Charm of Burma

15 days

Yangon – Inle – Pindaya  – Bagan – Mandalay - Yangon

ITINERARY

Day 1. Yangon Arrival 

Mingalabar and welcome to Myanmar! The former capital Yangon, also known as Rangoon, remains Myanmar’s largest city and continues to be the country's most important commercial hub and gateway for most of its international visitors. Its colonial background and religious legacy make it one of the most mesmerizing and genuine places in all of Southeast Asia. Upon arrival at the airport you will be warmly welcomed by your guide who will take you to your hotel for check in. The rest of the day is free at leisure to relax or discover Yangon on your own. Meals on your own. Overnight at the hotel.

Day 2. Yangon – Heho – Pindaya (B)

After enjoying your breakfast you will be transferred without guide to the airport for your domestic flight to Heho.

Upon arrival at the Heho airport, you proceed by road to Pindaya (59 km – 2 hours), a quiet town on the banks of the serene Botoloke Lake. Home to the local Danu people, Pindaya can only be reached by small and windy roads which snake their way through mountain ranges from Mandalay, Inle Lake, or Bagan.

Taking around 1 hour, the first stretch of the trek elevates you in to the hills over Pindaya allowing for views of tea plantations and farms. Continue on to Si Kya Inn, a Danu village, where you will stop for lunch (1.5 hours). Along the way this morning you will pass by an interesting cave with Buddha images which offers beautiful views over the surrounding plains. Relax in Si Kya Inn and visit around the village houses before beginning your return to Pindaya.

The return follows a different route which offers fabulous views around every corner. You’ll reach Pindaya in around 2.5 hours, stopping as often as you wish for photos or to visit tea plantations or local houses. Meals on your own. Overnight at Pindaya.

Day 3. Pindaya - Inle Lake (B)

Start the day with a visit to Pindaya’s morning market. If you are lucky you may catch the 5-day market which rotates with neighbouring towns.

This afternoon embark on the drive to Nyaung Shwe (90 km – 2 ½ hours), gateway village to Inle Lake.

Upon reaching the edge of the lake, take a short orientation tour of Nyaung Shwe, a small town of narrow streets dotted with temples, monasteries, tea shops and local houses.  After that, you will board a private motorboat and begin heading out onto Inle Lake, one of Myanmar’s most spectacular and breath-taking sights. Its calm waters are dotted with floating vegetation and fishing canoes, to which scenic hills provide the perfect backdrop.

Along the way you will pass several villages that are built on stilts over the lake, which are inhabited by the local Intha people. Observe the daily activities of the local leg-rowing fishermen and see their ‘floating gardens’, which are built up from strips of water hyacinth, earth and anchored to the bottom of the lake with bamboo poles. You will also visit Nga Hpe Chaung Monastery, which houses loads of early Shan Buddha Images. In the past this temple was known for its ‘jumping cats’ but these days there are only a few felines roaming around and none are jumping any more. Yet the Buddha images are still worth the visit. Proceed to the Phaung Daw Oo Pagoda, the lake’s main haven, which contains five sacred images of Buddha decorated in gold leaf. There are also many traditional crafts originating on Inle Lake and, should you wish, we can stop for a visit to one making incredible woven items from lotus silk, boat builders (depending on the time of year), a cigar making workshop, blacksmiths or even silver smiths. The tour will come to a close with a return trip by boat back to your hotel. Meals on your own. Overnight at Inle Lake  

Day 4. Inle lake - Indein (B)

After breakfast you’ll pay a visit to the lake’s morning market (the market is open every day apart from dark moon and full moon calendar days). The market’s location rotates between the lake’s villages in a 5 day schedule and is also visited daily by the lake’s inhabitants as well as the surrounding natives who also come to sell and trade their wares. A 1-hour boat ride down a small canal will take you to the Pa-Oh village of Indein, positioned on the western shores of Inle Lake. Take a leisurely stroll around the village before ascending the moss-covered stairway to the top of a hill. Once you’ve arrived at the summit, you will be greeted buy an iconic Buddha image which sits enshrined among hundreds of stupa ruins and overgrown shrubbery. Here, from the peak, you will also be rewarded with mesmerizing views of the placid surroundings. The Indein Pagoda complex is undoubtedly one of the most amazing sites around the shore of the lake and it consists of hundreds of small stupas which are overrun by moss and greenery.

Then it’s time to embark on a 45 minutes trek to Sae Ma village. Along the way, you’ll enjoy the natural beauty and panoramic vistas of the area while basking under the shade of the bamboo grooves in the area. Upon arrival at the village, observe the daily lifestyles of the rural inhabitants. On your boat ride back, should time allow, you'll stop at the Inthar Heritage House to learn more about the history and culture of the lake's indigenous people and enjoy delicious coffee and cake (snack break not included). As an exciting day comes to close transfer back to your hotel for some well-deserved relaxation.

Lunch and dinner on own account. Overnight stay in Inle Lake.

