MYANMAR TRAVEL DIARIES ✈ Getting the Inside Info

We booked our trip to Myanmar about a year ahead. There was an Air Asia promo and we went for it! Of course we also had to keep our eyes out for promo tickets to and from KL since there is not direct flight from Jakarta. Before our trip I was lucky enough to meet Diana, a fellow DiploWife who was just there last December. So prior to our February 2011 trip to Bagan I wrote her and she was helpful in giving us the “inside info” on Myanmar. More after the jump! 
Good to know:
  • Most of the people are Buddhist and it is famous for it’s dizzying number of pagodas
  • It has been secluded from the rest of the world for many years and has only recently opened up.
  • With this opening up, there has been rapid changes in the past few months according to a DiploFriend posted in Myanma. For example:
    • There used to be no traffic, but now they are starting to experience it.
    • Now you can find a few air-conditioned taxis (very rare though) when in the past they were non-existent.
    • There used to be no ATM machines in Yangon, but now they are starting to have some but only for local accounts.
  • It is better to change money in a bank or official money changer. Rates in the airport are low.
  • They accept dollars, but only new, crisp bills. They do not accept markings or folds on the bills (this is exactly the same as Indonesia)
  • Compared to other places, very little info can be find on Myanmar, it’s hotels and restaurants. A lot of the info available online are also outdated.
  • We got a brief from the Philippine Embassy which was helpful, but it also need some updating.
  • There is no way to book hotels or flights from Yangon to Bagan or Mandalay online. Everything has to be done via a trusted travel agent because you will have to deposit payment money in advance.
Thankfully I met the lovely Diana and her husband B at the Japanese Ambassadors farewell reception. And she emailed me about their experiences and recommendations for Myanmar. I feel it is a good way to start writing about the incredible country that is Myanmar.

Good evening DiploWife,
It was nice to meet you at that party it’s nice we can exchange emails;as I am happy to share our great experience in Myanmar, please find bellow a few ”inside info.”We traveled following this itinerary:
  • 3 days Yangon
  • 2 days Inle Lake
  • 3 days Mandalay
  • 3 days Bagan
  • and back 2 days Yangon
We traveled within Myanmar with Mandalay Airlines (the best option), Bagan Airlines (not bad) and KBZ (not so good).You can not make the booking by yourself, but you can have an idea of the price requested by the agent comparing with the internet displayed prices.
 
YANGON
It’s important to have a car in Yangon from the tourist agent, their taxi are old and almost falling apart.
In Yangon, these are impressive : the Shwedagon Pagoda and the Big Sleeping Buddha. You can also visit the old Harbour and Karaweik Lake (they have here a floating restaurant and every night a performance with traditional dances and costumes (… kids enjoyed  it…)
 
For shopping I would advise Scott Market and for Gems you can try The shops from the same building with Gems Museum.
 
INLE LAKE
For Inle Lake, you should fly to Heho and than travel by car and than by boat. Inle Lake is a place, we found fascinating, where houses, restaurants, school, hotels, gardens and all the “infrastructure” is on the water. Children are playing in front of the houses, either in the water, or in the boat, the animals they raise, are kept in the floating cages, amazingly, they have floating gardens (as I never seen some where else), they plant  and harvest all the plants from the boat. You can visit some workshops were they show to the tourist how they make clothes from lotus and silk, how they make silver jewelry; we visited also Jumping Cat Monastery  and a few Pagodas (one of them in a cave) and traditional markets.
 
We stayed in www.inlefloatingresort.com/ (very nice …)
 
MANDALAY
Very nice place, hills full with golden pagodas. http://myanmartravelinformation.com/mandalay/mandalay-virtual-tour.htm
 
You can visit the Palace, the longest tek bridge, U Bein Bridge in AmarapuraWe spent 1 day in Amarapura area and one in Sagaing (where you can go on famous Mandalay Hills). There is one Monastery, Amarapura Mahagandayon monastery, close with the bridge, where every morning at 10:00 am all the monks are having lunch and they are gathering in front of the Monastery.  I would advise to make time for a cruise across the Ayeyarwaddy River, on the west side, where lies the Great Mingun Pahtodawgyi and Mingun Bell.
 
We can try to visit also Mogok (we didn’t do it), the place where comes the most valuable gems in the world.
 
BAGAN
A wonderful place to be … ancient city, extraordinary well preserved … just go and see, wait to be surprised.
 
We stayed in Amazing Bagan Hotel, it was a great choice; after the daily program, we took the bicycle from the hotel and get lost in the town, where they have nice restaurants and places fr shopping. Actually I remember I told you, Bagan is the best for shopping.
Hopefully you’ll find all these useful and you will enjoy your journey.
 
We used Yellow Earth Travel Agency – Mary is the owner’s name, you can use my name when you approach her.
 
info@yellowearthtravel.com
 
Have a good day,
Diana
 

We also asked Diana about recommendations for hotels and restaurants. Here is her helpful reply:

We stayed in Yangon at Panda Hotel (not very good – clean, but old, we chose it because there almost all were fully booked); we paid like $60 /night. In Bagan we stayed in Hotel “Amazing Bagan”, very nice place; we paid like 70/night/room. We found the food quite OK, in both places.
 
In Yangon, there was a nice restaurant, close with Scott Market – Zawgi  (http://www.virtualtourist.com/travel/Asia/Burma/Yangon_Division/Rangoon-1169245/Restaurants-Rangoon-Zawgyi-BR-1.html), 
 
I was told there is a very nice French restaurant “La Planteure”, you have to ask, we didn’t go there; we also had a great dinner, on the lake at that floating restaurant where they have a traditional show also – Karaweik Hall (http://www.virtualtourist.com/travel/Asia/Burma/Yangon_Division/Rangoon-1169245/Restaurants-Rangoon-Karaweik_Hall-BR-1.html) 

In Bagan, we used to eat in the old part of the town, there are small restaurants close to the hotel (I remember one we used to go many times as they said they have the best burger in town – it’s true!) Weather Spoons, they have friendly and nice staff.

Thanks again to Diane for being so very helpful! The information she gave us was valuable guide for our trip. I will also be sharing with you in pictures our own experience of Mayanmar and how we prepared for it. Unfortunately we were only able to visit Yangon and Bagan. Inle Lake and Mandalay will have to wait for a future trip!  Stay tuned for our Myanmar adventure!

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Lovely comments

  1. says

    I just sent a link to your myanmar travels to a friend who’s traveling to Thailand and wondering what to do next! This is super insightful! see you soon!

    • says

      Hi Anna, wow I am honored that you thought of sharing my blog post to your friend. Thank you. =) I hope to be posting more of my Myanmar pictures soon! I hope your friend enjoys it! P.S. Please tell your friend if she decides to go that when she eats fruits to make sure it’s washed with mineral water. My poor husband ate fruits that were washed with the regular tap and did not get to enjoy the last 2 days of our stay because he had the worst episode of a bum tummy in his life. But aside from that we really enjoyed our trip!

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