1 independent reviews for Burma vacation, off the beaten track

Reviews for Burma vacation, off the beaten track


review 30 Mar 2014

1. What was the most memorable or exciting part of your vacation?

Inle Lake - to see a town actually built ON the lake was incredible. The floating gardens were huge - made up of floating hyacinth, mud dredged from the lake and all held in place by bamboo poles - the only way to maintain them, plant & sow was by canoe, creeping through tiny watery alleys that we could not see. Everything was being grown in these amazing gardens including tomatoes under plastic coverings, beans up bamboo frames, fruit and flowers. The workshops offered products of silver, silk and wood as well as providing a livelihood for the people who lived in the houses built on stilts. The boats and canoes were made by hand in the village and it was amazing to watch them saw huge planks of wood by hand, millimetres thick and every plank was as straight as the next. This was by far the most amazing, and unexpected, site we saw in Myanmar. Also, in Yangon we went to a local tea house with our guide and had a drink with the locals. I thought we would hate this as it was our first day and I was so nervous about health issues and sanitation that I wasn't sure whether I would have anything. But we had a cup of coffee and added a slice of lime instead of milk (they have condensed milk in their tea and coffee black which is not to our liking). We sat on little plastic stools with our guide Poo Poo and chatted about life in Myanmar - she was open & honest and answered all of our questions about education, health, social care, politics etc. Around us, in this grubby little cafe somewhere in the heart of Yangon, life went on for the local people who totally ignored us! It was wonderful and a real experience I will never forget. And third on our list would be the surprise invitation to a wedding in Mandalay! When we were collected from the airport, our guide informed us that a colleague from the office was getting married that morning and would love for us to go to the reception. We felt this was an honour and also a great privilege. When we arrived at the hotel, the bride greeted us like long lost relatives (we found out later that this is actually true as they believe in reincarnation and we may have been related in a former life). We sat down and we were given lots of cakes and ice cream and had our photo & video taken with the happy couple (although the groom looked just as bemused as we did, probably wondering who these strangers were eating his food!) It was a very special memory we will have of this incredibly vacation that took us to so many wonderful locations.

2. What tips would you give other travelers booking this vacation?

Take sandals! We were warned that you should not wear shoes with many laces, but that is what we normally wear for comfort and safety. But, especially in Bagan, you are entering so many pagodas, temples, monasteries and other sacred sites, that you have your shoes off more than you have them on! The floor can be hot and also a little rough in places. I suffer from diabetes but I have not lost the feeling in my feet - this made me very nervous whilst climbing the temples and walking around the paths of the stupas as to the damage I may be causing, but there are no other options. You must be bare footed - no socks are allowed. But every time we returned to our car, we were given moist tissues to cleanse our feet, which was a real comfort. Also, when you fly to Heho for Inle Lake, be prepared that you go out in open motor boats for several hours before going to the hotel. Make sure you have sunscreen with you and cover for your head, arms, legs and feet. The sun is very fierce here and there is no sanctuary from the blazing afternoon heat. You go so fast in the motor boats, you need to tie your hat down - they provide umbrellas, but it is impossible to hold them and take photos as they are buffeted by the winds and continually blow inside out.

3. Did you feel that your vacation benefited local people, reduced environmental impacts or supported conservation?

Wherever I could, I would buy something from the local workshops or street vendors rather than buying from the hotel shop. The problem was we went to so many workshops and many of them offered the same goods. We realised from our visit to Scott Market in Yangon that you did not really haggle in Myanmar - the price they give you is the price they want. We stopped trying to bargain and paid the price we were quoted - in most cases, this was only a few pounds anyway. At the temple site on Inle Lake, (where we walked from the river, through a small village and up the hill to the sacred site with over 1000 stupas) we saw a young man walking away from a woman with a baby insisting that he would only pay 2000 khats for a wooden rattle when she wanted three - this amounted to $1 - nothing to us, but probably a meal to her & her baby. We all know that we were paying a lot more for any of our purchases and there is a different price for locals, but we see this as being our way of helping the local community. Yes, ask for discount off large, expensive items or if you are buying in bulk (even this didn't count in Scott's Market) but don't steal tiddly amounts from the people who need it. Tourism is still new in Myanmar but the hotels are very well equipped for tourists and charge accordingly - it is not a cheap place! This provides good employment possibilities for the local people, especially the young, with transport, accommodation, guides and souvenirs. This has to be good for their economy as they have been missing out on this for so long.

4. Finally, how would you rate your vacation overall?

FANTASTIC! It went beyond our expectations! The people are so friendly; our guides were so well informed and wanted to ensure that we saw everything; we experienced so many things from a drink in a tea house, attending a wedding, horse cart rides, boat rides, going to a local market in Bagan and numerous sunsets in so many locations; and the hotels were first class. We had one of the best meals EVER at Le Planteur in Yangon - it was so good, we went twice! This is not just the best meal in Myanmar but one of the best meals we have ever had around the globe, and, as we have been to 85 countries and we enjoy good food at good restaurants, this is quite an achievement! GO TO MYANMAR! And soon before it changes and loses that rural, almost primitive feel that makes the country so unique.

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