The glories of this ancient land (now known as Myanmar) are revealed to travellers in this comprehensive landmark journey. Travelling by road, by air and on water, we discover why the country is often dubbed the Golden Land. We start in Rangoon, a city crowned by the magnificent Shwedagon Pagoda, then fly to Mandalay, before journeying on the Irrawaddy River down to the fabled 11th century capital, Pagan. The Inle Lake region exudes tranquillity and enables us to sample the hospitality of the Shan people. Kyaiktiyo is home to the fabled Golden Rock, whilst Bago was once the centre of an ancient Mon kingdom and contains one of the largest reclining Buddhas in the world.
Burma - the Golden Land
You end your journey by relaxing on a coastal resort on the Indian Ocean, enjoying the unspoilt and almost deserted beach with pure white sands and crystal-clear tropical waters.
Upon arrival in Rangoon (Yangon), you are met and transferred to our centrally located hotel. You meet your tour leader and the rest of the group. After a pre-trip briefing, we adjourn for a group dinner in the city (cost not included).
Rangoon (Yangon) - Mandalay
A city tour will acquaint us with the major sights of the city. Shwedagon Pagoda dominates the skyline and the ubiquitous Karaweik Hall sits on the Royal Lake. There is also time for you to explore this fascinating city full of dilapidated colonial edifices. In the afternoon we are transferred to the airport for our flight to Mandalay. We use a private airline in Burma and not the government one. Mandalay is situated near the banks of the Irrawaddy (Ayeyarwady) River. Upon arrival we are transfered to our centrally located hotel. (B)
We make our way down to the city’s lively waterfront which, offers an interesting backdrop as we take a boat trip up-river to Mingun - the site of the world's largest pagoda (albeit unfinished!) and the world’s largest unbroken bell. Mandalay was a former capital of Burma; however the surrounding countryside contains many towns that could lay claim to that same title at some stage or another in the past. We embark on a tour visiting the remnants of one of these once-great cities, Amarapura. Weather permitting, we may also view a spectacular sunset over the 200-year-old U Bein wooden bridge. (B)
Burma's most famous hill station, Maymyo (Pyin U Lwin), provides an escape from the heat of the plains. Established during the colonial era, it is today a crossroad for traders coming over from China and this is reflected in its colourful market. Time permitting, you may explore surroundings in a local horse-drawn carriage called a 'myin-lay'. English-style country mansions and Chinese temples dot the hillsides in a place rightly called the 'vegetable garden' of Burma. We return to Mandalay where the rest of the day is spent visiting various temples, including Kuthodaw Pagoda that claims to house the world's largest 'book'. Time permitting, it is a challenging walk up Mandalay Hill (236 metres), but the views from the summit are breathtaking, and along the way there are many shrines of religious significance. (B)
We spend an entire day on a boat as we cruise down the Irrawaddy River. Along the way, we witness the idyllic way of life that epitomises parts of rural Burma in the form of the small fishing villages that lie along the riverbanks. In the evening we arrive in Pagan (Bagan), one of the most impressive archaeological wonders of Asia. (Due to the unpredictable nature of ferry operations on the Irrawaddy River between April and October, it is possible that some services may be cancelled. Some of these cancellations may take place at the last minute and often without warning. If this is the case it may be necessary to fly between Mandalay and Pagan (Bagan). There will be no extra cost for this flight). (B)
The sights of Pagan are explored from dawn to dusk. Nyaung U's lively market contrasts with the eerie silence of the plains littered with over 4000 structures, including Gawdawpalin, Thatbyinnyu, Ananda and Shwezigon - all names of temples and pagodas that bear testament to a glorious past. The area is also famous for producing lacquerware that is available in the stalls amidst the ruins. There is also a chance to do some of our exploration by horse and cart. Weather permitting, we may enjoy a breathtaking sunset view from one of the ruins. (B)
We drive for an hour before arriving at Mount Popa, an extinct volcano that is home to the local spirits or deities known as 'nats'. For the energetic, there is a chance to climb the 777 steps to the shrine at the top of the hill. Returning to Pagan, we visit a local village to observe the lifestyle of the people. The afternoon is free to further explore this amazing area. You may hire a bicycle and enjoy your own exploration of the archaeological sites. (B)
We board a plane and fly to Heho, which is situated in the Shan Plateau. From here, we drive through picturesque countryside and rolling hills to our final destination, Khaungdaing, situated on Inle Lake not far from the main township, Nyaungshwe. We enjoy two nights staying at a lovely lakeside resort. This afternoon you may like to rent canoe (for about one hour) and row in to Lin Kin village, famous for its floating garden in the lake. On our way back we may stop over at some of the village houses to see the process of making traditional snacks. (extra cost) You will notice the weather is much cooler due to the high altitude. (B)
