We are planning a trip to Myanmar in February 2014. We have by now decided which places we would like to see, now it's just a matter of combining them all and placing them in the right order. A travel organsation will arrange the transport, which will probably largely consist of domestic flights and some airconditioned vans/mini buses and a private guide to show us around the sights (and we'll have some time to ourselves as well).
Our initial itinerary is as follows*:
* I haven't specified any days, as we don't really know this yet, we will probably stay at least 2 days at every destination, but might opt for another day at specific places to get some rest. We have about 16-18 days in total, haven't booked flights yet so this can change.
Mrauk U - Sittwe
Yangon for final shopping and return to Bangkok and then home.
I believe that this is a logical route. We'll obviously start in Yangon for a couple of days, then go to Inle Lake where we'll stay for three days to get some extra rest, then Kalaw for elephants (Kalaw being close to Inle, this makes sense). Mandalay is next with several day trips (Amarapura amongst others), and from there by bus to Bagan, where we will stay for three days. After Bagan, we will take a flight to Yangon, and then to Sittwe, for a trip to Mrauk U (2/3 days), and then back to Sittwe and back to Yangon for our return leg of the journey.
However, when we received the (possible) itinerary from our travel organisation, they proposed a different route. It includes the same destinations, but in a different order:
Mrauk U - Sittwe
Yangon for final shopping and return to Bangkok and then home.
Also with domestic flights and a bustrip from Mandalay to Bagan. Same itinerary, just a different order. I think that it might be nice to do Inle Lake first, to get some more rest in the beginning of the trip as well, and not do two cities in a row..
But maybe that's just me.
What are your two cents on this matter? Would you recommend Itinerary 1 or Itinerary 2, and why? Thank you for helping us decide
#1 Marin has been a member since 28/8/2013. Posts: 4
Both are doable. I actually like your original plan better because you don't do both cities in the beginning. I would just switch it a little and do Yangon to Kalaw..then you can do a trek from there to reach Inle Lake.
My only concern is Mrauk U - Sittwe. That might be currently closed off to foreign tourists...you might want to double check on that.
If you need suggestions on places to stay in Kalaw or Nyaung Shwe (Inle Lake) please let me know!
Thanks for your answer Matt, much appreciated!
I think I agree with you on not doing both cities at first. On that topic: Does Mandalay have some sort of city centre that is easy to visit as a tourist, or is Mandalay really about the sights surrounding the city (Mandalay Hill, the surrounding villages Amarapura, Inwa and Sagaing etc)? I really get a different sense of the city than from Yangon, which seems like a city I could easily walk around and enjoy the decayed colonial buildings, visit Chinatown/19th street etc. Is Mandalay similar or completely different?
Concerning Mrauk U: I thought it was currently open for visitors. Will have to double check with our travel agency. Is there any other way of finding out whether it is open? Then again, it's not even near February 2014 yet.. Things might have changed by then.. If it is closed, we might opt for Ngapali Beach as an extension.. Something completely different, for sure, but still managable within those last 3 or 4 days.
I guess the travel agency will arrange the hotels, so no need for accommodation tips.
I believe we'll be staying in the following accommodations (all depending on availability, so nothing set in stone), IF we agree to go with this agency (we're still doubting between a couple):
Yangon: Clover or East Hotel
Inle Lake: Pyi Guest House (bungalows in Nyaung Shwe) and maybe one night in one of the cottages on the lake
Kalaw: Dream Villa
Mandalay: Unsure yet, depends on availability, probably a guest house.
Bagan: Kaday Aung Hotel (Class One Hotel) or Thazin Garden (would love your opinion on these two if you happen to know them)
Mrauk U: Don't know yet, whatever is available.
#3 Marin has been a member since 28/8/2013. Posts: 4
Out of curiosity what's the travel agency charging you for this service? It seems that you could arrange all of this on your own without having to pay any commissions. I visited several hotels in the country and most of them allowed you to book in advance via email. Additionally, it was easy getting from one city to the next...if the guesthouse doesn't sell bus tickets they're always happy to point you in the right direction.
Stuart might be able to help you with a suggestion for a place to stay in Bagan.
In Kalaw I visited Dream Villa and it's a fine guesthouse. Good location, nice restaurant and the rooms were very clean.
