29 September 2016
Following the lifting of Western sanctions, Burma - also known as Myanmar - has become a magnet for tourists. It has some wondrous sights - a thousand temples scattered across the countryside in Bagan, the leg-rowers and floating gardens of Inle Lake, and majestic rivers like the Irawaddy, where you enjoy a two night cruise. But the big draw of this tour is seeing a country where the 21st-century world has barely intruded.
On arrival in the capital city Yangon, formerly called Rangoon, you will be met by one of our tour representatives and taken to your hotel in the city. Tonight meet your tour leader, or local guide, and the rest of the group in the reception area of your hotel for a welcome drink and briefing about all that you will be seeing and doing over the next 15 days. This is a great chance to get to know your fellow travellers and talk about the adventures ahead.
Start your exploration of Yangon with a walking tour taking in some of the best examples of the city’s wonderful colonial architecture, the lovely Mahabandoola Garden and Independence Monument as well as the lively Indian Quarter. Stop at a tea house in time for lunch then head down to the port area for a glimpse of local life. Finally, end the day at the magnificent Shwedagon Pagoda, Yangon’s crowning glory. Watch the changing colours of this stunning temple as the sun sets behind its enormous spire.
Take an early morning flight to Bagan and, on arrival, start your discovery tour by seeing some of this magnificent ancient city’s most important monuments such as Shwezigon Pagoda, and famous Ananda Temple, which is an architectural masterpiece. Built 1105 AD, Ananda contains two unique Buddha images whose expressions seem to change depending the angle from which the statues are viewed. End the day with a short climb to the top of one of Bagan’s monuments for a stunning sunset view of this vast ancient city.
Eat breakfast as the locals do and chow down on delicious noodles at a traditional tea house. Then visit the charming Minnathu village, where the people are very friendly. Stop at the village blacksmith who still makes wagon wheels by hand and later see the imposing 12th century Dhammayazika Paya, known as ‘the bad luck temple’, before stopping at a workshop or two to see how some of the handicrafts are made such as lacquer ware and wood carvings. There will be some free time this afternoon for further exploration or relaxation.
After breakfast today prepare for an exciting adventure on the river. You will be picked up from your hotel and driven to the jetty in Bagan to board your charming boutique cruise ship for a two night voyage on the legendary Irrawaddy River. After lunch on board, enjoy your first shore excursion to Pakokku where you have the chance to explore the town by traditional trishaw. Then return to the river for your first night on board and enjoy dinner with your fellow passengers.
Today you arrive at the picturesque village of Yandabo, which made its way into the history books as the site of the signing of the peace treaty that ended the First Anglo-Burmese War in 1826. Today the village is better known for its pottery and you spend time wondering through, stopping at workshops to learn about the methods used to create the pottery which is the community’s main source of income. You also visit the school built with donations from past passengers. Back on board this evening, enjoy a farewell gala dinner.
Leave your cruise ship after breakfast and visit the lively Jade Market buzzing with traders and workers cutting and polishing the green stones. Then wander through the backstreets of Mandalay and see a number of cottage industries which have been operated by the same families for generations. Here you see various snack foods made by hand, produced in vast quantities, packaged-up and sent for sale. Continue with an afternoon city tour including the Royal Palace, Golden Palace Monastery and Kuthodaw Pagoda.
Head out of Mandalay to Sagaing Hill, widely regarded as the religious centre of Burma. Sagaing Hill is covered with more than 600 white-painted pagodas and monasteries, and is home to more than 3,000 monks and nuns. Visit a nunnery where you will contribute food at the daily alms offering before joining the nuns for lunch to learn something about their lives of spiritual devotion. Continue to U Bein Bridge - a 200 year-old teak structure that offers fabulous views of the surrounding countryside. Return to your hotel in the evening.
This morning catch a flight to Heho airport, then drive for around two hours to Pindaya, passing rolling hills used as farms. In Pindaya, visit the town’s famous multi-chambered caves set into a cliff, filled with hundreds of Buddha statues, both old and new. Also visit a small shop making traditional Shan paper and umbrellas, using the bark of the mulberry tree. Continue overland to Kalaw, a former British hill station tucked amid the Shan Hills. Enjoy the cool, refreshing air and relaxed atmosphere of this charming town.
Enjoy a day at an elephant sanctuary in the Shan hills where you will learn about these magnificent creatures which are endangered in Burma and the camp’s work to save and protect them. Start with a leisurely walk to the banks of a river and waterfall where you can watch mahouts washing and feeding their elephants – you may even like to lend a hand. Return to the main camp base for a delicious lunch and in the afternoon there will be some free time to explore the area with the elephant camp’s local guide. Return to Kalaw in the late afternoon.
After breakfast visit Kalaw’s colourful morning market where people from the hill tribes gather to buy and sell fresh produce, handicrafts and other goods. Then take a train through the picturesque landscape of the Shan Hills to Shwe Nyaung. Continue by road to Nyaung Shwe beside glorious Inle Lake. Stop at Shwe Yaunghwe Kyaung – the unique oval windows of its ancient teak ordination hall make great photographs – then enjoy some free time in the town before checking in to your hotel on the shores of Inle Lake.
Spend the morning learning about the people who earn their living on and around the lake. Take a boat out and watch fishermen at work using a unique technique that must be seen to be believed. Continue to the lake's lush 'floating gardens' and learn how farmers use ingenious methods to grow a variety of crops suspended in the water. Later visit a family village home and, after lunch, cruise to the village of In Dein to see the ancient stupas, many of them intricately carved, crumbling, weather beaten and choked with Banyan tree roots.
Start the day with a visit to the morning market, which rotates its location around the lake’s villages every five days. The market is an important central meeting place for the region. Visit Phaung Daw Oo Pagoda, the lake’s main sanctuary, which contains five sacred Buddha images whose shapes have been distorted by the enormous amount of gold leaf applied to them by devotees. You also stop off at some villages known for their local crafts and the afternoon is free for you to relax by the lake or take a Shan cooking lesson.
An early transfer back to Heho airport this morning for your flight to Yangon. Back in the capital city there will be free time for some last minute sightseeing or souvenir shopping at the famous Bogyoke Aung San (Scott) Market and perhaps a sunset cruise on the Yangon River. Then enjoy your last evening together with your group at a farewell dinner as your journey through Burma, seeing so many of the country's highlights, draws to a close.
Today your wonderful tour around Burma comes to an end where it began in Yangon. You may have some time for more souvenir shopping or sightseeing before you are picked up from your hotel and driven to the airport to continue your holiday adventures or catch your flight back home. Burma is one of the world's most colourful and fascinating countries and this 15 day tour is bound to leave you with so many great memories.
Standard fr £2820pp
Rates based on twinshare
International flights not included unless otherwise stated