- What a brilliant trip around a fascinating country. Highlights for me were seeing and hearing firsthand what life is like in communities we visited, the beautiful scenery around Kalaw and Inle Lake and being the only western tourists at a place, which happened a fair bit.
Our tour leader, Myo, was absolutely fantastic, so kind, knowledgeable and generous, he really made the trip. We got so much insight into Burma's turbulent past, its traditions and ways of life, and also the fragile new democracy and the changes that are afoot to modernise and improve quality of life. I loved learning so much about the country we were seeing, and Myo was very patient in answering all my questions! Our three drivers were also great, I felt extremely safe 'on the road' and there was a ready supply of chilled water when we got back to the minibus after some of the longer visits.
I did get a bit of temple fatigue in Bagan but I understand that for some people that might be the highlight of the trip, so I was happy to compromise, and there were still some temples and the stories behind them that I loved, particularly the haunted temple!
There were only six of us in our group and I think that really helped us have a more relaxed time and a more personalised experience. I haven't done a holiday in a bigger group so can't compare the two however.
The hotels exceeded my expectations, they all have their pros and cons but I would happily stay in them all again. They all provided some toiletries in the room, most had shampoo and shower gel so you might want to factor that in to your packing. All hotels also provided complimentary bottled water and tea and coffee making gubbins.
The beach extension was a lovely, relaxed end to the holiday. Ngapali Beach is really unspoilt and was quiet when we went (not peak season), the water is so warm that you can wade straight in without a care in the world. Definitely walk along the beach to the left of the hotel (Amata) to the fishing village, I went at sunset and got some wonderful photos of the local fishing industry wrapping up for the day.
I'd also recommend the People's Park in Yangon for your last day in the city. When I visited there was a beautiful lighting festival on, which was a bonus, but even without that it's still a leafy retreat from the heat and noise of the city, and overlooked by the Shwedagon stupa.
I did get sick twice during the trip, and two of my fellow travellers also fell ill. I felt pretty rough for a couple of days and this impacted on what I could do and my enjoyment of the trip. We didn't take any silly risks with food or drinks and some people on the trip didn't get ill at all, so I think it's mostly bad luck. It did make me feel pretty wary of eating out, particularly in the days that followed both bouts.
It was pretty hot when we were there (late March/early April) but I was surprised that the heat and humidity didn't take it out of me too much. There were only a couple of times on the organised part of the tour when I felt a bit drained by it, but on the whole it was absolutely fine. I think Myo was very clever in making sure we had regular pitstops in air conditioned places, whether that was the minibus, a restaurant or somewhere else. And because it's considered too hot by some, it's not peak tourist season, which was great.
I would definitely recommend this trip - the variety, the pace and the organisation were top notch. This is a captivating country that I feel I got to know as well as I possibly could in two and a half weeks, and that's due to a great itinerary and a wonderful tour guide. Thanks Explore and thanks Myo!
Published on: 16 April 2017