By Nina Ornstein
Traveling to Myanmar? Congratulations! You are in for a life-changing adventure. My mom and I recently visited and we found the entire journey much easier than anticipated. The country, culture and tourism is very accessible with friendly locals to help navigate along the way. My mom and I went to Myanmar via Thailand on a 10 day trip. We spent the first two nights in Bangkok at the fabulously themed Hotel Indigo on Wireless Road in the Suhkhumvit neighborhood.We continued flying on to Yangon, where we spent our first night at the Savoy Hotel, a luxury boutique hotel. We were able to settle in comfort and style, even managing to have a friend of a friend living abroad stop by and give us the low down on Myanmar life. The Savoy took care of all the details, with stellar accommodations and to-go breakfast with fresh mango juice for our early flight. The staff all knew our name, and were eager to answer the incessant flow of questions from my mom and me regarding Myanmar. All 30 deluxe rooms including six suites express the charm of “the old days” with traditional Myanmar antiques, teak furniture and spacious bathrooms. The Savoy is ideally located in the picturesque area of Yangon, overlooking the Shwedagon Pagoda, Myanmar’s “twinkling wonder” and the nearby People’s Park. Just ten minutes drive from the city centre and 20 minutes to the International Airport, I highly recommend this sanctuary to anyone that needs a little extra pamper to keep the progress.We continued into the core of the country, flying north to Bagan where we stayed at the Bagan Hotel River View. As the name suggests, this property is located right on the river with spectacular views of the delta and daily life on the water. The accommodations err on the side of rustic, though clean and very safe. The property, pool, dining deck, meditation space and on-site ancient Buddhist temple ruins are phenomenal. This is the retreat we needed to relax in between exploring the archeological fields, most likely climbing to the top before sunrise and again at sunset for that impeccable view. The breakfast buffet has a wide variety including noodle soup. I’m a sucker for soup, especially on crisp mornings. The staff was friendly, the location was unbelievably convenient, we felt very safe and the price was right. I recommend visiting Bagan and staying here.Wrapping up our stay, we spent three final nights in Inle Lake. I was tempted by the floating hotels I saw all over Instagram and travel books so thought we might splurge and try them out. Night two, my mom and I experienced a horrendous festival of sorts that blasted maniacal sounds over a loud speaker from 7pm to 7am. For real. The setting, though once serene down to the pool suspended over the lake on stilts, was now tainted. We packed up, moved on out and enjoyed our final night in the Nyaungshwe Township, riding in the back of a truck the Red Mountain Estate to seal the adventure. Have I mentioned my mom is a seriously awesome travel buddy?While the floating hotel idea is nice, and I’m sure the sounds of crazed chipmunks selling in an auction through the night was a fluke. In the end, my mom and I agree that fancy wasn’t fun this time around and the guesthouse option was the way to go for Inle Lake. In the township we were still just as convenient to excursions, if not more. We were also far closer to the airport and more importantly an array of restaurants, shops, night markets, morning markets and travelers to chat up.I’ll leave a few final Myanmar travel tip with you:
- Save your money by skipping fancy hotels. If you have it, spend it on excursions & buying fun pants for your friends.
- Spread your money out and purchase from privately owned businesses whenever possible. Be a mindful consumer.
- Spend time getting to know the staff everywhere you stay, ask about their life, where they come from, their goals.
- Be respectful of their cultural norms and leave a considerate footprint. IE cover your body in temples and in general.