Travelling in Myanmar

What to see and where to stay the cheapskates guide

 

Views from Sagaing

Views from Sagaing

 

I have always stayed at the Royal Guest house and occasionally ET and close by is garden and Nylon as a cheapskate I’m only going to recommend clean and basic, although many new Guest houses are now opening up their doors to foreigners and you are still only allowed to stay at Guest houses registered to foreigners and at present there are no homestays or couch surfing allowed. It is technically still restricted for locals to put you up in their homes but with friends it is becoming easier.

Yin YinA y at Royal Guest house Mandalay has left the building this year. For all those who have stayed here, knew her and remember her, she was receptionist and technically Manageress. An amazingly kind humble and gentle woman with a big heart, also friendly humour who gave the Royal Guest House Mandalay its warm friendly atmosphere and reputation as the number 1 Guest House to stay in Mandalay.

For all those here who have stayed here over the years she will be sorely missed. Last year I noticed she was really stressed and finally she left this last December but had no new Job to go to. Staff say she was under too much pressure and the owners kept giving her more responsibility but not more pay, finally I THINK, she could not take the work load that the Guest House owners imposed on her so sadly she gave her notice and left. They now have to have three staff member doing the job she alone undertook on their behalf. She has no job at moment but hopes to study as travel agency and tourism certificate. I’m sure we all wish her well.

NEXT what to do, the most popular is the day trip to Sagaing Inwya and Ubein bridge for sunset. Before democracy the mazda drivers would take up to 4 people for around 15,000kyat but the govt forced these ancient mazdas off the road and sadly scrapped these classic vehicles and gave the drivers Taxi licences and newer Japanese taxis, most are very honest and I recommend most outside Royal Guest house maybe share BO BOs pick up most now charge 25,000kyat for the day starting Sagaing then Inwya and some tourist shops onto Ubein for sunset, a must do for day out.

Same evening do the marionettes at the puppet show theatre a bit expensive but well worth it even as I a cheapskate say so go YOUTUBE montyman 6 to see an excerpt from the show. You can prebook your ticket with your GH, as you know, if you go to Inwya the girls there will try and persuade you to buy cheap hats for 1,000kyats polished stone necklaces, they are very poor, yet always they are polite to try and get you to buy; BUT for the Scumbag tourists who cheated them or by passing dodgy $ bills and who think they are very clever in doing so or are so rude to them as to push them out of the way I have this to say:

You are a disgusting excuse for humanity! There but for the Grace of God go you. You should be ashamed of yourselves. Do not think you are clever because you passed on yesterday the $20 and $1 bills so creased and bad that they cannot exchange it. You however having cheated them now can go home and proudly declare how you got these cheap goods for nothing. For the rest of us who go there please remember they can’t even afford an education but struggle with the few $’s profit they make to support their families in this area. Even if you don’t want their goodies, please be kind and patient with them. lastly keep you worthless $’s for those who passed them onto you, or your bank back at home if they will take it.

Next am is great time to catch mobo driver to dock to take boat ride to Mingun bell it takes around 1 hr there and around 12am 1 hr return for me its enough boat ride down the Irrawaddy for anyone also on edge of town near the boat station return some nice places to relax with a Myanmar beer.

On a better note also many places now opening up in Myanmar without permits drivers guides etc e Chin state you are free to go everywhere despite the Hotels still charging extortionate $25 for singles. There is also now a regular bus service from 5 months ago.

 

Sunset over Ubein Bridge

Sunset over Ubein Bridge

For anyone doing the day trip sagaing inwya & sunset over ubein bridge I recommend share pick up outside royal GH BO BO tel 09-402743840 from 25,000kyat for day to 35,000kyat depends on how many ie 4 to 7 persons his email is bobojhony@gmail.com find fellow sharers ask at reception ALSO please note ATM’s.

I have met a number of people this trip who’s visa /maestro is rejected at ATM’s in Myanmar Why? because their bank at home has no agreement with Myanmar. This morning a Dutch couple now stuck with limited funds and unable to get any more money. Be warned, not all has changed OK and $cash $100 bills is still king and ATMS charge a massive $5 charge plus your bank charges at home.

Eating in Mandalay is Nylon ice cream and snacks on 83rd st and other side of road to right is Manns great food reasonable prices also old favourite is Lashios afer ET turn left and a few shops down on left with self service buffet and shan food (not my favourites and an acquired taste Ha! Ha! Also opposite ET on other side of road the chapatti stall for under $1 just along from Rpyal GHi seven diamond travels tour operator and flight tickets Nan yin is a very helpful guy there.

