Trip report - December 2011
Replies: 25 - Last Post: Jan 24, 2012 1:51 PM Last Post By: lelia2011
Jan 5, 2012 2:43 AM
Trip report - December 2011I spent 3 weeks in Myanmar this December and before leaving many people have been asking about the increasing prices, exchange rate, budget and booking ahead. This report contains information about our route and prices. It’s the personal opinion and not the absolute truth about the country but might help some travelers.
We have been 2 people travelling together always going in double rooms. If going alone the single rooms are more than half the double rooms so the accommodation will cost more. We have been eating at local restaurants or street food. Until we arrived in Bagan we did not even know how a tourist restaurant looks like.
The exchange office in airport was closed and we couldn’t wait. We exchanged for 2 people the following:
- 100 USD in the market with a rate of 760 Ks
- 600 USD at the official exchange with a rate of 790 Ks
- 200 USD the next day at the official exchange with a rate of 780 Ks
- On Sule Pagoda Road (it’s on the right side when you go from Traders Hotel to the Pagoda)
- Near the market. When you look at the market it’s about 20 meters to the right. I didn’t go inside but it was written exchange on the door.
- Behind the market, somewhere to the left. Same as the one above, I did not go in there.
Overall in 21 days each of us spent 322.845 Kyats (413 USD) and 150 USD leading to 563 USD. With an average of 26 USD/day we did not find the country expensive.
- Food in local restaurants and on street, usually we paid at most 2500 Kyats for 2 persons.
- Buses have good price and except for the one from Bagan to Inle are very good.
- Souvenirs. The people let the price a lot down when you are not interested. In most cases we paid more than their lowest prices as the difference was more important to them than to us.
- Taxi, rickshaw and tuk tuk rides especially on short distances. We found them extremely overpriced in Mandalay and Monywa. If going for a few Kilometers they were expecting to get about 1000 Kyats for each kilometer. The drivers and their prices were the worst part of our trip.
- Fruits. Many times the sellers are trying to get about 2000 Kyats for a Kg of oranges and are also cheating on the scale. Even if you pay for 1 Kg it’s more likely to receive half of it. If you get the local prices they are cheap.
- All rooms in budget places start at about 15 USD, not very expensive but still, I wouldn’t consider them cheap.
- Laundry. They charge for each piece and prices are usually 200-300 for a T-Shirt and 300 – 1000 for a pair of pants. The most expensive was in Monywa and the least expensive in Bagan.
We arrived in the morning in Yangon and the people from Motherland 2 waited for us at the airport. The room was 16 USD with shared bathroom. It was the only place with cakes for breakfast that were on a buffet. Also the tea was available in any quantity, not like in other places. The rooms are ok, the girls at reception do a good job and their booking prices are ok. Exchange rate is bad so don’t do it there. The hotel is not close to the main attractions but if you stay just a night like we did is good value combined with the free airport transfer.
We spent the rest of the day walking around downtown. Not much to see there. The evening was great at Shwedagon Pagoda and it’s really a must see for everyone. I could stay there all day long and don’t get bored. The entry fee is not in USD anymore, they are charging instead 5000 Ks. We also had to pay a little for leaving the shoes in a box but that wasn’t a lot. The experience with the shoes was completely different in the last day when we returned. They put them in plastic bags, asked for a huge amount of 1000 Ks and then they gave us the bags. It was a rip off and I recommend anyone to avoid the people asking for the shoes as you might end up paying for nothing.
The tourist information from the old LP has an incorrect location. Right now there is a travel agency there and they kept the name to make it more confusing. The real tourist information is near the bus station, next to the church. They have Yangon map for free but the ones for Bagan and Inle aren’t available anymore.
We were leaving in the evening to Mandalay so during the day visited Sule Pagoda. Not much to see after going to Shwedagon and can be skipped. The lady at entrance was rude and kind of aggressive with the tourists asking to put donations besides the ticket price. We also visited Botataung Pagoda which was nice.
The bus to Mandalay was good and arrived at 5 in the morning. We were 4 foreigners and the taxi drivers were trying to charge us 8.000 Ks to the city. Even after starting to walk they did not accept a price lower than 6.000 Ks for about 7.5 Km which is huge. The other 2 tourists decided to take their price after a short walk so we also returned. The Mandalay taxi drivers are one of the worst we met, ripping off tourists with any occasion.
