Hi there, I'm wondering if any Burma experts could weigh in on my itinerary below? I'm not planning on booking much in advance so it may change during our trip but I like to set out with a plan and adjust from there. Do you have any suggestions? We are not set on Kengtung and would welcome input on whether to head there, up north near Pyin U Lwin or Mrauk U & Sittwe.
1-Feb Flight to SE Asia
2-Feb Land in BKK at Midnight
3-Feb Flight to Yangon (7:40 am) - visit travel agent, walking tour, walk along Maha Bandoola Road through the neighborhoods of Chinatown and Little India (starting at 15th Street and heading East to the Sule Pagoda), as there are a lot of sidewalk vendors and, though the streets are quite crowded and noisy during the afternoon, there are a lot of good photo opportunities.
4-Feb Yangon - Circle Line
5-Feb Yangon - Schwedagon Paya (Strand happy hour 5 pm - 11 pm)
6-Feb Driver - Bago - Golden Rock
7-Feb Driver - Golden Rock - Taungoo
8-Feb Taungoo-Thazi (overnight in Thazi or see if we can get one that day)
9-Feb Train - Thazi to Kalaw
2/12/2010 (Union Day Holiday) Trek
13-Feb Inle Lake
14-Feb Inle Lake
15-Feb Inle Lake
16-Feb Flight Heho to Kengtung
20-Feb Flight to Mandalay (taxi ride from airport is quite long)
21-Feb Mandalay - I could put this extra day somewhere else
22-Feb Mingin Boat
23-Feb Ava, Amarapura & Sagaing by driver or motorbike
25-Feb Boat to Bagan (check dates to see if it is running)
1-Mar Bus to Yangon
3/2/2010 Peasants Day Holiday Yangon
3-Mar Flight to India
Thanks in advance!
It looks good ... you're not trying to visit too many places which is a mistake many make.
Kengtung is a lovely area and well worth visiting - I spent 10 days in Eastern Shan State in 2008 and it's one of my favourite areas. If you like trekking - go here. If it's history you're after, substitute Mrauk U. Be aware that flights to / from Kengtung do not fly daily.
Another thing to be aware of is your car plan on Feb 6/7. Your driver will have to return to Yangon after that trip - and you pay. It may be better to get a return car, Yangon - Golden Rock and back (2 days)and then fly up to Heho and on to Kalaw.
Another trip that doesn't run daily is the Mandalay - Bagan ferry. Contact an agent such as www.mrmyanmartravel.com for the schedule. And book that flight to India yesterday!
Have a great time.
#2 anotherlostsoul has been a member since 14/9/2009. Posts: 34
Thanks so much for the quick reply and the solid advice. We have a lot to think about, I would prefer Kengtung & my husband Sittwe so we need to talk it out.
I was planning on booking my flight to India when we arrived in Yangon. Is that idea misguided? Do you have any knowledge of Myanmar Airways International? I have heard that Myanma is to be avoided but the two are different (I think), however I was told over at the Fodor's forum that Myanmar Airways International is part government owned.
Lastly, do you have any recent experience with overstaying your visa? Ideally we could overstay by 1 day in order to get a cheaper flight (by about $90 each for 2 people). Is that something that is better arranged in advance or to just show up early at the airport and beg for forgiveness?
Here are my recommendations.
- Strongly recommend that you visit Schwedagon at either sunrise or sunset, or both. Your pass will be good for the whole day so you can come and go as you please. If you are keen on getting good photos, these are the best times of the day for that place. In the evening the place is magical. In the morning, it is full of pilgrims from everywhere. Take a tripod.
- I'm not sure if this is still the case, but a lot of the small alleyway markets in Yangon were lit by candles and made for excellent photos. Again ... tripod, unless you've got a super fast lens.
- If you have the energy, and can make the time, the walk up to the Golden Rock Pagoda is incredible (rather than taking a truck.) However, depending on your speed and how many breaks you take for photos, drinks, and to chat with the locals, it could take up to 6 or 7 hours. It's worth it, though. The views along the pathway are staggering in many places, and there are a lot of very interesting sites on the way up. You'll probably be with numerous pilgrims making the long walk. If you stay at the top you can be there for both sunset and sunrise the next day. I stayed in Kinpun, and it was great. There is also a very nice little village on the other side of the hill from the rock and temple that's worth seeing. Walk up, but take a truck back down to Kinpun.
