Private Myanmar tour

This item appears on page 34 of the January 2012 issue.
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Woman and child with faces decorated — Mandalay.

Two friends and I went to Myanmar for eight days, Feb. 8-15, 2011. I really love traveling to unusual places, and this was one of the most different places I have ever been to.

We got our visas in Thailand but had to waste a day of our trip to do it. The rush cost was about $86 each. (A visa purchased in advance in the US costs $20 from the Myanmar Embassy; 202/332-3344, http://mewashingtondc.com. — Editor)

We flew to Yangon from Bangkok on Air Asia — a one-hour flight and not expensive ($75-$80 each).

We had arranged for a private guide after seeing a review by ITN subscriber Linda Howland (Sept. ’10, pg. 50). Tony Hla Shwe (phone 09 73097582 or e-mail tonyhlashwe@gmail.com) met us at the airport with a van and driver.

Tony picked us up at around 8 a.m. daily and took us to all sorts of places. We drove on good, new highways from Yangon to Bagan, which has 4,000-plus temples, and then flew to Mandalay, the second-largest city and a center for Buddhists. Tony and the driver took the van to Mandalay and picked us up at the airport. After two nights there, we flew to Yangon and Bangkok, then to the US.

The total cost for guide and car was $800 each. We wired some money to Tony before the trip and paid him the balance on arrival. In addition, we paid him to get our Bagan-Mandalay plane tickets for us (about $75 each).

Tony also made arrangements for our hotels, and all were very inexpensive at $8-$15 per person per night. The nicest one, Kaday Aung Hotel in New Bagan, with beautiful grounds and a swimming pool, etc., cost $15 per person, breakfast included. We had a room for three and it was comfortable.

The hotels all furnished breakfast, and we stopped in little cafés or tea shops for lunch. Sometimes we paid and sometimes Tony paid; all were very inexpensive ($1-$2 per person unless you wanted canned Coke). The food was pretty good and nobody got sick, but watch out for the hot chilies.

Women unloading clay pots from a boat on the Ayerwaddy River — Myanmar. Photos: Lin

All over Myanmar you will see temples, some really huge, and many monks. Once, we turned off the main road to go to a temple complex to see a huge python which the locals believe is a reincarnation of a woman. They put money on the snake, which is right there and not in a cage. We talked to some young monks who spoke English.

We also took some rides on a small ferry across the Ayerwaddy (Irrawaddy) River. There we saw some women unloading a small boat by walking on a very narrow wooden plank while each carrying three large, empty, ceramic water pots stacked on their heads. I lifted one of the pots and it was heavy, maybe 20 pounds or so.

In the countryside they use the pots for water, as there is no running water and no electricity, though in one of the tea shops there was a community phone.

Myanmar requires tourists to use US dollars, but there are no ATMs, and, as yet, credit cards cannot be used. Be sure you take nice clean, unwrinkled cash with you. Some people can change some dollars to the local currency for small purchases.

If anyone would like to know more, you can e-mail me c/o ITN.

SASCHA LIN
Fairfield, CA

Please login or subscribe to ITN to read the entire post.
Woman and child with faces decorated — Mandalay.

Two friends and I went to Myanmar for eight days, Feb. 8-15, 2011. I really love traveling to unusual places, and this was one of the most different places I have ever been to.

We got our visas in Thailand but had to waste a day of our trip to do it. The rush cost was about $86 each. (A visa purchased in advance in the US costs $20 from the Myanmar Embassy; 202/332-3344, http://mewashingtondc.com. — Editor)

We flew to Yangon from Bangkok on Air Asia — a one-hour flight and not expensive ($75-$80 each).

We had arranged for a private guide after seeing a review by ITN subscriber Linda Howland (Sept. ’10, pg. 50). Tony Hla Shwe (phone 09 73097582 or e-mail tonyhlashwe@gmail.com) met us at the airport with a van and driver.

Tony picked us up at around 8 a.m. daily and took us to all sorts of places. We drove on good, new highways from Yangon to Bagan, which has 4,000-plus temples, and then flew to Mandalay, the second-largest city and a center for Buddhists. Tony and the driver took the van to Mandalay and picked us up at the airport. After two nights there, we flew to Yangon and Bangkok, then to the US.

The total cost for guide and car was $800 each. We wired some money to Tony before the trip and paid him the balance on arrival. In addition, we paid him to get our Bagan-Mandalay plane tickets for us (about $75 each).

Tony also made arrangements for our hotels, and all were very inexpensive at $8-$15 per person per night. The nicest one, Kaday Aung Hotel in New Bagan, with beautiful grounds and a swimming pool, etc., cost $15 per person, breakfast included. We had a room for three and it was comfortable.

The hotels all furnished breakfast, and we stopped in little cafés or tea shops for lunch. Sometimes we paid and sometimes Tony paid; all were very inexpensive ($1-$2 per person unless you wanted canned Coke). The food was pretty good and nobody got sick, but watch out for the hot chilies.

Women unloading clay pots from a boat on the Ayerwaddy River — Myanmar. Photos: Lin

All over Myanmar you will see temples, some really huge, and many monks. Once, we turned off the main road to go to a temple complex to see a huge python which the locals believe is a reincarnation of a woman. They put money on the snake, which is right there and not in a cage. We talked to some young monks who spoke English.

We also took some rides on a small ferry across the Ayerwaddy (Irrawaddy) River. There we saw some women unloading a small boat by walking on a very narrow wooden plank while each carrying three large, empty, ceramic water pots stacked on their heads. I lifted one of the pots and it was heavy, maybe 20 pounds or so.

In the countryside they use the pots for water, as there is no running water and no electricity, though in one of the tea shops there was a community phone.

Myanmar requires tourists to use US dollars, but there are no ATMs, and, as yet, credit cards cannot be used. Be sure you take nice clean, unwrinkled cash with you. Some people can change some dollars to the local currency for small purchases.

If anyone would like to know more, you can e-mail me c/o ITN.

SASCHA LIN
Fairfield, CA