls along.

#10 pajero has been a member since 6/9/2009. Posts: 15

Posted by SBE on 19/5/2011 at 07:10

November should be OK, just after the rainy season (hopefully!) Nice and green.

#11 SBE has been a member since 14/4/2008. Location: Global Village. Posts: 2,004
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