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WINGS Birding Tours – Information

Myanmar

Tour Information

Note: The information presented below has been extracted from our formal General Information for this tour.  It covers topics we feel potential registrants may wish to consider before booking space.    The complete General Information for this tour will be sent to all tour registrants and of course supplemental information, if needed, is available from the WINGS office.

ENTERING MYANMAR: United States citizens need a  passport,  valid for at least six months beyond your stay in Myanmar, and with at least one blank visa page available for the Myanmar visa stamp. Amendment pages are not suitable for Myanmar visas. Two original Myanmar visa application forms, plus one copy including the Work History form, must be properly completed and signed. Applications must be printed on single pages, do not print double-sided, and your signature must be original on each form. Improperly completed forms may delay the processing of your visa. Two recent 2 x 2 passport type photographs in color, front view and with a plain white background. Visas are generally valid for three months from the date of issue and allow a single entry for a stay of up to 28 days. The visa cannot be extended. 

At the time of writing, the Myanmarn Embassy (www.mewashingtondc.com/visa_en.php) in Washington, D.C., have visa applications available on line at www.mewashingtondc.com/visa_form_1_en.php. There are visa service agencies that can provide you with an information pack on how to obtain a visa. They will also process your application for you; however, they will charge a handling and processing fee. One such company is CIBT, http://www.us.cibt.com/. 

A Yellow Fever certificate is required only if arriving from an infected area. 

Citizens of other countries may need a visa and should check their nearest Myanmar embassy. If required by the embassy or visa-granting entity, WINGS can provide a letter for you to use regarding your participation in the tour. 

COUNTRY INFORMATION: You can review the U.S. Department of State Country Specific Travel Information at travel.state.gov/content/passports/english/country/burma.html, and the CIA World Factbook background notes on Myanmar at www.cia.gov/library/publications/the-world-factbook/geos/bm.html

PACE OF TOUR: The tour is not particularly strenuous but some physical fitness is required. Most of the walks are easily paced and mostly downhill.  For example, on Mt. Victoria we take 4x4 vehicles to the higher sections and walk down. 

There are a couple of long walks – with the ones on Mt. Victoria being included in these. On probably three of our four full days on the mountain we will explore forests above our hotel. We will drive up the mountain in the early morning and walk back down during the rest of the day with the vehicles catching us up at two hourly intervals. We do not expect to ever detour far off the dirt road here and those wishing to take a break will be easily able to do so. We expect to use a fleet of four-wheel drive vehicles on Mt Victoria and should be able to offer the option of people joining us later or returning to the hotel earlier. On our fourth day on Mt Victoria we expect to walk on a narrow forest trail where the vehicles will not be able to follow us. This walk will probably last all morning. 

The longest walk of the tour will be at Kalaw. This walk will last all day and will also include some modest uphill sections. We will spend all day on this walk and expect to cover about six or seven miles (about 10 kilometres). Here as on Mt. Victoria, anyone with an average degree of fitness would be able to cope. 

Some days we will start early – perhaps even around 05h00, and in places where the midday temperature gets quite high, we’ll take breaks during the heat of the day. 

HEALTH:  The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommends that all travelers be up to date on routine vaccinations. These include measles-mumps-rubella (MMR) vaccine, diphtheria-tetanus-pertussis vaccine, varicella (chickenpox) vaccine, polio vaccine, and your yearly flu shot.

(They further recommend that most travelers have protection against Hepatitis A and Typhoid. Please contact your doctor well in advance of your tour’s departure as some medications must be initiated weeks before the period of possible exposure.

The most current information about travelers’ health recommendations can be found on the CDC’s  Travel Health website at http://wwwnc.cdc.gov/travel/destinations/traveler/none/burma?s_cid=ncezid-dgmq-travel-single-001 .

Malaria:  There is a malaria risk in Myanmar.  Please consult your physician.

Yellow Fever:  There is no Yellow Fever risk in Myanmar.

Altitude:  Most of the tour is at low elevation with Yangon being at about 50 metres (164’) above sea level, Bagan at 80 (262’), Inle Lake at about 850 (2790’) and Kalaw at 1290 metres (4235’). However we will venture significantly higher than this during our time on Mt. Victoria. Our hotel is at about 1760 metres (5775’) and we will explore other areas on the mountain at least as high as 2600 metres (approx. 8530’). 

Smoking:  Smoking is prohibited in the vehicles or when the group is gathered for meals, checklists, etc. If you are sharing a room with a non-smoker, please do not smoke in the room. If you smoke in the field, do so well away and downwind from the group. If any location where the group is gathered has a stricter policy than the WINGS policy, that stricter policy will prevail. 

