Back again in Myanmar!
Posted: Feb 2013

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Hilron, if you’re reading this then thanks for the train information. And Elli Murr and your “Band of part-time volunteer Lemurs” that help supply solid information, a massive thanks. I hope my contributions help others. This is a lovely country with amazing people. Long may it stay the same. Clarky PS Pictures to

Back again in Myanmar!
Martin Clarke February 2013

Duration: 28 Days 
Cost overview for two Adults in Myanmar for 28 nights
Budget: US$1,600 Spent: US$1,350 Average Hotel per night: US$21.50

Planned route:
Yangon -> Kalaw -> Nyaungshwe (Inle Lake) -> Mandalay -> 
Bago -> Mawlamyine -> Hpa An -> Yangon

We first visited Myanmar in October 2012 [Myanmar Trip Report October 2012] and things have changed lots already. We came back as quickly as possible for another visit, already expecting changes but were we already too late? This is quite factual, so if my English teacher reads this I apologise :-)

Yangon stayed Ocean Pearl (twin $30) and then had to move onto Hninn Si Budget Inn (twin $27) because they were fully booked. Visited Salvation Army (support 3 orphanages in the area) and Min Aung (works for Myanmar Dagon Travel & Tours on 33th street and spends a fair amount of his spare time teaching youngsters English at the Kyaunkme Orphanage close to town). If you are interested in making a visit and have the time, then please email them. Both organisations were extremely grateful for our donations of children’s clothes and books (collected before travelling) and the time we gave them. Splendid time and very close to the hotels. 

Circle-line $1, excellent. Take some fruit and share it with the kids.

Some reasonable restaurants on the same street as the hotel(s) but enjoyed Seven Colours just around the corner. Also worth the walk down to New Delhi Restaurant and Zero Zone for the terrible show that they put on!

Visited temples last time I was here so didn’t visit this time but they are amazing.
Bus to Kalaw (booked through Ocean Pearl for 11,000Ks; Hninn Si Budget Inn use a different company and wanted 15,000Ks per person). Taxi to bus station 7,000Ks (this is the standard price we have paid previously – they ask for $10, tell them Kyatts and then tell them 7,000Ks). Taxi stand by Seven Colours (Anawratha Rd).

Departed Yangon about 1900hrs and arrived in Kalaw at 0330hrs. Met by representative of Golden Lilly Guesthouse. Twin room that was booked was not available until the next day. Charged $7 for a single bed for two people in one of their shared bathroom options which are really basic. I was ill, so when asked about a 3-day-trek I said “Not sure” and there ended the “friendly service” I’d read about. Didn’t take breakfast and made a point of this because we were both ill. Same day moved into $14 en-suite – much better but they don’t keep the water tanks full so (very ill) it wasn’t too good for us. Breakfast on second day (I could eat again) and I asked if I could buy another chapatti but told “No, if I wanted more breakfast then walk to town” then promptly asked again if I’d paid my bill (already paid up!). 

Did a one-day hike with A1 trekking (10,000Ks per person as oppose to 12,000Ks with Singh Brothers). Lots of bad vibes from trekkers that paid to go with Singh Brothers but ended up with non-English speakers that had just left college. Regardless of who you trek with, they use the same places to eat and will make a route to “fill the time” taking in the views on the type of route you request. Took a sheet of small stickers with us and gave them out at the school which the teachers loved just as much as the kids!

Sunset beers in Emerald Bar. BBQ food at with locals at Golden Wing (Dagon Beer station). Everest Nepalese restaurant has an interesting “dual pricing” system. FMD Indian, good tasty basic food.

Took train to Nyaungshwe – 3 hours and $3 for first-class. Ok, everyone slates the trains and they are bumpy, but take that on board with you and they are more fun than the buses. Train station to Nyaungshwe was 8,000Ks (4 people sharing for a proper taxi) but got it down to 7,000Ks and really should have paid less (someone we’d met and was sharing with had already agreed to 8,000Ks). Bike-van-thing taxi wanted 6,000Ks before negotiating.

