Myanmar deserves a spot on any bucket list. From the golden-clad pagodas, to the British architecture, to the natural vistas and kindness of the locals, Myanmar is still a place that is mostly untouched by tourism. Thailand with their amazing scuba diving and Full Moon Parties has been on people’s bucket lists for decades, and it is a challenge to find a place in the country that hasn’t had some amount of tourist influence. Thailand remains a popular travel destination for it’s ease of travel and low prices.
Traveling during shoulder and off-seasons helps keep costs low and destinations less busy. Despite the overall higher prices in Myanmar, compared with the rest of Southeast Asia, this is still true. Thailand prices may seem high, but this is comparing backpacking in Myanmar with higher end travel in Thailand.
|Cost – Myanmar
|Cost – Thailand
When traveling internationally on a constant basis, flying first or business class is a luxury to save for special occasions. After all, even with points and miles there aren’t enough resources to indulge in the highest luxury all the time. Luckily, with a little bit of flexibility economy availability was possible to find and book. It required a bit of finagling, as the return flights to the US were proving to be a bit of a challenge. For this reason, the flights ended up departing from Detroit, flying through Europe to get to Yangon, Myanmar and then returning to the Detroit from Osaka, Japan. International partners are almost also superior to our domestic airlines, but this time around most of the segments were on United. The total cost of these flights was 75,000 United miles and $74.55.Flights
There was still a large open-jaw between Yangon and Osaka that needed to be filled in. Procrastination was key here as a few days before departure, a few friends made it known that they would be traveling to Thailand this summer. Luckily, AirAsia flies from Mandalay, Myanmar to Phuket, Thailand via Bangkok and I was able to secure a ticket for myself and my bag for $140.18. After Phuket, finding a way to Osaka was necessary to catch the return flight. AirAsia also flies that route, and a ticket cost $148.80. Flight costs totaled to 75,000 United Miles and $363.53.
|Detroit – Yangon, Osaka – Detroit
|75,000 UA Miles + $74.55
|Mandalay – Phuket
|Phuket – Osaka
|75,000 UA Miles + $363.53
Myanmar is far from one of the cheapest countries in South East Asia to travel though, partly because tourism infrastructure is still being built up, so costs were a little bit higher than originally hoped for. In Myanmar, hostels and inexpensive hotels shared with friends met while traveling through the country were the go-to. Hostel and hotel costs ranged between $8 and $20 per night for a total of $133 for 10 nights. Food costs for 11 days totaled $110, which is significantly higher than other areas in South East Asia. For the most part, the food I had was pretty lackluster; not bad, per say, but not anything to write home about. The one exception was the tea leaf salad. Tea Leaf Salad can vary quite a bit from place to place, but the basics are always salad of some sort, fermented tea leaves, peanuts, onions, garlic, sesame seeds, and a few other things. It is one of my top five favorite foods in Asia. Activities were relatively inexpensive coming to $70 and including the entrance fees to the Bagan and Inle Lake areas, as well as a 3 day hike from Kalaw to Inle Lake that included lodging and meals. Long distance buses and a few taxis were the primary forms of transportation and cost $46 total. Miscellaneous costs came to $20. The total cost of visiting Myanmar for 11 days and 10 nights was $399, including the cost of the $50 eVisa.
It was easy to decide to come to Phuket since my friends were planning to be there and had rooms reserved, and since they wanted their stay credit with SPG they covered the cost of the room! Having a couple nights of $0 in lodging costs always helps with keeping travel costs lower. Having an awesome network of friends who love to travel really does pays off!
Even with lodging costs in Thailand at a grand total of $0, per day expenses were higher than in Myanmar. This mainly stems from the fact that while staying at nicer places, it is much harder to find that delicious and dirt cheap street food. Food expenditures came to $84 in Phuket, but there was plenty of delicious Tom Yum eaten for that price. Taxis to and from the airport came to $41, and there were some miscellaneous expenses of $6. What really broke the bank in Thailand was getting a couple of spa treatments at the resort. Since it’s off season, all services were offered at 50% off, which brought prices down well below US prices. How would you like to get a 60-minute Intensive Muscle Release/Swedish Massage, a 60-minute Active Pureness Rebalancing Facial, and a 45-minute Honey Mango Body Polish for a total of $142? Yeah, me too. It was one of my experiential splurges. And as an added bonus, a guy did all of my services (which was a first). Overall, four days and nights in Thailand cost $273. Not having to pay for lodging allowed me to splurge on a couple of spa treatments!
A two plus week trip to Myanmar and Thailand, including flights, for a total cost of $1,035.53? It’s possible. It’s far from the cheapest way to travel through the region, but also much more budget friendly than many people are able to travel for. By making use of miles and points strategies and various other money saving techniques, it’s possible to see the world for a fraction of the cost you might expect.