The Myanmar (Burma) Lonely Planet guide book was published in2011 however in the space of just a year the information provided is already incrediblyinaccurate. The country is changing atsuch a fast pace it is impossible to keep information relevant. Although theguidebook is useful for information about some of the major attractions it isfairly irrelevant when it comes to prices, travel times, addresses etc. Itwould be wise to keep up to date with travel blogs and forums and not rely tooheavily upon the guidebook itself. I have included a few useful additionaldetails and changes that I hope will help future travellers to the country.
We spent 10 days in Burma over Christmas on a whistle-stoptour of the country. The weather in December was very pleasant, with clear blueskies and temperatures around 25-30 C. The weather in the summer months isconsiderably hotter so unless youâ€™re immune to oppressive heat then aim to planyour trip during the winter months. Although during the day the weather was warmand sunny the temperature really plummeted at night, particularly in the areasaround Inle Lake and Kalaw. The Lonely Planet suggests a light jumper forevenings however at one point it dipped as low as minus one and we were forcedto buy ourselves a thick jumpers and woolly hats at the local market.
As repeated many times in the guide book it is stillessential that US dollar notes are pristine, with no folds, tears or damage ofany kind. It is best to have a selection of denominations as $1 notes can beused to pay for taxis, water etc. whilst the larger notes can be exchanged at abetter rate. We found the best exchange rate to be at the airport, contrary tothe advice given in the guidebook, however the exchange rate is constantlyfluctuating so this may not remain the case. Money can also be changed at someguesthouses and banks. We also came across a couple of ATMâ€™s in Rangon thataccepted MasterCard although itwouldnâ€™t be wise to rely on these working.
In general the prices given in the guidebook have now increasedby around 20%
The overall standard of accommodation in Burma is prettypoor and overpriced, so be ready to lower your standards. Some of the hostelsrecommended in the guidebook were absolutely abysmal. The Whitehouse Hotel andDaddyâ€™s Home Hostel were the worst offenders, both were dirty and incrediblybasic, staff were rude and at around $30 a night they were also a completerip-off.
Luckily we ended up stumbling upon a very friendly guesthousenext to the Ocean Pearl Inn, the name of which escapes me. Rooms were $20 anight and the owner was friendly and hospitable. Rooms were clean as were theshared bathrooms although the breakfast was pretty poor.
Some of the mid-range options are much better value formoney. The Royal White Elephant Hotel in the Rangon suburbs and La MaisonBirmane in Inle Lake, although twice the price of the budget hostels, are worththe upgrade. La Maison Birmane was actually really lovely with a deliciousbreakfast, many of the ingredients grown in their very own vegetable patch. InKalaw we stayed at the Golden Lily guesthouse which again was incredibly basic,although clean, but at only $7 a night at least the price reflected thestandard.
As with all Burmese accommodation I would strongly recommendbooking ahead as the number of tourists outweighs the number of rooms.
After reading the Lonely Planet we decided that the busjourney times were far too lengthy for our short trip and that instead we wouldarrange internal flights. However after arriving in Burma and visiting localtravel agents we found that the times quoted were a lot shorter than what wehad read. We changed our plans and relied mostly upon buses to get around. Thedistance from Inle Lake to Bagan (12, 000 Kyat) being approximately 8 hours andthe journey from Bagan to Rangon around 9 hours.
We did take one internal flight from Rangon to Heho buttaking into consideration the price difference the bus would be a perfectlyacceptable option taking around 10 hours.
A quick note about Burmese food: We were told from manydifferent sources that Burmese food was pretty dire. Perhaps because ourexpectations were quite so low we ended up being pleasantly surprised. The yellowsplit-pea tofu, mohinga, and fish curry being particular favourites.
A real treat was the Green Elephant restaurant in Rangon thesetting is beautiful and although pricier than your average street food vendoritâ€™s definitely worth splashing out for.
#1 EmilyfGale has been a member since 4/1/2013. Posts: 1
Thanks for the report Emily. :)
While we don't cover Burma on Travelfish, we do have some feature stories on Burma here that may be of interest to others headed there -- especially the one on food in Burma -- the author agreed with Emily's conclusion!
#2 somtam2000 has been a member since 21/1/2004. Location: Indonesia. Posts: 7,789
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Good info there Emily. Just hope people read it and other info on the net before posting. But won't be surprised if some &%#*@ posts next week asking what the weather is like in December haha. Travel sites should ban weather questions in my view. Waste of space. There are websites with annual temperatures and mean rainfalls as well as others that give you weather forecasts up to 7 days in advance. Rant over.
I've read a lot of info over the last 2 years putting my future itinerary together. And will probably spend a few more years as I refuse to go until they allow land border crossings. If the changes over the last 12 months continue I would be rcommending Lonely Planet issue an annual edition if they want to maintain sales.
I noted you had an acceptable experience at Golden Lily, Kalaw. Have read mixed reviews about that place on tripadvisor. Not so much re the accom. but more toward negative experiences relating to treks booked with them. Did you have any experience with their treks or hear comments by others?
Burma is actually boring, but nice. Asia is like that. Cambodia is filthy and corrupt, but the people are nice. Vietnam is wonderful, with a dreadful communist government that tries to stay in the shadows. I hate Asia's politics, but I love the place and I can't stay away. It's infuriating.
#4 mareeS has been a member since 8/12/2012. Posts: 13
My partner and I just returned from travelling through Burma last week. We did three weeks and I more or less agree with what has been posted above. I think the place you found in Rangoon next to Ocean Pearl Inn is Hninn Si Budget Inn. That is where we stayed and I agree it is very clean and welcoming.
The weather in March is hot hot hot, especially Bagan where it was so dry. Didn't take away from the experience though.
I too was frustrated out the out of date information that was available for travelling Burma. I stumbled across a website called The Leaping Lemur (apologies if refering to another website is against any forum rules) that seemed to be really upto date, especially with Burma - with great list of accomodation and prices. It really helped us book our accomodation a couple of days in advance.
#5 Gamble has been a member since 25/7/2012. Posts: 5
Thanks for the kind comments Gamble. We're just out there trying to promote charities in Asia and anything we can do to get a few more visits helps.
LP were back in Myanmar in November 2012.... getting their next issue up-to-date.... to be published in 2014. Print media is out-dated before it goes to print. I just hope they were correcting all of their errors along the way.
Emily - great post. If you're travelling elsewhere and want to help, please get in touch.
I think you were spot on about the food! The issue is that, in my eyes, is that a lot of us travellers have an idea of what they think they should expect. Pots of pre-cooked food.... puts a lot of people off... but man that's the best! My partner tried the steamed-offal dishes (for a bet and for a video) and though he made out it was bad for the video, we were both so surprised at the tastes! Would never have tried it in the UK for sure!
Keep travelling and keep writing. People need to read posts like yours.
#6 TheLeapingLemur has been a member since 20/11/2012. Posts: 13
$30 for a dive. Stuff that. I'll stick to Thailand where $30 gets a good room outside of Bangkok.
"Burma is actually boring, but nice. Asia is like that. "
Thailand isn't boring if you go to the right places.
Burma is changing so fast I would imagine any guidebook is useless except for basic temples and airport info.