We arrived back home after an extremely enjoyable holiday in Myanmar followed by a few days in Hong Kong. We both wanted to thank you for all your help and guidance in arranging such an excellent holiday, which went completely according to plan. We were both very pleased with the services of ICS, all the guides and drivers were, without exception, very enthusiastic about their country and wanted to impart as much knowledge to us as possible. Not only that, we both felt they were kind and courteous far beyond one’s expectations.
We were pleased we had included some free days as well, as it would have been too exhausting for us to be out sightseeing all the time.
You asked for any feedback about the trip, so here we go:
All the hotels were excellent, but we were disappointed by The Hotel by the Red Canal in Mandalay. Our room had no view or balcony and was not a “suite”, being wrongly described as such in our literature: it was just a large, well-furnished room. We asked if we could change rooms, but were told the hotel was fully booked. There was a large communal balcony overlooking the pool which we used a few times. The staff in all the hotels were very helpful and friendly, except, perhaps, at The Hotel by Tharabar Gate in Bagan, which was much more impersonal but nevertheless a delightful hotel. At Inle Lake, we were given sweatshirts as the evenings were chill; we were told these were a present. I was really surprised they fitted! This hotel was very well run with an excellent manager/owner overseeing everything. They put on a superb New Year’s Eve party.
The hotels all took credit cards, which we used on a couple of occasions depending on how much additional charge the hotel was going to make. In Bagan, it was 5%, whilst in Ngapali there was no charge at all. Others wanted 3% or 4%. Though we had no need to use them, we saw several ATM’s, especially in Bagan. We also used credit cards in some restaurants too.
You said we should change our £ sterling into kyat when we arrived in Yangon airport, but, as it was around midnight, all the exchange desks were closed, so our guide took us to an official money exchange centre on our first morning. However, to our dismay, no-one would change Sterling, as apparently, on that day, no one could find out the correct exchange rate. Our guide phoned a friend, who told her where we could change Sterling and what rate was being offered. As we were leaving the exchange hall, a young man approached us offering a competitive rate, and even more if we had £50 & £20 notes. We were quite happy with this arrangement, changed £200 into kyat, which lasted us for the whole holiday. As you told us, it was often easier to pay in dollars.
Our boat trip from Mandalay to Bagan was excellent. Although the boat, which was made entirely of teak, was only two years old, it was in the old traditional style. There were 7 cabins, including the large one on the upper deck which we had booked, but there were only 9 passengers in total including us. The whole experience was delightful. There were 15 crew looking after us and they couldn’t have been more helpful or kinder. I’m not very stable on my feet, but they helped me on and off the boat taking, so much care all the time. We wouldn’t have wanted to spend longer on the river, but those two days made an unforgettable interlude; delicious food and the gift of a round lacquer box attached to our door on Christmas morning. On our last evening, six members of the crew sang to us accompanied by a guitar. It was a magical evening and when we went to bed we found roses pinned to our door and petals strewn in a pattern over the beds. Incidentally, Paul is most interested in boats and he was even allowed to take the helm for a while.
Neither of us had realised how important Buddha is to these delightful people and we found out a lot about the different temples and stupas. What impressed us was the sheer beauty of some of the temples. We also much enjoyed going round to see the various artisans in Mandalay and also at Inle Lake too. We felt quite privileged that we’d been able to see the life style of so many people.
The internal flights were fine, if not exactly on time. Our hold luggage was always weighed but our hand luggage wasn’t and we saw several people with really large amounts of cabin luggage.
There was quite a difference in the cost of hotel meals too; incredibly cheap in Ngapali and obviously much dearer in Yangon. We didn’t always eat in the hotels but tried one or two of the places the guides had recommended.
What a contrast it was in Hong Kong – lots of brash, noisy Chinese. We were very pleased with the hotel you’d chosen as it was exquisitely decorated, very comfortable and close to the MTR. We made good use of our Elderly Person’s Octopus Cards, going all over the place either by train or bus, most journeys costing only $HK2. Incidentally, the hotel has no level 4, 14, 24 etc or rooms with a 4 in the number as it’s unlucky!
Finally, we’d like to say a big “Thank You” for your kind efforts in arranging this memorable holiday. If you want, we’ve lots and lots of photos that you’re more than welcome to come and see. I’m also in the midst of writing a journal, too. We would be only too happy to recommend Jasmine Tours to anyone we know. I’m not sure where we’ll try and visit next but we certainly will keep you in mind.
Kindest regards and best wishes to you all.
Helen & Paul