I spent the month of May in Burma travelling the route Yangon-Mawlamyine-Bago-Mandalay-Pyin U Lwin-Kyauk Me-Mandalay-Monywa-Shwebo-Mandalay-Yangon. It was an awesome trip, and even compared to the other hospitable peoples of Asia, the peoples of Burma amazed me with their friendliness and warmth. In particular, I must absolutely recommend trekking around the Kyauk Me area in Shan State. It was the highlight of my trip. Anyway, I uploaded some photos and a couple of videos at http://www.flickr.com/photos/mangostani/sets/72157626954526477/
If I have the time later, I think I'll write a longer trip report on the whole journey, but for now I just thought I'd say any questions regarding these places, travel between them or Burma in general are welcome, since I have recent info.
Firstly, nice post and thanks for the open offer :)
I've been a bit overwhelmed when trying to plan an itinerary for Burma...at first it is always a bit like that though! Exciting and overwhelming...where to go? what to do? etc
Anyway, would you say the route you followed above was a good one? It would be nice to know if there was anything you'd miss out or add etc
Thanks for the tip with Kyauk Me area. I will look into it more! Will also look at the photos when I am not at work! Chris
As regards my route, I obviously skipped two of the big attractions, Bagan and Inle, which was a conscious choice. Hopefully, I can return some day (when Burma is free!) and see them too. I would've also loved to go to the Western parts (esp. Mrauk U) but it's kind of impossible without flying. For the places I did visit, some brief comments follow. Ask away for anything specific.
Yangon: A little unimpressive and downright depressing at first (esp. if you stay outside the very central areas) but has quite a range of interesting places and restaurants and a unique vibe once you scratch past the surface. Shwedagon Paya is probably the most impressive religious "monument" I've seen, so I'd recommend going, despite the fee.
Mawlamyine: The train ride here was fun, though slow. As for the town, it really reminded me of Kampot in Cambodia with its river location and laidback provincial atmosphere, and Mon State more generally seemed like a fascinating (and definitely beautiful) area. Unfortunately, it rained like crazy for my time there, so I didn't see that much. Climbing up to Nwa-la-bo Pagoda up the mist-covered hills was great, though.
Bago: Spent two nights, one would have been enough. But that said, a dizzying array of (mostly religious) sights surround the town and make for a great day or two (hiring a guide with a bike was cheaper than elsewhere, too).
Mandalay: Wide boulevards, rich people, surprisingly modern and clean, but somehow not that much to do in the end, or maybe I just spent too many nights here going back and forth. Nice enough though. From the surrounding area, Sagaing was a highlight.
Pyin U Lwin: A fun hill station type town, very different. Horse wagons and strawberry wine! Met some colourful characters.
Kyauk Me: The train here never showed up the first day in Pyin U Lwin, but was able to catch it on the second day. It was 5 hours late and took forever but was an interesting ride (passes over the Gokteik Viaduct too). The town itself is not terribly interesting, but as I mentioned, trekking the surrounds was the highlight of the trip. Great Shan and Palaung hillside villages in stunning landscape, and the local guide, Mr. Naing was the best.
Monywa: People very surprised to see me. Nobody spoke English. Town pretty plain, except for the great night-time festival atmosphere when stalls and restaurants spring up all over the center (with even a screen showing music videos on the clock tower!). Boddhi Tataung and Thanboddhay Paya were def. worth visiting in the surrounding area.
Shwebo: People absolutely stunned and amused to see me! Nobody spoke a word of English, and even the hotel people had no clue as to transport onwards. Def. unspoiled provincial vibes but not much to do. Took the river ferry from Kyaukmyaung nearby back to Mandalay, which was a lot of fun. At the landing they really had no idea what to do with me, but in the end I managed to get on board.
Great photos. I've been inspired to start using Flickr.
Too bad it rained when you were in Mawlamyine. I loved it there. The place reminded of Luang Prabang with the esplanade and colonial architecture. Never went to Kompot when I was in Cambodia, but if it's anything like Mawlamyine I will put it on my list. And, as you said, the train ride is SLOOOOOOW!
Question ... The bridge from Mottama to Mawlamyine was about 1/3 complete when I was there. I understand it is now finished. Does the train go over the river, or are the ferries and longtails still running between the two places?
I can't wait to go back. Planning on riding some of the boats next time to Pathein and a few other places.
Yes, the enormous bridge is now finished and the train goes over it into Mawlamyine itself.
In fact, the only time I almost got into trouble with the authorities was taking photos of the bridge from the train window - a soldier noticed me and jumped up from his post, shouted angrily and ran after the train for a while before giving up. Unintentional on my part, just forgot for a moment that they're touchy about bridges too.
Here you go...the new bridge.
Great photos Lother and please do open a Flickr account Tilapia!
PS. Christay, if you're interested I just uploaded a few more pics to my Myanmar set ( Hpa An etc)
Damn! I just found out that I've had a Flickr account since Flickr began. A Flickr Pro account, too. I didn't even know it! It's expired now, though, but I'm still a member so I guess I can start uploading. Will work on that later.
Hello all! My husband and i are traveling to Burma for our honeymoon in December. We are flying in to Bangkok and plan on applying for a visa there. We were hoping to do a south sighting seeing tour. we have about 10 to 12 days till we need to be back in Thailand.
We were hoping to see Rangoon, Malwaymine, Hpa An, and The Golden rock. Does this seem doable? Do you recomend we fly into Rangoon and then take train, bus or riverboat to these areas?
Thank you. All suggestions will be helpful
#9 Warriorcandy has been a member since 12/11/2011. Posts: 7
Let me add then when i say tour i mean privately. We in NO WAY want to hire a tour group. we hate that super touristy type stuff. thank you.
P.S. we are american
#10 Warriorcandy has been a member since 12/11/2011. Posts: 7
That's doable, but you may get tripped up by the ferry schedule from Mawlamyaing to Hpa-an if you arrive there at the wrong time. There are only a few ferries per week. It's a fantastic boat trip (amazing, actually), but if you find that you have to wait for a few days for a ferry, there is public transport going to Hpa-an (pick-ups and minivans) if you really want to get there.
If you find yourself in this situation, I don't recommend going to Hpa-an at all. Getting there by water is the best part of going to Hpa-an. The location of the town and surrounding scenery are fantastic, but if you find that you'll be wasting your few precious days waiting for a ferry in Mawlamyaing, then skip Hpa-an and go to Kinpun and walk up the mountain to the Golden Rock.
My recommendation for the Golden Rock is 1) arrive on Day 1, 2) walk up the mountain on Day 2, 3) leave Kinpun on Day 3. It's worth it. Mind-blowing. Stunning scenery and indescribable energy at the top. Go!
I recommend the train from Yangon to Motamma (or straight to Mawlamyaing). It's about 10 hours and a real adventure. It leaves from Yangon at around 7:00 am and arrives late in the afternoon in Motamma. The bridge across the river wasn't built when I was there so it may go straight across the river these days. Anyway, far better option to taking the bus.
Hey Lother, did you notice if the boat was running from Mawlamyine to Hpa-an?
#12 emcd077 has been a member since 15/11/2011. Posts: 2