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Day 01 – INTERNATIONAL ARRIVAL FLIGHT - MANDALAY
Lunch and Dinner at own expense – Overnight in Mandalay - Drive 1hr
Meet & Greet your private english speaking guide at Mandalay International Airport. You will explore the second biggest city of Burma; discover the "cultural heart of the Golden Land". In ancient times Mandalay used to be a former royal capital. The name ‘Mandalay' is perhaps the most evocative of any destination in Myanmar (mainly due to the famous poem by Rudyard Kipling, who in fact only ever spent two days in the country and never came here!) – and yet it is a city whose significant charms need to be uncovered. But if you take the time to explore, there is much to be enjoyed, including many temples, monasteries and markets, as well as great street food and panoramic views from Mandalay Hill. Compared to the many ancient capitals scattered around the country, Mandalay is in fact a relatively new city, having been built in 1857 when King Mindon was trying to re-establish Burmese prestige after the country’s defeat in the Second Anglo-Burmese War. It was therefore constructed on a grand scale, and the size of Mandalay Palace is testament to this. Transfer by private chartered vehicle to your hotel (approximately 1 hour drive). Remainder of the day at leasure. Dinner at own expense. Overnight in Mandalay.
Day 02 – MANDALAY
Lunch and Dinner at own expense – Overnight in Mandalay
After breakfast you will visit Mandalay. We begin with an exploration of the most important pagodas and temples of this remarkable city:
- Mahamuni Buddha Temple - one of Myanmar’s most important religious sites, the Mahamuni temple often throngs with pilgrims, and is set in a large religious complex that is most famous for its seated Buddha, which stands at 3.8 metres tall and has been adorned with so much gold that its body is now a mass of golden blobs. The one part that is still clear is its beaming face, which is washed by monks, and has its teeth cleaned, in a ceremony every morning.
- Kuthodaw Pagoda - (literally meaning Royal Merit Pagoda) is a Buddhist stupa that contains the world's largest book. It lies at the foot of Mandalay Hill and was built during the reign of King Mindon. The stupa itself, which is gilded above its terraces, is 188 feet (57 m) high, and is modelled after the Shwezigon Pagoda at Bagan. In the grounds of the pagoda are 729 stone-inscription caves, each containing a marble slab inscribed on both sides with a page of text from the Tipitaka, the entire Pali Canon of Theravada Buddhism.
- Shwenandaw Monastery, is the most significant of Mandalay’s historic buildings, since this ‘Golden Palace Monastery’ remains the sole major survivor of the former wooden Royal Palace built by King Mindon in the mid-19th century. The Shwenandaw is a wonderfully fragile yet grand example of 19th century Myanmar teak architecture and also a significant masterpiece of the wood-carver’s art.
Lunch at own expense. Early afternoon your in-depth exploration of Mandalay
continues by bicycle rickshaw. The following highlights are on our bucket list:
- A visit to the Jade Market - Jade is a unique and prized stone. Though highly traded and sought after in Asia, it remains a bit of an anomaly in the west. Much of the lack of knowledge about jade has to do with the large amount of low quality and dyed jade that has taken over most of the market in the west. Only a select few stores carry high quality stones, and those consumers that buy it, typically are well educated on the gem. Pulling back the veil a little, jade, like other gems, rewards the highest color and clarity with the greatest value. But what is different than, say diamond, is that jade is really not measured in carats or grams, but rather subjectively by relative size, quality of carving (if it's carved), and purity of color. And this is where it gets tricky. One thing is for certain - the worlds best jade comes from Myanmar, and much of that funnels through the Mandalay Jade Market.
- Traditional Handicraft & Artisan workshops: your one-stop shop to pick up woodcarvings of all types is Aung Nan Myanmar Handicrafts. Hundreds of finely carved figures that fit in the palm of your hand or stand as tall as a man crowd this large workshop. Buddha statues sit in contemplation next to giant screaming eagles in a range of figures that prove that imagination has no limits. One of the specialties of this workshop includes the famous Myanmar puppets in hand-made costumes. Tapestries are also created here, sown and decorated with beads by the agile fingers of artists. The thin, one-square-inch sheets of gold that have, over time, added an extra seven inches to the Mahamuni Buddha, are exclusively crafted in Mandalay.