We stayed at Nylon Hotel because Royal Guesthouse was full when we tried to book 2 days in advance. Nothing special about the hotel and we never had time for breakfast there. One day we wanted to but they were moving extremely slowly and probably we would have waited for an hour. The older man at reception wasn’t very nice and very rude when a tourist said he will better walk to the bus station than pay the taxi. Sometimes there are also some young people at the reception which were nice. They are also overcharging a lot for booking busses. For a ticket that is 3.500 Ks at the bus station they were asking 6.000 Ks.
We went to Mingun; make sure you get there for the 9 o’clock boat as it’s the only one. Nice place and worth the visit.
In the evening we went on Mandalay Hill, also nice but not something that is unforgettable.
We had dinner at the chapatti stand, delicious.
We took a shared taxi for 20.000 Ks to go at Sagain, Inwa and U Bein bridge for the sunset.
Sagain is very nice and well worth the visit. When we were climbing the stairs one monk was coming to tourists asking for donations. I find it impolite to ask for donations. A donations is if you want to give and can be any amount. I gave him a few hundred just to leave us alone but then he said it’s not good and I should pay 1000. I didn’t do that and tried to enjoy the view.
Inwa is a very nice place but not in the usual tour with horse carts. They will take you to 3 places and I found only one of them interesting. The others could be easily skipped. The landscape around is beautiful with fields of rice but you will see it only from the cart. I highly recommend coming here by bike and just do it on your own. The normal way is also expansive. Horse cart is 5.000 Ks for 2 people and ticket price for those 3 places is 10 USD. At the end of our tour the man with the horse cart asked 2.000 Ks more because he considered we stayed there too long. Of course we didn’t give him any money as there is no time limit written there. We stayed about 2 hours and half when even in LP it’s written that usual tour is 3 hours. I guess they are seeing a lot of tourists lately and want just to get the money, take you there, and make a few photos than leave.
At this point we were really disappointed of local people. There was nothing like the stories we read before going there. People were just trying to get the money from tourists and nothing more. Fortunately after we left Mandalay everything changed and these behaviors disappeared.
U Bein bridge is beautiful, many tourists but a nice view for the sunset.
We used 2 pickup trucks to get at Kyaukme where we met our guide for going on a trek. The city is small, we saw only 1 tourist group a day for a few minutes. If you go away from main street the people will invite you to their homes offering food and drinks. It’s been great after the things we did not like in Mandalay.
We stayed at A Yone Oo for 15 USD with shared bathroom.
Day 6, 7
We went on the trek with Naing Naing (firstname.lastname@example.org). He did a great job and was the best guide we ever had. The trek is on the hills, you should be a bit fit to make it. We went through many villages, schools and slept in someone’s home. The people are really not used with tourists and that was great. Price was 25.000 Ks for each of us in a group of 2 people.
We went by bus to Mandalay and then to Monywa. We stayed for 14 USD at Shwe Taung Tarn. Very big plate of fruits for breakfast but the fried eggs were half raw and couldn’t be eaten. They also try to charge a lot for laundry – 300 for a t-shirt and 1000 for pants. When we gave them just a few t-shirts they tried to offer a better price but I didn’t even want to talk to them again.
We haven’t seen any foreigner while staying here.
Trip by tuk tuk to Hpo Win Daung Caves for 20.000 Ks first price was 25.000. The caves are nice because the statues are sculptures and they have never been restored.
Trip by tuk tuk to the standing Buddha for 10.000 ks first price was 20.000. The place is really impressive and the big 4 should actually be big 5. I would go there again. If you have just half a day, go here. It’s closer and great. The elevator stops working at 5 p.m.
We took the bus to Pakkoku then local boat to Nyaung U. We walked to the guesthouses and somehow ended on the restaurants street. We looked on the map and saw only New Heaven close so went there. The room was 15 USD clean and good. The breakfast was by far the smallest from the whole trip. The 2 pieces of bread were tiny and soft, it was like eating nothing. They also found probably the smallest bananas and eggs on market.
Day 11, 12
We visited the temples by bike. Everyone says Bagan is expensive but for us was the least expensive place from the whole trip. We rented bikes for 1.500 Ks. The place is amazing and everyone should go.
We went to Mount Popa. There is not much to see there and the place looks interesting only in pictures. It was not worth the time to go there and is also far.
