Azure Sky Travel Ltd., Yangon, Myanmar Deutsche Webseite  
   

 


INFRASTRUCTURE:
Myanmar’s infrastructure cannot be compared with her more developed neighbors like Thailand or Malaysia. Although remarkable improvements in this respect have been achieved during the last 10 years, traveling in Myanmar can still be rather adventurous and smooth sailing cannot be taken for granted. However, our clients can rely on our commitment to solve any problem that might occur.


a.) Road transport:
During the last 10 years extensive construction efforts led to dramatically improved roads and bridges. An example might illustrate that: Until the mid 90s' there was only one bridge across the mighty Ayeyarwaddy River, Myanmar’s principal stream - it had been built under the British in the 1930s(!). During the last few years, quite a few new bridges across the Ayeyarwaddy have been opened for traffic. Simultaneously, existing roads have been broadened and long stretches have been asphalted. The total length of asphalt roads in the country at the end of the 20th century exceeded 6,000 miles.


The number of cars and buses increased dramatically; in general, the quality of the vehicles also improved. Nowadays it doesn’t constitute a problem to travel the country by bus or car on fairly good roads - except in some remote areas, as, for example, Rakhine state. The 'rattletraps' of former monopolist Myanmar Tours and Travels have been replaced by modern buses with air-condition, sometimes even including toilets.

Another rather welcome development is the availability of taxis that were quite a rarity not too loontoo long ago - especially in Yangon foreigners nowadays can be quite sure to find a taxi at any time of the day. The density of traffic has increased considerably - however, compared to neighboring countries Myanmar is still a 'driver’s paradise', as a Burmese friend of mine pointed out not too long ago. By the way, right-hand traffic has been introduced in 1970 but more than 40 years later most of the vehicles still have the steering wheel on the 'wrong' side, so to say...

b.) Air traffic:
Until the early 1990s all domestic air transport was handled by the government-owned Myanmar Airways of ill repute. Until 2014 no less than eight private airlines have entered the market and introduced a hitherto unknown degree of punctuality, reliability and service to the local air traffic. Even Myanmar Airways seems to have improved a bit...

Contrary to the formerly inevitable delays, which were more the rule than the exception, these private companies have achieved amazing punctuality statistics. Most airlines are operating with modern ATR airplanes from France which have to regularly undergo safety checks. But there are other planes, too, like Airbus and Embraer.  Besides the major destinations Yangon, Mandalay, Bagan and Heho these airlines also regularly call at more remote airports like Sittwe (Rakhine State), Kyaingtong (Eastern Shan State), Putao (Kachin State) - to cut a long story short: nearly all major airports of Myanmar can be reached with private airlines these days.


International air traffic has improved as well. In former times, basically the only way to enter Myanmar was via Yangon from Bangkok. Nowadays, the one-gate-policy of old has been replaced: besides Yangon the old capital Mandalay as well as the new capital Naypyidaw can be reached directly from abroad. The major tourist attraction Bagan sometimes had direct connections to Thailand, too, sometimes not.  Myanmar is now connected to many countries in the region, all the way to Japan. Apart from the national carrier of Myanmar (Myanmar Airlines International) several well-known carriers from neighboring countries such as Thai Airways or Singapore Airways are serving the nation’s airports directly. Some Myanmar domestic airlines also serve airports in Thailand. However, a real intercontinental air link is still on the 'wish list' – Qatar Airways’ flight is the one that comes closest ..

c.) Railways:
Rail journeys in Myanmar are tiresome and time-consuming. Therefore most of the visitors leave rail transport out of their considerations. However, even on this sector improvements can be recorded: Sleeper cars are now available and cleanliness has taken great strides. And - yes! - there is even a private railway company offering an improved service. Unfor-tunately, delays are still the rule. The main line from Yangon to Mandalay is the backbone of Myanmar Railways' extensive network. Two switch-lines to the Shan Plateau (Thazi - Shwenyaung and Mandalay - Lashio) bear some importance for tourists. The latter line crosses the famous Gokteik Viaduct, reputed to be the second highest in the world.


 

Most of the traffic is covered by diesel engines, but steam engines still are a regular sight on some branch lines. Myanmar Railways operates a network of more than 2,600 miles that is steadily being extended.

Recently, with the inauguration of the last leg between Pyay and Satthwa, the Yoma Beltway was completed, enabling travelers to circle this central mountain range.

 

However, it will most probably still take some time until the railway can get its share of tourist traffic.

d.) River traffic:

What has been said about the railways is true as well for river travel. The state-owned Inland Water Corp. (IWC) maintains an extensive network of routes; however, river travel is rather slow. Except for the route Mandalay - Bagan the IWC's ships are not very popular with tourists.

A few years ago various private companies launched a number of ships of different sizes and standards that are now mainly used by tourists. Among those ships the 'Road to Mandalay' (RTM), which had plied the Rhine River for several decades under the name of 'Nederland', is the most luxurious.

This air-conditioned luxury cruiser offers an international cuisine of high standard and - hardly to believe in a country like Myanmar - a swimming pool on the upper deck. In short, the RTM’s passengers can feel at home aboard the ship. As most of the other private ships the RTM mainly plies the sector Mandalay - Bagan. Unfortunately, the RTM’s sightseeing program is rather short.

Those who want to have a closer look at the life near the Ayeyarwaddy River are well advised to book a land-based extension.

Another shipping company is the Irrawaddy Flotilla Company (IFC) of old-time glory: Their 'Pandaw I' and 'Pandaw II' offer good standards, as well as the 'Irrawaddy Princess'. Thanks to their low draught IFC’s ships are also able to travel beyond Mandalay and up the Chindwin River - at least in the Rainy Season.


Unfortunately, the Delta Princess’ trips from Yangon to Pathein have been canceled. But it is possible to travel in the Ayeyarwaddy-delta, too. Pls. don’t hesitate to ask us for details. The river is not so wide in the delta and there is more to see during the trip.

e.) Further means of transport - the bicycle:
Yes, Myanmar can be explored by bicycle as well! However, to avoid difficulties the route should be discussed with the local authorities well ahead of the trip as quite a few roads are off limits for foreigners and road conditions are sometimes not encouraging as well.

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2008 Axel Bruns