- Zegyo Market is the biggest market in Mandalay and is as old as the city itself. Although an interesting and lively place to wander around, the main building unfortunately is now an undistinguished modern structure – the main draws here are the neighbouring dusty, bustling markets of 86th street, which are rich in atmosphere and have a huge selection of locally produced goods, from fresh food to handicrafts.
We finish our sightseeing for today at Mandalay Hill
where we can enjoy a magnificent sunset. Dinner at own expense. Overnight in Mandalay.
Day 03 – MANDALAY – MAYMYO (Pyin Oo Lwin)
Lunch and Dinner at own expense – Overnight in Maymyo
After breakfast we leave Mandalay by private chartered vehicle, to reach Pyin Oo Lwin
(aka. MayMyo), a summer residence of the former British governor. Discover the magnificent Waterfalls of Dat Taw Chaing
at Ah Ni Sakhan (time permitting we have the option to do some swimming). Lunch enroute (at own expense). The
colonial hill station of Pyin Oo Lwin was a summer retreat during British rule, its altitude (1070m) and relatively
cool climate allowing the British ruling class to escape the fearsome heat of
Mandalay and lower Myanmar. In that era it was called Maymyo (meaning ‘May’s town’ in Burmese, after a British colonel who was stationed there), and is still sometimes referred to by that name.
Although sadly now blighted by some modern building development (the Shan hill station of Kalaw perhaps retains more of its original character), Pyin Oo Lwin’s colonial legacy still holds the key to the the town’s charm, and the surrounding area offers plenty to explore. Visit the colorful central market at Pyin Oo Lwin.
Pyin Oo Lwin’s beautiful botanical gardens
are unique in Myanmar and the town does retain a number of characteristic examples of 19th century country houses
, several of which are now hotels. The most famous is probably The Candacraig
(now called the Thiri Myaing Hotel, although it is currently closed), a colonial mansion built in 1904 and described in some detail by Paul Theroux in The Great Railway Bazaar
; another beautiful example is the Governor’s House.
To this day, colourful wooden horse-drawn wagons
are one of the primary forms of transport around town. We take a ride around town in truly Victorian style! Ultimately time for refreshment and check-in at your hotel. Dinner at own expense. Overnight in Maymyo.
Day 04 - MAYMYO - HSIPAW
Lunch and Dinner at own expense – Overnight in Hsipaw - Train 3h20'
Breakfast. Transfer to the local railway station where you will embark on a local train to travel onwards northeast, in the direction of Hsipaw (a 3hr20' ride). A charming and laid-back town located high in the hills of Shan State, Hsipaw’s quiet, dusty streets, traditional buildings, and trekking opportunities are worth the effort of getting there – particularly considering the journey from Mandalay involves one of the world’s great train journeys. One of the most visually stunning journeys in Myanmar, made famous by Paul Theroux in The Great Railway Bazaar and later in Ghost Train to the Eastern Star, is this line which takes in the beautiful hill country of Shan State and the towering Gokteik Viaduct. When completed in 1900, this steel structure was one of the largest of its kind in the world and was considered an engineering triumph. It is said that repairs over the years are not what they should have been, so the train slows down to a snail’s pace when crossing the dramatic Gokteik Gorge, meaning that it is not just the stunning scenery that leaves travellers breathless! Before noon we arrive at Kyaukme station, where a "Djumbo" (3-wheeled local vehicle) is waiting for us to take us to our final destination for today. Time for refreshment and check-in at our hotel. Lunch at own expense.
Hsipaw has a refreshingly mild climate and numerous shrines nearby, including the atmospheric collection of pagodas to its north, dubbed ‘Little Bagan’; a hilltop pagoda with lovely views over the town and its valley; and a huge Chinese cemetery. It is interesting to witness the rural lives of local farmers in their paddy fields and banana plantations. Dinner at own expense. Overnight in Hsipaw.
Day 05 - HSIPAW
Lunch and Dinner at own expense – Overnight in Hsipaw
After breakfast, leave from your hotel to start an adventurous trekking along different colorful Shan Villages. We start our exploration of the surrounding villages with a visit to a local rice noodle factory, after which we walk along numerous rice fields to arrive at the first real Shan village. Lunch at own expense while on trekking.
