Monthly Archives: November 2013

Myawady border bridge to extend opening hours


Thai tourists waiting in line to depart from Myawady-Mae Sot Friendship Bridge (Photo – EMG)

The opening hours of the Myawady-Mae Sot Friendship Bridge will be extended for the convenience of travellers, according to border officials.

As one of the border gates between Myanmar and Thailand, the bridge connects the border towns of Myawady with Mae Sot, Tak Province.

“We have received an official instruction letter from the [Kayin] State government to extend the opening hours of the Friendship Bridge for the convenience of travellers from both countries. The Myanmar side is ready. We are now negotiating with [Thailand],” said an official from Myawady Bridge, who requested not to be named.

Regular opening hour is from 6 am to 6 pm but the Kayin State government has recently allowed the bridge to be opened from 5 am to 8 pm.

The extension of the opening hours of the bridge will allow foreign tourists to cross the border in time if they arrive at the bridge after the normal opening hours due to heavy traffic on the mountain road that crosses the Dawna range.  It will also be more convenient for Myanmar workers, shoppers and vendors who commute daily between the borders.

Construction of the Myawady-Mae Sot Friendship Bridge started in 1994 at a cost of Bt 79.2 and it was opened in 1997. It was temporarily closed from March 28 to April 3 in 2007 due to the import of illegal cars. It was temporarily closed again on July 2010 due to Thailand’s river bank protection construction project on the Mae Sot side of the Thaungyin (Moei) River. The bridge again reopened in December 2011.

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Yangon airport to receive upgrade next year

The reconstruction of Yangon International Airport’s domestic departure lounge will begin in January next year, according to airport General Manager Win Ko.

“The departure lounge will be brought down and reconstructed entirely. While the new lounge is being built, the lounge provided for VIP will be used as domestic departure lounge,” the GM said.

The construction is expected to be completed in a year and a half. Yangon Airport is Myanmar’s main international gateway and currently services 2.7 million passengers a year.

Although the airport can be expanded to accommodate 20 million passengers a year, contractors are restricted by residential areas and the Mingladon Air Force Base next door.

Pioneer Aerodrome Services, a subsidiary of Asia World recently won a tender to upgrade Yangon International Airport. The airport authorities and company representatives are still in discussions.

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Historic U Bein Bridge in Mandalay in a ruinous state


U Bein Bridge in Upper Myanmar (Photo – EMG)

U Bein Bridge in Taung Thaman Lake near Mandalay in central Myanmar, a region that gets its fair share of local and foreign visitors, is deteriorating and there is a growing concern that the bridge will collapse. 

The historic bridge is located in Mandalay ancient cultural heritage zone and it is well over 160 years. As the time passed, and due to weather and natural disasters, so also riding motor bikes and bicycles on the bridge, caused the bridge to deteriorate.

“We are planning to preserve U Bein Bridge for its durability by forming a committee. Restrictions are needed for the long lasting of the bridge. Although we have banned riding motor bikes and bicycles on the bridge, very few abide by the restriction,” said Dr. Myint Kyu, Minister for Finance and Revenue of Mandalay Region.

He added that for tourists’ attraction, they are going to consult with experts from various fields and make the Bridge and its surrounding an interesting place apart from preserving the bridge.

“U Bein Bridge and its surrounding was once a place of scenic beauty. But now, the lake is polluted and the Bridge needs maintenance. The Bridge and the Taung Thaman Lake require a group which can make them long lasting and beautiful once it was,” said Aye Myint, Myanmar cultural designer.

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Hotels nearly overbooked as tourists flock to Bagan



Ancient temples seen in Bagan in November. (Photo – Ko Naw (Bagan)/EMG)

BAGAN—Most of the hotels in Bagan are nearly over-booked as tourists flock to the most popular destination in Myanmar this peak season.

“There has been an increase in tourist arrivals to Bagan,” said Win Tun Naing, reception manager of the Yarzagyo Hotel.

“It may seem like the sudden increase is due to the SEA Games. But it’s not. I think the visitors to the SEA Games will only arrive next month. The peak season has started. Hotels are fully booked for November and December. In our hotel, we have received 80 percent of the reservations for the last two months since August. Other hotels may also be overbooked around this time.”

“Most of the tourists coming to Bagan are from European countries. Among the Asian countries, tourists from Thailand and China mostly come here. We also saw visitors from Malaysia, Japan, and South Korea,” he added.

The increase in foreign airlines, along with the opening of more border gates, has led to an overall increase in tourist arrivals to Myanmar, including an increase in free independent travelers (FITs) to Bagan.

“There is an increase in FITs now. All the big hotels are fully booked, but they need to have good services. The arrival of French and German tourists is normal but there is an increase in tourist arrivals from the U.S. and the UK,” said Zaw Win Cho, chairman of the Myanmar Tourist Guides Association.

Bagan attracted more than 120,000 visitors last November.

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Foreign tourists climbing Mt. Zwekabin on November 9. (Photo: Htwe San Aung/EMG)

Kayin State’s Mount Zwekabin has received many foreign tourists this year although only a few travelled to the well-known landmark in the past decade, according to a local resident.

