So, is it really that welcoming in Myanmar?
 

Posted: Jan 2014

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Trip Report: Jan 2014
By Ben

General info

Pick up as many free maps as possible from the information desk in the airport (very friendly people and the maps are often being sold around the country when you visit the destinations)

ATMS freely available, didn’t go to a town where I didn’t see one. (Kyaiktiyo had a currency machine but it was out of order so I couldn’t check it, but otherwise they were everywhere)

I was charged 5000 to withdraw money when I did it. Not always available late at night as are locked away inside.

Exchange rate is currently about 965 to the dollar in the airport, I was offered 980ish in town generally. I changed money in town and it was fairly easy and safe.

Dollars still need to be crisp and clean.

Taxi to town from the airport was $10, can be booked in the airport lounge. Possibly cheaper outside.

Taxi from the bus station is rather overwhelming. It should be $7 per car to town (seems the standard rate) but be carefully as they will try to get $7 each from you. If on your own they may bargain a price with you, only to bundle you into a shared taxi with several strangers. Perhaps use this to your advantage to lower the price.

I got a taxi to the airport in this way from the main bus station and couldn’t get them lower than $3 for this.

 Taxis around town.:- We paid 1500 to the Kandawgyi Lake, 2500 to the chaukhtatgyi

Yangon

I stayed at the Garden hotel for $10 a night, my room is pictured below. It had free wifi and came with standard coffee egg toast breakfast. Great view of Sule Pagoda from rooftop breakfast/wifi area too. Staff here were friendly and location is perfect. I have the details on a card.

Eating:- I ended up trying the Throne Pan Hla teahouse recommended in the Lonely Planet walking tour and was very disappointed. Mohinga wasn’t available but the Shan noodle (number 8) was pretty bland and incredibly oily. I would skip this place.

 

Travel

Bus to Bago was 15000 or 18000 VIP, need to book in advance, take the VIP. Mine left at 6:30 pm

 

Sites

Shwedagon Paya

Entry fee is now $8, worth paying to see it though.

 

Chaukhtatgyi Paya +  Ngahtatgyi Paya

Both free donation only.

    Kandawgyi Lake/ Karaweik Hall

There is an 800 (entry 300 + 500 camera) to go into the ‘park grounds’ which isn’t worth paying as you see little more.) Unless you’re going in the restaurant don’t bother. This is separate from the lake entry fee.



 

 BAGAN

Accommodation

It was very busy; I spent a long time wandering the streets at 5am trying to find a room.

Eden guesthouse

$20 single, $25 double, dorm apparently $10 but I never saw it. All but dorm include standard breakfast. Room was standard room, no pic sorry

Winner guesthouse

$10 for room (see pic) with shared bathroom and usual breakfast. I found the staff here rather unfriendly and short with me, but maybe that’s just because I didn’t do one of their tours. Very busy due to cheap price.

Eating:-

Weatherspoon’s restaurant. Has wifi

A fellow traveller said it was the best food she’d had out of there, ‘aroma’ and ‘a little bit of Bagan’. Details on card. Cost 800k for coffee, 700 for juice, simple salads 5-800k. Other meals more expensive.

I ate at Mann sabai where I had an awesome typical multi dish vegetable curry for 800, and they kept refilling the dishes too. Single salad dishes around 500, meat curry dishes for between 1000k and 2000k, highly recommended. At the bus station end of Nyuang U.


Sites

I was quoted 10000k for a half day horse cart tour, 15000’ for a full day.

Balloons over Bagan. This cost me a whopping $320 for essentially about an hour in the hot air balloon but if you are in a position to splash out I would recommend it. The views were simply amazing.

They do a hotel pickup around5:30 am, take you to a field where you have some tea/coffee/ biscuits whilst they set up. Then you spend about an hour in the balloon, before coming down to a little fruit and a champagne toast, before they return you to your hotel.

You get a free cap and certificate too! My only complaint was that considering how much money we had spent on the flight it would have been nice of them to throw in the USB of photos taken from the balloon cam for free, rather than trying to get another $15 dollars out of us. Still, highly recommended if you are lucky enough to be in a position to do it.

Bike hire is generally 1500k a day; I got one from lucky bike hire, again Nyuang U at bus station end for 1000k a day (being the penny pincher I am)

Travel

I got the morning bus to Pakokku which took about 1 hour. I was a local bus that left at 7:30. Very easy trip to make, despite the info in the lonely planet. Since they built a bridge no one really does this by boat anymore and the bus is very easy to arrange in Bagan. The bus then goes onto Monywa too.

 

Pakokku.

Nice town to visit to see traditional Myanmar life and to say minglaba about a million times.

I stayed at the lonely planet homestay mya yatanar inn, [Lanmataw st, tel 21457]

where the people were very friendly, helped me book accommodation in future destinations by phone, gave me a local map (see details given). $8 was the price per person for a room, I had a double which should have been $16 but she gave it to me for $8.

Other travellers staying there said they had been given a nice Burmese breakfast here. All the food I had was incredibly basic (fried rice and egg Burmese breakfast. Plain bread with omelette and coffee another day,) They did give me some free tea leaf salad which was nice though.

WORD OF WARNING: I got very little sleep here as the Buddhist chanting is blurted out on speakers from nearby monasteries at 4am,5am, 6am, 7am etc. so unless you sleep heavy or have very good ear plugs forgo a good night’s sleep if you come here.

