We are a couple of 63 year olds planning for our 26 day trip to Myanmar next January. We are used to travelling independently and want to keep our schedule as free as possible but realise from this forum that some booking ahead is going to be essential. Our options seem to be to book a whole package from a local agent, which would be expensive and rather limiting, or just booking enough to get us started. At the moment, our thoughts are to book in advance the hotel in Yangon and a flight on to next destination and then to take it from there. One concern we have about doing it independently is that for this time period we are going to have to carry around a huge amount of US dollars, which feels a bit scary (leaving aside the practicalities of keeping said notes in pristine condition for the duration of the trip!)
Our plans include all the usual (Bagan, Mandalay, Inle (possibly hiking from Kalaw) but we would also like to get off the main tourist trail for a bit. We plan to spend a few days at Ngapali beach and ideally to get up to Mrauk U. We want to go by boat between Mandalay and Bagan. Does it make any difference which way round we do this? Is there anywhere else we should be thinking of, either in addition or instead of what we have in mind? We are more interested in nature, landscape and getting a feel for the real Myanmar than in visiting too many pagodas.
Any advice/thoughts/suggestions would be very welcome. Thanks in advance.
That's a lot of travel for less than one month, but it is probably doable if you really hustle.
Reserving a place in Yangon before arriving is a good idea, but I don't think it's necessary to book an entire tour. It's very easy to organize everything on your own once you get there.
Even though I loved Bagan and the areas around Mandalay and, of course, Inle, I thought the town of Mawlamyaing and the Golden Rock were highlights of my time there. Mawlamyaing was a really nice, little-visited place with some very interesting areas and some great countryside on the outskirts. The walk up to the Golden Rock was fantastic! Incredible scenery in every direction.
As for direction, you may want to arrange your travel so that you're not backtracking (for example, you might want to go to Bagan to Mandalay to Inle, or Inle to Mandalay to Bagan so that you aren't cutting across the country (Bagan to Inle, or vice versa). The boat trip between Mandalay and Bagan takes at least 10 hours, though one person on this board spent the better part of a couple of days getting there because the water level in the river was so low. It's a great way to go, though. Interesting scenery. I loved it.
Thanks Tilapia. Having seen some people's itineraries for two weeks, we thought we were being cautious, but obviously not!
We hadn't originally planned to go to the SE corner, but I keep seeing references to how nice Mawlamyaing is. May have to rethink. Have you been to Mrauk U? If so, how did that compare? We can obviously only do one relatively 'off the beaten track' destination this trip and it had seemed that Mrauk U could combine with Ngapali beach reasonably well, though to do MU properly we seem to need about 5 days minimum. We do want a few days of beach time somewhere along the way. As long as there's decent snorkelling, that's all we ask!
Given that we are going in January you have got me a bit worried about delays to the Mandalay-Bagan boat with low water levels. I guess if we do definitelygo for the Sittwe to Mrauk U boat trip we may perhaps need to skip this one. So many decisions - aargh!
You've probably noticed in many posts that travel there is slow and often unreliable as far as schedules go for various reasons ... breakdowns, flat tires, etc. It can take an entire day or night, or both, to travel from one place to the next. Keep this in mind when you are figuring out what you want to do and when.
I didn't go to Mrauk-U, but plan to on my next visit, so I can't tell you anything about the place based on experience. Sorry. Talk to me in March of 2014. Or maybe I'll be talking to you. I also can't speak from experience of Ngapali, so I won't.
The person I spoke of who had a long trip did not go in January. I believe she went in February or March. I went in late December and the river was fine, though there were a couple of guys at the front of the boat with long poles testing the water's depth for much of the trip just in case.
Just a thought about the boat trip. When I was in Burma I took the ferry up the Thalwin River from Mawlamyaing to Hpa-an. It was the best part of my trip! That ferry no longer runs because of road improvements. I was told that you can now get a new tourist boat that is operated by the owner of the Breeze Guest House, but it's a longtail boat, not a ferry. It's not the same. This has also happened to the regular trips on the Mekong between Pakse and Si Phan Don in Southern Laos. Now you have to arrange your own boat trip ($$$) or take a tourist boat ($$$$) if you want to do that trip. What I'm saying is that if you want to experience this boat trip, you should consider doing it while you're there because I would not be surprised if it became obsolete, or a novelty ($$$) in a few years time if Burma continues on the path it seems to be on. Just a thought.
Good luck piecing things together. I understand the "agony of choice" problem very well.
Sounds like good advice about doing the boat trip while it's available. I think with some schedule-tweaking we should be able to accommodate the possibility of a delay without missing a plane or anything serious.
We were in northern Laos in February last year and taking the regular water bus back from Nong Khiaw to Luang Prabang took about 2 hours longer than expected due to low water levels. Once we had to transfer briefly to minibuses which had been pre-arranged, the second time we just had to scramble along the bank for about 3/4 mile and then wade across to a sandbank to rejoin the boat. All part of the fun!