- If you're going to Bagan, I'd create another day for myself in either Mandalay or Bagan and skip Bago. If you have time at the end of your trip, you could check it out from Yangon in a few hours. That's just my recommendation.
- Unless things have changed, you can only visit Mingun by boat in the morning (maybe you'll get more up-to-date info on this from someone else, or perhaps you already know.) A bridge was being built at the time I was there and if it's finished you can probably go during the afternoon now, as well. But, if it is the same, then the boat leaves in the morning and returns at around lunchtime. It's a long crossing (we bottomed out a few times.) You may want to use that same afternoon for either Saigang, or Mahamuni and Amarapura. Both Saigang and Amarapura are best visited near sunset, particularly U Bein's Bridge which is stunning at sundown. Mahamuni is not far from Amarapura and, in my opinion, the pagoda and Buddha there are absolute must-sees. You can visit them in the earlier part of the afternoon, and then go to Amarapura, walk across the bridge, then take a boat back near sundown for your postcard photos.
- It's worth going to the riverbank an hour or so before the boat for Mingun leaves to check out the riverside action. It's a real ant nest of activity. No docks. No piers. Just people going from riverbank to boat on rickety planks with their heads loaded with baskets of stuff. More great photo ops.
- I thought that Mawlamyaing was one of the better places in the country, and that the ferry from Mawlamyaing to Hpa-an was a definite highlight. Didn't make it to Kentung, though. Next time.
Again, this may have changed since I was there, but it was possible to extend one's visa for up to 2 weeks. You may want to consider this and spend more time in the country and give yourself more chances to get less expensive flights out. One of the things that most people who visit Burma say is that they wish they had stayed a bit longer.
Tilapia - I just saw your other earlier suggestions, thanks!
I have not heard of Mahamuni but I will check it out. In your opinion what is possible with a motorbike in a day? If we wanted to see Amarapura, Ava, Sagaing would it be possible in 1 or 2 days? We could also do Mingun in the morning by boat and Sagaing in the afternoon then rent a motorbike the second day for Mahamuni, Amarapura & Ava. Possible?
I will do some more reading on the ferry to Hpa-an, I have to admit I haven't really thought about it but will do more reading.
You should be able to arrange a visa extension in Yangon. Ask your travel agent. It shouldn't be a problem. Considering how hot it's going to be when you're there, you may want another day or two in places like Bagan and Yangon and Mandalay.
Mahamuni is one of the most revered pilgrimage sites in all of Burma after the Schwedagon Pagoda and The Golden Rock. DO check it out. The Buddha there is outstanding, and all around is a village dedicated to carving Buddha images. Very nice. The temple itself is gorgeous, and houses a very large jade Buddha. Larger than the one in Bangkok, but hardly anyone goes to see it. The main Mahamuni Buddha and it's lacquered sanctuary is superb and most definitely worth seeing.
"We could also do Mingun in the morning by boat and Sagaing in the afternoon then rent a motorbike the second day for Mahamuni, Amarapura & Ava."
This is doable, providing you can rent a motorbike. When I was there this was not possible but, again, things may have changed. If you cannot, it is possible to rent bicycles, but the ride back from U Bein's bridge to central Mandalay is quite long, and the sun sets at around 6:00, so it may not be very safe at night. If you cannot get a motorbike, you can easily hire a small taxi to take you around for the day for a nominal price. I paid $5 for an entire afternoon and the earlier part of the evening (around 1:00 pm until 8:00 pm.) Had I known better earlier, I would have hired a trishaw rider to take me around for the day. They really need the income and tips, they speak good English, and serve as great guides and sources of information (meaning, they aren't shy about answering probing questions.)
