Results 1 to 9 of 9
Like Tree11Likes
  • 6 Post By K2
  • 5 Post By K2

Thread: Myanmar Trip X Report - April/May 2014

  1. #1
    K2
    K2 is offline
    Super Moderator K2's Avatar
    Join Date
    Mar 2013
    Posts
    1,543

    Myanmar Trip X Report - April/May 2014

    Mingalabar Myanma

    So back again (trip #10) – May 2014 which makes it a little over 4 years since my first visit – much has changed and the pace of change is accelerating. This trip was centred on Yangon and the Ayeyarwady River delta beach towns of Ngwe Saung and Chaung Thar.

    Money: Kyat [chaT] – exchange rate USD 1 = 960 Kyat.

    The need for fresh unmarked new USD bills remains, but it cant be too much longer before this annoying quirk is abandoned and for the now prevalent money changers to accept a wider range of currencies [currently USD/EUR/SGD and AUD are accepted]. ATM machines are available but only accept certain cards, so would still advise against relying on ATM’s.

    Food: Food options are increasing, in particular fast food joints are beginning to open up perhaps not for the best, but that’s progress. Yangon food is still disappointing compared to Thailand and in the more remote areas advise great care in making sure food is properly prepared as basic hygine especially where electricity is intermittent can severely ruin your holiday.

    Recommended:-

    19th Street China Town area – great Chinese street food.

    365 Café (Thamada Hotel) – good Asian fusion food – still my favourite eatery, but its becoming too popular and portion sizes have shrunk.

    Eugenia Café – eclectic menu and very busy (always a good sign) and good priced food – a good find. 47-A Baho Rd, Yangon, Myanmar (Burma)
    +95 1 227 346.

    Feel Myanmar – I feel (sic.) that this is only good at lunchtime now, as it closes at 9pm, and evening eating the food is limited. Lonely Planet and Myanmore (Best Myanmar Food Restaurant 2014) fame have made it too crowded for me to enjoy.

    Lotteria – Myanmar’s KFC – way cheaper than KFC but sprouting up in several locations – useful for western food fix.

    Getting there (and away) …

    I flew (Air Bagan) from Chiang Mai to Yangon (1 hr 10 min) for 9200 Baht – the planes Air Bagan are using now on this route are now looking tatty and the flight was only at 30% load. I hope the route survives but its much cheaper from Bangkok.

    VISA: I got mine in London for £14 but a 28 tourist visa can also be obtained via Via P&P Travel (Thapae Rd, Chiang Mai) for 2400 Baht.

    The Philippines, Vietnam and this week Indonesia have signed visa waiver agreements, so if/when Thailand gets a functioning government they cant be far behind. Proper visa on arrival except for business travellers is not an option currently. Post 2015 when ASEAN is supposed to allow greater freedom of movement perhaps a region wide visa will be introduced – we can but hope so.



    Yangon

    General impression: Pace of change is rapidly growing, construction frenzy going on as well as infrastructure projects – roads and bridges. The traffic has become horrendous at times and really soured any desire I had to live there. Car prices have dropped a lot as import restrictions and taxes have been slashes, so car ownership is more attainable – a mixed blessing.

    Electricity, internet and cell phone coverage are much improved and a lot cheaper. Except in the more remote areas there was good cell phone coverage and pay as you go is now easily available.

    Hotels

    Yangon:

    New Yangon Hotel, 830 Mahabandoola Road /9th Street - $56/night (2.5*) standard room booked via Agoda – location is near the river but as a new hotel I like it a lot. My only complaint is the lack of blackout curtains, but these are coming I was told by the manager. Breakfast was good and inclusive. Good wi-fi, quiet efficient aircon and friendly staff make it my current hotel of choice in Yangon. I later upgraded to the deluxe room for $65/night which was probably unnecessary.

    Ngwe Saung:

    Yamonnar Oo Resort - $91/night (3* but more like 1.5* IMO) – superior ocean bungalow. Over priced but stunning location. Huge room but under powered aircon and electricity from 6pm for 6am. Cleanliness was lacking (dirty windows and stained sheets) and mediocre over priced restaurant. Owned by KBZ Bank group – so surly staff who thought that strimming the drainage ditch behind my room was a great idea – even when I told them to stop they did so very reluctantly. Lonely Planet/Trip Advisor praise for this hotel is very misplaced.

    Chaung Thar:

    Hill Garden Resort - $30/night (1.5*) – hillside bungalow. What a contrast! – OK not on the beach and indeed way out of town (not a bad thing) but lush, beautifully landscaped and environmentally conscious garden cabins – idyllic! Except …. Electricity only available 6pm to 6am (unreliable) and then pot luck during the day. Wifi at odd hours via phone tether but it worked ‘sometimes’. Value for money – certainly and beach was a short 3 min walk down a dusty hill but the beach here is far better than the main beach which is Myanmar’s answer to Brighton!

