I normally don’t review hotels but reliable info on decent places to stay within Myanmar is surprisingly inconsistent and unreliable (read: Lonely Planet blows). Here are the places I stayed along with all the information I remember. Hopefully it will be useful to you.
Take note of the numbers and address as booking online within Myanmar will be a pain given the very limited internet speeds.
Price: ~$24 USD a night
Location: No. 182, 31st St Between 82nd and 83rd Street
Phone: 02-35821, 66548
My Experience: This was a pretty long walk (with luggage) from where the Air Asia bus drops you off, but still manageable. The staff were super awesome and the young guys even taught me where to buy and how to wear a longyi. The breakfast was pretty good too (breakfast is always included in Myanmar) with a choice of eggs in an omelet, scrambled, or over easy. The showers and room were clean, the water was warm, and they had reasonably reliable internet (by Myanmar standards).
Normally, it isn’t easy to rent a scooter as laws in certain places (like Bagan) forbid foreigners from riding them. However, one of the workers let me rent his as long as I brought it back in time for him to go home, which worked out fine for us. We were able to see parts of Mandalay outside of the typical tours, which was awesome. Revisiting certain places off peak hours (such as the large monastery near Ubein Bridge) was worth it. The only con I can think of is that cheaper accommodation is available, but I’d stay here again.
Saw Nyein San Guest House
Price: ~$20-25 a night
Location: Nyaung-Oo, Main Road (there is only one), Ywa Thit Quarter
Phone: 061-60651, 09-49215305, 09-2042865
My Experience: I have never had better service than the one I got from this place. This Guest House does not advertise online except for an entry on wikitravel (by a customer) and on a popular Korean blog (story below). The owner and her entire family run this guest house and they seriously treat you like family. Every morning, we got flowers, which are a common form of Buddhist prayer in Myanmar. The breakfast was good (eggs and toast, or a rice dish), and the staff was just so helpful.
One of my favorite parts is that they have an awesome coconut snack in the lobby which is amazing! It is a local specialty of a nearby mountain and very similar a Mexican snack I am fond of. They rented us e-bikes, gave us great tips, and seriously, I just felt like my mom was watching out for me the whole time. They will also pick you up from the train station in the middle of the night for $3 (normal price is $5).
The ‘free wi-fi’ promises are completely inconsistent in all of Bagan. The only place said to have actual good internet is the golf course nearby. In my time there, I was able to load the html version of gmail once, at 4am. Even the ‘internet café’ nearby didn’t even bother to turn on their computers.
The Story: The guesthouse is frequented by Koreans because a few years ago, a popular Korean blogger stayed there. She was very sick and the owner went out of the way to nurse her to health. Medicine isn’t very easy to come by in Bagan, but she managed and the Korean girl was incredibly grateful. As a show of her gratitude, she shared her story and till this day, Koreans who come to Bagan usually stay here (as it is one of the top searches for “Bagan guest house” on Naver).
Location: Win Qr. Nyaung Shwe
Phone:95-81-209544, 095214659, 0943155510
My Experience: The staff was very accommodating and friendly. We got the heads up to stay here from a different Korean blog and confirmed with some travelers in Bagan that it was a good place to stay. It seriously saved out trip. The owner lady was very knowledgeable as her business has been running for around ten years. The food was so good, we got dinner there was well. This one comes with a few cons however.
First, if you are planning on sleeping in or are sensitive to noise, this is going to be tough. It is located right next to the river that feeds into Inle Lake, which means very loud motors from as early as (but not limited to) 5am. Furthermore, she quoted us a trip to Inle at $22, which was more expensive than other places. That is being pretty picky though as the difference is only a few bucks. What wasn’t cool was that we were told there would be a place to swim around, but the details were very vague. Alas, this never came true, and since the boat driver didn’t speak English, we couldn’t really say anything. We could have complained to the hostel instead, but by then, the deed was done, and they were so nice at everything else, we didn’t bother.
The biggest help came upon leaving, when Sid and I decided to go to Kayah State. Kayah is the home province of a few ethnic minorities, mainly the Kayan, or ‘long-neck women.’ Inle had a single family, but it was obvious that this was for show and nothing more than a business. I was curious to see how the Kayah actually lived. Tour agencies would not sell us bus tickets stating that it was ‘forbidden for foreigners.’ However, that restriction was lifted months ago, but too few foreigners every try to deviate from the Mandalay-Bagan-Inle-Yangon route, that they haven’t bothered to look it up.