Mawlamyaing, Hpa-an, Thaton ... you hardly ever hear about people who go to these places. That's almost enough reason to go, I'd say! They are all fantastic. Mawlamyaing was my favourite place in the whole country even though there weren't any major tourist attractions. It was very much like Luang Prabang.
If you would like to see some photos from these places, e-mail me. Somtam, if you read this, please send tbedsaul my e-mail address. tbedsaul, if you want, just drop me a line and I'll send you photos from all of the places I've mentioned (providing I've scanned the slides already.)
Tilapia - Thank you! This advice is priceless! My email is firstname.lastname@example.org. I would love to see some of the photos from the southern part of the country.
How many days would you suggest for Hpa'an and Mawlamyaing? You've got me very intrigued with the comparison to Luang Prabang. What a terrific city and without loads of travelers? Wow!
In your opinion is Pyin U Lwin worth a quick jaunt up north?
I feel like I've got a great start and this advice is really a terrific addition. Any other suggestions? Any gems near Inle (is Kakku worthwhile), Mandalay & Yangon?
You do not need to arrange a visa extension. You can just overstay the visa and you pay $3 per day + a $3 admin fee at the airport at departure. I overstayed for almost a month and had no problems going through checkpoints, checking into guesthouses or leaving at the airport. They stamp your pasport with a 'retroactive' extension on the day you leave. They will be perfectly friendly and happy when you overstay as long as you pay the fee.
Just have American dollars in very good condition to pay at the airport.. and everywhere else.
All government related places are very very picky about every single one dollar bill.
Guesthouses were abit more relaxed.. still need very good condition but trains, ferry, airport they must be perfect.
So if you get some less than perfect bills try to use them at the guesthouse or for souveniers.
I was there Sept-oct '09, things may have changed but that was only a couple months ago so i doubt it.
#10 prana16 has been a member since 22/6/2009. Posts: 17
I would suggest that you book flights to India as far ahead as possible. The Gaya flights are effectively pilgrimage flights and fill far in advance with Myanmar Buddhist tour groups. MAI and the internal airline, Myanma Airways are separate. Avoid the latter.
Overstaying is straightforward. Standard advice is that overstaying up to 14 days is fine. As #10 you stop by the immigration office at Yangon Airport (just before the immigration checkpoints) and pay $3 per day + a $3 one-off fee. So if you overstay 1 day; $6 ... 2 days; $9 etc. #10 may have been pushing their luck a little by overstaying so long. I was in this immigration office myself in December and witnessed a Thai Monk being grilled by a none-too-happy official for overstaying too long.
#11 anotherlostsoul has been a member since 14/9/2009. Posts: 34
Thanks for the advice on overstaying our visa.
Here is round #2 on my itinerary. This is more scheduled than I would like but I think it's feasible. Any thoughts? Is it about right or too much to pack in?
3-Feb Arrival in Yangon - 7:40 am - Schwedagon at sunset
4-Feb Yangon - central fish mkt in am & Circle Train
5-Feb Train to mandalay
6-Feb Mandalay - Mahamuni Festival
7-Feb Mandalay - Amarapura & Ava
8-Feb Mandalay - Mingun boat trip & Sagaing
9-Feb Mandalay - extra day ???
10-Feb Boat to Bagan (check dates)
14-Feb Bus to Kalaw (or Thazi)
15-Feb Kalaw (or train to Kalaw)
16-Feb Trek to Inle
17-Feb Trek to Inle
18-Feb Trek to Inle
19-Feb Inle Lake - Indein 5 day rotation mkt
20-Feb Inle Lake
21-Feb Inle Lake
22-Feb Kakku (festival) - possibly stop at Taunggyi mkt on the way
23-Feb Flight Heho to Yangon (Schwedagon Festival)
24-Feb Transport to Mawlaymine (Driver or train)
25-Feb Mawlaymine (with driver ??)
26-Feb Boat to Hpa-An
27-Feb Hpa-An (with driver ??)
28-Feb Hpa-An-Golden Rock (with driver ??) - Yangon
1-Mar Bago day trip from Yangon
2-Mar Twante daytrip from yangon
3-Mar Flight to Gaya (Myanmar Airways Int'l - 9am - 10:30 am)
I'm working on getting that India flight booked. The travel agent recommended above promised me a price this evening.