For a more chilled-out activity, we then embark for a boat trip on the Dokhtawady River; an enticing option. Our scenic journey features monasteries, pineapple plantations, fields, forests and a 45-minute walk where you will have the chance to speak to local Shan farmers in yet another local Shan village. Return to Hispaw by river boat. Dinner at own expense. Overnight at Hsipaw.
Day 06 - HSIPAW - MANDALAY
Lunch and Dinner at own expense – Overnight in Mandalay
Early morning, depart by private chartered vehicle for our return journey to Mandalay. Stop enroute to visit Peik Chin Myaung, a limestone stalactite cave that is several hundred million years old. Its corners and niches are covered with various Buddha images and pagodas in all sizes as well as statues in various positions. Inside the cave, many underground streams flow from different directions. A large number of stalactites and others have formed due to water seeped and dropped from rocks and limestone. Some pilgrims pick up this water because they believe that it can cure skin-diseases and sore eyes. Outside, there is a three layer waterfall which a few people know, will take visitors a few minute to reach from the cave. Swimming at the entrance of the cave is very fascinating to the local people and many pilgrims in Myanmar. More and morelocals from Pyin Oo Lwin open shops gradually with plenty of local products and souvenirs in order to serve visitors. Lunch at own expense while sightseeing. Visit Aung Htu Kan Tha Paya, a picturesque temple that houses a 17 ton white marble Buddha. Continue our drive to Mandalay where we arrive at the end of the day. Dinner at own expense. Overnight in Mandalay.
Day 07 – MANDALAY – AMARAPURA - SAGAING - MONYWA
Lunch and Dinner at own expense – Overnight in Monywa
After an early breakfast we hit back the road and continue our journey to Monywa; enroute we will stop at two ancient royal capital cities: Amarapura and Sagaing.
Situated 11 kilometres south of Mandalay, Amarapura
is one of Myanmar’s former capitals. It was built by King Bodawpaya
in 1783 and served as the centre of power until 1857, when the capital moved to Mandalay. Today, you can find ruins of the city gate,
the palace, and tombs of old kings. There are also numerous stupas to be seen in the area, including the Kyauktawgyi Pagoda
, as well as the Maha Gandhayon
The biggest draw in the area is the unique U Bein Bridge
, a beautiful 1.2 kilometre structure built from teak planks and said to be the longest of its type in the world. The local mayor, U Bein
, salvaged the wood from pieces of the dismantled teak palace at Amarapura when the capital moved to Mandalay in 1857.
The bridge’s attraction is not simply in its structure, but that it remains a central part of the community, with hundreds of locals and saffron-robed monks walking their bicycles home along it, and fishermen going about their daily work in its shadow (although there are increasing numbers of tourists, too).
Located on the western banks of the Irrawaddy River, opposite Inwa and 21 kilometres south west of Mandalay, Sagaing is another of Myanmar’s ancient capitals, famous for its many hundreds of white, silver and gold pagodas and monasteries that dot its hilly landscape. The best place to take in the views is from Sagaing Hill; you can spend some time exploring the pagodas, temples and caves that surround it. On the hill is the most famous shrine in the area, the Soon U Ponya Shin Pagoda, originally built in 1312. Lunch at own expense while sightseeing. As we approach Monywa, we can visit the multi-colored Pagoda of Thanboddhay. The spectacularly colourful and uniquely styled pagoda houses over 500,000 Buddha images and features many hundreds of golden spires. There is a colourful watchtower on the monastery site which offers views of the pagoda and surrounding plains. Visit also to a monastic buddhist educational center and Kaung Mudaw Pagoda. Monywa is situated on the banks of the Chindwin River. Because of the industry that surrounds the town, it has a more dynamic feel than other regional centres in Myanmar: its riverfront is enjoyable to amble down; it has some lively markets; and its main street comes alive after dark, with a vibrant atmosphere and numerous food stalls and beer stations. Bear in mind, however, that this is small-town Myanmar, and places close early. To conclude our day, time for refreshment and check-in at our hotel. Dinner at own expense. Overnight in Monywa.
