I am recording my trip as a payback to TA that helped me plan it.
We, 2 pals in mid 40s, travelled first time to Myanmar.
Being both scenery rather cultural kind of guys, we decided on DIY kind of trip. And what we got was beyond our expectation.
Let me start by saying what is most memorable. The people and safety. We travelled the world over the past 10years and no place compares to Myanmar. Go now - everywhere is safe although some places may not look it such as bus station, train station, etc.
The least memorable for us is however food (have to be truthful here). We are from Thailand and by comparison, we found Burmese foods to be bland and greasy in general. There were some wonderful cuisines such as Mohinga, Shan noodles, bean paste based food, and breakfast /lunch fried items. So we ended up with mixed feeling for food on a daily basis - some day fabulous and some disappointment. The way it usually is.
Planning : we took 3 month planning and since we traveled in rainy season, we took some risk in not getting what we planned. however, saving only our last day may be, we only found perfect weather, not too warm/cold and less sunlight than summer time. Light shower daily as expected but nothing to sway us from our adventure. We got to do almost everything as we planned.
Accommodation: we use only Agoda for booking and this is the first time we use Agoda. Usually we use booking.com but found agoda to be more varied in choice and better price overall in Myanmar. I'll list all the hotels and prices later. Most we chose was 3 stars- with only exception is Yangon and Inle where we used a guesthouse and a 4 star properties, respectively. Almost all places is ensuite double rooms with A/C, hot shower, free wifi, laundry, and most with room service.
Stuffs that saved our life: Different than other trip we took, we found these to be essential 1. wet sheets/towels (used everywhere) 2. small but powerful torch (for cave sigthseeing) 3. ipad loaded with maps and lonely planet and other books (since we DIY so reading in preparation is a must and ipad served as a camera and walking guide for us: BTW most places that charge camera fee do not realize that ipad is a camera !)
Itinerary: Ok getting to the essence. We hire a car for pick up at the airport, 1 day in Yangon, then 4 days at the end of our trip with return trip the last morning to airport. This proved very useful and made us very flexible in our program. A taxi driver and a guide both friendly and cautious served us very well. the cost of 5 day tour and airport service altogether US400.
Day 1 we arrive evening to Yangon
Day 2 Yangon city tour : Sule paya area and garden, Botatoung and river front, City hall, Colonial building, General hospital (I am an internist and couldn't resist to walk into the hospital to see the condition), Kaba Aye, ChaukhtatgyiReclining buddha, Kandawgyi lake, White elephants, 2 hours in national museum, Tooth relic pagoda - all in a long 8am-5pm. We felt we should leave Shwedagon to the last day and it turned out perfect. Traffic around Shwedagon would waste too much of out time in the first day. Evening overnight bus to Kalaw. We used Shwe Mandalar express (15000 kyats ppax) arriving Kalaw at 5:30am with two stops along the way.
Day 3 Kalaw : Walked to the hotel for 15 minutes uphill. A local man saved me from getting lost and walked me there. We were one of the two groups they have as a guest. Then we trekked around town in a circle using simple map from hotel. During 5 hours, went to Pagodas, Bamboo buddha, a cave, market (happened to be one of the big market day too), met wonderful local peoples including monks and novices and a caucasian settler in Kalaw. I really liked this town with completely unspoiled atmosphere. Sample local lunch and buy back some food for dinner at hotel. Staff at the hotel couldn't stop trying to help you, even cooked me some Thai noodle I bought for me exactly as I like it.
Day 4 Pindaya : After researching my option, decided to hire a car for US35 to Pindaya. 1.5 hour drive through stunning natural and local scenery. Arrived to Pindaya (US2 town fee), check in and walked to Pindaya cave. I got lost for twenty minutes but then managed to ask for the way up. The cave was nothing I have seen in my native Thailand and it made me sense how strong believers in Buddhism most Burmese are. Spent two hours at Pindaya then walked down to town the other way and walked all the way around the lake seeing the late market and other monastery / temples at the other side. What impressed me the most here after the cave turned out to be children leaving the school in the afternoon. Many of them walked with me along the way, some biked, all looked at me and smiled. Such a perfect relaxing day by myself, reading all the detail about each places and seeing them for myself. Dinner at Green Chili restaurant at the lake front.
hotel part 1
YGN: Wai Wai's guesthouse - US40 home like place close to university area- good for those with arranged transportation, otw you would need to use train or taxi. BF toast,eggs,fresh fruit, coffee/tea. Owner is a friendly young lady who took risk to come to YGN and ran her business for 5 years in order for her niece to have a future.
Kalaw: Nature Land II - US37 separate bungalow with two stories. Living area on first floor and bedroom above. All the young peoples working here were too nice to say no to your request. He also arranged my car hire to Pindaya.
Pindaya: Golden cave hotel. US43 perfect location for going to the cave. The owner actually saved me by recommending a minivan Pindaya-Shwenyaung the next morning for only 3500k instead of having to hire a taxi ! Only wish could stay another day for trekking around Pindaya, but alas that's the way it is for our short trip.
Next section cooking and coming soon.