A few other questions:
Where is your favorite place for sunrise/sunset in Bagan? We will have 3 days there and would love to hit the most beautiful spots but would also enjoy a quieter place away from other travelers.
Similar question for Inle, what wouldn't you miss? What does a boat normally run for the day (leaving early and coming back just before sunset)? Any favorite places to stay on the water (budget category - under $20 but if there is something really special I would consider higher - cleanliness is at the top of my priorities followed by location)?
How tough is the trekking from Kalaw to Inle? We're in moderately decent shape but we aren't running marathons. We love to see beautiful scenery, people in the fields, villages, etc which is why we were considering it. Is there an advantage to the 3 day trek to the 2 day? We would prefer a less touristy route if such a thing exists which is why I was going for the 3 day. I have read that Sam's Trekking is good, can anyone comment?
Would you book the train (Yangon-Mandalay) & boat tickets (Mandalay-Bagan) through an agent or upon arrival at the stations?
We're prepared to drop Bago & Twante (Twante is probably more appealing of the two) if we lose time somewhere in the middle. Would you recommend more time in Yangon over those two locations? Is there something else in Yangon that we are overlooking?
Thanks again for all of the valuable advice! I can't tell you how helpful it has been.
I honestly got no impression that length of overstay was any issue. I've heard from people on the nets about 2weeks etc.. but those are generally not from people that actually did it or had any problems doing it.
There are a number of other people that actually have overstayed by many weeks not having a problem. I've even heard of some staying months, but i believe the price increases to $5 a day (or something) after a certain time.
I wouldn't doubt that the issue you saw in the airport had more to do with the person being a monk and being thai.
I've not heard of any issues with western foreigners overstaying more than 2weeks and i didn't experience any problems myself.
But as always ymmv.
#13 prana16 has been a member since 22/6/2009. Posts: 17
Bagan sunset.. most of the major 'good ' spots will be packed with people but all of the spots with some height are good, if you have a horse cart the driver will take you to place with 'no one else'.. but there will still be someone there just not as many. That was my experience and it wasn't high season at the time. But its still amazing.. one of my days i actually just watched the sunset down at the river behind shwezigon watching fishing boats go by and families bathing.
When i was at Inle a boat was generally $15 for the day i believe. Even though they are touristy i actually enjoyed the various craft places, making cigars, weaving, silverwork, boatbuilders etc... It wasn't very busy when i was there so they were happy to answer questions, show you how to do things and let you have a go at it.
I really liked the lotus plant weaving but its pricey.. you have to bargain very hard to get a good price, like let your friends overpay and wait till they walk out the door kinda bargaining ;)
Be prepared that the bus from Bagan to Kalaw is not as good as you may think from the price.
Be prepared that trains do not always make their schedule. I spent over 24hrs on a 6 hour train ride.
I had the luxury of no plans, knowing i could overstay and luckily taking more money and burma being cheaper than i had first planned. But having too tight of a schedule in Burma will get you stressed out.. roads are bad and so are the trains but thats part of the adventure.
Having said that I would show up and book onward travel at the stations myself never with any problem.. or often your taxi etc driver can help you, and will often insist, if they speak some english. you don't need to use an agent. but it would be better if you are in the town the day before and buy the ticket the day before at the station.
The trek to Inle is great and more of a walk than a trek. It is not difficult.. although maybe mores o in 2 rather than three days but you take a shorter route that way i think.
With a good guide its a great trip and very cheap.
I don't know anything about sams but i can recommend Robin from golden lily very highly. You will spend as much time being shown local and colonial plants tasting them. .learning about the area etc as you will walking. I don't remember the name but i believe its robins nephew is also said to be really good. They also have perfect english and the food they provide is really really good and more than you would expect.
The woman at golden lily (robins sister) can be a bit off putting, she is definitely a business women but don't let that stop you the trek is worth it and well worth the price.
