Visiting Burma 18 Nights 19 Days - January 2013

Saturday, 13 April - 2013

How to return to a magical country after three decades? Would it charm once again despite growth and change? In the care of Tamarind Travel, a visitor can revisit sights and pleasures and discover ones previously missed. At home we first conferred with a local agent about places to visit. Irene Wong of Red Lantern Journeys in turn worked with the experienced Cho Cho Lwin, who found us acceptable lodging and knowledgeable guides. From my wish list Irene and Cho Cho developed an itinerary suited to our interests and physical limitations. Having delayed too long to plan this trip, we were in suspense just weeks before departing about whether we had reservations in Bagan and at Inle Lake. It all worked out, including a thrilling balloon ride over Bagan, thanks to Cho Cho's persistence.

Our first guide was superb but became ill during our long drive to Mawlamyine. He carried on, a true professional, but felt he should drop out after our return to Yangon. Cho Cho found a replacement whom we found resourceful and knowledgeable as well. In Yangon we saw attractions I had asked to see, some of which would have been hard to find independently: General Aung San's home, his office (above a fine restaurant), the Jewish synagogue, and the once grand Pegu Club. An impulsive stop was the Sule Pagoda, now much upgraded. Of course, we walked around the Shwedagon Pagoda in two visits, both at sundown, and admired it from our hotel room.

When our guides learned we prefer Burmese food, they took us to local, often humble but safe restaurants. They switched objectives when we indicated our disinterest in certain sights. Our long drives and boat rides with them provided insight into Myanmar's agricultural diversity: rice paddies and rubber plantations southeast of Yangon, crops of legumes and grains in Central Myanmar, and hydroponic tomato farms on Inle Lake. And who knew about active oil wells south of Bagan?

From our hotel on Inle Lake we enjoyed boat trips to weaving workshops, a forge, a jewelry workshop, and on land to a sugar mill and a molasses plant. My urge to paddle a canoe was arranged readily by our guide in consultation with Cho Cho and our hotel---at dusk. Next time, the desk clerk declared, after my paddle with a local boatman, she would paddle with me.

I was pleased to see progress on many fronts since my earlier visit and was delighted to be able to chat with local people, sometimes only via our guides. The people seemed genuinely interested in us.

We were amazed that she picked us up personally at the airport and delivered us back again at trip's end. Cho Cho, an exceptionally considerate travel agent, developed and managed a trip beyond my wildest dreams.

All the best from us!!

Mr. Norm Winn & Mrs. Karyl Winn - Seattle, USA