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Onwards to Burma! (Myanmar)

Onwards to Burma! (Myanmar)
Series: Trip: Myanmar for a birthday

The markers of life

Birthdays that end in a zero, have an inbuilt significance. They represent milestones, however much we may resist this particular sign of ageing.

Birthdays with Friends

One of our English friends has such a birthday this year. More than a year ago, before the most recent dispossession of the Rohingya, he booked his birthday venue as Myanmar. As Australians, of course, we think nothing of jumping on a plane for 8 hours to see our mates. We also don’t choke at the idea of spending 4 weeks away. (Self-employment has its advantages!). And, well Myanmar has been on our wish list since before the international travel bans were lifted in 2011.

a front entrance to a lounge

Pre-Planning with Qantas / Emirates

We booked our fares on 18 July 2017, so a little over 8 months out. The pre-planning was worth it – or was it? We were able to score 2 business class points redemptions through Qantas Frequent Flyers on Emirates A380 flights Sydney to Bangkok return for 120,000 Qantas points each. Ok not a bargain, but better than the more than AU$3,000 it would have cost us. Alright, you astute readers will know that we paid AU$631 each in fees for these points. As usual, for Qantas redemptions, even on Emirates – the longer out you are, the more successful you are likely to be at scoring those points redemptions . . . or are you?

Probably could have booked this fare yesterday

I’m a nervous points redeemer, so I wanted to do it early in case we missed out. Sitting on the flight as I write this, with only 40 of a possible 76 Business class passengers – I’m wondering why I stressed about it.

New Experiences: lounges, destinations and airlines

I have been looking forward to this trip for a long time. It will hold a lot of ‘newness’ for me: my first time in the Emirates Lounge at Sydney Airport; first time travelling with Emirates – ever; first time on an Emirates A380; the first time in Business class on Emirates, and first time to Burma / Myanmar.

I call it Burma, as that is what I was brought up with, and what my romantic English friend (who would possibly prefer to be living circa 1911 as part of the English aristocracy given his interest in the Titanic and Upstairs Downstairs) calls it. Myanmar is also the name the military Junta gave it –  I will probably use them interchangeably in this trip report.

The ruling military junta changed its name from Burma to Myanmar in 1989, a year after thousands were killed in the suppression of a popular uprising.


Ch, ch, changes

We did experience one change in schedule, a delay of 50 minutes from 6:30 pm to 7:20 pm. No biggie, and notified by email, well in advance. Given that Qantas and Emirates have substantially re-jigged their relationship – Qantas as of March 2018 uses Singapore as it’s transit point to Europe, instead of Dubai. Qantas no longer flies to Bangkok, so this Emirates partnership on the route only expands their network as opposed to cannibalising it.


Travel Agents – love them or hate them (we love ours)

We were trying to mirror our friends’ itinerary, organised by their London based travel agent. We started by contacting them, and asking if they would give us, or our travel agent the name of their ground transport operator, so that we could book the same tour as our friends, with the same operator. Their response:

‘I’m afraid that we’re not able to disclose the details of our team on the ground.’
Not. Happy. Jan.

I understand that businesses need to keep private proprietary information, but given we were not going to be spending our money directly with the British travel agent, you would think they’d be happy for one of their suppliers to get our spend? But no – we tried a couple of times. We weren’t booking with them due to our previous experience with UK Travel agents where they charged a massive margin, compared to Australian agents. For one trip, our Australian based agent quoted a trip which matched virtually every aspect of an itinerary through Rajistan. but at 25% less cost.

Other than that, the UK agents were very helpful in answering our questions and offering other potential solutions. So one step back, two steps forward.

Our Australian travel agents (Out and About Travel) were on it, and bent the will of the in-country supplier (EXO Travel) to our itinerary, although this took a few tries and some negotiation.

We grabbed the rewards flights first, then sorted out the itinerary, and the final pieces were assembled only a couple of weeks before our departure. You will have to wait until the end of this trip report to hear how we booked the Peninsular Bangkok at 2008 prices.

Take out

So what did I learn from this?

  • Don’t assume travel agents will co-operate with each other
  • The best points redemptions aren’t always made early
  • On Emirates, you can achieve faux wood blindness, but there are other design features you can never un-see
Other Posts in the Series
Emirates Lounge, Sydney Airport. The most beautiful centre piece in the world >>

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