Having just returned from Myanmar, with so many lovely impressions, I thought that rather than give a long blog on our travels and experiences, I would pick the 4 things that had the greatest impact:
1. INLE LAKE – you can see fine temples, shrines and pagodas in many other areas of Asia, but I doubt that you will see anything as fascinating as Inle Lake. Its vastness, the way the people live on this shallow lake and capture floating vegetation for growing vegetables was amazing. The crafts people (weaving, silverware, cigars) were very natural and welcoming and the experience of buzzing around in long tail boats will be something that I will remember for a long time. By far the best thing we saw in Myanmar.
2. THE VALUE OF A GOOD TRAVEL AGENT. We have never really used travel agents before, preferring to arrange everything ourselves, but things in Myanmar started to get a bit complicated so we gave in and worked through a local agent. Probably the best thing we ever did. We suggested destinations, hotels in preferred order, and a couple of guided day trips and everything was organised to the smallest detail – airline ticketing, transfers, hotel vouchers, people to do your check-in, great guides – went like clockwork and saved a lot of stress. And I think that the extra that you pay for the agent is offset by the better deals that they can get with the hotels, airlines etc. There are many good reports on TA about Myanmar agents, ours was Tour Mandalay and we were very happy.
3. THE GOVERNOR'S RESIDENCE. We don’t actually know how much we paid for hotels because the costs were packaged with transfers, air tickets and two day tours, but it must have been significantly less than the rack rates advertised on the hotel websites, which ranged from around $50 for our cheapest up to more than $400. All were fine, but the Governor’s Residence was in a class of its own. It is not a big ritzy hotel with lots of amenities, but a small boutique hotel where you can relax in peace and quiet, and make the occasional foray into the busy chaos that is downtown Yangon. Not cheap, but it’s the only place I would stay if I returned to Yangon.
4. THE WEATHER. Maybe people will contradict me, but the selection of season seems to me to be of utmost importance. I couldn’t imagine zipping around Inle Lake in the rain or in high temperature and humidity. Or bouncing around in the back of a horse cart in Bagan in torrential rain. Likewise, being confined to your room at the Governor’s Residence rather than sinking into the lounges around the pool would greatly diminish the experience. Even if it is much cheaper in the hot or wet seasons, I would definitely opt for December-February when the chances of perfect weather are most likely.