Day 5. Inle lake - Khaung Daing – Nyaung Shwe – Inle Lake (B)

The tour will start with a boat ride from your hotel to the village of Khaung Daing. On your arrival you will face a gentle uphill stroll to a pagoda reputed to make wishes come true. From there you will cycle to Nyaung Shwe stopping at various lakeside villages with a chance to see the indigenous Intha fishermen and farmers at work.

Although Nyaung Shwe is located adjacent to Inle Lake, few travelers take the time to visit this charming Shan town. The town is at its busiest in the early morning and you’ll get a true taste for local lifestyle with this excursion. You will visit Nyaung Shwe’s morning market where locals gather every morning to buy and sell fresh produce from the lake and its surroundings. Continue by local trishaw down to the bustling canal which is a hive of activity in the morning as boats from the lake come in to unload tomatoes and other vegetables for distribution to the markets around the country. Watch as baskets laden with produce are transferred from boats to trucks and bikes. Hop back on the trishaw and wind through quiet streets. Make a stop at the ‘tomato house’, a warehouse-like structure where the tomatoes are sorted and priced for sale. After that, return to your hotel by boat and free time to relax. Meals on your own.

Day 6. Inle Lake – Heho – Bagan (B)

After breakfast, transfer without guide to Heho Airport for flight to Bagan.

Discover the best of Bagan today! Not simply a chance to see the splendid Bagan temples, this excursion also introduces you to the Burmese culture, allows you to see traditional craftsmen at work and takes you up the mighty Irrawaddy River to a decidedly unusual ‘cave’ temple! Your fist port of call is an elevated temple with its panoramic views of the Bagan plains. This viewpoint will give you a taste of the sheer number of temples as well as some of their distinctive styles. From here you will have a look around the Ananda Temple – one of the most exalted of Bagan’s temples. We will ensure that our tour reaches this point before the majority of tourist arrive, enabling you to enjoy the splendor of the temple in relative tranquility. Continue to various other temples dotted around the temple plains to experience a variety of architectural styles in the area as well as the artistic wonder of the 9-14th centuries. Traveling amid the temples you will get a taste of rural Bagan life in this ‘living museum’ setting where farmers and families work amongst the monuments.

This afternoon, we visit some interesting temples in Bagan before driving to the jetty where a private wooden river boat awaits you. Sitting either under the shade or on the open-deck you’ll be treated to fabulous views as you cruise down the Irrawaddy River. You’ll cruise past several small villages, fishermen, local boats and of course many of the ubiquitous Myanmar Buddhist temples. The views of Bagan from the river are particularly spectacular and offer a different perspective from the land based tours. As the sun begins to sink slowly from view, you will prepare to disembark before being driven back, greatly relaxed, to your hotel for the evening. The perfect end to a busy day of sightseeing in Bagan! Lunch and Dinner on own account. Overnight stay in Bagan. 

Day 7. Bagan temples & villages (B)

Start your biking day with a visit to the most noteworthy pagodas and temples in Bagan. Pedal with your bicycle from your hotel to the vibrant Nyaung Oo Market, where the locals come to trade fresh produce and other goods daily. Proceed to Old Bagan and visit the renowned Shwezigon Pagoda, constructed by King Anawrahta in the early 11th century as a religious memorial. Bike towards Ku Byauk Gyi, a temple with wonderful murals of Jataka scenes, Bu Lei Thee Pagoda celebrated for its all-encompassing view of the region’s various monuments and of course Ananda Temple. Constructed in an earlier “Mon” style, Ananda houses two distinctive Buddha images. Their expressions also appear to transform, according to the space from which the statue is seen.

Travel over dusty lanes and tree shaded roads past temples and monasteries to a small village. At one of the monasteries you will participate in a special traditional Buddhist ceremony. Around 10.30 you will donate offerings of food to the monks. Afterwards you will receive a special blessing from the monks to ensure good luck and happiness.

In the afternoon, we will visit Myinkaba village where you will have the chance to examine the village itself as well as the local craftsmen. Learn more about the local culture with a visit to two workshops producing Bagan's most famous products: lacquer ware and wood crafts. Watch as the skilled craftsmen use techniques passed down through generations to create beautiful items. You’ll also visit the Gu Byaukgyi Temple with its beautiful frescos before a chance to see Manuha Temple (constructed in 1059!). Investigate Nanbaya Temple, one of the oldest temples in the region. Nanpaya is reputed to have been built in the eleventh century by the Mon King Manuha and has several Buddha images. Your next stop is scheduled to be the Myazedi (Jade) Stupa a pace of worship for Buddhist due to the relics held within. Here you can see the twelfth century inscriptions written in Burmese, Pyu, Pali and Mon, giving rise to the stupa’s sometime nickname of ‘Myanmar’s Rosetta Stone’. The final stop of the tour will be a chance for you to look around the Bamar temple at Sulamani with its marvellous seated Buddha images. If time and weather allows enjoy an unforgettable sunset over the plains from the upper terrace of a surrounding temple. Lunch and Dinner on own account. Overnight stay in Bagan.

