- The hotels were excellent – of a much higher standard than expected and in great locations (better than the usual Explore selection! If Explore offered regularly this standard of accommodation I could convince more acquaintances to travel with Explore!)
The restaurants the guide chose for lunch were also an excellent selection with a wide choice of food (including for vegetarians) starting at low prices and in nice locations. The local drinks including beer were very good and cheap.
The highlights of the trip were:
1) The sunset on the U Bein wooden bridge in Mandalay was absolutely spectacular (while Mandalay was a great disappointment).
2) Lake Inlay – the boat trips with stunning scenery, the lake surrounded by mountains, the fishermen, villages on water, floating gardens etc. The train journey to Kalaw. Wonderful.
3) Bagan – visiting the area. I really appreciated the visit by horse carriage among the unspoilt circa 3000 temples and the sunset from the top of one of them. Memorable.
What I have to criticise about this trip:
1) There is a lack of ancient / worthwhile buildings/ landmarks/ temples/ pagodas or “historical” places to visit in Myanmar but this should NOT be an excuse to have an overdose of visits to MODERN pagodas / temples (awful buildings). There is no need to visit every single contemporary place of worship that is being built in Myanmar (there seems to have one at every street corner).
2) I was glad I "like" shopping because most days there was an overdose of stops at a cottage industry or “factory” (umbrella making, paper making, silk weaving, lotus weaving, wood carving, silver jewelry making, gold leaf making, stone carving, lacquer etc..). This is “potentially” interesting if you have never travelled in South-East Asia but it is invariably a cover up for visiting a shop and spend shopping time. I don’t mind it if it is not too frequent– e.g. the stop at the local market was welcome - but shopping was excessive even for me and for those who hate shopping (there were some among us) or who have seen it countless number of times (in other countries – it’s very similar). This was an overdose. Perhaps the guide should ASK us whether we want to stop at these countless shops and follow what the majority wants???
3) The trip is very /too leisurely. It is indeed a positive thing to spend 2 or 3 nights at the same hotel but there is such a lot of empty time and so little "to see" that the trip risks to be classified as “boring”. I must say I would have liked it to be more compact, packed with only what is worthwhile doing (cut a good third or more of it!!).
Published on: 20 October 2016