Best Myanmar Tour CompaniesMyanmar's best tour operators
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Travel Asia Transpacific
Miracles of the Universe are waiting in time-distorted Myanmar. While Myanmar is quickly emerging from the chokehold of a long established army regimes and embarking on a auspicious road to democratization, Myanmar is the "it spots du jour" that attracts everyone - from democratic pusher (including President Obama, who made a stopover in November) to emerging investors who want a slice of the cake, to travellers who are ready to break new grounds.
However, while Myanmar is at the top of the "where-to-now" list, the countryside is rapidly evolving. Bursting with blink-and-you-might-miss-something dynamism, the service of a locally -based, high-quality tour operator is essential, with the help of needy and locally based agencies who can help travellers find their way around a land that is still in the works. I spent two weeks in Myanmar last months to test the performance of two of the country's top tour operators, Asia Transpacific Journeys and Abercrombie & Kent.
Here is how their trip benefits are piled. Who we are Asia Transpacific Journeys, headquartered in the USA, specialises in travelling in Asia and the South Pacific and has been organising tailor-made high-end and small group trips to Myanmar since 1990. Working with some of the country's leading tour operators, the firm is modeling its routes around experienced tour guide books with routes built on culture diving and green stewardship - a recipe that has proven sufficiently effective to attract customers from Harvard and Yale affiliates and organizations such as the American Museum of Natural history.
Fuehrer: Bagan-born Lin Htike was by far the best leader we met in the land, thanks to his university degree in Hong Kong, his impeccable mastery of the British tongue, his enlightening comments and his funny stories. Following a nocturnal nightly round-trip to the outdated Yangon colonization, smoothly co-ordinated land transportation, a relaxing evening on The Beach (in the shop since 1901) and an early breakfast northern trip, I was prepared for two nights to explore the old Myanmar capitol Bagan in very able hands. 2.
Visiting a fistful of them, among them the solid gold stupa in the Shwezigon and Nan Phaya from the twelfth centuries with their carved stones, we took fascinating bird's eyes view of the panorama of the pagoda scenery from a foggy hot-air aerial flight at dawn and from the terrace of the Shwesandaws.
ATJ's on-premises links were obvious: We were greeted like the burgomaster, had a dinner in a fully licensed eatery and got a seat on a hot-air tour, although they usually reserve a few month in advance. What a surprise! Having mentioned that we would be enjoying our meetings with the natives, our leader took us to the little-attended 1,000-year-old town of Phwasaw, where we were welcomed into the houses and garages of the natives; he also took my admirer to a drink evening with the Myanmar young, driven by whisky and indigenous carol.
Aureum Palace Bagan, a spacious 114-room plot on the edge of the archeological reserve, with a staff lounge with tea -wood columns, an inflinity swimming pools and summer cottages with views of a stupa-dotted lakescape. The majority of ATJ travellers choose to travel privately, tailor-made. You can also make small group tours that combine international get-togethers with off-piste surprises, such as the 13-day Burma trip:
Who we are Abercrombie & Kent has been taking luxurious travel to far-flung locations around the world for 50 years, with trustworthy high-end tour offerings that have drawn customers like Barbara Walters, Oprah Winfrey and Bill Gates. It has been operating in Myanmar for 15 years, with branches in Yangon and Bagan run by full-time A & K employees.
Fuehrer: Following a bustling public holidays from Bagan to Inle Lake on a bustling public holidays, we were confused with a substitute professional tour leader with whom A & K had not worked infrequently. However, after a call to the A & K Yangon offices, a new guidebook was commissioned for the next travel stage, which turned out to be a more appropriate replacemento.
Lake is a true miracle of waters, surrounded by wooded hills and pools of wooded trees, lively community market and crafts, lively craft industries, "floating" stilts and wood abbeys and shrines, and community Intha fishers, all of whom were conveniently steered by A & K's motorised long-tail vessel. Journey on your own on your own personal, tailor-made itinerary or join a small group such as 11-day Myanmar's Burmese Heritage (from $6,495/person).
You can find more information in Fodor's Myanmar Guide. Elissa Richard, a 14-month journey around the world, is a contemporary discoverer, eternal search and hardworking itinerary.