Guest houses are being booked out in high season ie October to February/March, so its often good nowadays to prebook first night and thereafter get Hotel to prebook ahead next place to visit ie Mandalay Royal Gh $12 singles to $30 tel: 0952-65697 then Inle lake bus direct to naugshwe, Inle lake not junction shweaung . Gypsy email info @gypsyinn.myanmar.com tel: 95-081-29084 or queens email komyo_544@yahoo.com tel: 09581-29544hotel plus new one called PYI(II) email mpinle.nslt@gmail.com tel 09 428 347 251

Another one I always stayed at in Inle was madam teakwood but sadly they have gone upmarket and beyond my reach but great breakfast on terrace and I love the family and atmosphere but I also love the breakfast and honesty of gypsy owners, who will also help you share a day trip on the lake with fellow guests. If not zaw and maw at the bridge will help and do not rip off but some boat owners are dishonest and will rip off tourist so cost should be between 15,000kyat and 20,000ky for the boat and must include Indein, it is so relaxing I would suggest you ensure you do this the day you arrive at around 8am start you might be tired from your overnight bus, but you won’t waste the day sleeping in.

Next am walk out or cycle past smiling moon to where road bears left take dirt track straight ahead to monastery in caves and also temple 1/2km further on in cave if walking walk directly up mountain 1 km to track turn right to next oxcart track a few kms away and nice track up mountain to to monastery fantastic views over lake from here then back to town.

Also worth it for a day is the pick (it has then boatman sign) up to taungyyi market and back same day next am head for kalow and if you want to see Pindaya caves then stop off at Aubang and grab a taxi or pick up then back to Aubang and pick up to Kalow same day if heading to yangon then as you arrive around 1130am? via aubang then do the walk I suggest to through railway station to top of mtn with satellite dishes on top.

There are steps all the way and back down, instead of heading to town bear left after station and through golf course to the Bhudda caves which I find personally as interesting as the Pindaya caves and then to top of Golf course and tan shwes daughters house back to town. Leave your luggage with bus company but if staying overnight then Eastern paradise has wonderful reputation tel 081-503`15 the lady owner is very kind and hospitable and you will enjoy your stay.

I always stay pineland on front very clean and friendly family who work hard to make you at home at reasonable prices for rooms ie singles around $10B&B. Do not stay at harry singhs Golden lilly as their reputation goes before them for cheating customers they have also just started a tour company opposite winner hotel. Winner hotel has also some cheaper rooms with good reputation see Ruby Wynn tourist office opposite pineland restaurant is great place for tickets and Ruby is very honest and kind, next door is a barber shop that closes at 4pm and they shove in some benches and it becomes a noodle cafe great cheap food bring your own beer OK turn left on corner and first Tea shoppe on left is my favourite in Myanmar for ley peye and also badabas and I always stay here in kalow for a few days its an integrated town with Muslim Christian Buddhist all living peacefully together without being stirred up as in other parts of Myanmar to religious and ethnic hatred and violence by govt lackies like our Bhuddist monk U Wrathu.

There is freedom of worship in Myanmar, just don’t Mess with the generals. It always worth more than a few days relaxing stay here and 730am after breakfast is the day bus to Bagan thiri papa lin trekking guide has new address in kalow a bit further along just next to bus companies offices on the steps note also her new mobile number is 09-428312652

If you are thinking of taking the minivan direct to tachilek thai border from Taungyyi forget it. Neither immigration nor the bus companies will allow you, you will have to fly there from Heho or Mandalay

Also was kyaukme great mobo driver guide at y one oo hotel is known as John 1 (han Zaw Htun) took me 3 hrs away up mountains all day plus other sites great day or 25,000kyat email john.kyaukme@gmail.com tel 09-403746719 great guy very honest and helpful now in kalow note from my Pineland Inn on front and never ever at those awful Singh family hovel, you all know the one i mean, why lonely planet ever continues to give them a place in the guide book I will never know (see trip advisor for that one Ha! Ha!) also her old office opposite winner hotel to right of temple steps is now a new tour company owned and run by that awful tourist cheat Harry Singh of golden lilly infamously now called ‘Holiday Tours’ so avoid at all costs.

Also note I am at moment trying to get bus from Taungyyi to Tachilek but all bus companies refuse you quoting police and immigration orders. So very doubtful they will allow you on unless you have written permit as Unesco or UN official. OK If you do make it post please, its also a 2 day minivan adventure through the mountains so maybe best go the easy way through myrwaddy to Maesot from Hpa An which is open for falang. So as plan B loikaw is open now for tourists regular bus from Taungyyi via Aubang.

