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Budget travel in Myanmar through a local agent

Hereford, United...
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Budget travel in Myanmar through a local agent

We have just returned from an amazing tour of Myanmar organised for us by Dr. Zin of Myanmar Delight Tours, a Yangon travel agency. I am writing this review not as a travelogue, but to give an insight for anyone thinking of a more personal visit to Myanmar. We were not in a group so could decide for ourselves what to see and do. We arranged our own flights from Heathrow on Qatar Airlines, but from our arrival in Yangon all transport, hotels and tour guides were arranged by Dr. Zin. And everything went off perfectly, without a hitch. A local English speaking guide was on-hand awaiting our flight along with a driver and an air-conditioned car. This was the procedure at every airport or ferry terminal on our trip, except Ngapali Beach, where a tour guide was not needed. The advantage of having a local guide with the same car and driver ever available for us at each destination was immediately apparent. Our itinerary was flexible and the local advice from our guide made our whole trip unique and open to change. During our stay we went to a local wedding, visited a local home, chatted to ladies carrying 10 kilo bags for 2 hours back up to their village, and my wife even helped another group of ladies laying stone, re-building a road. We were also able to limit our pagoda visits to only those we wanted to visit. The heat of March really didn't bother us. After each pagoda, view or market visit it was back to the coolness of the car. Lunch venues were arranged by our guides who took us to their own favourite restaurants, usually with magnificent views. Our tour started and ended in Yangon at the Summit Park View Hotel. I had requested a hotel with a pool and view in Yangon. Dr. Zin provided both, and the view of the iconic Great Schwedagon Pagoda from our hotel window was almost worth the cost of the entire holiday. A flight to Bagan where we stayed at the Kumudra Hotel for 2 nights gave us time to explore, in our cool car, the local pagodas and markets. Unfortunately the balloon ride we had booked was cancelled because of typical early morning March winds, but our guide took us instead to Mount Popa, visiting local villages and industries on the way. He also advised that, rather than climb the mount itself, view it from a restaurant with a cold beer over lunch where the views were better and we wouldn't have to battle the monkeys! Fellow guests at lunch who had survived the climb agreed that his judgement was dead-on! A day river cruise took us to Mandalay where we stayed for 3 nights at the Ayarwaddy River View Hotel. As always the local guide, driver and car were on-hand to transport us wherever we wanted to go. All entrance fees, boat and ferry costs and road tolls were included in our package, and our stay in Mandalay encompassed all of these. A flight to Pindaya, 1 night at Pindaya Inle Inn, and then a drive to Inle Lake, where our driver and car were exchanged for a boatman and long-boat at our personal disposal for 2 days, while our guide remained with us. We stayed at the Paramount Hotel on the lake, and our boat was our taxi to explore the area. Magnificent! We then flew to Ngapali Beach where we stayed for 3 nights at the Lin Thar Oo Hotel for a relaxing ending to our travels in Myanmar on what my wife says is as good as any beach she has ever visited - and she has seen quite a few! 2 final nights with our guide, driver and car in Yangon - and that wonderful hotel view, before we flew home to London with small gifts from Dr. Zin. Myanmar is a fascinating and beautiful country, but the holiday was made for us by the friendliest, happy people of Burma. They were as intrigued by us as much as we were by them, and were only too willing to be photographed by and with us, often requesting us to pose for them. My advice for anyone thinking of visiting Myanmar is go, and go now. Tourism is growing and new hotels in major centres are likely to change the atmosphere of a gentle, hard-working and caring people. We could not have had a better experience, and arranging everything through Myanmar Delight, a local company, has made our visit extra special. No groups, costs appreciably lower than comparative overseas bookings, and the money we paid stays in the local Myanmar economy. We hope to return again soon.

Warks.England
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for Myanmar, Yangon (Rangoon), Ngapali, Tossa de Mar
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1. Re: Budget travel in Myanmar through a local agent

Thank you RPD,this useful recommendation confirms other comments on this Agency.

Delighted you enjoyed Ngapali Beach,no words can really describe how laid back it can be.

Thanks for your review of Summit Parkview-looking forward to lots more reviews of hotels and restaurants on your trip.

SS

Kurashiki, Japan
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for Kurashiki, Cambodia, Myanmar
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2. Re: Budget travel in Myanmar through a local agent

Nice report. But hardly "budget" travel. :-o

Colden, New York
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3. Re: Budget travel in Myanmar through a local agent

Thanks for sharing your wonderful trip experience.

Hereford, United...
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4. Re: Budget travel in Myanmar through a local agent

How do you know? I never gave the cost to us! Believe me, it was budget travel!