Miscellaneous:  Tap water is not safe to drink, but bottled water, soft drinks and beer are widely available.  Because of the high humidity on some parts of the island it is important to drink plenty of water. 

Upset stomachs are possible in Myanmar. We suggest bringing anti-diarrhoea medicine such as Imodium or Arret just in case.  Packets of Dioralyte are also worth bringing as they replace the vital salts and minerals lost during a bout of diarrhoea.  

The abundance of biting insects varies from year to year and place to place. Generally biting insects are not numerous although mosquitoes and ticks occur locally. A can of spray repellent should provide adequate protection. We recommend bringing an antihistamine if you are sensitive to insect bites.  

CLIMATE: It will be hot (perhaps up to 30 or 31?C (mid-80s F)in and around Yangon while elsewhere in lowland Myanmar, particularly around Bagan we can expect very hot temperatures (ranging from 27? to perhaps 33 or 34?C; high 80s to low 90s F)) and our activity here will be largely confined to the early morning and later afternoons to avoid the midday heat. It is less humid there than in the capital Yangon. In Kalaw and more especially on Mt Victoria we can expect pleasant, almost temperate, weather due to the altitude. The early mornings on Mt Victoria can be cool (with temperatures perhaps dropping as low as 7?C; mid 40s F) and a warmer hat and gloves can prove useful for the first hour or so after sunrise. There is a small chance of rain but it cannot be totally discounted and a small folding umbrella may also be useful. 

ACCOMMODATION: Generally the accommodation is of a good standard and all the places we stay will have en suite facilities. In the main tourist areas such as Yangon, Bagan, Inle and Kalaw the accommodation is of a good 3 or 4 star standard. On Mt. Victoria we will stay in a simpler hotel. Even here all the rooms, although basic, also have en suite facilities with a western toilet, wash basin and a simple shower. In some of the rooms the shower head might not work as designed and we might have to shower using a bucket and ladle.  

Power cuts are common in Myanmar and participants are advised to keep a flashlight or headlamp handy in their room. All of our hotels have their own generators but it might take the staff several minutes before they are able to start these running. Our hotel at Mt Victoria gets all its power from their own generator. They typically turn this off during the middle of the night but we have usually been able to persuade them to keep in running so that we are able to charge our camera batteries etc. 

Internet Access:   All of the hotels except the one on Mt Victoriahave wireless internet access in the lobby and most also in the rooms. However internet speed is invariably much slower than most of us are used to and even down loading emails can be a laborious and time consuming task. None of these hotels have business centers so you will have to use your own device. No foreign mobile telephone will work in Myanmar and even domestic ones are still uncommon in the country. Furthermore their coverage or reception is often rather poor and patchy. Nevertheless mobile phone simm cards can be bought, or rented, at Yangon international airport – but at about $150 US for the duration of or tour plus usage charges these are remarkably expensive! Our leader will not have a mobile telephone that works in Myanmar but our local guide will and will be able to receive calls at most of the places we will visit. The hotels in Yangon and Bagan have facilities for making international phone calls but again this is expensive. 

FOOD: In the main tourist areas the food will have a distinct western feel to it. Elsewhere we will be served local food which is, unlike Thai food, not particularly spicy. 

Food Allergies/Requirements:  We cannot guarantee that all food allergies can be accommodated at every destination. Participants with significant food allergies or special dietary requirements should bring appropriate foods with them for those times when their needs cannot be met. Announced meal times are always approximate depending on how the day unfolds. Participants who need to eat according to a fixed schedule should bring supplemental food. Please contact the WINGS office if you have any questions.

TRANSPORT: Land travel will be a combination of a variety of small coaches during our time in and around Yangon, close to Bagan and in the Heho, Inle and Kalaw areas.  We’ll take a boat trip on the Irrawaddy river at Bagan and will use a large motorized boat with a cabin and large roof when there. We will have at least one more boat ride during the tour – spending the best part of a day out on the lake at Inle. The boats here as long, narrow boats similar to those used in Thailand and will take a maximum of five people plus the pilot. They have comfortable seats but no awning or cover. Umbrellas are available should it prove to be an unusually hot day. We expect this boat ride to last perhaps six hours and we will have a break for lunch, another to visit a temple and probably a third at a birdwatching tower. All three of these sites have toilets. 

The road up Mt Victoria and between there and Bagan are rough and in order to use our time most productively we will take a fleet of four wheel drives for our excursion here. In the past these have been comfortable Japanese or Korean vehicles such as Toyota Prados and Toyota Hilux. 

The leader will arrange a seating rotation and participants should be able to ride in any seat in tour vehicles. 

Updated: 14 July 2015