Overall I thoroughly enjoyed this trip which offered an insight to the people of Myanmar and a chance to see their historical temples and pagodas before they are ruined. Extremely safe country.The hotels were better than my expectations.
- What was the most inspirational moment of your trip?
The hilight was a sunrise hot air balloon ride over Bagan. A very professional set-up made us feel safe and the balloon was the best way to get a good idea of the scale of the Bagan temples area.
Runner up was cycle & walking trip around Lake Inle which was an eye opener into the normal day to day life of the locals and see how industrious they are. We were offered to have tea in a families home but our guide said we had no time (depite us then spending an hour shortly after at a cafe and us having a free afternoon after the ride).
Go and see the Moustache Brothers show in Mandalay. Not going to wow you but is interesting a bit funny and a good way to spend an hour or so as there is not a lot else to do. Go early and grab a beer and dinner at a local restaurant.
- What did you think of your group leader?
Logistics were well organised and she was execllent at taking away the pressure of getting us around efficiently.
However, she was far too risk-adverse in a safe country. She didn't seem to realise we are adults who are well travelled and who are capable of walking around alone and crossing roads without her having to stop traffic. She didn't like people venturing away from the group.
Her briefings were poor and we had to keep asking questions about what was going on and nothing to give us tips as to where to buy products, change money, do laundry etc etc. She really didn't want us to see the Moustache brothers show.
- Do you have any advice for potential travellers?
Bring a jacket and more longer trousers than you think. It was really quite cold in the evenings and mornings. Quite a few early morning starts and we needed to wrap up warm!
It is very cheap and seemed easy enough to change money. I was told to bring 100 USD notes but actually the FX rate was not greatly different by note size. I'd recommend briging some smaller notes in case you need to get a little cash at the end rather than split a 100.
- Is there anything else you would like to add?
One aspect I didn't enjoy quite so much was being herded into "tourist" restaurants. I get that there is a need to make sure that a group can be accommodated but there were times when we could have been given a lunch break to do our own thing and go and eat with the locals. Market / street food was excellent and sooo cheap when I had the opportunity to eat it. We often turned up at a restauarnt full of tourists or coaches in the car park and I felt that we could have been better at distributing our lunch money more widely.
For example on the Lake Inle lake trip day you could easily eat in the market and not the restaurant. I wish I had done that.
I didn't join a group dinner and did my own thing which Moe Moe didn't appreciate but I was keen to check out Chinatown in Yangon where I had a fabulous BBQ fish.
Cash machines are popping up now. The guide book said none but I saw several. I had no need to use them though!