Stayed at Big Drum (up $10 to $28 for the same room from November). Best thing is breakfast on the river. Met some people stayed at Remember Inn which sounded much better. Did lake for 25,000Ks for 7 people sharing. Plenty of room and gave us a good mixed group. All people we’d met on the day of arrival. Second day did cycle ride to orphanage and local temples (blog written Cycling in Inle). Bike 2,000Ks for day. Ate at Lin Htett and the food was very touristy (bland and no spices!). Second night ate at Missou Kitchen where we collected the bikes from and she gave us a starter, main (fresh river fish) and desert for 3,500ks. Fave beer place is still Thauk Kyar Ki for the locals. 

Took bus to Mandalay (10,000Ks – 1900hrs booked from main office and sounds like we paid 1,000Ks less than most others). The bus took us straight from just before the permit booth in Nyaungshwe and straight to Mandalay (which meant that we didn’t have to hang around on the main road waiting for the bus for another hour). 

The bus stopped as normal along the route and arrived at the main bus station where previously we’ve had to alight. The bus then stopped at about 0300hrs at the train station in Mandalay (great if you want to take the 0400Hrs train to Hsipaw) and then continued on into Mandalay, turning west at the palace stopping on 26th street at suitable junctions to each of the hotels. Much better than before. Stayed at AD1 in their “pagoda room” the first night and were charged $14. Bathroom back on the ground floor. Pagoda room really just a roof top prayer room. Room next day as £24 with breakfast. Nice roof garden and a reasonably good location. Met quite a few people here and an easy start to each day. 

Ate up towards Rainbow (5 minute walk) and plenty of other options around the area. Good Indian at Pan Cherry. Also ate at Nine Stars and though it was good food, this is the only place I’ve ever been that charges a TAX which none of the locals paid. About 8%. Visited Mandalay Hill, book temples, U Bien (No. 8 bus from clock tower 300Ks and easy to do (just shout U Bien!) or shared pick-up taxi 13,000Ks which would be fine for 6-7 people sharing. Boatman at U Bien wanted 8,000Ks for 4 people but settled on 7,000Ks. Lots of people left disappointed because there were no boats left. Great sunset shots. Mandalay was very dusty. Visited Mingun (0900 boat for 5,000Ks return). All a bit disorganised really but they get you there and back. 

Mingun was ok – do NOT walk by the tourist office because they will work hard at getting you to pay the $3 government charge, though quite a few people managed to just walk away without paying. Unable to climb up any more – closed for safety reasons. River ride nice.

Night bus to Bago – bus 10,500ks the hotel charged 700ks on top per ticket and taxi to bus station 7000ks all organised by AD1 (could have paid less but when it’s all done for you…..). 

Arrived Bago at 0400 – tell them you want the bridge by the river if staying at cheap digs. Paid $20 ($10 per person) for effectively 2 nights (arrived 0400 and left 0800 next day). We had the room at the top and the back and it was still noisy. Emperor Motel organised bikes for us 2,000Ks and we did a ride around to the different temples skipping the $10 places. Ate at 199 Bar by the river and had a few beers at the cheapest bar in Mandalay Three Five Restaurant for 500Ks a draught beer and Premiership Football. Our initial plan was to visit the Golden Rock but we were told that this was still covered in scaffolding – we now know that it is not. Next time!

Took 0830 train to Mawlamyine. Long journey on the train and really bouncy but this is one of the most scenic rides I’ve taken in a long time. The topography really changes as you head south and the left-overs from the glaciers are amazing. Motor-bike taxi to Breeze Hotel from train was 1,000Ks – too far to walk. Again, twin with bathroom not available, so we took one of their wooden boxes for $14 and breakfast. Real sweat box and barely enough room for two small bags and us.  Moved next day to a triple where we were charged $25 – normally $27 for 3 people (minus $2 for breakfast). Big room, but they kept turning off the power so although we were paying for a fridge it was always warm because they’d turned the power off outside the room.