Day 08– MONYWA – HPO WIN DAUNG - PAKKOKU - IRRAWADY RIVER CRUISE - BAGAN
Lunch and Dinner at own expense – Overnight in Bagan – Drive 1hr
After breakfast, transfer to the banks of the Chindwin river and continue our journey by local pick-up truck (approx. 1hr) to visit the magnificent caves at Hpo Win Daung. The Hpo Win Daung caves (also variously spelt as Hpowindaung, Powintaung and Po Win Taung) can be found 25 kilometres west of Monywa, on the western bank of the Chindwin River. The 947 caves that make up the complex were built between the 14th and 18th centuries, and contain ornate mural paintings and hundreds of Buddha statues. The Shwe Ba Taung complex which is within a short walk of Po Win Taung, is believed carved out from the cliff side at the same time. Natural gorges have been widened for pilgrims to walk from one cave to the other. The caves are higher and without wall-paintings, but the fascinating aspect to the architecture is the way the entrances are constructed. Apparently added or rebuilt during the colonial era, they are decorated with pillars complete with Corinthian capitals. The arched over the entrances hold such motifs as unicorns side by side with the stylised lions of Myanmar tradition, guarding the shrines in harmony together. The different motifs are each worked with a different pastel colour so it gives an atmosphere of a walk through fairyland. A huge elephant, larger then life has been carved in relief on one side of a cliff. Lunch at own expense enroute.
In the afternoon continue our journey to Pakkoku, a village located totally off-the-beaten path. Along the way we discover various colorful villages and smaller hamlets where local craftwork is done: birmese rice noodle manufactoring, weaving, incense sticks making... Arrive in Pakkoku, where we can visit a "Cheeroot"-manufacturing workshop, a typical Burmese cigar. Embark on a private traditional boat for a short river boat journey on the Irrawady river to reach Bagan. Arrival in Bagan just before sunset - check-in at hotel. Dinner at own expense. Overnight in Bagan.
Day 09 – BAGAN
Lunch and Dinner at own expense – Overnight in Bagan
Bagan is by far the most amazing site in Burma, if not in the entire Southeast Asia. On the banks of the Irrawaddy, stand thousands of stupas and temples full of history. In fact, whichever way we look we are always surrounded by temple ruins of all sizes. We can witness the zenith of buddhist architecture in Myanmar. You start your visit of this remarkable city by bicycle:
- Gubyaukgyi temple with its magnificent mural paintings
- Manuha temple
- Nagayon temple
Lunch at own expense while sightseeing. Myinkaba, a village just to the south of Old Bagan, is famous for its traditional Mon-style lacquerware, the manufacturing of which dates back to the time of King Manuha, the last king of Thaton, who brought his artisans with him into exile here in the 11th century. Myinkaba is a centre for bamboo weaving (for use in construction) and has several family-run lacquerware workshops. Continue our temple exploration as we take another road leading to Patho Dhammayangyi temple; finish for today at Paya Shwesandaw; from its top we can enjoy a magnificent sunset over the plain of temples.
Dinner at own expense. Overnight in Bagan
Day 10 – BAGAN
Lunch and Dinner at own expense – Overnight in Bagan
After breakfast, your local Burmese guide will take you from your hotel to the colorful local market of Nyuang Oo. Here, you can find nearly all Myanmar goods in its different sections: from the traditional "Longyi" to other kinds of clothes, from rattan items to tea leaves - one of the country’s specialties. Also, this is an excellent occasion for you to take pictures of amazingly fresh veggies, fine rice, and really mingle with native people, ‘studying’ a part of their life. From the market, you can go to one of the most important Buddhist constructions of Bagan: Shwezigon, the holiest pagoda where thousands of pilgrims come to honour Buddha and the 37 Nats (spirits).
Lunch at own expense while sightseeing.