OK final update as tomorrow 8th feb 2014 I take shared taxi 10,000kyat from Hpa an to Maesot Thailand I took overnight bus from Kalow to Bago and as in old days, bus dropped off outside Emperor hotel where to meet the stressed and tired travel weary passengers, was a bus ticket salesman and manager of Emperor.

They wanted to sell way overpriced tickets direct to myrwaddy golden rock hpa an etc etc, but note across road to right is pick up truck stops at 5 am took pick up direct to Hpa an for 3,000kyats and tomorrow shared taxi to border. The other tourists just followed them like sheep and when I tried to explain to the trapped in their sales talk tourists, they politely moved me away Ha! Ha! dont get caught out here safe travels

 

Festivals in Myanmar 2014

 

The Balloon festival Taungyyi October/November 2014

The balloon festival Taungyyi this year is from October 31st to November 6th and a must if you haven’t been before. Taungyyio will be packed out with locals and you will find great difficulty getting a room there for the festival best is to do it in the evenings during your stay in Inle last night 6th is mainly for prize giving so for me 2 nights before were best time to go. If you want to share a pick up to the festival (cheapest way) next to smiling moon restaurant, is the recently widowed Mrs Tun (name Mu Kye) with her two small children and she too runs her deceased husbands small travel agency for boats and tickets and treks and also especially for those who will be there for the balloon festival a shared pick up to the balloon festival each night leaves around 630 am and for best ask to return with everyones agreement at 1am not before. book and prepay ASAP she has also tables now for drinks and snacks etc. telephone 95 943197443 email nanmyasein1985@gmail.com see videos and photos here note Gh’s will be filled so book ASAP if there during festival also I have 3 times enjoyed leaving Inle on full moon early catching the full moon parades through Aubang and also Kalow same day (see the photos)Have a great time also please note Hotel and GH prices have gone through the roof so now a $7 Hotels will most probably set you back $30 a night , but for singles there are still under $10 available B&B

 

Hsipaw and Kyaukme

Many years ago I went to Hsipaw and then they offered free one day treks from your GH the choices are more now there is Mr Charles very clean with choice of rooms but expensive also Mr Kids bit basic but very nice family on main rd where bus drops you off, also lilleys

From here take the train over famous Viaduct that the British guaranteed for 60 yrs or so but the Burmese govt let it rot hoping to cash in on the guarantee BUT it stood safe. but then after the guarantee expired they had to start repairs before it fell down, most want to take the train ride from here to Kyaukme over the viaduct

Kyaukme is a beautiful area for trekking and Y oo yone hotel is the main GH registered for foreigners. This year I was both incapable of doing the 3 day trek over the mountains and also time was limited. I did the 3 day trek on a motorbike with hired driver in one day John 1 (han Zaw Htun) took me 3 hrs away up mountains all day plus other sites great day for 25,000kyat email john.kyaukme@gmail.com tel 09-403746719 great guy very honest and helpful

Then buses from here go direct to Mandalay and also overnight to Inle lake

 

Myiktyna and Bhamo

Before one would take the train ord class $7 from Mandalay to Hopin and then grab a pick up to Indawgyyi lake , spend maybe a couple of nights there on the lake then back to hopin and $2 onwards by train to Myiktyna. I stayed at the YHA and next door was great restaurant called Orient In Bhamo is the friendship hotel good breakfast and also some cheaper rooms . On the next street is a few restaurants but I got sick there and discovered on way to book my ferry to Mandlay a great Chinese restaqurant called Sein Sein near to the ferry ticket office and the Thi Tar Maw cinema .

 

Monwya

one stays at the shwe Taung Tarn hotel, best breakfast in whole of Myanmar and rooms are still reasonable priced ie $12 B&B although a bit scruffy singles in old house (but the sheets are clean and toilet hot shower ensuite. Prices as of march this year good restaurant with great evening food on upper terrace. If you arrive early from Mandalay then take taxi to 1,000bhuddas temple and the tower block Bhudda thet the generals built at great expense to ensure that instead of being reincarnated as cockroaches for their despotic rulership and human rights abuses let alone expropriating 85% of the nations assets to the Dubai bank accounts, they would ensure 1 step closer to Nirvhana. The river is great place to relax but im not so sure about the Bhudda caves as it can be quiet expensive to go there also do not take the ferry in town to cross the river walk about 1km further south and jump on the local one as they have rip off prices for tourists on the main ones. After breakfast you can take a bus direct to Kalemo and kalewa also onward to haka and India if so inclined as teh whole of Chinstate has been opened up for foreigners although in Kalewa there is a cartel of GH /Hotel prices for foreigners staring at $25 for a single ($5 for locals)

Buses go direct to bagan and also direct to Magwee for Mrauk U but obviously you don’t want to miss out on Bagan

 