Epsom, United...
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5. Re: Budget travel in Myanmar through a local agent

Your holiday sounded just like ours, down to the Qatar airlines flights, thoughour hotels were different. What a delight! Our agent too was local and we count this as one of our best holidays

Colden, New York
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6. Re: Budget travel in Myanmar through a local agent

RPD2013:

I think what #2 meant was that "budget" to her means staying at much cheaper hotels than the ones you listed, eating at street stalls instead of restaurants, not having the added expense of a guide but doing it yourself after lots of research, using local transportation instead of a driver with A/C car at your disposal, and then there's the expensive cost of the balloon flight. Forgive me #2 if that's not what you meant but I have read all your reports and admire how well you were able to pull off your trips. Clearly lots of research/knowledge and the capability to do what you have so far done.

That's not to say that your trip wasn't "budget" in your eyes. It's all a matter of perspective. Personally there are lots of things in your trip that I would include in my upcoming trip. I also want to stay at hotels with a pool and hope to get a reservation for the balloon flight. What will be different is that we will not have a car, driver, and guide at our disposal every step of the way. We will combine eating out with some restaurants and local stalls.

IMO the most important thing is not how much you spent or did not spend. It's how much you enjoyed the experience. From reading your post/report it is obvious to me at least that you had a great time and felt the magic of this country and its people. So much so that you mention about wanting/hoping to return.

Edited: 29 March 2013, 15:36
Epsom, United...
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7. Re: Budget travel in Myanmar through a local agent

You are right of course and I did relish our luxury hotels (for once!). It was important for us to eat locally where possible (you can't if you are at a hotel over the water at inle lake) as the hotels only take dollars. I can give you two names of guides in Yangon and Mandalay and they made the trip much more interesting - we have never used guides before and without them I wonder whether we would have met the local people we did. I was shocked at the price of the balloon trip in bagan but one company has the monopoly and it is apparently safe. Good luck in your venture, I would certainly go back and do it ourselves a second time, armed with the information we now have.

Brisbane, Australia
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8. Re: Budget travel in Myanmar through a local agent

Re the "budget" travel I would be curious to know what you paid if you don't mind telling. Budget is relative, we went in Jan for 28 days, and I'm yet to analyise what we spent, the total amount seems like more than I expected. We paid for things we though important, hot air balloon, trip to Kakku etc, but ate cheaply about 70% of the time.Personal priorities are all different.

Hereford, United...
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9. Re: Budget travel in Myanmar through a local agent

Perhaps I was wrong about the accepted meaning of 'budget price'. We stayed mostly in 3* local accommodation (exception Yangon) because we wanted to experience local Myanmar, not a western-style holiday resort dumped in Burma. There was not always a swimming-pool (who needs one in Ngapali?), but wi-fi remarkably was ever available.

We paid £585 each for airline tickets, £1050 each Myanmar Delight (including all local travel, flights, ferry, hotels, car, boat, guide & driver, entrance fees, etc.), and less than £250 each on food & drink - a total of @ £1900. A cold beer & light lunch in a lovely restaurant with a view does not break the bank in Myanmar, but certainly adds to the holiday.

The balloon ride, which was to be a gift to celebrate my wife's birthday, would have been an extra extravagant £200 each, but, alas, was cancelled because of early morning March winds. I expect these costs to rise very soon, if not already, because of increasing tourist interest, but, to me at least, I consider £3800 to be a budget price for a quality 15 day adventure for two.

We made close friends with all of our guides and drivers (excellent, careful &, if anything, over-considerate!), and the local knowledge they afforded us gave a true insight into this beautiful country and it's lovely people. Incidentally, nothing was off the agenda when talking with our guides, including politics and the military.

Finally, anyone who goes to S.E. Asia and does not eat & drink at street stalls & markets with the local people is missing a vital part of the Myanmar experience - and tasting great food!

Colden, New York
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10. Re: Budget travel in Myanmar through a local agent

RPD: That does sound like a good price. Even though our trip will be more of a DIY we did go to a local travel agency here in my hometown to get some ideas. One tour called Visions of Burma for 10 days is priced from $3,999 to $4,999 per person and doesn't include the price of the international airfare. Granted the hotels are very nice-Governor's Residence, Thiripyitsaya Sanctuary Resort, Mandalay Hill Resort, Inle Princess Resort. Price includes all internal airfare, meals, escorted sightseeing & entry fees. The fare alert I just got from KAYAK quotes round trip airfare from Buffalo, NY to Bangkok for $1941. Price for round trip Buffalo to Yangon is probably about the same. So that's almost $6000 per person for a 10 day trip. Now that to me is more than I'm willing to spend!! I think I can do the land portion for the 2 of us at way less than $8,000 for 10 days. That's like $800 per day!! I wonder what the local agents in Myanmar would think of those prices??

You had what you considered a quality 15 day adventure for two at a price you were comfortable with and you were very satisfied with your experience. A belated Happy Birthday to your wife! Even though she didn't get to have the balloon ride what a way to celebrate the occasion-a memorable trip to Myanmar!

Edited: 30 March 2013, 14:04