The Golden Land of Burma - 201610 days & 9 nights , Escorted Discovery Group
Escorted Discovery Group
Mandalay, Pagan, Inle Lake & Yangon (rangoon)
Burma (Myanmar) has a rich cultural heritage and a long, eventful history. This journey visits the highlights of this diverse country, beginning in Mandalay then on to the thousands of pagodas in ancient Pagan (Bagan). Visit beautiful Inle lake, famous for its floating villages and gardens, and the leg-rowers of the Intha tribe, before finishing in the former royal capital of Rangoon (Yangon).
Day 1Arrive Mandalay
You will be met and taken to your hotel.Mandalay Hill Resort - 2 Nights (D)
Begin with a visit to the Mahamuni Pagoda, one of Burma's most famous Buddhist sites and home to the highly venerated Mahamuni Buddha image. The image is 13 feet high, cast in bronze and now covered with thick layers of gold leaf. According to strict tradition, only men are allowed in the inner sections of the shrine and to get close to the Buddha image to apply gold leaves.
Continue to Amarapura, Burma's penultimate royal capital near the city of Mandalay, and make a short stop at a silk-weaving workshop. Proceed to Mahagandayon Monastery, which is home to several thousand young monks who live and study there. It is a renowned centre for monastic study and strict religious discipline. Most pilgrims and visitors visit around 11am to see monks receiving alms and offerings from pilgrims. It is a sight to behold as they queue up in their saffron robes to receive food.
End the day with sunset at U Bein Bridge, one of the most recognisable sites of Burma. Built more than 200 years ago, U Bein Bridge is a footbridge made of 1,060 teak posts and spans over 0.5 miles across the shallow Taungthaman Lake. The bridge is used by locals and monks crossing between Amarapura and Taungthaman village, and the lake attracts fishermen who cast lines, or more uniquely, use their longyi, or sarongs, as nets to catch fish. There are shaded areas along the bridge for resting and the bridge curves to better withstand the wind.
Note: Visitors must remove their shoes before the first step at any of the entrances of temples and pagodas.
A welcome dinner will be held tonight at a local restaurant.
Early morning, proceed on a tour of Mandalay Palace and Fort. Mandalay Palace and Fort was home to the last two royal kings of Burma. Sprawling south of Mandalay Hill, Mandalay Palace is a complex with rebuilt palaces in the centre of immense fort walls which are almost 2 miles long, 26 feet high and surrounded by a 230 feet wide moat. The original palace was built in 1857 by King Mindon Min and was more than the royal living quarters; it was a walled city within Mandalay. Burma's last king, King Thibaw, lived here until 1885 when the British completed their take over of the country and he was sent to India and places under house arrest. You will be able to visit the Hall of Victory or Glass Palace, Mye Nan Pyathat temple and Nan Myint Saung watchtower where you can climb the spiral staircase to get views of the city.Mandalay Hill Resort (B, L)
Later, enjoy a full-day excursion to Maymyo (Pyin Oo Lwin). Maymyo (Pyin Oo Lwin), is a former British hill station two hours north of Mandalay. The journey takes you from the dry plains around Mandalay to the green hills of the Shan plateau, passing through quiet towns and rural villages. The British founded the town in 1896 as a place they could come to escape the heat of the plains and named it Maymyo (May-town), after Colonel May of the 5th Bengal Infantry. Maymyo was connected to Mandalay by railway to provide easy access for the British administration who built the many colonial houses and structures that can still be seen today.
Take lunch at the Club Terrace, then you will be taken to visit a local market, nearby plantations and villages to experience the lives of people in the region. Afterwards, take a horse cart ride to see Purcell Tower, which was a present from Queen Victoria, the grand colonial houses, administrative buildings and churches that line the streets. Continue to the National Kandawgyi Gardens, founded in 1915 by the English botanist Alex Rodgers. The 435-botanic garden is home to more than 480 species of flowers, trees and shrubs. End the day with high tea or locally produced strawberries and cream, if in season.
Return to Mandalay in the late afternoon.
