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Myanmar – Road to Mandalay
If you are the adventurer who goes where most people haven’t been, then this Road to Mandalay journey is the one for you. Rudyard Kipling once wrote, “This is Burma and it is unlike any land you know about.” And few truer words were never written.
Myanmar is an enigmatic land of mist shrouded jungle and golden pagodas. It was isolated for years from the world outside and it remains a mystery for many. Those who are the truly adventurous souls will discover a graceful and timeless country of Buddhist tradition and colonial elegance which has managed to change very little over the generations.
Gaze across a seemingly endless ocean of temples and pagodas from the plains of Bagan. Then experience the bustling streets of Mandalay and Yangon where the old world clashes with the new in a magnificent and vibrant explosion of sound and colour.
You will walk in the same footsteps as previous adventurers and pilgrims when you travel from Old Yangon’s (Rangoon) city streets to the fantastic landscapes of Lake Inle. Along the way, take in the Shan villages as well as some of Southeast Asia’s most revered religious monuments.
- Explore the rich colonial heritage and Buddhist traditions of Yangon and Mandalay
- Travel down the Irrawaddy River by boat to Bagan
- Enjoying the ethnic diversity and scenic beauty that is beautiful Lake Inle
- Visit the 2,500 year old Shwedagon Temple
- Discover how the country has developed since the days of the British Raj and exploring the influence from this period of the country’s history
- Feast on local cuisine eaten with the locals who are cooking for you
- Boat down the Duhtawadi River taking in the views of Haw Sao Pha (Shan Palace)
- Learning about the rich Buddhist traditions and deep religious roots of the Myanmar peoples
- See the world’s tallest Buddha
Join in on this adventure through a country that very few get to see and many less come to understand.
The tour will begin this evening at our hotel in the center of Yangon.
Yangon is blessed with the highest concentration of colonial architecture in Southeast Asia and after breakfast we’ll stroll around the bustling streets of downtown Yangon, wandering down Pansodan Street, admiring the shabby Victorian architecture of the former High Court and General Telegraph Office. We’ll head for Nanthida Jetty, from where the ferries leave for the Delta region and the upcountry towns that lie along the Irrawaddy (Ayeyarwady) River. Close by is the colonial elegance of the Strand Hotel, one of the most famous hotels on this Myanmar journey, during the days of British rule. Later this afternoon we’ll pay a visit to the Shwedagon Pagoda, whose famous golden stupa dominates the city’s skyline. The most sacred Buddhist pagoda in Myanmar, Shwedagon is believed to be over 2,500 years old and its central stupa is surrounded by a wealth of intricately decorated buildings and statues. Believed to hold the relics of past Buddhas, the pagoda is a popular shrine for local pilgrims, making it a fascinating spot at which to enjoy the setting sun. This evening we’ll enjoy dinner with some spectacular views of the city.
Yangon – Mandalay – Maymyo
A short flight to Mandalay this morning, to continue our Myanmar journey, followed by a 2-hour scenic drive, brings us to the picturesque hill town of Maymyo (now known as Pyin Oo Lwin). An old colonial hill station that served as the summer capital for the British administration, Maymyo lies at the head of a shallow valley some 1070 meters above sea level. Presenting us with a little slice of bygone colonial elegance, the town is filled with some particularly fine buildings, along with its own unique form of transport in the form of colorfully painted horse-drawn wagons. Before lunch we plan to take a tour of colonial Maymyo in one of these historic horse carriages. This afternoon we will have an opportunity to visit the wonderfully sumptuous National Kandawgyi Gardens. First established in 1915, the gardens were originally modelled on Kew Gardens in England, with the 65 acre lake being dug by Turkish POWs. Today the gardens cover nearly 177 hectares and are home to a staggering diversity of flora and fauna, including 300 species of indigenous orchids, 514 species of indigenous trees, 25 different roses and a collection of endangered species that include Eld’s deer, Burmese star tortoise and Takin.
Maymyo – Hsipaw
After breakfast this morning we will take a nostalgic train ride up the track to Nyuang Pain crossing over the unusual Gokteik railway viaduct built over the deep Gokteik Gorge in 1903. En route we will enjoy magnificent natural scenery and a chance to mix with local people on the train. On reaching Nyuang Pain, we will drive on to the bustling market village of Hsipaw, stopping en route in Kyaukme to enjoy a local lunch. In Hsipaw we will stay in a friendly local guesthouse for the next two days. This afternoon we will visit Mahamyatmuni Pagoda and Bawgyo Pagoda, dedicated to the most revered Buddha in the northern Shan State. We will then head to a nearby hilltop to enjoy the sunset, finishing this day on our Myanmar journey.
Hsipaw & around
After breakfast we will take an easy paced morning trek on an off-the-beaten track route well away from other travelers, walking through a rich landscape of natural vegetation and small Shan villages. After lunch there may be the opportunity to take a look at the charming Haw Sao Pha (Shan Palace) built in 1924, before taking a boat trip on the Duhtawadi River. We will enjoy the natural scenery of mountains, valleys and the orange and orchid plantations as the sun sets along the river.
