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Hello, traveling to Myanmar in February 2014 and would appreciate suggestions/tips

yangon mandalay bagan philippines

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#1
nolan

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Hi, I am Nolan and I just registered for this Mingalapar forum today.

 

I am a travel management consultant for a US based consulting company and our focus is on travel management/strategy/etc. I used to manage a travel agency many years back and enjoy giving people travel advice. I am moderately well traveled (but not enough in my opinion), and Myanmar will be my 25th country to visit.

 

In this forum, I am the one seeking travel advice, and appreciate suggestions and tips you can share.

 

We travel to Yangon on February 16th from Bangkok, arriving in the morning. We are planning to spend the following time at various cities:

 

Yangon - February 16-17

night train no. 5 to Mandalay

Mandalay - February 18-20

bus or ferry from Mandalay to Bagan on February 20

Bagan - February 20-22

bus ride to Yangon February 22 (we were about to book flights but I stumbled upon this forum and got convinced to try out the JJ buses)

Yangon - overnight February 22

Back to the Philippines on February 23

 

There are about 5 of us in the travel party at certain stages in the trip. Some will follow and meet us at Mandalay on the 18th, and stay longer after Bagan. Unfortunately I only have a week for vacation so I will be flying back via Singapore on February 23rd.

 

Can anyone suggest a specific set of places that we should visit in each of the 3 main cities, say the top 5 places and things to do?

 

Of course, Shwedagon Pagoda is top of the list in Yangon, same goes for the pagodas/temples in Bagan. We haven't really decided what to prioritize but would like a leisurely pace, and just have to ensure we get to the train station or bus terminals with enough time to spare.

 

In terms of location, we have booked hotels near City Hall in Yangon, near the train station in Mandalay, and are likely to go for a nicer hotel in Old Bagan.

 

Thanks and I hope to hear from forum members soon. Feel free to ask me travel related questions as well, as well as technology.

 

Cheers


“Twenty years from now you will be more disappointed by the things you didn’t do than by the ones you did do. So throw off the bowlines, sail away from the safe harbor. Catch the trade winds in your sails. Explore. Dream. Discover.” – Mark Twain


#2
Billy the kid

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Hi Nolan, welcome to this Forum.

 

Yeah, there are actually loads of things to do in Myanmar and in these three cities. 

 

Starting with Yangon, of course you already noted the Shwedagon Pagoda on your schedule, which is an absolute must do!!!

Then Chauktagyi pagoda is interesting as well and not very far from Shwedagon. The pagoda itself is nothing impressive, just a big hangar. But it covers a huge reclining Buddha.

The second must do in Yangon is probably its very famous Bogyoke Aung San market, so many stalls in this market, where you will find loads of things to buy. From the handmade items like statues, garments, lacquerware, paintings to the everyday life items like longyi, sandals or shampoo, you can find almost anything there. Be aware that it is closed on Mondays, and closes its doors at 5:00PM

Take a walk in downtown area, where you have the most colonial buildings (around Mahabandoola garden street, Pansodan street, south blocks) and wander around near the river. If you are interested to see the colonial heritage left to the city.

While doing this tour, you can stop at Sule Pagoda which is the central point of the downtown area and an interesting temple to visit as well.

West of downtown, around 19th, 20th street you can explore Chinatown as well and it's street market. Day and night they have markets selling foods of all kinds. If you arrive there at night, stop in one of the barbecued skewers restaurant in 19th street, to enjoy a very local atmosphere, since many people come here at night to have dinner and enjoy some beer with friends.

 

What else to see in Yangon… Mmmmm, it can very nice to talk a walk in Kandawgyi park around Kandawgyi lake as well. It is an artificial lake, but it is still a very nice park and if you go to the SouthWestern end of the lake (near Karaweik Palace floating restaurant) you can see the Burmese youth wandering around to have a few beers, or listen to some live music on the stage placed there. When the night comes, you can also see the Shwedagon Pagoda from far, illuminated and reflecting in the waters of Kandawgyi, beautiful!

Botataung where the first relic of Buddha in Myanmar is exposed is also worth going, you'll see many people willing to see this hair relic, even if you can't see much actually. The area there is nice, since you have a jetty not far as well (the Botataung Jetty). The pagoda itself is nothing sensational I think, but it's more the symbolic value it has that is worth of interest.

 

There are certainly other things worth of interest, but I think you already have quite a lot to do with that program already :)

You could go to Inya Lake for example if you have time.

 

Then for Mandalay, as it was mentioned on the forum already, the most interesting things to do are not in Mandalay itself but in the area around Mandalay.

