Adventures, Races, Kit and Life
Burma is hot at the moment ! Not just the temperature but there is no doubt that Burma/Myanmar is currently an on-trend holiday destination. This makes sense to as there is a small window of opportunity to get a taste of the old Burma before the rapid onset of industry and tourism changes it forever. Following a couple of articles I’ve written ( Inthein and The Golden Rock ) we’ve had lots of requests on our travel agenda, so I thought it was worth summarizing the trip here ( basically so I can just forward it on next time ! ).
We flew into Yangon, but spent very little time there, just 24 hours, and instead decided to nip off to hike up to the Golden Rock. Next we ventured up to Bagan, where we had four nights, including Christmas Day to enjoy the relaxed environment. We allocated most time here because her research suggested there was lots to do and also a good opportunity to chill out if we wanted ( over Christmas ). We had the luxury of a balloon trip over the Temple Fields on Christmas Day, which was incredible, plenty of time to explore the temples by various methods of transport and also managed a day trip to Mount Popa, which was well worth it. We then had just two nights at Inle lake. It was unique and beautiful, and perfect and to finish our Burma experience. The two days were just enough to see the lake and all of its key attractions ( my favourite being Inthein ). Ideally we would have had a little more time here to do some treking in the local mountains, which are supposed to be fantastic.
Fortunately there is plenty that we didn’t get to see ! This means that we have a great reason to go back and explore a little further, although with our beautiful daughter this time, who I’m sure will be keen to see the country in which she was conceived !
Loose plan and hotel details
20 Dec Arrival Yangon. Mid afternoon. Accom = Park View at an extortionate US$255 per night !!! Shwedagon Paya visit, then Dinner.
21 Dec City Tour on foot. Great lunch at Monsoon. 4pm departed for the Golden Rock. Accom = Kyaikhtiyo Sane let Tin Resort, which was practical. Superior HKD 790 per room
22 Dec Golden Rock- Yangon. Hiked up and truck down. Car back to Yangon. Accom = Micasa apartments, strategically close to the airport, an fit for purpose. US$120 ( and a good breakfast buffet )
23 Dec Yangon- Bagan. Arrive in morning. Accom = Kumudara Hotel delivered nicely. Junior Suite HKD 650 per room. Four nights
27 Dec Bagan- Inle. Arrive Early morning. Lake Golden Island Cottage – beautiful. Superior Room HKD 850 per room. Two nights
29 Dec Inle Lake – Yangon
The Park View hotel which was disappointing, mainly because with the high cost came certain expectations of quality and service which fell short, a long way short ! We had decided to start with a more “reputable” hotel to help ease my parents into Myanmar and this worked.
On arrival, there was no daily dallying and we went straight out to visit the Shwedagoan Paya, in order to experience it in daylight, before the sunset. We had a guide, who was informative and worth the small cost. He vanished as the sun came down and we were left to appreciate the beauty as the light changed from the brightness of the day, through the half light of dawn and into night-time. It was fantastic. Both the people watching, as it is a hive of activity and the physical temple, by day and lit at night, were a delight.
Food options are limited and we headed to Monsoon which delivered as promised and we had a great local meal complemented with a few chips !
We spent the following day strolling around the city by foot. It was a pleasant experience, and stepping into the local hustle and bustle meant that there was plenty to see, and a great way to appreciate the local culture if you’ve got time. Some of the highlights were; a local breakfast at a local café ( alcohol wipes needed ), haggling with the moneychangers and narrowly avoiding getting scammed ( it’s much easier to simply use ATMs as there is no longer a significant differential between the government exchange rates and the Street exchange rates ), the fortunetellers expanding on the future for my mum and wife and getting to make a wish by releasing birds ( obviously you have to pay to do this! ) at Sule Paya.
At mid afternoon we began our journey through the countryside to Mount Kyaiktiyo, which we were due to climb early the following morning in order to see the auspicious Golden Rock.
Mount Kyaiktiyo ( The Golden Rock )
See the article I have written on this delightful hike. It is highly recommended experience.
