A great introduction to Burma, covering the four main tourist areas over 2 weeks, with a good amount of of free time for you to re-experience things at your own pace, go off exploring on your own or just kick back and chill with the locals!
- What was the most inspirational moment of your trip?
The cave with what seemed a gazillion buddhas on the way to lake Inle - can't believe there were only 8000 of them. Took way too many pictures...
The climb to the top of Popa near Bagan (done one free afternoon), great climb, great views, shopping for the most amazing tacky souvenirs on the way back down, and stopping at a toddy making place on the way back
Enjoying street food anywhere and everywhere - amazing tossed salads and noodle dishes of all kinds.
- What did you think of your group leader?
Nay's organisation skills were great, and very unflappable, even when one of our group tried to throw herself down a flight of stone steps. It turned out to be his first "injury" and he coped brilliantly.
Although he gave us recommendations every evening for restauarants for group meals, he was perfectly OK with us going off and doing our own thing, didn't fuss over us unnecessarily.
- Do you have any advice for potential travellers?
Take freshly minted unmarked USD notes if you're changing money at banks - even the slightest mark is enough for them to be rejected. It wasn't such a problem with 1, 5 and 10 USD bills we used to pay for souvenirs locally.
Don't be afraid to try the street food - yes, they mix it with their hands (but usually wearing gloves), but it's all been freshly prepared. I ate plenty of street food salads and didn't have any problems
And don't be afraid to break the usual travellers rule of "never sit down to eat in an empty restaurant". Too many travellers go to the place that has lots of other travellers already sitting down. It just means all the money goes to the same restaurant (and you end up waiting longer for your food as it's almost always freshly prepared).
Someone has to be the first to sit down there every evening, and once one person is there, others will join you. We had our best (restaurant) food in Bagan at a small place that mainly sold veggie food which was deserted when we first pitched up, so good we went back for a second night.
- Is there anything else you would like to add?
Keep a torch in your daybag and take it with you everywhere. Then when you end up somewhere to admire the sunset, you'll have it to hand to get back to the bus safe and sound). Also useful for decoding restaurant menus in dim light.
There was plenty of free time on this trip - often a couple of hours a day, usually early afternoon (the hottest part of the day). It was good to have some time to go off and do something on your own or as a small subgroup, made a refreshing change from some other trips where I've felt like I've ended up being escorted 24/7.
Yes, we lost time sitting around at airports a couple of days, but given the delays were due to fog in Rangoon there wasn't much that could be done about it... the main downside was we didn't have much time the final afternoon for last minute souvenir shopping at the huge market in Rangoon. Then again, we'd had plenty of chances to buy stuff on route, so maybe that was a good thing?