First and foremost, is U Bein bridge. It's the longest teak bridge in the world I think and it is beautiful as you see many people crossing the Lake using this bridge on the first and last lights of the day, a must see.

From there you could go to Inwa, which is a former capital of the Burmese kingdom, and not far from Amarapura where you have U Bein's bridge.

Sagaing and it's pagodas on the other side of the Irrawaddy river, Mingun and its famous bell, a cruise along the river from Sagaing to Mingun. Many things to do around Mandalay. 

In the city itself, what is worth to do is the Mahamuni pagoda with its deformed Buddha (deformed buy the many kilograms of golden leaves that were stuck to it) and the Mandalay Hill, nice to climb to have a beautiful view for the sunset.

 

Last but not least, Bagan is surely one of the highlights of any trips to Myanmar.

As you said there are obviously the pagodas to visit and so many of them, be sure to visit the most famous ones like Ananda, Dammayangyi Pahto, Sulamani, Thatbinyu or Shwesandaw pagoda. Pyathada Paya is also a good one to visit for the view, you have a large terrace on the top from which you can see all over Bagan, I haven't tried the Bagan Observatory Tower though, the view might be ok from there as well, but I think you have to pay to go up.

In Bagan, you can also have a short cruise on the river for sunset. You can reach the small village of Myinkaba by road, where you will find tens of lacquer ware shops and factories, the traditional handicraft from Bagan (must buy as a souvenir).

In Nyaung U (the city where you have bus station and airport) you have the beautiful Shwezigon Pagoda, which is more recent than the pagodas you will have in old Bagan, but still magnificent. Htilomino and Upali Thein temples will be on your way to Nyaung U, so also worth a stop.

 

Around Bagan there are some sites/attractions as well like Mount Popa and its Nats, and you can go to a Palm tree plantation/palm sugar factory, also. These will require a car though.

 

I certainly haven't explained all, but you surely can have a good idea already about what there is to do in these three places.

If you need to read more about it, here are a few links from the forum on Bagan, Mandalay and Yangon. It sure can give you some more information: 

 

Best Things to do in Bagan

Sight seeing in Mandalay ; trip in Mandalay, Sagaing and Mingun

Two days in Yangon

 

Have a great trip,


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#3
myanmarcard

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hi everyone,

 

thanks for the tips



#4
nolan

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Hi Billy,

 

Just logged back in for the first time since my post but I was able to forward the message from my email notification to my group that is traveling to Myanmar. Everyone found it very helpful, so a big thank you for taking time to respond to my first post.

 

I think we have lot more things to do in Bagan and Yangon that the time allotted for these, so I am trying to understand more about Mandalay. Is the best way to see the areas surrounding the city by private vehicle or taxi? I anticipate there will be at least 6 of us in Mandalay, as opposed to 3 in Yangon. Thus two taxis will be needed at the minimum. The city also doesn't look as friendly for walking vs. Bagan or downtown Yangon near Sule Pagoda.

 

Also, what is the best way to go to Bagan from Mandalay - we are considering buses (but they are not the JJ bus line), or the ferry - the schedule which may not be as reliable. Not too keen on the train but I am open to recommendations. Taking a plane is out of the picture - we want to see as much on the ground even if it means a few hours in a cramped train or bus seat!

 

Cheers


“Twenty years from now you will be more disappointed by the things you didn’t do than by the ones you did do. So throw off the bowlines, sail away from the safe harbor. Catch the trade winds in your sails. Explore. Dream. Discover.” – Mark Twain


#5
TS33

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Hi Billy,

 

Just logged back in for the first time since my post but I was able to forward the message from my email notification to my group that is traveling to Myanmar. Everyone found it very helpful, so a big thank you for taking time to respond to my first post.

 

I think we have lot more things to do in Bagan and Yangon that the time allotted for these, so I am trying to understand more about Mandalay. Is the best way to see the areas surrounding the city by private vehicle or taxi? I anticipate there will be at least 6 of us in Mandalay, as opposed to 3 in Yangon. Thus two taxis will be needed at the minimum. The city also doesn't look as friendly for walking vs. Bagan or downtown Yangon near Sule Pagoda.

 

Also, what is the best way to go to Bagan from Mandalay - we are considering buses (but they are not the JJ bus line), or the ferry - the schedule which may not be as reliable. Not too keen on the train but I am open to recommendations. Taking a plane is out of the picture - we want to see as much on the ground even if it means a few hours in a cramped train or bus seat!