Day 8. Bagan free day (B) – Without guide or vehicle

The whole day is free at leisure. Meals on your own. Overnight at the hotel.

Day 9. Bagan – Popa (B) (50 km – 1 ½ hours)

The morning’s activities will begin with a 50 km drive (1 ½ hours) that will take you to Mount Popa - an extinct volcano – that rises to over 1500 metres and offers stunning panoramic views. Popa today is one of the most popular pilgrimage spots in the country. People travel here from many miles away just to worship the diverse spirits known as “nats” that Buddhists believe reside here. There are 777 steps leading up to the place of pilgrimage on top of the precipitous Popa crest. Although the final climb to Popa’s summit is by no means compulsory, it is strongly recommended, as the views over the Myingyan Plain are truly magnificent. Afterwards you will move on to the Popa Mountain Resort and enjoy the stunning vistas of Taungkalat pedestal hill and monastery. The afternoon is free at your leisure to do as you please. Surrounded by forests and lush nature this is a great place to relax and bathe for hours in the blue tiled infinity swimming pool. Other optional activities include nature walks through Popa park, horseback riding or even bird and butterfly watching. (not included – to be booked directly at hotel). Lunch and Dinner on own account. Overnight stay at the hotel.

Day 10.  Popa - Mandalay (B) (200 km – 6 hours)

After breakfast with great views, your journey will commence by road toward Mandalay and cross through the diverse rural countryside and villages along the way. Meals on your own. Overnight at the hotel. 

Day 11.  Mandalay (B)

The day will begin with an expedition to investigate the previous capitals of Amarapura and Sagaing. Cross the bridge over the Irrawaddy River in to Sagaing. With 600 ivory colored pagodas and monasteries, Sagaing Hill is generally seen as the spiritual hub of Myanmar and claims residence to around 3,000 monks and nearly 100 meditation shrines. You’ll visit pagodas such as Swan Oo Pon Nya Shin, U Min Thone Sae and Shin Pin Nan Gyaing. Continue to Sagaings local market, a less visited tourist site. We’ll head over to a small pottery village which is recognized for manufacturing ubiquitous water pots to observe the tradesmen here applying their traditional methods for producing their goods.

We will then proceed to Kuthodaw Pagoda, frequently dubbed as “The World’s Biggest Book” for its collection of 729 marble slabs inscribed with Buddhist teachings. Then it’s off to the Shwenandaw Monastery, the Golden Monastery which is the only enduring structure from the Royal Palace of the 19th century. This impressive structure is celebrated for its remarkable woodcarvings.

Next drive to Amarapura, Myanmar’s penultimate royal capital. Amarapura means “City of Immortality”, though its period as capital was relatively brief. You will start Mahagandayon monastery, home to more than a thousand young monks and renowned as a centre for monastic study and strict religious discipline. Continue on foot or by bus a short distance to the legendary U Bein Bridge, which was built in 1782 when Amarapura was the Royal center of attention. It spans 1.2 km across the shallow Taungthaman Lake and is said to be the longest teakwood bridge worldwide. Enjoy this very special atmosphere on sunset boat trip as the late afternoon sun casts long shadows and illuminates the local people heading home. As a stunning day comes to an end head back to Mandalay for the night. Lunch and dinner on your own. Overnight stay in Mandalay.

Day 12. Mandalay – Yangon (B)

After your breakfast, transfer without guide to Mandalay Airport where you catch flight to Yangon. Flight Mandalay.

We’ll start things off in the afternoon with a trip to Kyaukhtatgyi Pagoda to see a 70 meter long reclining Buddha statue around the size of a blue whale.

No Myanmar expedition can be considered truly great if it’s lacking a visit to the legendary Shwedagon Pagoda. Ready for an amazing experience? The visual delights present there alone, are worth the trip. Witness the colors transform on the 100-meter chedi which is literally enclosed in over 40 tons of gold leaf. Shwedagon is largely considered to be the most important religious site for the Burmese; most visitors report that the trip is extremely memorable and still etched into their minds.

After sunset head on to Chinatown for a change of scenery and check out the dragons and incense of the colorful Khen Hock Keong Chinese temple. Explore the vibrant street stalls where vendors sell all kinds of fruit, vegetables and other goods or simply just walk around and soak in the atmosphere of this little China in Yangon. Meals on your own. Overnight at hotel.

Day 13. Yangon – Departure (B) – No guide

Enjoy a leisurely breakfast at your hotel.  If time permits, don’t forget to check out the sprawling mess of Bogyoke Market, where you can glance through the extensive collection of Myanmar crafts and merchandise (the market is usually closed on Mondays as well as public holidays). Depending on your international flight schedule it's time to bid farewell from this mystic country. The remainder of the day is at your leisure to do as you please until your departure flight.

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