Hsipaw – Mandalay
Today we drive back to Mandalay, the last royal capital of this Myanmar journey. Set on the eastern banks of the Irrawaddy River, the city is considered the cultural heart of the country and an important center for Buddhist learning and Burmese culture. On arrival we will pay a visit to the Maha Myatmuni Pagoda, home to Mandalay’s holiest Buddha statue. Here local men place gold leaf on the principal Buddha image to gain merit. At the end of the day we have the option of watching the sunset from nearby Mandalay Hill.
Mandalay – Amarapura – Ava – Mandalay
We will begin today’s Myanmar journey with a visit to the gilded majesty of the Kuthodaw Pagoda at the foot of Mandalay Hill. It is here that we will find the ‘world’s largest book’, made up of a series of marble slabs, each inscribed on both sides with pages of text from the Tipitaki. From here we move on to the intricate teak carvings of the Shwenandaw Monastery, the last major structure still remaining of the original wooden Royal Palace. Later this morning we’ll head out of Mandalay to Ava, the country’s former capital, which for nearly 500 years lay at the heart of Burmese power and culture. Ava was founded by King Thamdominbya in 1364 on an artificial island at the confluence of the Irrawaddy and Myitnge Rivers. We board a local ferry to cross the river to Ava, where we will take a relaxing horse cart ride around the sights of the old city. There may also be the opportunity to walk among the rice fields to visit the Buddhist Maha Aungmyae Bonzan Monastery, built in 1818 by the wife of King Bodawpaya. After lunch we will re-join our bus and drive to another former royal capital, Amarapura where we visit the 140-year-old teak-stilted U Bein Bridge, which spans Lake Thaungthaman. We’ll enjoy the sunset from small boats on the lake, before heading back to central Mandalay.
Mandalay – Sagaing – Monywa
This morning we visit Sagaing, the last of Mandalay’s ancient capitals and one of the most important religious and monastic centers in the country. The hillsides that lead up from the river are crowded with numerous monasteries and pagodas and we will visit a few, taking in the U Min Thoneze Pagoda (Thirty Caves) and the central pagoda of Soon U Pon Nya Shinwill. Leaving Mandalay behind, we make a stop at the Kuang Madaw, the largest dome on this Myanmar journey, dating from the 17th Century and inspired by the Great Stupa in Sri Lanka, before departing for the Chindwin Valley. Travelling through an interesting rural area, en route we will visit the tallest Buddha in the world, the longest reclining Buddha and the monastery with the most Buddhas in the world – 582,363 to be exact! We will also stop to admire the nearby Boditahtaung Pagoda, with its immense garden of over a thousand sitting Buddhas, before arriving in Monywa on the eastern bank of the Chindwin River.
Monywa – Bagan
After breakfast we will spend some time in Monywa’s bustling market, where Indian goods transported down the Chindwin River are traded. Later we drive to Pakkoku, stopping at various rural homes on the way, from where we will take a private boat to Bagan. Covering some 41 square kilometers, the ruins at Bagan are one of Asia’s most spectacular sacred sites, considered on a par with the magnificent Angkor temples of Cambodia. Once the capital of the First Burmese Empire, Bagan’s golden period spanned the years between the 11th and 13th centuries, when its vast plains lay scattered with over 13 thousand temples, pagodas and religious structures. Time, earthquakes, Mongol armies and the inundation of the River Irrawaddy have ravaged much of the original city, but there are still over 2200 structures remaining, presenting visitors with one of the most unforgettable views anywhere in Southeast Asia.
This morning, we begin our exploration of the magnificent temple complexes of Bagan at the famed golden stupa of Shwezigon Pagoda, arriving early to observe local villagers making their daily offerings. We’ll admire the 12th century frescos that adorn the cave temple of King Kyansittha before visiting the temples of Htilominio and Ananda, the latter of which is considered a masterpiece of Mon design. Late afternoon sees us enjoying a horse cart ride through the Tharaba Gateway through crop fields and villages passing the 12th century Thatbyinnyu Temple, before ending the day watching a golden sunset from the open terraces of the Bagan temples.
Bagan – Kyun Thiri Island – Bagan
For early risers there is the option of observing sunrise at Bagan from the terraces of the stunning Dhamayazika temple. After breakfast we take a boat out across the Irrawaddy to the island of Kyun Thiri where we will enjoy a morning visiting the local monastery. Tradition dictates that all Buddhist males must at some time in their lives become monks – if only for a few days. During our visit we will make a donation to the monastery to assist some of the poor or orphaned boys in undertaking their vows. We will then spend the rest of the morning with the people of the island, learning about their unique agricultural way of life. Later this afternoon we will make our final return to the temples Bagan, exploring the lovely stucco-work of the Gubyaukgyi Temple in Myinkaba village, before paying a visit to the Mon-style Hindu temple of Nanpaya. Said to have been built by the captive Mon king, Manuha, the temple contains some particularly fine carvings of Brahma. We will also take in the four Buddha images in the Manuha Pagoda, before moving on to the Myazedi stupa, Myanmar’s very own ‘Rosetta Stone’. A four-sided pillar, the stupa’s inscription, written in four different languages (Pyu, Mon, Old Burmese and Pali), has allowed archaeologists to decipher the written Pyu language.