A full day is spent on the lake exploring the floating gardens and catching a glimpse of the local Intha fishermen who are famous for their unique 'leg-rowing' technique. These people are different from the Shans and they originate from the south of the country. The lake is also home to a wide array of bird-life including egrets, cranes, ducks, storks and birds of prey. (B)
Trekking - Inle Lake
After breakfast at hotel we transfer to Indein ruins complex (approx 45 minutes). Where we will find the pagoda and stupas built in the 8th century. Here you can enjoy rows of shops along the corridor uphill or just marvel at the surroundings. After spending some time we will start our walk towards to Yankin, Pa O and Taung Yoe tribe village (1.5 km, approx 45 minute). Along the way we explore the mystery of more than 300 ancient stupas around the village and then continue towards (1 km, approx 30 minute) to a Buddhist monastery and head North to Naydaw (1.5 km, approx 45 minute) to Taung Yoe ethnic tribe village through farm land and bamboo forest. From here turn to South-West (5 km, approx 3 hour) through the valley ups and downs to west Taung Mauk, Pa O village from here another 20 minute walk would get you to east Taung Mauk village. Finally we turn east through valley to Indein (3 km approx 45 minute) where we will meet our boat and return back to hotel. This evening we enjoy a traditional Shan dinner and get to sample some of the local style culinary specialties. (B, D)
In the morning we transfer to Heho Airport for the flight back to Rangoon. Upon arrival we are met by our private vehicle and travel by road to Kyaiktiyo. It is suggested that you pack an overnight bag for the one-night stop in Kyaiktiyo the remainder of your luggage can be taken to the hotel in Rangoon, where you will return on the evening of Day 12. It is approximately a five-hour drive to the base camp at Kinponsakan, where we transfer to an open truck and drive for 45 minutes up a steep hill to Rathedaung. After disembarking, there is a 45-minute walk to the summit (1180 metres above sea level). Porters with sedan chairs are available (at an extra cost) to carry up the hill those who are unable to walk. The Golden Rock (Kyaiktiyo Pagoda) is a place of pilgrimage for Buddhists. There is a small pagoda (7.3 metres high) built on a gold-gilded boulder, 25 metres in circumference, and balanced in what appears to be a very precarious position on a tabular rock, jutting out from a ridge in the Eastern Yoma Mountains. Legend has it that the boulder is held in position by a strand of Buddha's hair. To spend a night in Kyaiktiyo is likely to be one of Burma's most spiritual experiences. (B)
Pegu (Bago) - Rangoon (Yangon)
We spend the morning walking around Kyaiktiyo (the name means 'pagoda borne on a hermit's head', in Mon language). After descending from the summit, we continue on the road which we travelled on yesterday, back to Rangoon. Along the way we stop at Pegu (Bago), ancient centre of the Mon kingdom in the 13th Century. Here we visit the Shwemawdaw Pagoda, which is even larger than the famous Shwedagon Pagoda, and the Shwethalyaung Buddha, one of the largest Reclining Buddhas in existence. After exploring Pegu, we continue back to Rangoon for the night. (B)
Bassein (Pathein) - Ngwesaung
Turning our attention towards the delta region, we head west and drive for three-and-a-half hours to the port city of Bassein (Pathein), which is famous for its colourful hand-painted umbrellas. We see how these parasols are made on a visit to a local factory, before catching a ferry across the river and continuing on to the our little tropical paradise on the coast. (B)
Burma’s little-known secret is its beautiful coastline fronting the Indian Ocean. At Ngwesaung (pronounced ‘neway-song’) lies an unspoilt white sand beach, 15 kilometres long and bordered by tall swaying palms. We have a chance to relax for a couple of days, staying in the losh settings of the resort. Here we have the chance to swim in the waters of the warm, blue tropical sea. We can also visit small fishing villages and local markets, explore the countryside by bicycle and enjoy optional boat trips to the beautiful off-shore islands (cost not included). (2B)
We depart after breakfast and drive for approximately four hours back to the capital. Along the way we stop at an elephant camp to observe these mighty animals at clost quarters. There is an optional elephant ride for hour that takes you through a dense forest (the cost is US$5). Depending on what time we arrive back in Rangoon, you may have free time to visit Sule Pagoda, which marks the centre of town (this is an optional excursions and at your own expense). We spend our last evening together by going out for a meal and a wander around town. (B)
The tour ends after breakfast. A transfer to the airport is not included; however your tour leader will be on hand to advise you as to the options available. (B)
While the information presented here details our planned itinerary, including routes taken, activities included, accommodation and meeting times, please accept that unforseen changes may occur. We are constantly on the lookout to improve our program and further enhance your experience. Naturally, we will keep you up to date with any last minute amendments to your tour.
Key: (B) = Breakfast, (L) = Lunch, (D) = Dinner