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Luko 01-16-2004 09:06 PM

Laos vs. Myanmar/Burma
Hey there,

I 'm calling to all S.E.Asia seasoned travelers.

I'll take 2 weeks holidays in feb and will, as usual, trip around SEA. I HAVE to take a week to bother all sorts of fish underwater and swim after squids or seaslugs but I'm wondering where to go for the week after. As I might be in Thailand, my plans were either go to Laos or Burma for a week, but writing this I'm also considering China/Yunnan, Kunming, Xishuanbanna (name sounds good...).
But, remember, I've only got one week left...what would you recommend if I go to ...

Laos : I'd be arriving L-Prabang, is it essential to go to Vientiane area or would my photo needs be fulfilled in LP region...

Burma : entry airport is always Yangon, is it worth spending only 1 week in Burma, if yes where to go?

Yunnan : where to go in 1 week?

Thanks everybody for the feedback, tips and advices on places to go welcome.

PS to Adam : Adam, I was wondering where to put this message as it is not a "trek" as i'm not asking anyone to join, my questions have little to do with photo technique and this is not general enough, this is an implicit goal of TE of encouraging travels (the "sine qua non" of travel photo)but there's nowhere to ask for travel tips...another thread category maybe?

Keitht 01-16-2004 10:16 PM

Re: Laos vs. Myanmar/Burma
The idea of a travel advice forum, for want of a better description, is an interesting one. As I view the General forum 3 of the last 8 topics are asking for advice or suggestions relating to travel.

BobTrips 01-16-2004 10:20 PM

Re: Laos vs. Myanmar/Burma
I've only been to Laos once. With only a week I might stay around LP, wander out to some village areas for some shooting. I didn't find much in Vientiane, but I did miss a noted temple complex outside town. I don't think it was in the 'book' at the time, so maybe....

Myanmar. One week? I'd head quickly to Bagan. Lots of temples, lots of ruins, good local color if you get a bike and ride out of town. Magic light during the Golden Hours.

Return to Yangon a couple of days before it's time to leave. One can easily spend a day shooting/visiting the major sites in Yangon, take a ferry ride, and visit Bago.

You might consider both weeks in Myanmar and work in your beach time there.

Yunnan - can't help, been almost 20 years since I've visited.

But filter all that through the type of pictures you like to make.

Opus 01-18-2004 01:11 AM

Re: Laos vs. Myanmar/Burma
Wow, what a dilemma. I've been to Luang Prabang (Laos), Myanmar and China's Yunnan Province and would hate to have missed any of them.

Luang Prabang is a sleepy little town on the muddy Mekong that ranked as one of the best-kept travel secrets in Asia a decade ago. Many wonderful wats, monks collecting alms at sunrise, wonderful textiles, and some nice nearby day trips. It is so unspoiled and traditonal that it was designated a World Heritage Site.

Myanmar's major highlights are the thousands of ruined temples scattered across the Plains of Bagan and scenic Inle Lake with its floating gardens and the boatsmen who row their prows with one leg. Lots of monks everywhere.

If you choose Yunnan you must get to the tiny town of Dali with it's mountian backgrounds, the Three Pagodas, cormmerant fishermen, sleepy streets and wonderful tiny cafes. Locals here gaped at us, mouths open, like we were aliens from another planet in our Western shorts and boots.
Also get to Lijiang where there exists a traditonal old-town area maybe hundreds of years old where streams flow between cobblestone streets and weekend markets packed with antiques and collectibles.
North of Lijiang there are small villages where the remaining members of the Naxi minority in their blue dress still live.
Xishuanbanna is famous for its many minority peoples, exotic bidrs & wildlife and the Tiger Leaping Gorge where the Yangtze River dives down an awesome gorge.
Kunmimg is just another big, ugly Chinese city, so don't waste much time there. The good stuff is out west. We drove the rough 10-hour haul on the Burma Road to get to Dali, but they now have an airport now....lucky you!

Which would I choose? Well I chose them all. Not sure which I'd choose if I could only see one, as they all rank among my favorite trips in Asia. Maybe Luang Prabang, as it might be most fragile under the weight of tourism. Although, you don't really need a whole week here, as it is tiny area to take in. Maybe with a week Myanmar or Yunnan would be a better choice.

Whichever you chose, I can assure you that you won't be sorry. Great photo-opps all!

All the best!


adam 01-18-2004 10:43 AM

Re: Laos vs. Myanmar/Burma
"another thread category maybe?"