We took the bus to Kalaw. The roads sometimes are bad but that is not the worst part. The bus was very bad and completely unexpected as all the others have been good. At 5 in the morning it was also cold and the bus was moving with the doors open. I did not see 2 identical seats there. Some of them were benches; others had more or less leg room. I could hardly get in my seat and I’m not even very tall. The bus arrived in Kalaw around 3 o’clock.
We stayed at Eastern Paradise for 15 USD. They tried to sell us a 20 USD room saying they have nothing cheaper available but quickly remembered one of them is free when we wanted to leave. Good room and very good breakfast.
Day 15, 16, 17
Trekking from Kalaw to Inle with Ever Smile agency. Someone from Harry’s agency tried to approach us offering a better price. After I told him they have bad reputation and wouldn’t go even for free he left. We were a group of 4 people, each paying 10.000 Ks a day without the water included. The trek is very easy, nothing compared to the one in Kyaukme and everyone can do it. The views are nice but there are way too many tourists there. Some people are begging for money which was unthinkable on the other trek. Between the two I recommend the one in Kyaukme or Hsipaw which I’ve been told that it’s also good.
We went with Jimmy from Ever Smile. He was good during the trek even if not a lot of information was offered. This was partially our fault too as we were walking too fast leaving him behind or too slow taking pictures. The food was delicious, some of the best from the whole trip. He managed to avoid the other tourists in first day and most time for the second as we requested. He also paid for us to go at a funeral even if it was not included in price from the beginning. What we did not like was that he somehow got upset when we took the boat and said we wanted to go at Indein. We also wanted to keep the board for the whole day but he said it’s impossible, that we do not need it and other lies. I do not know what upset him but wasn’t nice at all. I would still recommend Ever Smile but going with his nephew or his sister. When returned after a few days in Kalaw. They gave us tea, fruits for the bus, kept our luggage for a few hours and helped us buy things for the right price in the market.
We had dinner at a restaurant which we found out later that is the new pick in LP from December 2011. The food was horrible, extremely salty and bad taste. If that was not enough one of us got sick from the salad and has been throwing up for the next 2 nights. This place should really be avoided.
We stayed at Gipsy, 12.000 Ks for a good room. They have correct prices for boats and can provide accurate information about travelling around. We rented bikes and went in the villages. It was very nice and even managed to find a non touristy village where people were making sugar. We were invited there, had tea, they also gave us sugar to take at home. Great place but I have to check a map for the name of the village. In the evening we went like 10 Km away to another village in a small restaurant with good fish.
We got a boat to go down the river up the last checkpoint where they charge 10 USD. The boat was 31.000 Ks for 5 people and also included a trip to Indein. The trip down the river was nice; we also visited a market and port where only local people do business. On the way back we went to some pagodas on a hill, also nice. Unfortunately here some people from the group started to go in the village and we lost a lot of time. Because of that we had only a little more than one hour at Indein. Half an hour was also lost because of a monk kid who led us in the opposite direction and was trying to get money for this. We have seen only the upper part but I’m sure there is a lot more to do there.
We did not want to wait at the junction so went by pickup to Kalaw. We left the luggage at Ever Smile, gave them the pencils and pens to distribute at school. I tried once to give them to the kids but they were trying to get as many as possible from my hand and also stabbed me with them by mistake. We thought it’s much better to give leave everything there instead of returning home with them.
The bus to Yangon was very good, also booked with their help. They picked one of the best bus companies for us and it was great.
Nothing much here, just went from bus station to hotel, changed back to USD some Kyats and ended the trip at Shwedagon.
We stayed at Ocean Pearl as Motherland 2 was fully booked 6 days in advance for 20 USD. It was the only place we remembered that has free airport transfer. When we asked about getting to the airport the next day they told us the taxi price. Not being sure if they should offer the free ride or not we went in an internet café and checked their web page. We were right and it was supposed to be free. Therefore I called them and asked for information about airport transfer and only after I had the confirmation that it’s free I told them we are already staying there and want to use it. Trying to make us pay for something that should have been free wasn’t nice at all. Also, the toilet smell was coming in the room.
If you have any questions I’ll try to answer them.
Jan 5, 2012 9:32 AM
Jan 5, 2012 8:00 PM
2Uncooked eggs! Stabbed by a pen! People wanted you to pay for stuff!
Your visit to Myanmar seems to have been hell on earth.