In the afternoon we proceed our temple exploration by horse-cart drawn carriage
At first we'll admire That Byin Nyu
, the tallest temple in Bagan
. Continue with the huge and beautifully preserved Ananda Temple
, often described as an architectural wonder... it's certainly one of the most striking temples in Bagan. We discover the intricate mural paintings dating back to the late 13th century. We finish our visit for today at Kyauk Gu Temple
(Cave Temple). This temple is a structure of unique architecture. It consists of three receding terraces built of stone and brick against the precipitous side of a deep ravine. The ground storey contains a large hall with a high entrance archway projecting on the north. Two huge stone pillars support the roof in the centre. These pillars as well as the perforated windows and pilasters, the door jambs, the frieze and the dado are decorated with fine carvings. The principal image of colossal size faces the entrance. Square panels of painting adorn the walls beside the Buddha, and the niches in other walls are filled with stone images.Two doorways lead into the darker caves behind. Dinner at own expense. Overnight in Bagan
Day 11 – BAGAN - MOUNT POPA - KALAW
Lunch and Dinner at own expense – Overnight in Kalaw
Breakfast. Depart by private chartered vehicle for Kalaw, a hilltribes village in the central part of Burma. High up in western Shan State, Kalaw is an old hill station with a laid back atmosphere, refreshing climate and scenic views. Many of Kalaw’s original colonial-era buildings remain, and it is also known as Myanmar’s trekking mecca. Whether you are after a brief stroll to soak up the atmosphere and take in some hill views and the colourful flower-lined streets, or a longer multi-day trek to Inle Lake or Pindaya to witness the lives of the local hill tribes, Kalaw offers a wide variety of options for exploration – and a freedom of unfettered movement that is not always possible in other remote parts of Myanmar. Just a short drive away from the city, on the outskirts of Bagan, we will stop and visit Mount Popa Monastery. Mount Popa is an extinct volcano on the slopes of which can be found the sacred Popa Taungkalat monastery, perched dramatically atop a huge rocky outcrop. The monastery is entirely surrounded by sheer cliff faces and offers stunning views of the surrounding plains and Mount Popa itself. Continue our journey along the central Shan-plateau in the direction of Kalaw. Lunch at own expense while sightseeing.
As we observe along the road of the Shan Plateau, the first hills and mountain ranges, it is an indicator we're approaching Kalaw. Guided orientation walk in the village to soak up the local ambiance. At Kalaw’s heart is its market, where villagers from the surrounding hills come to sell their produce. Most of the town’s restaurants and food stands surround the market, and offer a particularly eclectic range of foods, with descendants of Indian and Nepali rail workers who migrated here during British rule offering their own dishes to complement the local Shan fare. Also in the centre of town is the Aung Chang Tha stupa, which glitters with silver and gold glass mosaics. Dinner at own expense. Overnight in Kalaw.
Day 12, 13 & 14 – KALAW - INDEIN VILLAGE - INLE LAKE
Lunches D1, D2, and D3 & Dinner D1 and D2 included - Dinner D3 at own expense - D1 and D2 overnight homestay or dormitory style at monastery - D3 overnight in Nyaungshwe.
After breakfast, depart for an Adventurous Trekking of 3 days in the Hills of the Shan plateau. For a more immersive experience, and to really get a taste of the life of the local Danu, Pa-O, Palaung and Taung Yo ethnic groups, you will participate in a three-day hike. Your Burmese Trekking Guide will take you on a trip with beautiful views of the Shan hills surrounding Kalaw, as well as numerous pagodas and colorful hill tribe villages. We walk in the ricefields and along ground nut and tea plantations. You can experience the local lifestyle and the traditional way livelyhood. All lunches and dinners will be prepared by our baggage porters. Overnight in dormitory style (homestay with the villagers) or at a buddhist monastery (basic comfort). After lunch (day 03 of your trekking) you are bound to arrive at Indein Village, located at the banks of the picturesque Inle Lake. The village of Indein (also spelt Inn Thein, and meaning ‘shallow lake’) is most famous for its crumbling and atmospheric groups of ancient pagodas, some of which are now being restored (in a perhaps rather too pristine fashion). These include Nyaung Oak, immediately behind the village, with its carvings of mythical creatures, and Shwe Inn Thein Paya, which can be found at the top of a covered stairway leading up the hill; this features many hundreds of densely packed stupas to be explored – both ruined and restored. From Shwe Inthein Paya you can also see some wonderful views across the lake. Inthein village also has a vibrant market. End of the afternoon you will be transferred to your hotel. Dinner at own expense. Overnight in Nyaungshwe.