Day 3Fly to Nyaung U and Pagan
Leave Mandalay and head south-west out of the city, then cross the bridge over the Irrawaddy river to Sagaing Hill, home to hundreds of monasteries, some 6,000 monks and nuns, and 500 stupas. Many locals come here to find peace and tranquillity through meditation in the monasteries, which are set along extensive networks of leafy paths. Visit some the area's pagodas, the local market, and a nearby village that specialises in pottery.Aye Yar River View Resort - 3 Nights (B, L)
Cross back over the river to Inwa (Ava), an ancient city that served as Burma's capital for nearly 400 years. Ride in a traditional horse and carriage to Bagayar monastery, a beautiful teak structure that dates from 1834. Look out for Nan Myint, the 'leaning tower of Inwa', which is a masonry watchtower and all that remains of the royal palace built by Bagyidaw.
Transfer to the airport after your excursion.
Travel by car from Nyaung U to Pagan. The total journey time is approximately 15 minutes.
Day 4Pagan temple visits
Optional Excursion: Sunrise balloon ride over Pagan (shared excursion).
Drifting serenely in a balloon over Pagan (Bagan) as the sun rises and seeing its myriad pagodas and temples dotted in the plains below is one of the most memorable experiences on your journey through Burma.
You will be picked up from your hotel between 5.30am and 6am, and taken to the launch site where tea and coffee is served while the crew prepare the balloons. Watching the inflation of the balloon and experiencing lift-off is spectacular. The balloon ride starts at dawn and lasts for approximately 45 minutes to 1 hour. On landing, you will be served a light champagne breakfast before transferring back to the hotel. Warm clothing is recommended, as it can be quite chilly.
The Classic service operates from the 1st October to 31st March. The Premium services operates from the 20th October through to the 20th March only.
The premium service offers a more personalised and spacious experience, and is limited to a maximum of just 16 passengers per day in the two smallest 8 passenger balloons, and also includes a memory stick with an in-flight photo of your flight.
Today's excursion begins with a visit to Tayoke Pyay Temple where you can view the panorama of the temples of Pagan and your guide will give you a brief explanation of the different styles of temples and pagodas in the area. You will be taken to visit temples around Minthu village including Thamanpaya, Thambula and Payathonzu. End the morning with a visit a local village to see life around Pagan.Aye Yar River View Resort (B)
In the afternoon, take a tour of Ananda Temple, arguably the most beautiful temple in Pagan and the masterpiece of Mon architecture. It is the largest, best preserved and most revered of all the temples in Pagan and it is believed that the temple was built around 1105 by King Kyanzittha. After the construction of the temple, the king executed the architects just to ensure the style of the temple remained unique. The temple suffered during major earthquakes, especially in 1975, but has been totally restored. In 1990, on the 900th anniversary of the temple's construction, the temple spires were gilded. The remainder of the temple exterior is whitewashed from time to time.
Continue the tour by visiting temples and pagodas nearby Ananda Temple. The itinerary is flexible and your guide will recommend temples and pagodas that are of significance. Below is a list of temples that maybe visited, time permitting:
Htilominlo Temple was built during the reign of King Htilominlo (also known as Nandaungmya) in 1211. The temple is three storeys tall, the tallest in Pagan with a height of 150 feet, and built with red brick. It is also known for its elaborate plaster mouldings. On the first floor of the temple, there are four Buddhas that face each direction of the compass. The temple was damaged in the 1975 earthquake and subsequently repaired.
Dhammayangyi Temple is one of the largest structures in Pagan and has a similar architectural plan to Ananda Temple. It was built by King Narathu (1167-70), who killed his father to seize the throne. To control the quality of the temple structure and workmanship, the king took charge of the project himself and if a needle could be pushed into the gap between the bricks laid, the mason responsible was executed. However, Narathu never completed the build since he was assassinated during construction.
Shwesandaw Pagoda was built by King Anawrahta after his conquest of Thaton in 1057. This graceful circular pagoda was constructed at the centre of his newly empowered kingdom and was also known as Ganesh or Mahapeine after the elephant-headed Hindu god whose images once stood at the corners of the five successive terraces.
