No discussion of our visit to Bagan could begin without a sincere thank you to Minthu, the wonderful guide who showed us the area. We’ve traveled extensively in many parts of the world and frequently to Southeast Asia and have to say that finding an independent guide with the knowledge and passion for presenting his city such as what Minthu offered to us made our visit so much more rewarding than what those who travel without making use of local guides or opt for more of a cookie cutter big group tour approach.
In addition to hitting all the famous sites of the city, Minthu gave us the chance to meet “real people” going about their daily life; like the men and women working in a small facility making soy bean paste by hand. Some of our favorite memories of our 2+ weeks in Myanmar were leisurely strolls through small villages in the area. It meant so much more to us to meet the beautiful lady in Phawe-Sawe Village actually weaving bamboo and horsehair cups and containers that were then lacquered and hand-etched than anything that might be gained from a quick shopping stop at a “lacquer ware workshop” located along the main road in town.
Keep in mind that rates are likely to change for any service in Myanmar as tourism increases but we found the rates quoted and charged by Minthu on our visit in late July / early August 2013 to be extremely reasonable: His ½ day Horse cart sightseeing price was 15,000 Kyats for 2 persons. The full day rate for an air conditioned van was 40,000 Kyats and transfer from airport to our hotel in New Bagan was 7000 Kyats. The car transportation rates included a driver (in addition to Minthu).
Both the horse carts and the van provided by Minthu were clean, in good repair and in general of top quality. In addition to the transportation charges, Minthu’s daily guide for touring (but not for the transport service) was roughly $25 for a full day and $15 for a half day. We would have been happy to pay more.