The resident said the increase in visitors might be due to the cable car project that will transport visitors to the mountain’s peak. Mount Zwekabin now receives more than 300 local visitors and more than 20 foreign visitors per day.

“There is an increase in the number of people who visit Mount Zwekabin this year,” said the officer-in-charge of the Zwekabin monastery construction project.

“Among the local visitors, there is an increase those coming from distant regions. Normally, only local residents living near Hpa-an climb the mountain. Now, there are at least 300 local visitors per day—and that’s only including those who climb from the new road. There may be others who use the old road. Also, the number of foreign tourists is above 20 per day. Eight years ago, there were only six tourists per day. On some days, there were only one or two tourists. The number of arrivals has increased this year. As the cable car project to the mountain is about to start, many of the visitors are interested in the project.”

The US$ 20 million (Ks 19.4 billion) Zwekabin cable car project is led by Penang Sayadaw from Malaysia, Zwekabin Sayadaw and Maebaung Sayadaw. Construction is expected to start at the end of November and will take about a year and a half to complete.

“It’s been awhile since the project was announced. The construction will be done by Buddhist experts from Malaysia and Singapore, as well as Myanmar engineers. We have already collected donations from all over the country for the required fund,” said Tu Tu Myint Thein, spokesperson for the Zwekabin cable car project.

The 700-metre high mountain is located seven miles south of Hpa-an.

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Seven domestic airlines offer direct flights to Nay Pyi Taw during SEA Games

NAY PYI TAW—Seven domestic airlines will offer direct flights to the nation’s capital from Yangon and Mandalay for travel convenience during the Southeast Asian Games, according to an official from the Civil Aviation Department.

Tin Naing Tun, director-general of Civil Aviation Department, said the carriers are Myanmar Airways, Air Bagan, Asian Wings, FMI, Air KBZ, Yangon Airways, and Golden Myanmar Airline.

Bangkok Airways and Air Asia will also offer direct flights from Bangkok, Thailand to Nay Pyi Taw during the SEA Games.

“Singapore Airline is also negotiating to offer charter flights,” said Tin Naing Tun.

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Border gateway opening leads to tourism boom in Myawady

Tourism has been booming in the border town of Myawady since the government opened the crossing as an international gateway for foreign visitors on August 28, sources say.

The Ministry of Hotels and Tourism has also encouraged the establishment of tourism agencies in Myawady, according to Ni Ni Toe, managing director of Green Dawna Hill Travel & Tour Co. Ltd.

“Since the government opened Myawady as a gateway for tourists, travel and tours in Myanmar are booming. I also want to show that local women can lead a business as well as anyone. I look forward to sharing with tourists our country’s sights, customs and culture, our influential pagodas and our natural attractiveness, providing the best services at fair prices,” she said at her tour company’s grand opening.

Shwe Myanmar Travel & Tour, Moe Ko San Travel & Tour, Vega Myawady International Travel & Tour and Green Dawna Hill Travel & Tour Co. Ltd. are among the first tourism services businesses to open at the border crossing, and more travel and tour companies are planning to open in Myawady.

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Tourist arrivals on the upswing at Pho Kyar Elephant Camp

The number of tourists visiting Pho Kyar Elephant Camp during the peak season between October and February is expected to increase by as much as 50 percent, camp officials say.

Pho Kyar Elephant Camp is located in Yedashe Township, Bago Region. It is situated in the foothills of the Bago Yoma mountain range, lying within the Saing Ya tropical reserve, 10 miles west of Thargaya near Yoma crossing road.

Thargaya, the main gateway to the camp, is on the Yangon-Mandalay motorway, 204 miles north of Yangon.

While the number of tourists visiting Pho Kyar in previous fiscal years has remained roughly the same, the reason for this year’s expected boost in visits is an increase in the number of local tourists making one-day trips and foreign tourists who prefer overnight stays.

“Most of the local visitors prefer a one-day trip. The foreign visitors are from Spain, Germany, French, the U.S and Switzerland. Among them, tourists from Germany and France most often visit the camp,” said camp manager Myat Min.

“The scenery and elephant riding around the jungle are very attractive for visitors. If more engaging programs can be introduced, it will attract more visitors. For example, riding boats along Thain Creek,” said one tourist.

The Pho Kyar Elephant Camp was commissioned into service in 2002 and launched two years later. On April 1, 2005, the government signed a rental agreement with the Asia Green Company to promote Myanmar’s eco-tourism industry.

At Pho Kyar, visitors can ride elephants in a forested mountain range, watch elephant shows and study various aspects of elephants’ contribution to the local economy, including a logging demonstration. Tourists can also trek in the local forest, where bird watching is popular, and enjoy the teak forests, the rich diversity of plant and butterfly species, and the ways of life of elephant keepers [mahouts] and local people.

A visit to Pho Kyar Elephant Camp is recommended year round, but the best time for bird watching is from October to May.

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