Photo: Temple outside Monywa.

Burma forum

Myanmar Trip Report- Dec 2010

Posted by dano_b on 15/1/2011 at 03:58

Normal 0 0 1 1227 6994 58 13 8589 11.1287 0 0 0 My boyfriend and I just returned from a 4months trip through Asia and in a last minute decision we cut short our time inThailand to spend 12 days in Myanmar, and while it wasn’t nearly as much timeas we’d have liked, Myanmar was by far the best country we visited! The localswere so nice, welcoming, generous and eager to meet tourists (and not just toget our money!). We also managed to avoid paying quite a few of the admissionfees in Mingun, Mandalay and Inle Lake.
We did the typical loop, starting in Yangon. We stayed at Golden Smiles for 12$a night. It was a decent place, although had many mosquitoes. We exchanged someUS dollars at the hotel and got a decent rate (885kyat per dollar – in themarket it was somewhere between 890 and 900). As everyone else says, they areVERY picky about the quality of the US bills. Any crease in the bill willresult in a lower rate (if they take it at all). In Yangon, we talked to 2people who were scammed out of money at the market, so be aware if you exchangeit there. Make sure you change your money here in Yangon, the other citiesoffer a much lower exchange. For 2 weeks we changed approximately $550 US andit was enough to get us through on a budget.

Yangon has lively produce markets along thestreets in the morning, great colonial buildings and Bogyoke Aung San markethas aisles upon aisles of great souvenirs and handicrafts. We visited Botataung Paya, which wasnot entirely worth the 2$ entrance fee. Shwedagon Paya is awesome and I would recommendvisiting in the late afternoon and staying for sunset and nightfall, as thetemple is gorgeous in different ways at each different time of day. The 5$entrance fee is unavoidable from what we could tell but there was no longer acamera fee. We booked our night bus tickets to Mandalay from our hotel for11,400kyat.

We didn’t book any hotels beforehand andarriving in Mandalay, it took 4 hotels before we found one with room! The firstnight we stayed at ET Hotel (12$) but then switched to the popular RoyalGuesthouse with a 7$ double room with shared bath. On foot, we exploredMandalay, steering clear of the temples that charge the 10$ combo ticket andmanaged to see most of the main sights without paying a thing! We walked out toShwe In Bin Monastery, a lovely old teak building that was completely empty! Wehad the entire place to ourselves! We went to Mahamuni temple, which had lotsof vendors but a large golden Buddha that only men could approach, stick agolden leaf on or touch for luck. We had a slight scam with a local man whoseemed to want to show my boyfriend what to do, then demanded money after. WhenMike tried to put money in the donation box instead, the man got very angry! Wealso visited Sandamuni Paya, a beautiful complex with tons of white stupas,before climbing Mandalay Hill for sunset. Lots of local teens and monks go upthere on weekends to practice English with tourists, which is fun and a greatway to chat with locals!
With a monk that we met, we toured a localschool then he took us to Amurapura on the local bus (300kyat) – it was a hot,tight and bumpy ride, but that’s how the locals do it! Amurapura doesn’t havemuch to it, but the bridge was awesome! Especially around sunset when all thechildren and monks are on their way home – VERY picturesque! The buses (akaback of trucks) would have been impossible to navigate without a local as noone seemed to speak English and the signs were all in Burmese.
We took a day trip to Mingun the followingday. We paid 5000 kyat for a return boat ride (1hr each way). When we arrived,there is a 3$ entrance fee, but we managed to get around that by circlingaround the base of Mingun Paya first. This brought us in behind the ticketbooth, so we just climbed up and never needed the ticket again! Later that daywe took a bus to Bagan where our hotel (New Park Hotel -14$double) picked us upat the bus station for free since we booked ahead. We were not able to avoidpaying the 10$ fee in Bagan as the hotel requested it when we arrived.

We spent the first day touring temples on ahorse cart, paying 12000kyat for the day. We ate lunch at a highly recommendedrestaurant: KOUNG MON RESTAURANT, near the archaeological museum (ask anyoneand they’ll know it). It’s run by a very nice single mother who is trying toput her son through med school. Her food is reasonably priced, generouslyportioned and super delicious. We ate there both days in Bagan and loved itboth times! ***WE ASK ALLTRAVELERS TO EAT AT THIS RESTAURANT AS SHE GENUINELY NEEDS THE MONEY TO KEEPHER SON IN MEDICAL SCHOOL, for anyone who doesn’t understand, medical school isa great achievement for a Burmese student not affiliated with the governmentmoney.***
The temples of Bagan in some ways rival thetemples of Angkor. None of them are as large or imposing, but standing on thetop of a temple, looking over the plain to countless red and gold stupas isbreathtaking. Be prepared for vendors selling everything! Shwesandaw is thefamous sunset temple, but because of this, it’s insane at sunset! We foundBuledi to have better sunset views and way less people! We also met some nicelocal girls selling postcards that we chatted with, who then invited us totheir homes for roasted peanuts and tea! What an incredible experience to seethe life of local people- their father is the key master of a small cluster oftemples so their home was 10 steps from a stupa! One thing different in Myanmaris that the vendors are not only about making money from you – we found manypeople who were happy to just chat, tell us about their family, learn about usand it was a wonderful experience!
The second day we toured less visitedtemples on bicycles and we had many of the temples to ourselves much of thetime. The restaurants in Bagan are veryyy tourist-oriented but Aroma 2 has delicious Indian food!