If time permits, you will be taken to a lacquer ware factory to see the complex process involved in making beautiful boxes, containers, plates and bowls.
End the day viewing the sunset over the plains and temples of Pagan from one of the smaller temples to avoid crowds.
Note: Visitors must remove their shoes before the first step at any of the entrances of temples and pagodas.
Day 5Pagan temple visits
Today's excursion begins with a visit to Nyaung U market, close to Pagan, before continuing to Shwezigon Pagoda, which was built as the most important religious shrine, a centre of prayer and reflection, for the new Theravada Buddhism faith King Anawarahta had established in Pagan. The building project was commenced by King Anawrahta in 1076 but not completed until the reign of King Kyanzittha (1084-1113). The beautiful golden pagoda is said to contain one of the four replicas of the Buddha tooth in Kandy, Sri Lanka.Aye Yar River View Resort (B)
You will then visit Hnget Pyit Taung, a hillock on which a pagoda built by King Pyusawhti stands. According to legend, it was the place where the king shot a giant ogre bird that was a danger to his people at the time. Inside the pagoda there are works of art that depict the life of the king.
The morning tour ends at Lawkananda Pagoda which is located close to New Pagan Township. Lawkananda pagoda was built by King Anawrahta during his reign in 1059 on the banks of the Irrawaddy River. It is believed the Buddha's tooth relic is enshrined inside the pagoda and it is still used as an everyday place of worship.
In the afternoon, you will visit some remote temples ending at Dhammayazika Temple. The structure has pentagonal terraces instead of the usual square base of Pagan pagodas. From one of the terraces there are panoramic views of Pagan's countless temples and pagodas.
The day ends with a sunset cruise on the Irrawaddy river.
Note: Visitors must remove their shoes before the first step at the entrances of temples and pagodas.
Day 6Fly to Heho and Inle lake
Travel by car from Pagan to Nyaung U. The total journey time is approximately 15 minutes.Amata Garden Resort - 2 Nights (B, L, D)
Drive from Heho to Inle Lake. The total journey time is approximately 1 hour.
Transfer from the jetty in Nyaung Shwe to your hotel by long tail boat.
Afternoon tour of Inle Lake. Take a long-tail boat tour of Inle Lake, Burma's second largest lake. The population consists predominantly of Intha, with a mix of other Shan, Taungyo, Pa-O (Taungthu), Danu, Kayah, Danaw and Bamar ethnicities. The area is famous for its floating villages and gardens, and the Intha leg-rowers. You will have the opportunity to visit floating villages that specialise in different handicrafts, including silk weaving and blacksmith villages, cheroots and paper-making workshops. You will also get the chance to see locals working in the floating tomato, chilli and flower gardens as well as Intha leg-rowers and fisherman.
Day 7Inle Lake
Depart for Indein Village by long-tail boat and visit its complex of 1,054 stupas which were mostly constructed between the 17th and the 18th centuries. Although some stupas have been restored using donations from local Buddhists, many stand weather-beaten. At the top is Shwe Indein Pagoda from where there are great views across the lake and valley.Amata Garden Resort (B, L, D)
Afternoon enjoy wine tasting at the Red Mountain Estate. Located near Inle Lake, the Red Mountain Estate produces the best wines in Burma, using locally grown grapes from 400,000 plants imported from France and Spain. French winemaker Francois Raynal started the project in 2002, choosing the Taung Che site for its climate and aspect, and began creating the terraces needed to cultivate the high slopes in the area. Subsequent years were spent experimenting with different varieties and equipment, and expanding the vineyard to include another site at Myay Phyu 6 miles away, culminating in the first production of 1,000 bottles of red and white wine in 2006. The estate now produces up to 120,000 bottles of red and white wine a year, and employs over 100 permanent staff. During your visit you will have the opportunity to sample a range of the estate's wines, tour the grounds and learn more about the wine-making process.
Day 8Fly to Rangoon
Drive from Inle Lake to Heho airport, a journey time of around 1 hour.Chatrium Hotel (B)
You will be met and taken to the Kalaywatawya monastery near the airport, where more than 1,000 monks and nuns study Buddhist scripture. Continue into the city with a stop on the way outside Aung San Suu Kyi's gated home.