 

Leaving. I took a morning bus to Mandalay which took 5hrs and cost 3500K. There where loads of morning departures. The bus also arrived in the central station so no taxi needed to nearby guesthouses.

Mandalay

Stayed at ad1 hotel, details oncard, I got a single room for $15, hot water and breakfast on the roof was nice too. Busy but for the right reasons. I’d recommend staying here as they had lots of info, could arrange trips etc.

Sites:-

I did nothing inside the city at all except wander the streets eating stuff and looking at markets. A motorbike to the ubein bridge and back for sunset cost me $7, including waiting time. The guy was a local who wanted to practise his English and was lovely, but if you wanted some history etc. you’d probably need a guide which would obviously be more expensive.

 

I liked this guy so the next day I went with him again to see the Mahamuni Paya, the Shwe In Bin Kyaung monastery, marble carving and then he waited whilst I Took a trip over to Inwa (basically all the stuff where you dodge the fees). This again cost me $7 and took about half a day up, including my time on Inwa.

I would recommend going to Inwa but not doing a horse cart tour there. They are touted as the thing to do over at Inwa but when you arrive (a brief 800k return river ferry, literally takes minutes) you are accosted by a large gang of quite hostile locals asking for 6000k to see ‘the 4 main sites’, 2 of which you need to pay the $10 Mandalay entrance fee to see. I wasn’t bowled over by the sites but the village is a lovely picturesque village, so I would recommend going over with a bike or motorcycle and exploring it at your own pace.

We did see cyclists so it is possible, not sure about the logistics of getting a motorbike there, they would probably let it on the ferry but didn’t ask, the lonely planet suggests its fine. Definitely wouldn’t recommend the horse cart tour either (note it is purely a horse cart, no guiding or info about the places visited either.)

 

From Mandalay I took the night bus to Kalaw, which cost 12000K and took about 11 hrs.,

KALAW

Accommodation.

You definitely still don’t need to book accommodation in Kalaw, even in peak season I had everyone offering me a room.

Golden Lily guesthouse.

Guy was at the bus drop-off when I arrived. He was offering $7 for a single room, $14 for a double. I didn’t get a very good vibe from him at all, he just seemed to have that arrogant attitude of ‘we got a good review in the lonely planet, so we can now treat everyone like shit’ and seemed rather uninterested in any sort of negotiation at all. I asked him about trekking and he said for a 2 day 1 night trek he would charge 40000K. A friend did stay there and said the rooms were pretty crappy and that despite it being advertised there is no wifi.

 

I arranged a trek within a few hours of being there with Ever smile, as listed in the lonely planet. They were incredibly helpful and Organised me a 2 day 1 night trek for 32000, including a 4000k trip out to join the group (there were no 2 day 1 night treks going so she arranged for me to join a trek with a group doing 3days 2 nights who had started the day before).

The trek itself was great, a very easy trek in terms of walking (no difficult walking, probably about 5 hrs. of walking a day) and ended up with a boat trip across Inle Lake to the main town, doing all the touristy boat trip stuff on the way (included in the price) .

It was pretty much your standard south east Asian trekking in terms of walking through villages, seeing them weaving etc., eating food cooked by our guides then arriving at a ‘camp’ in the evening which was frequented by lots of trekking groups and catered to them very well (beer and snacks available). That being said I enjoyed it and all the groups slept in separate areas so it wasn’t too crowded when sleeping. Just don’t expect to have the evening spot to yourself. (Note, even though there was approx. 40 people there in the evening, the walking during the day was lovely and we only saw a few fellow travellers along the way).

 

Inle lake.

I stayed at Big drum, single room $15 see pics, lovely people, very friendly and keen to help, would strongly recommend if it weren’t for the fact that it’s on the riverfront so early morning all you hear is the very loud sound of the engines of boats on the river (4am onwards).

That being said, they were building new rooms so hopefully this will improve.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Leaving Inle coast 21000  to Yangon Using JJ express VIP bus, I’d strongly recommend getting the VIP bus. Dinner was included, seats have leg rests, recline and blankets provided. Best chance of a night’s sleep on a bus you’ll get.

 

Kyaiktiyo

I came from Yangon which took 5 hours and cost 7000K

Accommodation is actually in Kinpun, bus goes straight here.

Two places listed in the lonely planet are described fairly accurately.

Pann Myo Thu had better rooms for slightly more $8 single shared bathroom).

Sea Sar Guesthouse had a single he offered for $6 and one with a bathroom for $8, both were fairly grim by even the most penny pinching hardened travellers standards. Apparently the more expensive rooms are very nice though.

The bus up to the golden rock costs 2500K and goes all the way, doesn’t stop 45 mins away like the Lonely Planet suggests. Can get it back down too, last ones go at 6pm. Entrance fee at the top is 6000, it’s valid for 2 days and I used a fellow travellers who passed it on.

If you come here, I personally would strongly recommend you at least walk up to the top, if not walk both ways. The views are stunning and I was walking on my own in peace and quiet for the whole journey (I was the only person walking up at all, although this could be as I started at midday in the hottest part of the day)

The guide book states it takes 4-6 hours to walk up, I did it in just under 3 and I was by no means racing up. (I stopped at one of the millions of stalls for lunch on the way)

An intriguing souvenir to take home would be the wooden guns they have for sale here, carved from wood. 

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