UNTOUCHED MYANMAR (BURMA)
When I plan my trip, I searched through google and asked some first-hand experience from my friends who already went there. But with Myanmar, although google was very helpful (thanks to western travelers who featured Myanmar in their blogs and vlogs), I only found a few articles from Filipino travelers. I asked my traveler friends and none of them has Myanmar in their travel list nor considering to go there anytime soon. So I did some crowdsourcing to my readers in Facebook and thankfully, one reader answered all my queries! She was in Myanmar when the earthquake happened last 2016! At first, I thought she got traumatized with that experience and doesn’t want to go back to Myanmar after that. But that’s not the case. The earthquake didn’t change her perception of the country. She still loves Myanmar and is planning to back there soon! And I don’t blame her!
Our Myanmar trip consists Yangon, Bagan, Mandalay, Pyin oo Lwin for 10 days and 9 nights. We booked our ticket through Air Asia and will have a layover at Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia. For our Manila – KL’s estimated time of arrival is nine in the evening and KL to Yangon’s estimated time of departure is eight thirty in the morning the next day. More or less ten hours layover. We don’t want to feel exhausted on the first day of our Myanmar trip so we decided to book a hotel near KL airport to have a comfortable sleep. Luckily, we find a hotel inside KL airport that charges per hour. It was nice and surprisingly cheaper than we anticipated.
Our initial plan, which was to visit Inle Lake, didn’t push through. When we booked our tickets, we had no idea that it would be in time for Myanmar’s Tazaungdaing Festival – a festival held on the full moon day of Tazaungmon, the eighth month of the Burmese calendar and considered as a national holiday in Myanmar. It is celebrated in two places in Myanmar – Inle Lake and Pyin Oo Lwin. Locals (and tourists) gather in either the two places to mark the end of rainy season. Sounds perfect, right? I know. I was thrilled about it myself. But then I realized, festival means more people. And more people means transportation horror. We tried to booked an advance bus tickets for Inle Lake to Yangon but almost all overnight buses are already fullybooked. As much as we wanted to experience their festival and observe how they celebrated it, we were afraid that we might missed our flight going back home if we push through with our Inle Lake. And we can’t afford to miss our flights!
So after much deliberation, we decided to skip Inle Lake and extend our day in Mandalay. If we only knew about the festival before our trip, we could’ve stayed in Bagan on our last stop instead in Mandalay.
I won’t bore you with my stories as I will talk about that in my separate blogs (Bagan, Mandalay and Pyin Oo Lwin), for now, I will try to answer all possible questions regarding our Myanmar trip.
When was your Myanmar trip?
November, 2017. We were supposedly a group of four. But one of my friend had some family emergency and backed out two days before our scheduled date.
When did you bought your plane ticket?
We bought our ticket six months before our target travel date if I’m not mistaken through Air Asia during their seat sale.
Do Filipinos need to apply for a Visa to visit Myanmar?
No. Myanmar is visa-free entry for us Filipinos. You can stay up to 14 days there without a visa.
Where did you stay during your layover in KL?
We stayed at Sama-Sama Express KLIA2. Best thing about it is it’s inside the KLIA2 so you don’t need to go outside the airport, plus it's affordable! For the complete address, please see below:
L3 Satellite Building, klia2 Airport Terminal
KL International Airport, 64000 Sepang, Selangor
How long is the travel time from Yangon to Bagan and Bagan to Mandalay?
Yangon to Bagan is more or less nine to ten hours. Bagan to Mandalay is just four to five hours.
How did you cover Yangon, Bagan, Mandalay, Pyin Oo Lwin in 10 days?
That would be two days in Yangon, two and a half days in Bagan, one day in Pyin Oo Lwin and another two and a half days in Mandalay. The extra day is a side trip in Kuala Lumpur during our layover on our way home.
If we push through with our Inle Lake, that would be two days in Yangon, two and a half days in Bagan, one day in Pyin Oo Lwin, one and half days in Mandalay, one day in Inle lake and an extra day for Kuala Lumpur side trip.
You can check out my separate blog for our detailed trips - Bagan, Mandalay, Pyin Oo Lwin.
What about your hotel? Where did you stay in Myanmar?
Thankfully, after an extensive (LOL) research, the hotels we chose turned out to be ideal for us. I’d recommend these hotels for your future Myanmar trip.
Yangon – Hotel Lavender. We didn’t book any hotel on our first day. We just keep our luggage inside the taxi’s compartment as we roam around the Yangon. On our way back to Yangon, we purposely choose Hotel Lavender as it is just located near Shwedagon Pagoda where we planned to catch the sunset and watch the pagodas glitter at night.
Bagan – Zfreeti Hotel. I highly recommend this hotel! Great location, the staffs are accommodating and was nice enough to introduce us to Mr. A – our Bagan tour guide during our second day.
Mandalay – Tiger One Hotel. Location is accessible to restaurants and mall. Although the location is a bit noisy at night due to some food stalls and local who plays loud Burmese songs. But I still had some good sleep despite it. It didn’t bother us that much to be honest.
What can you tell me about Myanmar food?
If you’re not that adventurous with food, Myanmar can offer you other than their own Burmese food. The have Chinese, Indian, lots of curry, and Thai food among others. But I encourage you to try their own food. It may a bit scary at first glance but when you get to try it, it’s not so bad after all!
What can you tell me about their transportation?
I didn’t attempt to hop into their train transportation in Yangon in Mandalay because of the weather – it was hot and humid. And to be honest, I was quite comfortable with our rented taxis during our tours that I didn’t bother to try their train.
For overnight buses, we chose JJ Express as recommended by my reader. It was comfortable to be honest. More comfortable than the sleeper bus I had in Japan. The bus gave us blanket, some coffee and snacks during our trip. You can book online through their website, JJ Express.
For Mandalay to Inle Lake, our original plan was to contact a taxi driver who’s willing to drive us from Pyin Oo Lwin (after our day tour) to Inle Lake. Ko Fatty was willing to do that for 100,000 Kyats (for 3 pax) (Mandalay – Pyin Oo Lwin (whole day tour) – Inle Lake). That’s a special rate since that day was the Tazaungdaing Festival. Considering all the traffic because of the festival, the price is not that bad. And to be perfectly honest, out of five taxi drivers we contacted, he’s the only one who was willing to drive us despite the holiday rush. If you want to follow this route, you may contact Fatty through his Facebook account.
Can I ask for the details of your expenses?
Of course! It’s included right under my itinerary. ^_^
Do you have some tips for us?
Yes! Please take time to read my Myanmar Wander Thoughts for some helpful tips, insights and guide.
Will post my Bagan, Mandalay and Pyin Oo Lwin trip separately. Expect more pictures as well. So please stay tuned. :)