The tour begins with a visit to the majestic and bejewelled Shwedagon Pagoda, arguably the most precious and sacred pagoda in Burma which dominates Rangoon's skyline. It is believed that the pagoda is 2,500 years old and contains relics of the past four Buddhas, namely the staff of Kakusandha, the water filter of Konagamana, a piece of the robe of Kassapa and eight hairs of Gautama, on whose teachings Buddhism was founded. The pagoda's brick structure is covered by genuine gold plates and its crown or umbrella is tipped with 5,448 diamonds and 2,317 rubies. At the very top, the diamond bud is tipped with a 76-carat diamond. The pagoda fell into disrepair until the 14th century when the Mon king Binnya U of Bago extended the height of the pagoda by more than 59 feet. A series of earthquakes caused much damage and it was rebuilt several times, especially during the reigns of Queen Shinsawbu and King Dhammazedi, reaching its current height of 322 feet in the 15th century. Shwedagon Pagoda became the most significant pilgrimage site in Burma, and today it attracts local pilgrims, as well as those from Thailand, Taiwan and Japan. The southern and eastern approaches have traditional shops with wide gradual staircases and lifts. The infrequently used western entrance is equipped with escalators.Chatrium Hotel (B, D)
After lunch, take a walking tour of Rangoon, beginning on Mahanbandola Road where the Immanuel Baptist Church is located. Continue east passing a couple of alleyways crammed with food stalls and markets. Turn right onto Pansodan Street, with its many stalls selling second-hand and photocopied books. Pass the High Court Building, the grand Inland Water Transport offices and even grander Myanmar Port Authority building until you reach Strand Road. Your next stop will be outside of the majestic Strand Hotel, followed by a walk along Strand Road to the Customs House and the Law Court, an impressive colonnaded building. Turn north onto boisterous Bank Street and up onto Sule Pagoda Road, where you will see the 2,500-year-old Sule Pagoda, regarded as the geographical centre of the city and believed to have been built before the Shwedagon Pagoda. The pagoda is a Mon-style zedi, octagonal in shape, hung with bronze bells of various sizes and ages with inscriptions recording their donors' names and the dates of their dedication.
Continue west through the chaotic Indian and Chinese quarters. Explore the gold shops of Shwe Bontha Street and see the nearby Moseh Yeshua Synagogue on 26th Street, then on to Theingyi Zei market. Exit onto Anawratha Road to the Sri Kali Temple, Rangoon's most colourful Hindu temple.
In the afternoon, visit Kyaukhtatgyi Pagoda to see the 70-metre-long reclining Buddha statue, around the size of a blue whale. The original statue was of a giant standing Buddha, but it collapsed more than 50 years ago and was rebuilt in the classic enlightenment position. Afterwards, continue uptown in order to make a quick stop by the Royal Lake located in Kandawgyi Park, popular with local residents, especially in the early morning and around sunset. Finish with a visit to the National Museum, which houses some of the most priceless collections of royal Burmese furniture, costumes and jewellery. The collection's highlights include the Sihasana (the Lion Throne), which belonged to the last king of Burma, jewel-encrusted beds, ceremonial dresses, collections of betel-nut holders, and spittoons.
The day will end around with afternoon tea at the Belmond Governor's Residence, set in a lush tropical garden in the quiet embassy quarter. Afterwards, you will return back to the hotel.
This evening you will be taken to Le Planteur for a farewell dinner. Located in a lush tropical garden, the restaurant serves a selection of international cuisines. Diners can sit in the garden in good weather. In 2011 Felix Eppisser, one of Switzerland's top Michelin star chefs moved to Yangon with his wife and they follow the path of Boris Granges who made Le Planteur famous for its outstanding cuisine and hospitality. A long list of celebrities such as Mick Jagger, the prince of Cambodia and the president of Switzerland have previously enjoyed visits here.
Day 10Depart Rangoon
An optional guided visit today to the Bogyoka Aung San (Scott) market.
You will be collected at your hotel and taken to the airport.(B)