OK, there is a new travel forum. Thanks for the suggestion.

philip_coggan 01-18-2004 11:15 AM

Re: Laos vs. Myanmar/Burma
I visited Vientianne frequently over the last 2 years, and although it's interesting, there's not a lot there in terms of things (as opposed to people) to see - There's Wat Sisaket, and the temple that once housed the Emerald Buddha before the Thais took it, and the national shrine, the sort of Laotian Shwedagon. Plus the ribverfront where you eat grilled fish and drink Beer Lao and watch the sunset. But Luang Prabang is really the Lao heartland. Maybe you could contact Gecko Tours about a quick trek based from there - they're good!

For Burma, a week would allow Yangon and Bagan - I doubt there's be time for Mandalay. In Yangon, after Shwedagon, see some of the less known places - the tomb of Bahadur Shah Zafar, last Emperor of India; the Jewish synagogue; the Arminian church; the Holy Trinity Cathedral. In the evening, go to the amusement hall in Mahabandoola Park, which is fun. Visit the Junior Duck restaurant, if only for the sake of it's name (it's on the river next to the ferry wharf and opposite the Strand Hotel). Stay in the City Light Hotel, under $30 a night for very good accommodation (tho you can get far cheaper if you want) - you can book over the internet.

A suggestion: go to Laos this time, and visit Burma in November with us on the TrekEarth tour of Burma... :-).

Opus 01-18-2004 05:47 PM

More.... Myanmar/Burma
How could I forget Yangon and the magnificent Schwedagon! Schwedagon with its golden spires and colorful outbuildings, surely ranks as one of the most photographic religeous sites in all of SE Asia.

Mandalay, while interesting too, could be skipped. Between Bagan and Yangon you'd have a truly great week of shooting!

BobTrips 01-18-2004 08:35 PM

And more.... Myanmar/Burma
Looking at your posts (Luko) it seems that you really enjoy shooting daily life, not so much of daily 'modernized' life but more traditional.

If you go to Bagan I'd suggest that you take a bike and ride north of town. From the prolonged looks that I got I suspect that few travelers/tourists go that way. I got some great shots by wandering around the north part of the town and riding a few miles into the countryside. Among other opportunities I was able to spend some time photographing a small sawmill. There's a great market area in which I saw few, if any, westerners.

Also, work in some time on the water. Great shots available around the docks, on the ferries, and along the riverside.

Luko 01-19-2004 12:59 AM

Re: Laos vs. Myanmar/Burma
1- Adam, thanks for opening that new Travel thread category,

2- Thanks to you three, Bart, Bob and Philip for your useful infos. If I try to sum up those :

A- Burma is def a place to go but as I initially feared, 1 week is very tight and I'd better plan a longer stay. (Philip, while your TE trip is a very good idea, it doesn't match with my usual holiday dates + I'm accompanied, wife and kid, when traveling making it difficult to join a group or in a very loose way).
Unfortunately Bob, I'm more informed on Burma's underwater scene than topside, and the coastal waters don't have the profile for very interesting diving, I'd then be working my nitrogen pressure and sun tan abroad.
I was thinking : How does Burma sound in August, I then could afford 2 weeks inland? Wet-wet/really wet, Vietnamese highlands style or wet/cambodian style which sounds even better than dry ?

B- Plenty of things to see in Yunnan but even a longer way and further than Burma, I still can't see what I can do in a week.

C- Luang-Prabang seems to fit into the time window, a week might even be long, but if it is I could also take my time and come back via Chiang Mai.

Any other views from members welcome.

Opus 01-20-2004 06:32 PM

Re: Laos vs. Myanmar/Burma
If you choose Laos you should also have time to get to the Champasak region in the east and visit the mysterious Plain of Jars. It really shouldn't be missed. There are several theories on the orgins and usage for these huge ceramic jars, ranging from manmade marvels used for winemaking or water or rice storage, to something left behind by aliens. No one knows why or how they were left where they are and it makes for truly amazing landscape.

I just loaded a pic of the hills around this area if you'd like a look at what you can expect. I was totally surprised the rolling green hills. I never saw anything like it anywhere else in SE Asia.

Another note: If you go to Myanmar and spend a day or two in Yangon, treat yourself to a meal or at least tea or a cold drink, at the dining room at the Strand Hotel. Beautil restored hostoric hotel and wonderful food! Granted it's been a long time, but when we were there they had a terrific display of Burmese photographic portraits on the dining room walls.

All the best!


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