travel

Burma Beckons (Part 6)

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Getting there

The easiest way to travel to Burma from the UK is via Bangkok, from where Thai Airways International (www.thaiairways.com) flies to Rangoon daily.

Journey time – The flight from London to Bangkok takes about 12 hours, and to Rangoon 80 minutes. The writer and photographer’s visit was arranged by Ampersand Travel (020 7289 6100; www.ampersandtravel.com), tailor-made trips to Burma only after the NLD request that tourists stay away was lifted in 2010. An 11-day trip, taking in Rangoon, Kalaw, Mandalay, Inle Lake and Bagan, costs from $4 per person, including international flights, accommodation on a bed-and-breakfast basis, all internal flights and private car transport, a private guide and entrance fees.

Description: Burma beyond the pagodas

Burma beyond the pagodas

Red Tape

UK citizens need to obtain a visa to visit Burma. Tourist visas, valid for stays of up to 28 days, cost $21 from The Embassy of the Republic of the Union of Myanmar in London (www.myanmarembassyuk.co.uk) and take up to 10 working days to process. Currency exchange in Burma is unconventional. The official bank rate is about 10 times lower than that offered at hotels, shops and other licensed outlets. You need to travel with crisp, new US dollar bills (no torn or folded notes will be exchanged), the higher the denomination the better. Traveler’s cheques and other currencies are not generally exchanged. Credit cards are rarely accepted, expect in a few hotels, which charge at least five per cent commission.

Where to stay

Many hotels in Burma are owned by the families of powerful members of the military. The options on our list are, to the best of our knowledge, unconnected with the regime.

Rangoon

The Governor’s Residence (www.goverorsresidence.com) is an Orient-Express hotel set in an elegant 1920s, colonial-style mansion. Doubles from US$210 Chatrium Hotel Royal Lake Yangon (www.chatrium.com) is a large, box-like properly, built in 1998 and part of a Thai-run group, with views of Shwedagon Pagoda. Doubles from US$156

Description: A bed room - the Chatrium Hotel Royal Lake Yangon

A bed room - the Chatrium Hotel Royal Lake Yangon

Where to stay Mandalay

Mandalay Hill Resort Hotel (www.mandalayhillresorthotel.com), at the foot of the hill, is a big, corporate-style property with gardens, a large pool and spa. Doubles from US$140

Kalaw

The Green Haven (www.greenhavenhotel.yolasite.com) is a charming, family-run guesthouse, built in spring last year. Doubles from US$17

Inle Lake

Hupin Hotel, Inle Khaung Daing (www.hupinhotelmyanmar.com) is a large resort dating from the 1980s, with great lake views and over-water villas. Doubles from US$35

Bagan

Bagan Thiripyitsaya Sanctuary Resort (www.thiripyitsaya-resort.com) is a Japanese-owned hotel on the banks of the Irrawaddy, where peacocks wander around the grounds. The spa is excellent. Doubles from US$80

Where to eat

Food at the hotels listed above (with the exception of The Green Haven, which has no formal restaurant) ranges from adequate to exceptional (the latter at The Governor’s Residence and Bagan Thiripyitsaya Sanctuary Resort). Other options are as follows.

Rangoon

Le Planteur (leplanteur.net) is a chic restaurant in a colonial-style house. It serves modern cuisine and has an impressive wine list, which includes Burmese vintages. Dinners about US$90 for two without wine

Description: Le Planteur

Le Planteur restaurant

Mandalay

Golden Duck (00 95 2 25623) is probably the best Chinese restaurant in the city, with great Yunnanese cuisine. Dinner about US$30 for two without wine

Kalaw

Thirigayha Restaurant (00 95 81 50216) is a charming little place set in an old wooden house, serving traditional Shan food. Dinner about UD$20 for two without wine.

Weather to go

Burma has a monsoon-type climate, with a cool, dry season from November to April and hot, wet weather from May to September. The hottest months in the big cities are from March to May, with average daytime temperature of 29°C

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