 

Cheers

 

Maybe you can pay a visit to Pyinn Oo Lwin while you are in Mandalay, here is a nice article which will describe you well what to see there http://mingalapar.co...f-colonial-era/


A journey of thousand miles begins with a single step!


#6
Billy the kid

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Hey Nolan,

 

Yeah, no worries at all. As I said when I joined this forum, I love this country and I hope I can help as many people as I can to love it as much as I do, so every time there is something I can help, I am very happy to do it.

 

Yeah, I'm sure you will have a pretty busy schedule, staying only 6 days with that much to do is tight. But I think you better focus on the things you want to do the most and do them fully, rather than doing anything in a hasty manner. Better choose quality of your visits over the quantities of them I think. I know it's not the way most of people think, but still can come back if you want to see more :).

 

In Yangon, this will totally take sense, since you will have a lot of things that may change your schedule. 

Indeed, the atmosphere of this city, is also what makes it so interesting. So might want to stop at a tea shop, then stop at a snack booth and then talk with some friendly Burmese guys met in the streets and before you know it you will already be late for your next visit.

So, my advice is take your time and enjoy things fully.

 

I think you are quite right about Mandalay. Yangon is very extended, but you can easily walk in the downtown area and as I just mentioned it is also part of the interest in this city. Mandalay is extended as well, but there for me not a real downtown and the traffic is horrible.

I mean Yangon has more congestion than Mandalay has, but Mandalay is crazy. First you have motorbikes everywhere, who drive unbelievably dangerously (it is forbidden in Yangon) and then you have no traffic lights in the city, so priority is for the biggest or the most courageous. Whether you are a car, a motorbike or a pedestrian, you just need to find your way through.

 

So opting for a car is a must I think for this reason, but also because as I said, Mandalay is not only worth for Mandalay city itself, but more for the cities/sites surrounding it.

And if you are 6 people, I think you better rent one big car for the 6 of you, rather than renting two cars or taking taxis every time. At least you will have to negotiate for the car only once, and you get to be all together. Which is more fun when you are traveling with a big party I think. 

And from what I know, it will be much cheaper. One car for 4 people + driver would be around 60 USD per day, while a car for up to 7 people + driver would be around 80 USD. You can easily calculate that hiring one big car is cheaper than hiring two small.

There's an old post that talks about car renting, you may check it here to be sure about prices: Car rental in Myanmar

 

There is no JJ express bus company, but there are still many buses going from Mandalay to Bagan and it takes about 7 hours, you will only not have a VIP seat for you, but rather a standard bus. I think it is still ok to use these though.

Boat then, I am not sure how is it now. There should be boats indeed, but I don't know what time they take now, when they depart (may be only one day out of two), since it has changed several time. So you better check carefully if you want to go for this option. What I am sure though, is that it will take longer than the bus.

About train then, same, it regularly changes, but it should take more time than bus. There is a post from this week about Train Schedules, you should check it as well, its apparently the most updated one. If you want to see the country from the ground, it may be the best option however.

 

Once again, hope this will help you :)

Enjoy



#7
nolan

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Thank you for the helpful information.

 

I am aware there is no JJ bus from Mandalay to Bagan since this is what was posted on one website:

 

Bagan - Mandalay

Nyaung Oo Station

Kywel Sel Kan Station

Shwe Mann Thu

Normal

08:00

14:00

15:00

21:00

21:30

05:00

 

I did read in TripAdvisor that trips take 5 hours and not 7 anymore for the 179 km. distance between Mandalay and Bagan.

 

I am interested in this Malikha River Cruise - $45 and takes about 8+ hours from Mandalay to Bagan (daily). Any feedback?

 

http://www.myanmarri...ha_schedule.php

 

Thanks


“Twenty years from now you will be more disappointed by the things you didn’t do than by the ones you did do. So throw off the bowlines, sail away from the safe harbor. Catch the trade winds in your sails. Explore. Dream. Discover.” – Mark Twain


#8
nolan

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I read this from a TripAdvisor thread. http://www.tripadvis...lay_Region.html

 

By: kosoesoemdy

 

Four Bus Companies from Mandalay to Bagan,
 
Names are Shwe Man Thu , Aye Chan Mg , Nyaung U Man , Pyi Daw Aye.
 
