Photo: Temple outside Monywa.

Burma forum

1 Month Burma 15th Sep 2013 to 17 Oct 2013

Posted by mitchwest on 5/9/2013 at 06:29

Hi Everyone I'm going to Burma/Myanmar soon.
It looks like it could be quite rainy, but i'm not letting that put me off, at least it should be easy to get hotels.

So we are starting in Yangon and Finishing in Mandalay. We will also overstay our visa by a couple of days, but it seems to only be $3 a day each to go over so no big deal really.
It is also me and my new wife, so any particularly romantic spots would be good.

Since we are starting south and finishing North we can't do any sort of loop.

So i was thinking heading West from Yangon to Golden Rock and Mawlamyine/Hpa-an

Then maybe up Westish to Muark-U, then to Bagan.

Anyway, why don't i leave it up to you guys, any suggestions on where should go on this 1 month adventure??
Any nice guesthouses, much appreciated also.
Should we get the Lonely Planet? or just wing it/use internet?

thanks alot!

#1 mitchwest has been a member since 20/5/2013. Posts: 3

Posted by SBE on 5/9/2013 at 09:05

Hi Mitch,

I haven't been to Mrauk U so can't comment on that. You've missed out Inle which I think is probably a mistake. It's one of the two top destinations in the country for a reason!

Hpa An I love because of the beautiful karst countryside around there, do do the daytrips. Hpa An town itself is OK I guess but not a must see IMO. I paid $5 for a very basic room w/shared bathroom there, not exactly a honeymoon suite even though I'd happily stay there again because of the owners and the very friendly vibe. There are some other hotels in town which may be more comfortable and have better facilities but I didn't check them out. You can get there by boat from Moulemein (much better scenery than between Mandalay and Bagan) but unfortunately the local wooden ferry I took that stopped at villages along the way to let passengers on and off no longer exists and you have to charter a tourist boat now. I suspect the tourist charters aren't nearly as pleasant and are far more expensive but it's probably worth doing the boat trip anyway for the gorgeous river scenery. I stayed in Breeze GH in Moulemein along with practically every other tourist there at the time. It's got a very nice location on the riverfront and is large enough to get lost in. Very varied choice of rooms, some are huge with antique wooden furniture others are more like prison cells without windows. If I were you I'd mention I was on my honeymoon while booking a room.

The place I stayed in at the "base camp" near the Golden Rock wasn't that great though my memories are vague now, was a long time ago. There could be better accommodation options now. The lorry ride up to the spot where you start walking up to the Golden Rock isn't at all comfortable because you're crammed into the back of a truck and sitting on planks of wood and the road is very very steep. When you're going downhill the plank in front of you almost makes a permanent dent in your knees (might be an idea to bring something that would serve as knee padding for that excursion).

The LP I bought hot of the press for my first visit to Myanmar was so useless I threw it away and I haven't bought another LP book since but an LP researcher was around when I was there in 2009/2010 so I do know they've actually been there. (It wasn't at all apparent in the guide I'd bought). Maybe the latest version is worth buying but I haven't ever looked at it and things are changing very fast there.

#2 SBE has been a member since 14/4/2008. Location: Global Village. Posts: 2,052
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Posted by mitchwest on 5/9/2013 at 12:45

Hi SBE, I definitely intend on going to Inle.

I was after some advice about how to do the month and which way to go since i'm starting in Yangon and finishing in Mandalay.


Train to Bago then to Golden Rock.
Sunrise at Golden Rock then head to Moulemein
Moulemein and day trips around
Same again
Head back to Yangon and then head towards Bagan, stopping somewhere? suggestions.
3 days in Bagan
Then since i'm flying out of Mandalay i guess i don't take the boat there now and head to Kalaw for trekking to Inle
Trekking to Inle 3 days
and then 3/4 days in and around Inle

Where else should i go and what is the best itinerary in your opinion?
I think i still have quite a bit of time


#3 mitchwest has been a member since 20/5/2013. Posts: 3

Posted by mattocmd on 5/9/2013 at 14:36

FYI - In my experience many of the guesthouses will check your passport/visa upon check-in and won't offer you a room if you're visa is expired. So it might be hard to get a room on the days that you are planning to overstay your visa.