Next time, go to Paris, where restaurateurs drag you in from the street for free food, the Louvre welcomes you in at no charge, and stylos have lovely soft points :-)
Or New York, where the cab drivers are renowned for their charming ways and discount prices :-)
Jan 6, 2012 1:15 AM
Jan 6, 2012 2:22 AM
Nice report, man, Burma must be getting very popular indeed, as there 3 trip reports in 2 days, normally we get 1 report per month.
Jan 6, 2012 2:41 AM
Jan 6, 2012 2:53 AM
6Thanks, I'm glad it helped some people. Burma is getting popular and that's why my tour covered the big 4 this time. My expectations are that everybody will go there on first trip so on my second I could avoid the crowds going in other places.
Jan 6, 2012 3:09 AM
7Thanks for such a detailed and informative trip report. I am going to Burma in a few weeks and your report has been so helpful. Can you tell me, do you recommend travelling by overnight bus? It sounds like you went on some buses which were fine and just the one bad bus (Bagan to Kalaw)? Did you usually book your tickets through your guesthouse? And how far in advance did you usually book your bus tickets? Were the buses ever full up?
Jan 6, 2012 4:32 AM
8We are going to Myanmar mid January 2012 for 28 days.Did you book hotels in advance via a travel agent or just walk in? Up to now in all our travels have just walked in to guesthouse/hotel- O.K. stayed not O.K looked for another place.
Edited by: davidc
Jan 6, 2012 5:43 AM
I liked going with the night buses and would do it again. It saved a lot of time and they were all good. As you said, the only bad one was between Bagan and Kalaw but that is a day bus. For booking I did the following:
- Yangon to Mandalay at guest house one day in advance
- Kyaukme to Mandalay before going on the trek, don't know if it was necessary or not at the bus station
- Mandalay to Monywa I just went to the bus station and bought a ticket to the next bus that was leaving in half an hour
- Monywa to Pakkoku in the morning at the bus station. I went there 40 minutes in advance and had a seat but was one of the few left.
- Bagan to Kalaw was booked 4 days in advance at the bus station. As far as I know there is only one bus a day and lots of people using it. Other travelers told me the bus was full 2-3 days in advance so here it's really indicated to book as soon as possible.
- Kalaw to Yangon from the bus station lots of time in advance. I knew the exact date as it was the end of the trip so I didn't see any reason to wait. Other people were booking at the guest house 2 days in advance and it was ok.
Hope this helps :)
I sometimes booked in advance but never with a travel agent. Before going in Myanmar I booked on internet the first night and than I was just calling them a few days in advance. This was necessary in the following places:
- Mandalay as the bus was arriving very early in the morning and I didn't want to roam on the streets waking up the people at reception.
- Monywa, in LP there was only one budget hotel and didn't want to take any chance to find it full. When I arrived there were at least 2 rooms available.
- Inle to sent my luggage from Kalaw.
- Yangon on return because the places to sleep are spread out and I didn't want to waste time.
For the ones in Kyaukme, Bagan and Kalaw I just went to the door and asked if they have a room available. It was very easy in all cases.
Jan 6, 2012 6:29 AM
Jan 6, 2012 6:48 AM
Jan 6, 2012 8:48 AM
Jan 6, 2012 9:16 PM
13sorry all...but I sorta agree with #2....yes the post is detailed but also sounds like some whinging (and no I cant be bothered reading all of it)....small size toast/soft eggs...geez, how rude of the damn Burmese to try and skimp out on your free breakfast...!!!
And a very poor people trying to make money out of rich foreigners (and yes you ARE rich to them)
Just one comment...re: Nylon guesthouse..I have stayed there several times, and yes the older guy can be 'blunt', but I have seen him have to put up with some damn rude/arrogant/painful tourists (eg one American complaining about the air-con not working when the power goes out - the ceiling fans still do - eve tho it was not even hot weather, and demanding a discount) so I cant blame him if he looses it sometimes. And as you do mention, the younger guy is real nice. And no it is 'nothing special'...if you want something special spend $100 a night.
Jan 6, 2012 9:20 PM
14sorry..one more comment...re: your last day 21...I have also stayed at Ocean Pearl several times...their free airport transfer is for when you are arriving from overseas, not for when you are flying out of the country. Tho they will try and help IF they have a car going to the airport anyway to pick up some incoming guests.
Lower your expectations of what the locals have to do for you.
(3 star Hotel)
From US$214.90 per night
(3 star Hotel)
From US$153.24 per night
(0 star Hotel)
From US$35.35 per night