The buttons below link to details of our visit to Myanmar. The gallery link takes you to photos of our trip and 'About' includes travel practicalities as well as a reading list.

Introduction Yangon to Mandalay Places - Bagan and InlePeople Crafts about Gallery

Vicky's blog has a lot more detail and colour. You can read the first episode here

We travelled with Panoramic Journeys.

 

About travelling

We organised our trip with a group of friends through Panoramic Journeys who specialise in trips to Burma. The country is getting much easier to get around. There are a number of good internal airlines, taxis are relatively cheap and more people speak English but we still felt that to do as much as we did in two weeks would be hard without someone organising it for you.

Savoy HotelLike India, Myanmar is subject to monsoon weather. The most popular (and crowded) time to visit is between November and January. In February to May it gets much hotter although if you can stand the heat then April is a great time to visit as it coincides with the Burmese New Year and many festivals. June to August is likely to be wet. September and October are recommended as post monsoon and not so crowded.

We found some excellent places to stay during our trip. The Savoy Hotel in Yangon (left) was very comfortable with teak floors and old colonial furnishing. The food was very good and it has a lovely terrace and bar. We liked the simple but comfortable Riverside Hotel at Hsipaw and found the Tharabar Gate at Bagan very comfortable although the hotel food was not great. Inle Lake View Resort at Inle Lake had fabulous lakeside rooms (below) and the Bayview in Ngapali provided a comfortable last stopover by the beach.

Inle Resort

Credit cards are now more widely accepted in Myanmar although it is wise to keep a supply of US dollars for those hotels or restaurants which don't. The local currency is the kyat (pronounced chat). Currently there are about 1000 kyat to the USD. Official money exchangers are now reliable although make sure that you have new USD notes as dirty or older notes can be rejected. Like many countries you also often get better rates for higher denomination ($100) notes. ATMs now are more common and some work with foreign cards. Tourist prices vary widely from local prices and meals in local restaurants can be a tenth the price of local hotels. You can also expect to bargain for most things. A shirt being offered for 15000 kyat quickly comes down to 5000 in a local market.

We really enjoyed local Burmese food. Similar to its Thai neighbour you can find good spicy salads and curries, fish, chicken, pork and beef. As well as the delicious mohinga soup for breakfast we enjoyed tea leaf salad, Shan noodles, stuffed fish and tomato salads at Inle lake, and some excellent grilled fish at Ngapali Beach. Burmese wine was also a surprise. Red Mountain is the most successful label and their Sauvignon Blanc was very drinkable although bottle quality varied greatly. Myanmar beer was also very welcoming after hot afternoons looking at pagodas. You can also get local whisky, rum and grappa all of which got the approval of our group; and at $3.50 for a bottle of whisky it is pretty good value too!

Yangon food

Myanmar is definately changing fast. There are far more cars in Yangon than a few years ago, Thandwe is extending its runway so that it can take international flights, Bagan already feels saturated with tourists and could become a Disney experience like Ankhor Wat. Be prepared for lots of other visitors when you go.

Books about Burma:

Twilight over Burma by Inge Sargent: written by an Austrian woman who married the prince of Hsipaw this provides a fascinating description of life in the Shan States and of the political turmoil in the early 60's when the military government siezed power.

From the Land of Green Ghosts by Pascal Khoo Thwe: is a magical account of a boy, brought up in a Padaung village, near Inle Lake, who gets caught up in the 1988 student riots, escapes to join the rebels in the jungle and eventually makes his way to Cambridge, England. Beautifully written with insights into tribal life and how the Burmese survived amid a brutally repressive regime.