Shwe Mann Thu Bus ( Mandalay to Bagan )
 
Departure time : 8:30 AM , 1:30 PM , 4:30 PM , 10:00 PM
 
Price : 8500 Kyats
 
Phone of Bus company : 0280693 , 096500151 , 0991042741
 
Shwe Mann Thu Bus ( Bagan to Mandalay )
 
Departure time : 8:30 AM , 4:00 PM , 9:30 PM
 
Aye Chan Mg Bus ( Mandalay to Bagan )
 
Departure time : 7:30 AM , 5:00 PM
 
Price : 7500 kyats ( 7:30 Bus ) and 10000 kyats ( 5:00 PM Bus )
 
Phone of Bus Company: 02 78558
 
Aye Chan Mg Bus ( Bagan to Mandalay )
 
Departure time : 8:00AM , 5:00 PM
 
Pyi Daw Aye Bus ( Mandalay to Bagan )
 
Departure time : 7:30 AM , 11:30 AM , 2:30 PM
 
Price : 7500 Kyats
 
Phone of Bus Company: 0278513 , 092057330
 
Pyi Daw Aye Bus ( Bagan to Mandalay )
 
Departure time : 5:30 AM , 8:00 AM , 2:30 PM
 
Nyaung U Man Bus ( Mandalay to Bagan )
 
Departure time : 8:30 AM , 1:00 PM , 4:30 PM
 
Price : 8500 Kyats
 
Phone of Bus Company: 096500913 , 09425007273
 
Nyaung U Man Bus ( Bagan to Mandalay )
 
Departure time : 5:30 AM , 7:00 AM , 9:00 AM
 
Almost all the buses are same arrival at Bagan and Mandalay, not much different. Duration time from Mandalay to Bagan is 6 hours. On the way , all the buses stoped for 30 mintues for taking foods and bath room.
 
Hope this will help to Everybody!
 
Enjoy your Bus Trip From Mandalay to Bagan.
 
===========
 
So it looks like Shwe Man Thu or Pyi Daw Aye Bus are the higher end among these four? (since their bus trip costs MMK8500)

“Twenty years from now you will be more disappointed by the things you didn’t do than by the ones you did do. So throw off the bowlines, sail away from the safe harbor. Catch the trade winds in your sails. Explore. Dream. Discover.” – Mark Twain


#9
niallftm

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Hiya Ime Michael from England and would like to thank you for all the information you have posted on this site .I am due to arrive in Yangon early November and so excited to have the chance to visit your country ,I am sure with this sites help and advice it will be a most memorable trip .
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#10
Billy the kid

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Welcome Michael, I'm always happy to help here. So what are your plans for your trip next month, where are you going to visit?


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#11
aster

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Hiya Ime Michael from England and would like to thank you for all the information you have posted on this site .I am due to arrive in Yangon early November and so excited to have the chance to visit your country ,I am sure with this sites help and advice it will be a most memorable trip .

Hiya Ime Michael from England and would like to thank you for all the information you have posted on this site .I am due to arrive in Yangon early November and so excited to have the chance to visit your country ,I am sure with this sites help and advice it will be a most memorable trip .


Hi Michael,
You visit to Myanmar just the right time as there's a lot of festival in early November. Have you plan your trip in Myanmar?? It's high season and I suggest you plan your trip well before you come here. If you need any help, just let us know. We are happy to help you.
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#12
niallftm

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Thank you for your replies ,i am due to arrive in Yangon on November 7th till the 10th then hope to catch the JJ bus to Bagan till the 14th ,thats where ive booked so far ,my main concern is my Visa ,should i try and do it online or leave till i arrive in K.L. .Any festivals would be great to see ,its so exciting planning my trip .

Regards

Michael



#13
PattyM

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That's too bad you are going to miss Taunggyi hot air Ballon festival, it's from 31st of October until 6 or 7th of November this year, one of the most beautiful festivals in Myanmar.

For the visa, you have this government website where you can apply for the it on internet, did you take a look at it? http://evisa.moip.gov.mm/

Never tried it myself, but I didn't hear any complaint about it not working, so I guess it's on and working.

Enjoy the trip


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#14
nolan

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Thank you for your replies ,i am due to arrive in Yangon on November 7th till the 10th then hope to catch the JJ bus to Bagan till the 14th ,thats where ive booked so far ,my main concern is my Visa ,should i try and do it online or leave till i arrive in K.L. .Any festivals would be great to see ,its so exciting planning my trip .

Regards

Michael

You can do you visas online as mentioned by Patty M, I have a friend who did it a few weeks back and it took just a matter of days for approval. So yes, it is a big help since you don't need to leave your passport at the Embassy.


“Twenty years from now you will be more disappointed by the things you didn’t do than by the ones you did do. So throw off the bowlines, sail away from the safe harbor. Catch the trade winds in your sails. Explore. Dream. Discover.” – Mark Twain






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