In comes the Queen Inn owner who confirmed and bought the tickets to Loikaw for us. As of July, 2014, foreigners no longer need special permission to enter Kayah State and as of late 2012, a deal was brokered and there is no longer a guerrilla presence in Kayah (well, officially that is). The owner gave us a list of 7 hotels in Loikaw that accepts foreigners (which I posted on the comments of this Myanmar post).
Loikaw (Kayah State)
Min Ma Haw Guest House
Location: No-120(B), Gangaw St; Mingalar Qr; Loikaw Township
Phone: 08321451, 09428006997
My Experience: Kayah is said to be the least developed state in Myanmar and the least visited, meaning hotel standards are lower than the rest of the country. There were definitely cheaper places, but this one had warm water, no roaches, and well, we were feeling like spoiling ourselves! We had a bit of a misunderstanding with the staff and got off on the wrong foot though.
I asked for the price for a single and a double. My impression of the meaning of this was a single sized bed or a double sized bed (as how it is done in the US, regardless of who stays in the room). I chose the ‘single’ but didn’t realize this meant only 1 person was staying (thus the price being $28). The price for two people was $38 (double). I thought I was being scammed so I protested (and later realized my error), however, the staff came to a deal to charge me $28 for two people, but no breakfast.
We also had a hard time communicating that we needed a driver to take us to the Kayan villages. Most people who attempt this stay at Loikaw Hotel, the ‘classiest’ and most expensive hotel in Loikaw (very basic, $75 a night). The staff asked around and got us a driver who was willing to spend the whole day showing us the Kayan villages for $70 a day. While expensive for SE Asia, we asked around and other taxis quoted $90-110.
Back to the room. The hotel was decent, clean, but there was no internet. A nearby internet café worked just fine long enough to book accommodation in Yangon, but was still very slow. We also learned that the bus ride to Yangon takes 21 hours, so we decided to fly.
Notes: The Loikaw airport has 3 flights per week and set at around $72 per flight ticket. No internet booking and the office is across the airport. We met a wonderful young lady who was nice enough to translate for us (free of charge). She remains my friend till this day :).
Sleep In Hostel
Price: $13 a bed ($26 for two, or $28 for a room)
Location: No.34, 9th Street, Lanmadaw Township, Yangon
Phone: 01-226827, 01-226828
My Experience: This was our second hostel in Yangon (the first was Agga Guesthouse, which was okay, but don’t remember much else). It was decent and in a good location. However, it was obvious that they deal with a lot more westerners and the whole charm of having them treat you like family is completely lost. The hostel is 6 floors high with no elevator, and guess which floor we had to stay in? The room was clean and the bathrooms okay, but their pictures online haven’t been updated in a while.
The breakfast was atrocious. I rarely complain about food, but it was so salty even I couldn’t eat it. I have only rejected food twice in my life for excess of salt. It was some sort of pad thai like Frankenstein with what felt and tasted like rock salt and unfinished sauce. Given that food at a great place was a dollar and only a block away, I skipped most of the free breakfasts.
I might stay here again for the price and location, but I definitely will not rave about it. All of Yangon was alright and interesting, but if there is one place you could skip if you’re short on time, it would definitely be this one. Keep in mind, this is not a slight at Yangon, but compared to how incredible the rest of Myanmar is, your time is better spent elsewhere.
Location: No.10-11, Bogyoke Road, Sandaw Ward, Pyay (Near Pyay Railway Station)
Phone: 053-25142, 25169, 26169, 27768
My Experience: Pyay is not listed on any hotel/hostel booking site I looked at, so it was another word of mouth kind of place. The hostel, a taxi driver, and somewhere online pointed to this as one of the only places where foreigners can stay in Pyay (pronounced ‘pai’). The city is very off the beaten path and I might not have heard of it at all if it wasn’t the home of Sri Ksetha, a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
The room was okay, but it felt like a bit of an abandoned warehouse. Despite this, the staff was incredibly nice. A storm caught us at the World Heritage Site and despite already having checked out, they allowed us to shower and lend us towels all for free. We decided to stay another night as trying to walk across flooded rice fields filled with snakes was enough excitement for one day. If I am not mistaken, booking is by phone call only (limited English, speak slowly and clearly).
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