I am planning a trip to Myanmar in December. This is my first time to Myanmar, but I desperately want to do a self-trip as opposed to a guided tour. So far my itinerary looks like this:
Dec 24: Arrive afternoon. Overnight in Yangon
Dec 25: Early morning flight to Mandalay. Overnight
Dec 26: Mandalay
Dec 27: Afternoon flight to Inle Lake, Overnight
Dec 28: Inle Lake
Dec 29: Afternoon flight to Bagan. Overnight
Dec 30: Bagan
Dec 31: Bagan
Jan 1: Afternoon flight to Yangon. Overnight
Jan 2: Depart
I'm mostly interested in cultural/historical places and will come up with my own list of things to do. However, I'd like a recommendation for
* How to book hotels, ideally in some central way - some hotels have web sites and allow online reservations, others don't. I've read a couple of posts here that point to Radiant Tours, but their site has not been updated since 2008. I want to find mid-range hotels, so would appreciate pointers on the best way to book them (I guess I can contact each hotel separately and do reservations via email, but is there an easier way?)
* Once I arrive to a particular city, how can I find an English speaking driver whom I can hire for the entire duration to take me to different places? Or do you still recommend getting a local tour guide who can take me around? Since I'll be mostly sigh-seeing, I'd like to have the driver for the entire day from sunrise to sunset, literally. How much a driver/tour guide would cost per day (not an 8hrs, but a full day to pick me up before sunrise and drop me off after sunset)? I'd appreciate a pointer or two to good local guides/drivers (self-promotion is OK as long as you've been contributing here for a while ;-)
* How can I book airfare in Myanmar? Some recommend just booking once I arrive to Yangon airport. Considering I will be traveling high-season, is it still recommended?
* Is there an alternative to flying between these places? I don't want to spend a full day in a car driving between places, but a couple hours would be ok.
Thanks for your help...