Bagan

I always recommend one to stay in Naung U as opposed to Old and new bagan mainly for market and also for cheaper guest houses and restaurants I always stay Eden motel great breakfast on the roof and also reasonable prices for B&B there atre also many from market roundabout towards shwezigon temple plenty of other guest houses to choose from if full on right is shwemoe a good restauranat and closer to shwezigon is Weatherspoons if you are feeling alittle decadent after heavy Shan curries and uncooked vegetables. They do great Wienner schnitzel and also Boeuf Bourguignon + fries and burgers. There is a daily 7:30am bus direct to Naungshwe Inle plus buses direct to Magwee and Mrauk U via Ann plus buses to Paye if you want to chance the overnight bsu from there to Taungok and onto Thandwe (Ngapali beach) BUT note if you want to go to sittwe (fast boat) then day boat on to Mrauk U you might find it easier to fly Yangon to Sittwe and then back to Thandwe (with Air Bagan)

Rent a bike and follow my map :

Map of Bagan

Map of Bagan

Ok cycle or horsecart from Naung U to where road turns left to airport entrance there turn right where road bears left towards New Bagan go straight on and turn left at junction where road heads right to that awful viewing tower , cycle between the walls and on right is the temple with the best views over Bagan. After carry on that road and it meets up with the main rd just as you enter New Bagan it becomes dual carriageway on the left here is great tea Shoppe for a ley peye Bdaba with chick peas or samosas nice tea break remember the green tea is always free . then in town turn right to Old bagan and stopping temples right and left to turn right once in old bagan to Ananda there are some nice reasonable priced eating places here for lunch and after towards Naung U on left is Thali Pein for best sunset views over the Irrawaddy if too early then head for shwezigon and after head back to Thali Pein.

The market is the best place for tourist Tat at wholesale prices as opposed to the temples . great puppets also laquerware at reasonable prices and paintings etc etc

 

Magwee

it was a long time ago I went to stay at GH rolex but it was too scruffy even for me so I stayed around close to bus station, and 730am ready for bus to Mrauk U although an interesting site across the river at the other bus station is the Mud volcano

 

Mrauk U & Sittwe

In sittwe I stayed at Palace hotel with good restaurant ‘Riverview’ next door great king prawns in batter with French fries

In Mrauk U I stayed close to town at waddyu htut Gh tel : 043: 24200-50240 and ate in maket also Mo Cherrys has a good reputation if not a little expensive.

Ngapali beach I only ever stayed in Lyn Thar OO and last time they hasd sold part of it to memento resort but most of the cheaper second row backpacker bungalows had been torn down for for beach side family rooms with sat Tv etc etc etc. My last time was $8 B&B but can’t see you getting a single for anywhere near that now(more like $50 per room ) and if you turn left out of main gate first restaurant on left and one opposite were my favourites.

As said the obver night buses go direct to yangon via Gwa but take the VIP one as you get reclining seats and also free meal on the way

 

Chaungtha beach & Pathein

When you arrive usually around 5am at O Mingalar bus terminus you can take taxi driect to western bus terminus anbout 14 kms away across the river costs around $8 -$12 dependent how good you can bargain. If you stya overnight in yangon then just walk past the taxis and take local bus GREEN 43 = it looks like 4 ? mark wrong way and 3 question mark right way to Sukle pagoda and traders Hotel 300kyat as opposed to $12 for taxi .

If going to the bus terminus for Pathein and Chaungtha from tow there is a number 2 goes direct but you will need to leave very early ie 5am but also useful j or 2 is great getting back into Yangon from Western bus terminus.

As the bus arrives onChaunttha beach opposite is Shwe hin Tha beach hotel tel: 042-42118 095200617 email: info@shwehinthahotel.com shared with German guy on bus fortwo days som as the room wass $28 single full board we got $35 for two, twin room on the beach 2 nights and along the road is great restaurant for good food now called Shwe Ya minn tel 95-42-42126 it also has cheaper rooms for singles ie around $12-$15 B&B But its a walk to the beach .

In Pathein great restaurant opposite the bank and a couple of hotels but the one I stayed turned out to be a brothel $12 whereas locals paid $2 to include two prostitutes for the night. Having never been with a prostitute in all my life I did not feel that hard done by lol

 

Moulamein /Moulmein

Take the 6:30am train direct to Moulmien from Yangon at last count foreigners had to pay in $’s cash ord calss $7 the 7:30 train is packed and also older stock whereas the 6:30 one has newer chinese carraiges. If you intend to leave via Kawthuing to Thai border in sth thenmaybe do Golden rock first then Hpa and anjd then Moulmein If you are leaving via Hpa an through to Myrwaddy the leave Hpa an till last