Day 15 – INLE LAKE
Lunch and Dinner at own expense – Overnight in Nyaungshwe
Breakfast. On arrival at the banks of the big lake we embark on a longtail boat tour to explore from closeby the natural surroundings on the water. We discover the intriguing Intha people. The Intha (lit. "sons of the lake") are members of a Tibeto-Burman ethnic group living around Inle Lake. They speak an archaic dialect of Burmese and are believed to have come originally from the Dawei area. They often live on Inle Lake and support themselves through the tending of vegetable farms on Floating Gardens. Also, the Intha are known for their leg-rowing techniques and are traditionally Buddhists. The people of Inle Lake (called Intha), some 70,000 of them, live in four cities bordering the lake, in numerous small villages along the lake's shores, and on the lake itself. The entire lake area is in Nyaung Shwe township. The population consists predominantly of Intha, with a mix of other Shan, Taungyo, Pa-O (Taungthu), Danu, Kayah, Danaw and Bamar ethnicities. Most are devout Buddhists and live in simple houses of wood and woven bamboo on stilts; they are largely self-sufficient farmers. Most transportation on the lake is traditionally by small boats, or by somewhat larger boats fitted with 'long-tail' motors that are necessary because of the usual shallowness of the lake. Local fishermen are known for practicing a distinctive rowing style which involves standing at the stern on one leg and wrapping the other leg around the oar. This unique style evolved for the reason that the lake is covered by reeds and floating plants making it difficult to see above them while sitting. Standing provides the rower with a view beyond the reeds. However, the leg rowing style is only practiced by the men. Women row in the customary style, using the oar with their hands, sitting cross legged at the stern. Visit Nga Phe Chaung monastery; it is located on the way to Phaung Daw Oo Pagoda. This is an attractive wooden monastery built on stilts over the lake at the end of the 1850s. Aside from its collection of Buddhas the monastery may be of interest to visit because its monks have taught a few of the many cats living with them to jump through hoops. 25 minutes boat ride to visit and ancient monastery built on huge pieces of teak wood with traditional architecture and see the popular jumping cats leap through the hoops. The monastery is also known for a collection of old Myanmar's Buddha images from different areas that are worth seeing. Nga Phe Chaung is the biggest- and oldest monastery on Inle Lake.
After lunch visit Phaung Daw U pagoda & monastery. The pagoda is situated on Inle Lake and is one of the most dazzling and magical places in Asia. The main religious site and most important pagoda in all southern Shan state, is located in Tharlay village. The temple houses 800-years-old (five out-of-the-shape) images of Buddha and his disciples, where four images out of five make an annual tour to 20-plus villages on a huge decorative barge towed by over 50-long boats (each with around 40 leg-rowers - dance & music performers). The festival is held in October/November and lasts for around 20 to 22 days, depending on the lunar calendar.
There are around 60 In Thar- villages on the stilts and shores of the lake. Depending on the geographical locality, the socio-economical situation has also changed. For the villages close to the main lake maybe the production of tomatoes and a few other vegetables are important, while most villages on the eastern shore and the far south may emphasize on producing rice, sugar, and edible oils. The In-Thars on western shore, especially Kaungdaing village area producing Soya- related foodstuffs. The people at Ywama village tend to produce beautiful Inthar traditional silverwares, and various products made from Shan papers. There are Cheroot factories, boat-making village communities; Shan traditional bas-relief molded lacquerware can be found at Nampam village. The very attractive & seductive Chiang Mai or Shan-styled silk, cotton, and lotus fiber woven products are found at Inn Paw Khon village. We discover local handicrafts at Inn Paw Khon village. Dinner at own expense. Overnight at Inle Lake.