Tip – Don’t forget your torch for the temples !
We stayed at Kumudara Hotel, which had been recommended by 2 friends. Be sure to ask for a first floor room with a view of the temples. It was by no means five-star ( that will be there in the next five years when everything else is spoilt ) but it was a perfect base for our Bagan experience. The rooms were good, with incredible views. Breakfast was good, the location was good and the swimming pool was pleasant, although needed a few more sun loungers. The restaurant was limited but it was the only place serving a version of “Christmas dinner”, complemented by the chef in his home-made Santa outfit and the rest of the staff singing Christmas carols ( quite uniquely as they had the words but it never actually heard them before). Overall it was a great experience and although far from perfect they did a really good job.
View from the Hotel’s pool out across the temples.
The hotel were able to arrange all of the activities. This started with our initial exploration of the temples, by the classic and very slow plod of the Horse and cart. It was very, very slow but allowed us to get a perspective on the area and the little additional tourist information from the driver.
Touring by bicycle is by far the best way to cover the distance between the temples. A good map is needed ( and map reading skills to ! ). I was training for an ultra-marathon, and therefore up early and out on the trails exploring. It was fantastic running terrain. You don’t get much better background scenery to shuffle through than this.
The food was generally quite poor quality in Bagan. This is the downside of getting their early in the Country’s tourism development. A small price to pay.
The river side restaurant, “the Green Elephant” gave me food poisoning and they also tried to take advantage of us on taxi fares ! I would avoid this place !
The best food we had was at a new Thai style restaurant on Khaye St, near the Eight Faces Paya, and there seem to be some decent looking restaurants ( for Burma ) in this area.
We hired a boat and cruised out into the river to experience the renowned Bagan sunset , which was errrr…well just about okay…. It was all about the experience really, which was a little rushed at that. ( Lake Inle a few days later was incredible ).
We did a day trip out to monkey infested ( I a nice way ) Mount Popa, and stopped to see some local crafts en route. This was a pleasant day out and I would recommend it. Another article on this is due to follow….
On Christmas Day we were up at the crack of dawn for our balloons over Bagan experience. See the specific article on this. It was fantastic experience which will take some beating and well worth the money ! The cost on Christmas Day was USD 330 per person.
We had a total of four days in Bagan and this was perfect to see everything we wanted to see, and to get some chill out, holiday relaxation time as well.
This was definitely an area where we could have comfortably spend more time.
It was a longer journey than expected from the airport to in the lake, but early in the morning, when the light was coming up and the local farmers were going to work, this was a cultural experience in itself. We took a taxi and there seemed to be fixed prices.
On arriving at the lake we needed to arrange a long boat to take us to our accommodation. This was pretty straightforward and there are fixed prices again.
The journey down the river to the lake was a great start to the day, and as we entered the lake itself we were greeted by a number of the famous fisherman. A perfect start to the Inle experience.
For more information please see the separate article on Inle Lake and Inthein village.
The hotel was fantastic ! Sleeping snugly, in lovely rooms, raised up on stilts above the Lakes itself. The food was excellent, local wine not bad and it was all topped off by incredible sunsets ! A perfect finish !
From Inle it was back to Yangon and then a flight back to Hong Kong just a few hours later. Overall a fantastic trip with huge amounts of variety, lots and lots of activity and still chance to relax and chill out. A very memorable Christmas !
Yangon- Bagan ( 06: 15 – 07:35 ) HKD $ 1280 per person
Bagan- Inle Lake ( 07:50 – 09:05 ) HKD $ 950 per person
Inle Lake – Yangon ( 09:20 -10:30 ) HKD $ 1280 per person
Transfer to the Golden Rock
21 Dec’12 Yangon- Golden Rock 05 seated car with A/C
22 Dec’12 Golden Rock- Yangon 05 seated car with A/C
HKD $ 3420 ( Round Trip )
Approximate Exchange Rates
HK$ : US$ = 12 : 1
HK$ : GBP = 7.8 : 1