    One more serious complaint is the encouragement to pay bar/food bills upon check out – while this makes things easier it deprives the service staff of tips and I am pretty sure my food bill of 104Ks ($108) for 3 days was inflated – strongly recommend paying as you go. The food was excellent and the staff as charming and helpful as you could wish for.

    WARNING- Be VERY careful where you eat in this region – the lack of reliable electricity means food storage is a problem as is basic hygiene! This is no idle warning, both visiting locals and foreigners are often victims of food poisoning and I was no exception.
    Its My Life .....!

  2. #2
    K2
    K2 is offline
    Super Moderator K2's Avatar
    Join Date
    Mar 2013
    Posts
    1,543
    Getting there (and away) …

    Ngwe Saung

    Busses to the delta region leave from the Hlaing Thar Yar highway bus station at 7AM (you need to be there at least 30 mins before departure and I’d strongly recommend pre-booking as the bus was full) – this is a long way out of town – allow at least 90 mins to get there from downtown as the road passes both the main fish and vegetable markets which make the road congested. A taxi from down town to the bus station is 8,000 Kyat but the return is more tricky. The taxi wanted 15,000 Kyat to come back and later dropped to 10,000 Kyat if shared. The journey back took even longer (nearly 2 hours) with the extra stops.

    The bus to Ngwe Saung (NgWee SAU) is 11,000 Kyat (5,000 for locals) on a bus company called Shwe Pyi Lwin. [The quicker, more comfortable alternative is to go via private car/taxi at $100/day – if 4 people going this is a better option I’d advise].

    The bus was OK – usual local DVD/music – not too loud and journey to Pathein is across fairly dull open rice paddy and crosses several huge rivers. The road is just about 2-way but so pretty hairy overtaking is involved – possibly this could be a loop for motorbike riders as there is nothing too difficult to navigate. (There are hardly any road signs – let alone in English, so GPS would be a must). The city of Pathein for the obligatory food/piss stop is pretty non descript and I choose a look see at the amusement park/university (handily side by side) just up from the food stop was a better/safer option. I instantly became the amusement parks main attraction with the bemused locals wondering why/how I had got in there – an odd place for sure. The uni was on holiday – so no sightseeing to be done there.

    Ngwe Saung arrives after 5 hours – the final section after Pathein through twisting road through the coastal hills which I enjoyed a lot. Pretty hair raising to be honest and some of the ravines looked deadly. On a sadder note the environmental damage being done to the pristine jungle is severe. Rubber plantations and shrimp farms are the main culprits for wholesale destruction of what must have been magnificent jungles – a few lone giants surviving in the freshly planted rubber groves.

    From the bus station either motorbike or rickshaw a plenty – 2,000 Kyat for the quite tough ride to the hotel perhaps ~ 4km.

    Ngwe Saung beach is (other than the Mergui archipelago) Myanmar – and indeed the best beast beach I’ve seen in the Andaman Sea. In a word – breathtaking!

    One day this will be the Kamala of Myanmar – it’s mainly very high end hotels and resorts which have been built here to very high standards. The beach itself is a vast expanse over 12km long. It’s a beach lovers heaven.

    At present I’d only suggest going to stay in a money no object resorts like Eskala, Max or Aurium - these are up to $400/night but why slum it when it takes so much effort to get there. Lower end places will come in time no doubt and I admit getting severely food poisoned did dent my desire to slum it.

    Chaung Thar

    This was the highlight of the whole trip – the journey from Ngwe Saung to Chaung Thar – it would make perhaps the ultimate extreme hash run!

    Setting off from Ngwe Saung via motorbike – the journey is supposed to take ~ 2 hours for 17,000 Kyat ($18). There are plenty of motorbikes that ply the beach and find one who can speak enough English and you should be OK.

    The track is amazing – over rocky outcrops, along deserted pristine beaches and through mangrove groves and sandy coconut groves. To top this off there are 3 massive river crossings to make – on little ferry boats at 1,400 Kyat a trip – making the whole ~15km trip 21,000 Kyat ($22), possibly the best money spent on the whole trip!

    Chaung Thar is a beach of two halves – the bit near the final jetty and main ‘town’ is mainly used by better off Yangonites escaping for short breaks – there are dozens of cheap guest houses, so of the budget conscious its ideal. In many ways reminded me of very early Phuket – Patong Beach with some better resorts going up in the more prime locations. Much more variety and more do do/see than Ngwe Saung, but the crowds of locals lobbing discarded BBQ skewers and cans on the beach is not to my liking. For this part of the beach Hotel Max is the best hotel to stay – of course no local rabble allowed to munch away on the beach outside here!