Day 16 – INLE LAKE – SAGAR – INLE LAKE
Lunch and Dinner at own expense – Overnight in Nyaungshwe
After breakfast take a scenic cruise across the vast, scenic expanse of Inle Lake and visit the lesser-seen Sagar village (ancient capital city of the Shan kingdom) where you’ll discover over 100 sunken stupas and undisturbed villages of the Pa-O hill tribe. A scenic boat cruise across Inle Lake (2-3 hrs) to reach Sagar sets the tone for a trip full of atmospheric explorations as you drift down the peaceful waters disturbed only by other boats, fishermen plying their trade and village children diving into the great lake to combat the heat. Upon arrival in seldom-seen Sagar you’ll be treated to a guided exploration of the sunken stupas submerged by the lake. You’ll also have the chance to take a tour of other nearby attractions; relishing the fact the region attracts far fewer travelers than other parts of Myanmar. Tha Kaung Pagoda is situated in the village of Sagar, southern part of Inle Lake. There are 236 stupas, which are dating back to the 13th & 18th century. It is also worth paying a visit to the pagoda since its ancient artifacts are of some value. Lunch at own expense while sightseeing. Return to our hotel in Nyaungshwe at late afternoon. Dinner at own expense. Overnight at Nyaungshwe.
Day 17 – INLE LAKE – NYAUNG SHWE – KALAW - THAZI - BAGO
Lunch and Dinner at own expense
Early morning, after breakfast, guided walk around Nyuang Shwe village to see the colorful morning market. Visit the village and admire its pagodas. Transfer by private chartered vehicle to the local railway station in Thazi, westbound towards Kalaw. Lunch at own expense (local restaurant enroute). Dinner at a local restaurant (at own expense). Early evening we will board the night train which is bound southwards and will bring us to Bago. Overnight in comfortable railway sleeper cabins. Estimated time of arrival in Bago (approx. 07:00am).
Day 18 - BAGO - KYAIKHTIYO
Lunch and Dinner at own expense – Overnight in Kyaikhtiyo
After your arrival in Bago, disembark from the night train and enjoy breakfast at a local restaurant. Continue our journey overland by private chartered vehicle to Kyaikhtiyo. Mount Kyaiktiyo (Kyite Htee Yoe), famous for the huge Golden Rock perched at its summit, is one of the three most sacred religious sites in Myanmar, along with the Shwedagon Pagoda and the Mahamuni Temple. Pilgrims come here from far and wide to worship and add gold leaf to the rock, which seems to defy gravity by delicately balancing on the edge of the 1100-metre high mountain. For many visitors, the rock (standing 7.6 metres tall) and the gilded pagoda which sits on top of it (itself 7.3 metres tall), which are said to cover a hair of the Buddha, are the main draw, but another reason to make the journey are the panoramic 360 degree views of the surrounding Mon State mountains from the summit. There are a few hotels at the top of Mount Kyaiktiyo, but many people stay in the ‘base camp’ village of Kinpun, which has a lively atmosphere and a good range of places to eat.
The journey up Mount Kyaiktiyo involves taking an open-top truck; there is a stopping point located 1.5 kilometres from the summit, from which some choose to walk the fairly steep and strenuous, but otherwise straightforward, route to the top. By the time you have reached the pagoda at the summit, you will truly feel as if you have been on a pilgrimage! The ascend uphill is mostly covered by jungle canopy and gives you the chance to see some lovely views and stupas along the way. The path is straightforward to the top and is well paved. If you want take part in the full religious experience when you get to the summit, there is a fee to place some gold leaf on the rock – but only men are allowed to touch the rock. Lunch and dinner at own expense. Overnight in Kyaikthyio.
Day 19 : GOLDEN ROCK – KINPUN – MAWLAMYINE (MOULMEIN)
Lunch and Dinner at own expense - Overnight in Mawlamyine - Drive 3hrs30', 147km/91mi
Breakfast. Descend and drive downhill from Golden Rock (around 08:30am) after which we continue to drive by private chartered minivan to Mawlamyine, capital city of the Mon state (approx. 3hrs drive).
Along the way we can visit Thaton located on the Tenasserim plains. Thaton was the capital of the Thaton Kingdom, which ruled present day Lower Burma between the 9th and 11th centuries. Arriving at Mawlamyine, we embark on a small local riverboat to discover Shampoo Island that houses an attractive pagoda and recreational parc. Lunch at own expense. In the afternoon you can visit Mahamuni Pagoda (a replica of its namesake in Mandalay). We enjoy a magnificent view over the river. Enjoy sunset from Kyaikthalan Pagoda.