I don't think there is really such a thing as a less touristy route around Kalaw and Inle. this is the place that i saw by far the most tourists (still about 1/100th of thailand though) and that includes mandalay, yangon and to a large degree bagan.
Oh.. one more thing about inle.. if you do the trek to inle.. at least with golden lily. you actually arrive at noon at the lake. you take the boat across the lake to where you stay. During that trip you actually make some stops if you like so you pretty much get a tour of a lot of the lake then. so in your schedule you have essentially 4 days at inle.. i don't know if it really needs that much. Its really nice but the boat everyday is pricey and it is touristy there and you could see a lot, if not most, of the lake in two trips (end of hike trip and one more day) . but that doesn't include doing day hikes in the area or anything.
#14 prana16 has been a member since 22/6/2009. Posts: 17
Thanks everyone for all of your input! Our trip to Burma was a resounding success, we loved every bit of it. The people there are just amazingly friendly, honest & welcoming. I would go back in a heart beat and would recommend it to all independent travelers.
We were able to travel independently throughout the country with no reservations. It was much easier than I expected it to be after a lot of online research (perhaps this was just the season we were there, I don't know). We always showed up 1 day before a bus or ferry or even an hour before the train or bus and had no problem finding transport. We traveled by bus, train, boat, motorbike, tuk tuk & plane.
For anyone curious about flights between Yangon & India, we were able to book a flight on MAI through them directly from their office in Sakura Tower (email them in advance and they will set it up) which saved $40-$50 per ticket by not using a travel agent on our one way flight to Gaya in India.
For anyone interested in where we stayed, what we did, the highlights of each place and photos here is a link to our blog:
Again, a huge thank you to all of the posters, especially Tilapia. Everyone's advice was a huge help in our planning!
Anyone on this thread been to Ngapali Beach? Is it worth checking out if I want a chill beach experience, or am I am better off finding a non-touristy beach in Thailand (I'm going in August, so it should be less crowded, even in Phi Phi)? How complicated is it to get to Ngapali Beach from Yangon? How would you get there?
#17 callarda has been a member since 21/5/2010. Posts: 25
August is our rainy season. Normally, most of the hotels at Ngapali Beach are closed during monsoon. But there is a daily flight from Yangon. That's the only way. I would like to recommend Chaung Tha or Ngwe Saung Beach rather than Ngapali. There are daily buses.
Tilapia! I could reaaaaaally use some bit of help here!! I had copied parts of your conversations long ago, and now that I am finally going to Burma couldnt finde them again until now Khao San Road myesteries led me to in a cyber cafe.
Anyway, I am about to go on a dreamed trip to Myanmar (I have tentatively 2 weeks, because I havent booked my exit ticket, but that is more or less what I can take considering my next destination) and Im a bit worried about my tri exectations.
I read with attention the itinerary you built with tbedsaul and would be interested in doing the following:
Yangon (land here from BKK)
Malawmyine and Hpa-An
Mandalay and surroundings (Mingun, amarapura, Aa, Sagaing)
Inle Lake (maybe the trek that you mentioned from Kalaw?)
Yangon (to take plane back to KL, or if anybody knows about an airline that flyes Mandalay-Kuala Lumpur even better)
Is that too much to ask in 2 weeks ish? I just need a lot of help in the logistics part. Ive been reading that transport is not very reliable in the sense that an original 10 hour ride could be eventually 15...so could you help me pleaseeeee in creating a real itinerary, considering timing of transportation? I am also a maniac of the good postal kind of pictures
Im willing to take domestic flights if neccesary, so that I can do the most out of it, but also wouldnt like to miss the folclor of travelling local.
Please por favor any help reeeeally wellcome, cause I am a bit in the fog here.
#19 mari_chol has been a member since 2/9/2010. Posts: 1
While your itinerary is possible, it is not the kind of trip that I would recommend unless you enjoy "speed travel." You are going to be in an awfully big hurry, and that is definitely not a good way to attempt to travel through Burma. The amount of time you would have would be far too short, especially for what you would like to do. Each of these places deserves more than than you'd be able to give.
That's my opinion.