Bagan – Heho – Lake Inle
After an early breakfast we take a morning flight to Heho, from where we continue by road to the village of Nyaung Shwe, our gateway onto the tranquil waters of Lake Inle. Here we meet our boatmen and make the last stage by water, heading for our hotel on stilts in the middle of the famous lake. We will be transported around the lakes attractions for the next two days in small traditional open narrow boats. The second largest lake in the country and one of its highest, Lake Inle covers some 116 square kilometers of the picturesque Shan Hills. Home to a number of ethnic minorities, including Intha, Shan, Taungyo and Danu, the lake provides us with a wonderfully scenic backdrop to today’s activities. We will head out by boat to enjoy the calm waters and floating gardens of the lake, formed from a combination of silt and weed, which over time forms a thick layer of rich humus upon which gardens of fruit and vegetables can be grown and tended. The Inthas tend these gardens from long, banana-shaped boats, the same boats that they use to fish the waters of the lake for Inle carp. The locals have a somewhat distinctive way of rowing these sturdy craft, standing at the stern of the boat and wrapping a leg around the oar. It is a posture that affords them an unrestricted view across the floating reeds and leaves them two free hands with which to handle their nets. We will also visit the Phaung Daw Oo Pagoda, site of the holiest shrine in southern Shan. We then proceed to In Paw Khone to observe some unique lotus fiber weaving and visit a local silversmith.
Lake Inle – Indein – Lake Inle
After breakfast we will visit a local market offering another aspect of the color and spectacle of life on the lake. We will then continue up a beautiful canal to the small village of Indein, located on the lake’s western shore. Passing by the monastery of Phe Chaung, our boat turns into a narrow creek, taking us past a patchwork of rural farmland and ancient ruined pagodas. After a chance to take a short walk around the Pa-Oh village, we return to the main tributary and the expansive waters of Lake Inle. After lunch we then visit the Nga Phe Kyaung Monastery and if time permits, we’ll take a gentle row through a stilted village to learn a little more about the Intha and their ways, before returning to our hotel for the night.
Lake Inle – Heho – Yangon
On our last full day after breakfast we’ll board our boat back to Nyaung Shwe and then drive to Heho airport for our flight back to Yangon. On arrival we will take a last look around town and a chance to visit the famous Scott Market for some last minute souvenir shopping. This evening we will go out to enjoy our farewell dinner.
Tour ends in Yangon after breakfast.
Additional Trip Notes:
Start and Finish: 21 December 2014 – 4 January 2015
Start point: Yangon
Finish point: Yangon
On this Myanmar Christmas journey transport includes coaster bus, boat, motorized canoe, train and domestic flights.
Hotel: 14 (nts)
Wherever possible we aim to use accommodation that enhances the overall travel experience, not just offers a bed for the night.
On this Myanmar Christmas trip accommodation will be in very comfortable privately-owned hotels, more basic guesthouses, and local-style stilted bungalows on Lake Inle.
Any accommodation mentioned in the itinerary is subject to availability and if not available substitutes will be of a similar quality.
Breakfast – All
Lunch – All
Dinner – All
Dates & Rates
Trip length: 14 days.
- 12 November 2017
- 21 December 2017
- 14 January 2018
- 18 February 2018
- 7 October 2018
- 23 December 2018
- Full services of the Tour Operator’s Tour Leader with local guides and drivers
- Meal plan as detailed in the itinerary, with mineral water as required
- All transport as outlined in the itinerary
- All accommodation
- All entrance fees, as per itinerary
- A carbon-offsetting contribution to Carbon Clear (if booking international flights through the Tour Operator’s office)
What’s not included?
- Visas (if applicable)
- Local airport taxes
- Tips (always optional, but some guidance will be given in the pre-departure information pack you’ll receive after booking)
- Beverages & any costs of a personal nature
- International Flights
- Airport transfers (unless booking suggested flights through the Tour Operator’s office)
This operator is a multi-award winning adventure travel company specialising in small group tours and tailor made holidays to some of the most extraordinary destinations across the Indian sub-continent, Central Asia, the Middle East, Africa, South East Asia, Latin America and Europe.
We love their unique, original itineraries – whether they are for small group travel or individually created for tailor made clients – allowing you to take journeys that venture beneath the surface of the region. This operator concentrates on the locations they know and love. They don’t source itineraries from other agents, nor do they run the same tour over and over (thus creating a ‘tourist circuit’, spoiling an untouched region).
Instead, they rarely run any group tour more than a couple of times a year and they are on routese they have discovered for themselves, to give a truly authentic, off-the-beaten-track experience.
Myanmar – Road to Mandalay
- Trip Code: AWA210
- Dates: Various
- Price: From £3,195
- Depart: Yangon
- Arrive: Yangon
- Length: 14 Days
- Adventure: Walk in the footsteps of pilgrims and adventurers from old Yangon (Rangoon) to the stunning landscapes around Lake Inle