Leena Salim gets the low down on the experiences of travelling around Myanmar from Edwin Briels, General Manager of Khiri Travel

HELLO. TELL US ABOUT KHIRI TRAVEL.
Khiri Travel is a Yangon based travel agency with new and different ideas to explore and see the best of Myanmar. And you know what we think is best about this country? Certainly not the speed of internet or the breakfast choice at the average hotel 3 star hotel upcountry. It is the people. That’s why Khiri Travel developed excursions all over the country that put you in touch with local people. Our trips let you taste fantastic home-cooked food and teaches you a thing or two about the cultural places you visit.

WHAT MAKES KHIRI TRAVEL DIFFERENT THAN THE HUNDREDS OF TRAVEL AGENCIES HERE
Our excursions: We have developed these with local guides and young local entrepreneurs all over the county. Anybody can book a hotel or a flight but travelling is all about is the experience of the country that you get when you’re outside your hotel. We’re more focused on travellers than tourists.

THE MOST DANGEROUS TRIP YOU’VE EVER MADE
Myanmar is very, very safe to travel so the most dangerous trip I ever made was probably walking, slightly intoxicated, on a Yangon downtown pavement full with potholes during the raining season about 10 years back.

Not a dangerous trip but certainly a tough one was last year travelling overland from Bagan to Mrauk U as it included passing the Chin mountains on foot and on the back of a motorbike. I was apprehensive about suffering exhaustion (or diarrhea in the middle of nowhere) knowing that we had to go on to arrive at camp before dark.

Paddle_by_kayak_through_paddy_fields_in_Kayin_State.1
Paddle by kayak through paddy fields in Kayin state

WHEN WOULD BE THE BEST TIME TO TRAVEL AROUND MYANMAR
Nowadays certainly NOT in November or in February as somehow the whole world seems to believe these are the only months to visit! Especially if you live in Yangon you have the chance to go on short trips all the time so it’s easy to avoid the peak season. The green season can bring a lot of rain to Yangon and it feels like it rains every day the whole day, but upcountry weather is much better with often a few days in a row with no rain or hardly any rain! The best places to visit in each month of the year:

January:  Excellent to visit Mrauk U (cool nights, not too many tourists, stunning temples and yes, it is absolutely safe)
February: As it’s busy everywhere (Chinese New Year & Europe spring holiday) best to avoid “the big 4” but visit Northern Shan State; Hsipaw and Kyaukme
March: Getting hot and dry so go for the mountains: wash an elephant in Kalaw
April: Water festival – do the opposite of what everybody does and stay in town and join the celebrations!
May: It’s so hot: only going to Ngapali or Ngwe Saung beach makes sense in this period
June: Yes, finally – rain has come – go to Mandalay (good hotel deals and not many tourists)
July: Probably the best month for Bagan; it’s green (especially towards the end of July) and from this year Oriental Ballooning is operating so it’s a unique chance to see a GREEN Bagan from a balloon.
August: Inle Lake is beautiful, go on a biking trip on arrival in Heho and end at the lake, explore the lake by boat or villages on stilts by kayak. No worries about “the lake being empty” in this period.
September: Mon & Kayin State: Did you ever see any greener paddy fields? Go for private day cruise on Thanlwin River (much more scenic than the Ayeyarwaddy), paddle by kayak through the rice fields flanked with lime stone mountains in the back ground.
October: Just before the tourist high season starts so it might be good to visit Bagan, Mandalay or Inle Lake again – many festivals in this period like Kyaukse dancing elephant, the Shwezigon festival in Bagan or the Phaung Daw Oo festival on Inle Lake.
November:  Time for adventure and to go to places that are still quiet. What about a 4-wheel drive tour in Eastern Shan State or discovering the Chin Hills
December: Up till 22 Dec it’s always very quiet in Myanmar – a great period to travel anywhere in the country. Just spoil yourself these last weeks of the year but make sure you’re back home before the peak season starts as you will pay through the roof for accommodation and compulsory Christmas dinners – no matter what religion you favour…

IF YOU CAN TAKE US TO SOMEWHERE OFF THE BEATEN TRACK, WHERE WOULD IT BE
Really depends on what you like. It’s actually one of our first questions when you enquire about a trip with us. If you like trekking, hill-tribes and you don’t mind simple accommodation then Khiri Travel would take you to Northern Shan state. You don’t want to fly, enjoy sitting in the car and like rivers then Khiri Travel would take you to Mon & Kayin State for 3 days.  A place with luxury, culture and a 5 star hotel? Come with us to Bagan and we’ll show you some real off the beaten track places outside Bagan in the day time while you have a chance to be pampered in the evening.

THE BEST TRAVELLING EXPERIENCE YOU’VE EVER HAD
Worldwide? That would be my trip to Iran 5 years ago as the country had so many similarities with Myanmar – the most friendly and welcoming people on earth!

In Myanmar? There are countless good experiences amongst them the best are ballooning in Bagan, kayaking through paddy fields in Kayin State and a day trip biking mostly downhill through Pa O villages near Inle Lake.

And I am sure there many more to come. Right now I am looking forward to an exploration trip to Mogok to see what more than gems stones this area has to offer.  Want to know more about that?
Send me an email: [email protected]

Top photo credit
www.jpkpic.comEdwin_Briels.1

This article was previously published on MYANMORE, 13 May 2015.

 

 

 

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