The bus ride from Bagan to Inle Lake wasterrrrrible! We were scrunched onto a small bus with skinny seats that don’trecline and it left at 4am! The ride was bumpy, windy and halfway through ourbus broke down! We stood in the scorching sun for 3 hours while someone went toget a broken piece fixed and replace it. This means were we late arriving inNyangshwe and again, all the hotels were full (this time it took 5 tries!- bookahead! Get your hotel to call and reserve before you leave!). Arriving inNyaungshwe our taxi driver suggested taking a different way into the city whichbypasses the ticket window (the fee is now 5$ for Inle Lake) if we paid him anadditional 1$- done deal! We were never asked to show the ticket anywhere soit’s a safe way to get around paying that fee!
In Nyaungshwe we took a boat trip aroundthe lake. We stayed at Bright Hotel for 12$ a night (with an amazingbreakfast!) and booked our boat trip through Smiling Moon Restaurant. Theycharged 11,000kyat, slightly cheaper than elsewhere and promised a route thatwould be untouristed. Well, they didn’t really come through on their promiseentirely (the untouristed part), but the day was amazing and the sights bautiful!!! They actually try to book extra people onthe boat (5-6 total) to reduce costs, so if you want the boat to yourselves,make sure to say so! Our driver was great and took us anywhere we wanted!Highlights were the land tribal market, the floating villages andfishermen-such a beautiful and calm atmosphere! Our driver wanted to take us toYwama village to see the Paduang women (long-neck women) but when we arrivedand saw the scene, it was horrifying. There was a large group of tourists inthe shop, crowded around these women who were clearly uncomfortable and set uponly for tourists. You could pay them to have your picture taken with them andthe tourists were all over it. It made me feel sick. We waited until thetourists left then we talked with one of the women and bought a bag she hadweaved. A much better way to contribute than giving a dollar for apicture. The Jumping Cat Monasterywas quite impressive as well, with very old statues and, of course, cats thatjump! Make sure to ask your driver to stay for sunset, because we were the ONLYboat as far as we could see on the lake as the sun went down, except for thelone fisherman in the distance, which made for excellent photos!
Bus ride back to Yangon was uneventful(although freezing cold- be prepared for the bus rides!) then we hopped on aplane back home! Food in Myanmar is wonderful – delicious flavours in their vegdishes, good curries and rice. I would go back there in a heartbeat to see moreof this beautiful place and meet more great people!

#1 dano_b has been a member since 20/12/2009. Posts: 24
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Posted by 9preciousGems on 27/4/2011 at 19:34

sounds amazing - thanks for the write up!

#2 9preciousGems has been a member since 13/1/2011. Posts: 82

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Posted by Tilapia on 30/4/2011 at 23:55

Ya, good stuff.

If you get to visit again, try to get to Mawlamyaing (on the train) then take the ferry up to Hpa-an, then a pick-up to Kinpun and the Golden Rock. Makes a fantastic loop, and there isn't a fraction of tourists or touts that you find when doing the usual northern loop.

#3 Tilapia has been a member since 21/4/2006. Location: Canada. Posts: 1,521
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Posted by SBE on 1/5/2011 at 08:50

Glad you had such a great time! Thanks for the report and ditto Tilapia 100%. The scenery around there is simply beautiful.

It's a good idea to book accommodation in advance in Burma, particularly Yangon and Mandalay and your guesthouse will almost certainly be willing phone ahead for you. I was Burma in December too and I didn't have any problem finding a guesthouse in Inle, but I arrived there a lot earlier in the day than you did because I flew that bit to avoid that terrible 4am bus from Bagan!

Also good tip about the A/C buses. They're freezing. I can't remember them being that cold on my first trip there a few years ago. Maybe the buses were older and had less efficient A/Cs or something. It was pretty cold in Inle in the evenings and early morning too last December and I had a distinct lack of enough warm clothes with me. I'll definitely be packing a fleece next time!

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Posted by classez on 20/8/2011 at 02:48

Great read! My husband and I (both in our mid-60's) will be spending a month in Burma this November.
I have spent the past few months reading a lot about the country, the people, the problems, etc... and i loved reading you. We will do more or less the same itinerary but i am afraid that, because of our age, we will not be as adventurous! No bus ride for us....
Still we have traveled extensively in the Far East but Burma will be a first.
We are planning to enjoy it.
Thank you for your interesting description.

#5 classez has been a member since 20/8/2011. Posts: 3

Posted by auntysusy on 28/10/2011 at 00:51

After your November trip, please post some info. We will be there in mid-December, same age range, same extensive travel. Looking more for flashpacker tips than backpacker.

#6 auntysusy has been a member since 28/10/2011. Posts: 6

Posted by auntysusy on 28/10/2011 at 00:51

After your November trip, please post some info. We will be there in mid-December, same age range, same extensive travel. Looking more for flashpacker tips than backpacker.

#7 auntysusy has been a member since 28/10/2011. Posts: 6

Posted by auntysusy on 28/10/2011 at 00:52

After your November trip, please post some info. We will be there in mid-December, same age range, same extensive travel. Looking more for flashpacker tips than backpacker.

#8 auntysusy has been a member since 28/10/2011. Posts: 6

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