The Golden Land Of Burma10 days & 9 nights, Escorted Discovery Group
Escorted Discovery Group
Mandalay, Pagan, Inle Lake & Yangon
Burma (Myanmar) has a long, eventful history and, as a result, a fascinating cultural heritage. 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)
Enjoy an afternoon tour of Mandalay. 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 center 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 recognizable sites of Burma. Built more than 200 years ago, U Bein Bridge is a footbridge made of 1,060 teak posts and spans over half a mile 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 served this evening.
Early this 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 center 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 takeover 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). After the visit to Mandalay Palace and Fort, depart for Maymyo (Pyin Oo Lwin), 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.
You will be taken to visit a local market, nearby plantations and villages to experience the lives of people in the region. After lunch at the Club Terrace restaurant in Maymyo, 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 176-hectare botanic garden is home to more than 480 species of flowers, trees and shrubs.
Return to Mandalay this 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 of the area's pagodas, the local market, and a nearby village that specializes 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 for your flight to Nyaung U.
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 5:30 am and 6:00 am, 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 at approximately 8:30 am. Warm clothing is recommended, as it can be quite chilly.
Enjoy a full day tour of the temples of Pagan. 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 to a local village to see life around Pagan.
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 center 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 enjoy a full day tour of Pagan and Nyaung U. 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 center 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 - Inle lake
Travel by car from Pagan to Nyaung U. The total journey time is approximately 15 minutes. Board your flight to Heho.Amata Garden Resort - 2 Nights (B, L, D)
On arrival you will be met at Heho airport and driven 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 specialize 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
Set off this morning for the Sagar region, the far southern area of Inle Lake. Only opened to tourism in 2003, very few people make the trip down here yet it is one of the most beautiful places in the Shan State with the mountains forming a backdrop for the small villages and fishermen on the water. The boat journey takes 2.5 to 3 hours and is full of fabulous views and home to many unique species of birds, both indigenous and migratory. Upon arriving in Sagar area there are several stops that can be made, the order of which will depend on the time, other tourist boats and activity in the villages. Below is a selection of sites of interest.Amata Garden Resort (B, L, D)
The main attraction for many visitors is the 'sunken' stupas of Sagar - 108 stupas from the 16th to 17th centuries that are partially underwater for a few months a year. There is also a local monastery that can be visited, and the village is also worth exploring.
The village of Thaya Gone is home to Pa-Oh, Shan and Inthar people, and is also known for its production of local rice wine. At the village you can watch the process of distillation of this strong liquor, and even sample some if you wish. In Thaya Gone there is also the chance to climb to the top of a small hill from where there are superb views of the lake and surrounding villages.
The Sae Khaung pottery village is of interest to see the crafting of oil and water pots as well as the natural, underground kilns used by the villagers, while Tar Kaung on the western shores of the Sagar area is home to more than 200 stupas.
In the mid-afternoon begin your journey back to the main section of Inle Lake. The route looks quite different on the return, with other activities occurring on the water and in the villages. Rice noodles can be seen drying in the sun, spun cotton is hung out to dry and children are returning from school at this time of day. You will reach your hotel early this evening, in time to watch the sunset.
Day 8Fly to Rangoon
Drive from Inle Lake to Heho airport, a journey time of around 1 hour. Board your flight to Rangoon.Chatrium Hotel - 2 Nights (B)
You will be met at the airport and taken to your hotel, with the following stops en route.
Visit the Kalaywatawya monastery, where more than 1,000 monks and nuns gather to study Buddhist scripture. Here you can get a glimpse into monastic life and see young novices go about their daily chores and studies. Donations of biscuits, candles, books and pencils are welcome. After the monastery visit, continue to the city via a stop outside Aung San Suu Kyi's gated home.
Afterwards, visit the Chauktatgyi Paya, a quiet temple that receives fewer visitors than other sites, located only a short distance north-east of Shwedagon Pagoda. The temple houses a beautiful reclining buddha whose crown is encrusted with diamonds and precious stones. The original statue was of a giant standing buddha, but it collapsed years ago and the reclining buddha was rebuilt in the classic enlightenment position. Attached to the temple complex is a meditation center, where a large number of locals gather to meditate.
Continue to your hotel.
Departures - Jan to Mar 2017.Chatrium Hotel (B, D)
Enjoy a full day tour of Rangoon. 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 321 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.
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 center 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 230-foot-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 4pm with high tea at the Governor's Residence hotel, set in a lush tropical garden in the quiet embassy quarter. Afterwards, you will return back to the hotel.
Note: Visitors must remove their shoes before the first step at any temple or pagoda entrance.
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.
Departures - Oct to Dec 2017.
Enjoy a full day tour of Rangoon. The tour begins with a visit to the majestic and bejewelled Shwedagon Pagoda, arguably the most precious and sacred pagoda in Burma, dominating Rangoon's skyline. It is believed that the pagoda is 2,500 years old and contains relics from the past four Buddhas. The pagoda's brick structure is covered by genuine gold plate and its crown is tipped with diamonds and rubies. A series of earthquakes caused extensive damage and it was rebuilt several times, reaching its current height of 321 feet in the 15th century. Shwedagon Pagoda became the most significant pilgrimage site in Burma, and today it attracts pilgrims from many countries. The southern and eastern approaches have traditional shops with wide gradual staircases and lifts. The infrequently used western entrance is equipped with escalators.
After lunch, take a walking tour of Rangoon visiting food and book stalls, markets, and many impressive colonnaded buildings. Continue through the chaotic Indian and Chinese quarters, and explore the gold shops before ending at Sri Kali temple, Rangoon's most colorful Hindu temple.
Finish with a visit to the National Museum, which houses some of the most priceless collections of royal Burmese furniture, costumes and jewellery.
Note: Visitors must remove their shoes before the first step at any temple or pagoda entrance.
Evening farewell dinner at Padonmar restaurant. Housed in a large, charming colonial residence amid leafy gardens, Padonmar is a wonderful place for a meal while visiting Rangoon (Yangon). From midday until late in the night the food is cooked fresh and served with lots of local flavor. The friendly staff and locally inspired decor add to the ambience.
Day 10Depart Rangoon
Morning at leisure.
Optional excursion: Morning visit to the Bogyoke Aung San (Scott) market
The bustling Bogyoke Aung San (Scott) market is one of the most popular markets in Rangoon (Yangon) and known for its colonial architecture and cobblestone streets. The market is a major tourist destination and there are shops selling antiques, Burmese handicrafts, jewellery, silk and clothing. It is also a place where locals come to shop for food, medicine and garments.
You will be collected at your hotel and taken to the airport. Late check out is not included.(B)