Temples walk here is great. LP map is wrong. Get the map from Cinderella (available at most places). Cinderella was fully booked. Several places along the water front. 
Tried Beer Garden Two on second night but found it was more expensive than any of the bars we’d already tried and the food not as good as the Ngwe Moe Hotel’s bar. 
Nice markets to walk around and Shampoo island ok, but small. Didn’t do Ogre but some people we met the next day on the boat to Hpa An told is it was a great day out ($10 organised by Breeze). Phone cards available at Breeze for 5,000Ks. They organised the boat ride up to Hpa An for 6,000Ks per person and takes 5 hours with stops. We then found HIFI that were selling tickets for 4,000Ks. Smaller boat but it takes 3 hours. Both boats are covered and have plastic chairs.

Hpa An
Stayed at Soe Brothers in Hpa An. Although it was suitable we checked out Golden Sky Hotel just out of curiosity and the views that you get there for the few dollars more and breakfast and the quality of the rooms, you should consider it. Did the temple cave tour with Soe Brothers – 6 sharing 5,000Ks per person. This is a must-do trip and it was well worth it. When you go into the cave temples, then carry your shoes. As you step deeper in the caves and off of temple ground (generally the tiled areas) you can put your shoes back on. Torch essential. Boat ride under the caves 1,000Ks. Ya The Byan Cave temple cost 3,000Ks per person and was probably one of my least favourite. 

At Soe Brothers we paid $16 for a twin with AC and shared bathroom. Single was $6 ($5 to sleep on the floor on a matress in a communal area). En-suite rooms are next to the shared bathroom and the shower/ sink waste flows from one room, then through the shared bathroom and then to the other en-suite room, so I’d guess you’d hear everything everyone “does” in the middle of the night! Ate at Shwe Myint Mo (local food), San Ma Tau (lots of fishy dishes but good) and Lucky 1. All reasonable. Second day went to Hpan Pu by ferry (500Ks each). Lovely little village with very friendly locals. Tried Palm Juice (toddy) straight from the tree. Went late afternoon but still a hard walk up Hpan Pu mountain monastery/ temple. Had a great swim with the local kids whilst waiting for the return ferry. The water tasted oddly sweet!

Took the bus from the clock-tower to Yangon for 5,000ks. Buses run from 0630. 

Paid 7,000Ks for taxi back into Yangon and stayed again at Hninn Si Budget Inn. We insisted that we didn’t want to wait so were bounced to 3 different taxis before leaving. If you are travelling alone and want to share a taxi, either arrange it with someone on your bus or wait for another bus to arrive and ask other tourists getting off rather than organising a taxi and then waiting – you’ll get a much better price because you’ll be negotiating for the entire taxi rather than a ride.
Took the boat across to Dala for $4 return, per person. Not really that much to do on the other side though there are temples and if you want somewhere new to visit in Yangon? Boat ride is most interesting. A trishaw on the other side costs about 1,000Ks per person for 50 minutes (gets you back in time for one of the ferries). If you don’t want to do the ferry, then it’s still worth sitting down here and people watching. 

Taxi stand around the corner from Hninn Si, but we met a guy outside at 0600. He told me that he’s there every morning to take people that are heading to the airport for either the early Bangkok or KL flights. Asked for $10 and we paid 7,000Ks. Took about 40 minutes first thing in the morning and we were still well ahead of the crowds. There is a $3 café at the airport but we took fruit for breakfast.  No airport tax and a bureau de change after passport control. No shops after hand luggage has been screened so you can’t take water on the plane that has been purchased in the airport shops (500Ks for 200ml).

Mawlamyine’s lack of mass tourists and lovely temples on the ridge.

Temple cave tour in Hpa An and swimming with locals at 5pm waiting for the return day ferry from Hpan Pu (the H is silent in Burmese when at the front of a word)

U Bien Bridge

Changes since October:
Lots more “saga louts” and less friendly tourists. So many tourist and not as many travellers. A lot of tourists just ignoring (or ignorant) to the basics such as taking shoes off in temples, smiling at locals and asking before taking photographs. Too many people giving out money to children, hence asked by kids a lot “Money? Money?” which didn’t happen once in October. Actually watched one idiot try to give a group of river kids in Mandalay a $10 bill and told them to split it. That equates to about 250 mini-pancakes from a street vendor! Idiots.

Hotel prices up by an average of 40% since our last trip, so about 70% up on LP guide. 
As well as official mobile SIM cards ($20+) there are quite a few “local” SIM cards on offer for around 5,000Ks at various hotels.

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