#4 mattocmd has been a member since 13/6/2007. Location: United States. Posts: 366
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Posted by SBE on 7/9/2013 at 03:32

I'm not sure I understand this:

Train to Bago then to Golden Rock.
Sunrise at Golden Rock then head to Moulemein
Moulemein and day trips around
Same again

but it looks like you want to cram too much stuff into too short a time. Every time you move to a new destination (not day trips), it's best to allow a day's travelling time and an overnight stop. Timewise, distances on a map in Burma are not the same as distances at home because transport is very slow unless you're flying.

The bus to Bago took us a good two hours, 3 if you count getting to the bus station and hanging around waiting, and trains are very old and much slower than buses. You could have a look around Bago and spend the night there if you want. (Big paya, very big buddha, weavers and cigar makers, small village with wooden houses to explore a bit away from the main highway). Head on to Kinpun (Golden Rock) and some point next day. Spend the night there. We spent a whole day doing the Golden Rock because it's not something you just nip up to in 10 minutes. The lorry in Kinpun won't leave until it's absolutely full. When I was there they didn't drive that road in the dark (I can totally understand why) so I'm not sure how you were planning to be at the rock in time for sunrise? You could walk all the way in the pitch dark I suppose (5-6 hours?) but it takes a good hour just for the final climb up to the rock from where the lorry drops you off. We did the climb in daylight and took much longer than that because it was very very hot and we stopped to look at stalls and the views along the way. Very steep road up +lots of steps. Some people even get carried up by porters (yes really). If you want to see the sunrise I think you'll probably need to spend the night in a hotel at the top. Porters can carry your luggage up for you but you'll still have to catch the lorry and walk up to your hotel.

Alternatively you could just get the train all the way to Moulemein instead of getting off in Bago (about an 8 hour train ride I think, can't remember exactly). Do Moulemein and Hpa An and do the Golden Rock on the way back to Yangon.

Back to Yangon (another night there) then a decent bus to Inle and get off in Kalaw for your trek down to Inle. You could just go back to Bago and head north on a bus from there but you might not get a seat if you do that. Best chance of getting a good bus and a decent seat is usually to get on at the departure point (ie Yangon). Ask when you're in Bago what the best way to get to Kalaw is. The fare will probably be the same irrespective of where you get on and off. Last time I took a bus from Inle to Yangon it only took 16 hours on a new A/C bus. (That's 5 hours less than it took on a very old and very overcrowded bus in 2005 so it seemed quite easy).

The bus trip between Inle and Bagan is still quite dire AFAIK so maybe fly that bit.

If you've still got tons of time and energy left over by the time you get to Mandalay you could go to Pyin Oo Lwin and then Hsipaw on the famous train ride that crosses the Gokeik viaduct. The train ride was very long and slow but was quite interesting in 3rd class which doubles as an ambulant fruit and vegetable market with people buying and selling stuff through the windows at every stop.

I've never been in Myanmar in the wet season so I don't know if it's worth going to a beach. There are two quite near Yangon though, Chaungtha or Ngwe Saung. Most (not all) of the resorts at the latter were large upmarket affairs but well spaced out so the beach is never very crowded even at Christmas (two years ago anyway, more resorts could have been built since). The sand at Chaungtha wasn't as nice right in front of the hotels but if you're prepared to walk you can have miles and miles of clean empty beach all to yourself. The seafood was good in both places and makes a change from the usual fare. The road wasn't too good after Pathein though so that might be a problem in rainy season.

#5 SBE has been a member since 14/4/2008. Location: Global Village. Posts: 2,052
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Posted by somtam2000 on 7/9/2013 at 04:52 admin

Thanks SBE for a tonne of info :-)

If you want to break the trip between Yangon and Bagan, Pyay is a good option. There's a coupla things to see, the food is good and it's easy to reach (I did train from Yangon then bus on to Bagan, though you arrive there at about 3am which wasn't so exciting).

The train is rather bouncy.

Regarding overstaying your visa, you may find this post on the Burma Wire useful. We'll also have a bunch of Burma destination stuff surfacing in the next week or so (finally) on the site -- covering some of the destinations you're covering.

#6 somtam2000 has been a member since 21/1/2004. Location: Indonesia. Posts: 7,942
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