    Beach activities were available, speed boat rides, banana boat and jet-ski’s – I didn’t bother so not sure if rip-offs. There were very few westerners around and this is the tail end of the season. During rainy season (June to Sept) – pretty much everything shuts down.

    Hill Garden Hotel was located at the northern end of the beach – up a hill! Ace Hotel is building perhaps the most vile concrete monstrosity I’ve ever seen on an Asian beach just where the road veers off towards the northern end of the beach. The beach here is much cleaner, nearly devoid of anybody with typhoon Nargis battered hotels being finally repaired/re-built.

    As stated in the hotel section – Hill Garden Hotel was a delight – I get the feeling it probably had some westerner influence but now has been taken over by the Shwe Hin Tha Hotel which did little to appeal to me.

    The bus back to Yangon – 10,000 Kyat foreigner (4,500 Kyat local) picks up from this hotel at 6 AM and Hill Garden arranged free motorbike transfer to the pick-up. The bus back (same company) was less enjoyable, the aircon was poor and there were 2 food/piss stops adding another 90 mins to the journey.

    Inexperienced locals spend the journey (especially in the coastal hills either sleeping or puking into the provided plastic bags – yep I know – lovely!

    So now I have pretty much seen most of Myanmar – the potential for development is virtually infinite – likely at the expense of its natural beauty which is truly incredible.
    !

    This concludes my trip report – at some stage in a while I’ll get round to the boring job of re-sizing pics to post but I have to (sadly) get back to reality.

    Chezu ten ba deh Myanmar – I’ll be back sometime but perhaps its time for pastures new.
    LivinLOS, geir, Pablo and 2 others like this.
    Its My Life .....!

  3. #3
    Senior Member nelsonone's Avatar
    Join Date
    Mar 2013
    Posts
    2,862
    another great report Kev...you really have become "our man in Myanmar"

  4. #4
    Senior Member Pablo's Avatar
    Join Date
    Apr 2013
    Posts
    4,246
    Good job and thanks for that Kev.

  5. #5
    Senior Member billpay's Avatar
    Join Date
    Mar 2013
    Posts
    2,041
    Yes, another great job Kev. Are you still enamored with it as you once were? How about the nightlife in Yangon, is it still alive and well?
    The sooner you fall behind, the more time you'll have to catch up.

  6. #6
    Super Moderator dawsey's Avatar
    Join Date
    Mar 2013
    Posts
    2,223
    Very informative Kev. Excellent TR
    RIP Nicke June 1971 - Jan 2013.

    AT SOME POINT IN LIFE, EVERYONE HAS GAMBLED ON A FART AND LOST.

  7. #7
    Senior Member Waharoa's Avatar
    Join Date
    Apr 2013
    Posts
    6,165
    I can't believe it's already 4 years since that first trip...

    By the way, though I haven't been myself, I've passed on information from your previous TRs to friends who have visited Myanmar.... and they have really appreciated the heads up...

  8. #8
    K2
    K2 is offline
    Super Moderator K2's Avatar
    Join Date
    Mar 2013
    Posts
    1,543
    Quote Originally Posted by billpay View Post
    Yes, another great job Kev. Are you still enamored with it as you once were? How about the nightlife in Yangon, is it still alive and well?
    Thanks guys - yes, Myanmar remains pretty special, but Yangon is losing its appeal as the traffic there is getting really bad, the long term expats are unhappy and some are looking to leave. I could only live there in a large gated community - and while I'd like the opportunity to spend a couple of years in Yangon, I think my chances of finding something to do productively there are limited. Next year sees the opening of a stock exchange, but with only a few companies likely to be listed - cant see that as a real goer for me.

    Nightlife remains much what it was - although I reckon lower the Shwe Dagon Street complex will be torn down as the the land there is so valuable now. That maybe another 2 or 3 years away, but the appeal of the nightlife long waned for me as I had ongoing connection there in any case. There are some new bars and clubs that have opened and even a more hip scene is emerging covered by Myanmore - MYANMORE Yangon | The Ultimate Urban Guide to Restaurants, Nightlife, Bars, Music, Art, Travel and Activities in YangonMYANMORE Yangon | The Ultimate Urban Guide to Restaurants, Nightlife, Bars, Music, Art, Travel and Activities in Yangon
    Its My Life .....!

  9. #9
    Senior Member PadMC's Avatar
    Join Date
    Mar 2013
    Location
    Germany
    Posts
    747
    Good read..

Posting Permissions

  • You may not post new threads
  • You may not post replies
  • You may not post attachments
  • You may not edit your posts
  •