In the Inle Lake area I'm not familiar with Pyi Guesthouse. Let me suggest that you look into La Maison Birmane Inn, it's a charming boutique hotel option and if you're looking to splurge check out Viewpoint Lodge and Fine Cuisines.
In Nyaung Shwe definitely check out the Red Mountain Winery, easily accessed by bicycle. Wine tasting and meals are very reasonably priced for such a nice place. Also, when you go out on boat tours of Inle Lake arrange with them in advance if you don't wish to visit the 'workshops.' Otherwise they'll take you to several of these places...it's kind of a tourist trap. I paid $15 for a half day tour of the lake that included not a single workshop. It was an amazing day!
Any other questions feel free to ask. I don't know about Ngapali beach but I do know a little about the other two (less expensive) beaches of Chaung Tha and Ngwe Saung.
We'll obviously start in Yangon for a couple of days
Why is it obvious? Do you actually want to do Yangon twice? If you're coming from Bangkok, Air Asia flies to Mandalay as well.
You could do something like this.
(fly to) Bagan
Mrauk U-Sittwe (not sure how, have never been there)
Matt, we're still undecided about which travel agency/organisation to use. We've asked a couple of them (about four) to give us an estimation price and offer of our preferred itinerary. That way, we can easily compare. Without the international flight, we expect to pay about 2000 per person, that's including all accommodation, domestic flights, other ways of transport, transfers and tours/excursions and some meals.
We definitely do not want to plan this trip on our own. I know it is possible and I know it is probably cheaper, but that's just out of the question. It is my first time in Asia and even though I have traveled the world, I do feel much happier about booking this trip with an agency beforehand. That's just a decision we made. Maybe next time I'll be more confident
Your hotel suggestions are welcome though, we might be able to show these to the agency.
Also thanks for the winery tip, that sounds really nice and like our kinda thing. (we're big foodies, and love a glass of wine too)
SBE: Well, we'll have a 20 hour trip before we arrive in Yangon and I love decayed cities, so I figured it would be the nicest place to start for at least a few days! When we return to Yangon at the end, we could only stay in Yangon for a day, do some final shopping.
#6 Marin has been a member since 28/8/2013. Posts: 4
With your budget it would be so easy to do this on your own..ahhh Anyway, glad to see your shopping around.
In Kalaw this restaurant is fantastic for traditional Burmese cuisine: Aung Nyein Chan Aung (II).
In Nyaung Shwe here's the web address for the winery: http://www.redmountain-estate.com/index.html
The wine tasting was just $2 and the food was delicious and very reasonably priced.
Hello, Marin - what itinerary did you ultimately choose? I'm thinking about doing something very similar, starting in Yangon, working my way up through Inle Lake, Bagan, and on to Mandalay . Then from Mandalay I was hoping to find a bus to Sittwe/Mrauk U. Just curious about your experience.
#8 jesso435 has been a member since 27/5/2014. Posts: 5
We ended up not going to Mrauk U, because it felt unsafe at the time. We did the following itinerary:
Three days Yangon
Flight to Lashio, Shan State
Three days Hsipaw
Bus to Kyaukme
One day Kyaukme
Train to Pyi Oo Lwin (but we didn't stay there, hopped on a truck to Mandalay )
Three days Mandalay and surrounding cities
Bus to Bagan
Four days Bagan (to get some rest in a nice hotel too)
Flight to Heho
One day in Kalaw (elephant camp, really nice eco-friendly one)
Three days Nyaungshe and Inle Lake
One day in a fancy hotel on Inle Lake as a nice end
Flight to Yangon from Heho
Two days Yangon
So in the end we didn't go to Mrauk U, but opted for an extended stay in the Shan state. I immensely enjoyed the Shan state, would recommend it to anyone. I think out of our trip, I enjoyed it the most. It felt less touristic than Bagan (for sure) and Mandalay (also for sure), and I really liked the countryside. Would recommend the trainride over the Gokteik Viadact too, loved it!
As for guesthouses, I loved Pyi Guesthouse in Nyaungshwe, such lovely people and the rooms were very nice! Oh and we did end up going to the Red Mountain Estate, that was nice too. We also did a cooking course in Nyaungshwe which I recommend, Sweet Home cooking school I believe, lovely lady. So all in all I liked Shan state best!
#9 Marin has been a member since 28/8/2013. Posts: 4