This Pagoda is set on a hill above the town and therefore provides lovely views over the town and the river. It's worth being there at sunset - watching the sun sink over the distant hills and the river with the mist and smoke making it all more atmospheric. A lovely place to spend some time. Dinner at own expense. Overnight in Mawlamyine.
Day 20 : MAWLAMYINE – MUDON VILLAGE - MAWLAMYINE
Lunch and Dinner at own expense - Overnight in Mawlamyine - Drive 62km/38mi/1hr
Breakfast. Early morning you can visit the colorful local market before we venture further south of Mawlamyine. We discover an impressive and the biggest reclining buddha in the world, at the small village of Mudon. Lunch at own expense. In the afternoon, we explore the isolated beach resort of Setse; a place truly appreciated by the locals, but not really suitable for swimming. We continue our journey to explore this area profoundly. Thanbyuzayat is a town in the Mon State of southeastern Burma. During World War II Thanbyuzayat was the western terminus of the Thailand–Burma Railway linking up with the pre-war coastal railway between Ye and Rangoon. Thanbyuzayat was also the site of a Japanese Prisoner of war camp for the prisoners who worked on building the railway, and over 3,000 Allied servicemen are buried there in the Thanbyuzayat War Cemetery. We return to Mawlamyine at the end of the afternoon. Dinner at own expense & overnight in Mawlamyine.
Day 21 : MAWLAMYINE – HPA AN
Lunch and Dinner at own expense - Overnight in Hpa An - River Boat Journey 5hrs
Breakfast. Early morning depart with a local traditional boat to Hpa An, capital city of the Karen population. We travel upstream with a small private boat on the Thanlwin river (approx.5 hrs). Possible stop on the way in a colorful local village. Lunch at own expense. In the afternoon we can visit the remarkable rockstone Temple of Kyauk Kalatt; a golden stupa has been erected on top of a limestone cliff, in the middle of the lake. At our last stop for today we will visit a cave that contains buddhist scriptures of the 7th century. Dinner at own expense. Overnight in Hpa An.
Day 22 : HPA AN
Lunch and Dinner at own expense - Overnight in Hpa An
Breakfast. In the morning we visit a cave at the foot of Mount Zwe Kabin. Should you wish to, you can ascend the mountain, on a rather difficult hike (this will take you approximately 2 hours). If you're not in for a strenuous walk you can also visit the mountain garden that houses a thousand different bouddha statues. Lunch at own expense. In the afternoon, we continue our exploration in some surrounding caves and colorful villages with your local Burmese guide; we are shown the entrance to Saddar Cave, which we can reach with a small local boat. Dinner at own expense & overnight at Hpa An.
Day 23 : HPA AN – BAGO – YANGON
Lunch and Dinner at own expense - Overnight in Yangon - Drive 289km/179mi/6hrs
Breakfast at your hotel. We will leave Hpa An early morning and drive northwards to reach Bago where we have some time left to explore this interesting city. First we'll see Shwenandaw Pagoda with its golden stupa, the giant reclining buddha at Shwethalyaung, the four backed buddhas, and the reconstructed Palace of Kanbawzathadi. Lunch at own expense. Continue our journey towards Yangon where we shall arrive end of the afternoon. You are transferred to your centrally-appointed hotel where you can spend the evening at leasure. Dinner at own expense. Overnight in Yangon.
Day 24 - YANGON
Lunch and Dinner at own expense - Overnight in Yangon
After breakfast we'll leave for a comprehensive discovery of Yangon, the former capital city of Burma. Yangon is still the economic center for trade in Myanmar; it houses 6 million inhabitants. One of the most dominant sites of the city is the Sule Pagoda, a shining light in the heart of town; it was founded in 230 BC by Indian monks. You can then stroll through the old colonial district which was built by the British in the 19th century. Many buildings are being restored now to become part of a ' historical enclave '. Discover the remarkable City Hall dating back to 1924, the Maha Bandoola Garden, where during time of independence, in the early hours, many Burmese came to practice Tai Chi; then walk our way to the Strand Hotel. Yangon is full of markets, notably the one in Chinatown, or that of Theingyi Zei. Strong scents await us while visiting the Indian district. None of these markets is as interesting as Bogyoke. &a