I would suggest that you think carefully about what you would like to see the most, and stick to either the northern party of the country (Bagan, Mandalay and surrounds, Inle), or the areas closer to Yangon (Kyitiyo and the Golden Rock, Mawlamyaing, Hpa-an).
To give you a rough idea about the logistics of your present itinerary ...
- you would probably be in Yangon for, at the very least, three days (day of arrival, day of departure, and one more day for looking around and preparing to leave)
- to travel to or from Mawlamyaing from Yangon requires an entire day (a 10-hour train ride)
- You would stay in Mawlamyaing for, at least, two nights, unless you want to leave the day after you arrive, which would be a shame
- Hpa-an requires approximately 5-6 hours by boat to reach, and ferries were not going every day (they left about every other day ... this may have changed since then). You can always take a pick-up to Hpa-an, however, though the boat trip is MUCH nicer
- You could leave Hpa-an the next day if you wanted to, though the nearby mountains are worth checking out
- To get to Kinpun from Hpa-an requires about 5-6 hours in a pick-up, and by then it would be too late to go up the mountain to the Golden Rock, which would mean at least one night in Kinpun
- The better part of another day would be required to get back to Yangon from Kinpun/Kyitiyo, and unless you leave immediately for Inle, you would not be able to get going until the next day, and that trip can take an entire day (sometimes an overnight trip)
- Inle is worth at least 2 or 3 nights ... it's lovely there
- Approximately 12 hours from Inle to Mandalay by bus
- Mandalay and area (U Bein's Bridge, Mahamuni, Mandalay Hill, Sagaing, etc.) would require at least two full days
- Boat to Bagan, theoretically, should take about 10-12 hours (so, another day). Bus takes as long, apparently
- Bagan is worth at least 2 full days
- One more full day back to Yangon
Do you see where I am going with this? Even if you fly between some of these places you will still be in a mad rush. If you're good with that, then go for it.
I'm not going to put together an itinerary for you. You need to figure out what is most important for you and take it from there.
Also (and for me, this is the preferred way to go), you could just arrive without a set plan and see how things go. There's really no need to plan everything in advance. For example, you might meet someone the day you arrive who has hired a taxi to Inle and is looking for someone to share the ride and is leaving that night or the next morning. Or someone might be going to Bagan. Or Mandalay. Or a road might be washed out on the way to Inle. Or some newer areas may have opened up south of Mawlamyaing. You never know ...
I've just got back from Myanmar so here's a Hpa An update.
There are 3 trains to Mawlamyaing every day fropm Yangon leaving at 2am, 6.30am and 7.15am. I didn't enquire about the 2am one but the other two cost $7 and $5 respectively. The 6.30am one is a lot quicker as it doesn't stop at every single station en route... it took about 9 hours.
There are only two weekly boats to Hpa An from Mawlamyaing , leaving on Mondays and Fridays at 12.30pm ...ie you leave Mawlamyaing around midday and arrive in Hpa An just as the sun is setting. The boat trip is well worth doing if you can fit it into your itinerary, much nicer scenery than the Bagan to Mandalay boat IMHO. Refreshments are served on board, including cold beer and the boat isn't crowded as locals usually take the faster bus.
Hpa An isn't that pretty a town and it doesn't have many facilities for tourists but the surrounding countryside is simply stunning. Green rice paddies backed by limestone karsts. Lots of interesting caves and villages to visit. Personally I wish I'd skipped Inle (which I'd already visited on a previous trip) and spent a lot more time in Hpa An.
The Soe Brother's Guest house is where most people stay in Hpa An and they'll come and pick you up off the boat if you phone ahead. Although their rooms are very basic with shared bathrooms, they are clean enough. No breakfast but free tea and coffee and a friendly vibe. The day trip organized by the Soe Brothers was definitely one of the highlights of my recent trip, very highly recommended!
Beautiful... It's one of the most scenic, stunning, unvisited parts of the country, the amazingly priced $2 boat trip Hpa-an to Mawlamyine is stunning, personally I can't wait to get back there, it's one of the most friendliest parts of the country I've visited.
#23 GoldenEarth has been a member since 31/12/2010. Posts: 4