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Burma Beyond the Tourist Trail

Overview

Our ultimate itinerary in Myanmar, encompassing some lesser known delights as well as wondrous sites at the very heart of this splendid country that so much has to be explored. 

Itinerary at a Glance

Day 01: Yangon Arrival & Impressions  
Day 02: Yangon – Mandalay – Hsipaw  
Day 03: Dokthawaddy River trip
Day 04: Hsipaw - Kyaukme / Naung Cho (by train) – Pyin-Oo Lwin – Mandalay  
Day 05: Mandalay Bike tour
Day 06: Flight to Bagan 
Day 07: Bagan – Pakkoku – River cruise - Bagan
Day 08: Mandalay – Heho – Kalaw  
Day 09: Kalaw – Shwe Nyaung – Inle Lake
Day 10: Inle Lake 
Day 11: Inle Lake – Taunggyi – Kakku – Inle Lake
Day 12: Inle Lake – Heho – Yangon departure

Yangon Arrival and Impressions

Day 1 Yangon Arrival and Impressions

Meals: not included | Accommodation: Shwe Yee Hotel, Deluxe room (Yangon)

We will be greeted by our guide and driver at the International airport for our transfer to the hotel.

We will start our journey around Yangon in the afternoon, taking a walk through the colonial-style city center. Then we will visit the golden Sule Paya stupa, built over 2,000 years ago and crucial venue for numerous historical events in the city, and continue with the Maha Bandula Park & the Independence Monument. 

Afterwards we will head towards the vibrant Little India, with numerous street vendors and markets where our walking tour ends. Next, we will get on our car direction the Chauk That Gyi pagoda so that we can see its colossal reclining Buddha. From there, we will go to Karaweik Hall to marvel at the uniquely decorated “hamsa-bird-shaped” floating barge on Kandawgyi (Royal) Lake. We will also visit Bogyoke Market, where hundreds of gemstone, handicrafts, art, clothes and food stores are tucked in a maze of color. (Please note that the market is closed on Mondays and on public holidays). 

We will complete our exploration with a visit to the Shwedagon Pagoda, one of the world's most spectacular religious monuments, majestically situated on the Singuttara Hill, over the city Yangon. This 2,500-year old structure, which contains the relics of four Buddhas, is the guardian temple of Yangon and the most sacred site for Myanmar’s people.

Starting from the Eastern entrance of Shwedagon pagoda, we will walk through small shops where monk accessories, Buddha statues, flowers etc. are sold. The entrance is always very busy with sellers and local pilgrims. We will also learn about the daily life of the local people who reside in the immediate surroundings and gain a deeper insight into the Buddhism. If you wish, we can respectfully provide offerings to the monks as well. During this visit we will be able to explore walkways and hidden gems that are unknown to most visitors. Stopping in one of the pavilions to prayer, we might get a chance to meet a Buddhist monk and talk about Buddhism and meditation or simply contemplate.

Following the tradition, we will walk around the pagoda platform clockwise and continue through its back door to access to the interior and discover its fascinating history. Let your guide know if you would also like to visit a local fortune-teller (own account) and learn about ancient spiritual beliefs. 

Yangon - Mandalay - Hsipaw

Day 2 Yangon - Mandalay - Hsipaw

Meals: breakfast | Accommodation: Tai House Resort, Superior room (Hsipaw)

We will leave in the morning to Yangon airport for our flight to Mandalay. We will travel then by road to Hsipaw. 

Upon arrival, we will set off on a guided walk (approximately 4 hours) through panoramic scenery with paddy fields, seasonal crops, small creeks, Shan villages, a grave of the first prince of Hsipaw, a local nunnery, a wooden monastery and much more! We will learn about traditional goods like the cheroot rolling (cigar), bamboo weaving and of course about the Shan lifestyle. 

Dokthawaddy River Cruise 

Day 3 Dokthawaddy River Cruise 

Meals: breakfast | Accommodation: Tai House Resort, Superior room (Hsipaw)

Tip! Wake up early this morning and walk through the ‘candlelight market’. This busy morning market is filled with people from the nearby villages- including Shan and Palaung hilltribes- who gather in the predawn hours to trade their wares and produce. The market usually lasts from 3.30 until around 6 AM- thus, the stalls are illuminated by candlelight! If you wish, try a bowl of local Shan noodles here before returning to the hotel.

We will start our boat journey along the Dokehtawaddy River after breakfast. We will cruise upstream for around 30 minutes to a fruit plantation where we will disembark for a stroll around the plantation, the village and then up to a 150-year old monastery (approx. a 40-minute walk). After visiting the monastery, we will return to our boat to enjoy the next part of our trip on this beautiful setting. We will continue later to a hill tribe village where we will have lunch, hang out with the locals and learn more about their culture, traditions and lifestyles. 

By mid-afternoon we will return by boat to Hsipaw to enjoy the rest of the day at leisure. We recommend you to wander around the town and perhaps enjoy the sunset views over the river from one of the many hilltop temples.

 

Hsipaw - Kyaukme / Naung Cho (by train through Gokteik Bridge) – Pyin-Oo Lwin – Mandalay

Day 4 Hsipaw - Kyaukme / Naung Cho (by train through Gokteik Bridge) – Pyin-Oo Lwin – Mandalay

Meals: breakfast | Accommodation: The Home Hotel, Superior room (Mandalay)

After breakfast, transfer to Hsipaw railway station to catch the train to Naung Cho via Kyaukme. The train departs at 09h30 and arrives in Naung Cho at around 14h00.

Traveling by train in Myanmar is quite a different experience, especially if compared with train journeys in developed countries. However, despite the apparent lack of modern comfort and convenience, it is enjoyable to mingle with the local travelers. Also, a long train ride is a chance to observe how locals travel around, and the many vendors hawking and peddling their wares give some real "couleur locale' to it all.

After 90 min. there will be a brief transit stop at Kyaukme. Then, we will continue direction Naung Cho. Around 13:00 the train starts to slow down to cross the famous Gokteik Bridge at a snail's pace. The bridge is over 700 metres long and its construction was finalized by the American Pennsylvania Steel Co. in 1901. The bridge spans a nearly 300m. deep abyss.

After crossing the Gokteik bridge, we will get off the train at Naung Cho station and continue by private car via Pyin-Oo Lwin (the former summer capital for the British colonial administration) to Mandalay.

Mandalay Cycling Tour

Day 5 Mandalay Cycling Tour

Meals: breakfast | Accommodation: The Home Hotel, Superior room (Mandalay)

We will leave at 7:15 from the hotel to pick our bikes from a local specialised shop very conveniently located in Mandalay and then we will start our ride through some back lanes to get out of town, cycling through local markets and lively neighbourhoods, direction northeast. After a short pedal we will find ourselves in the true countryside of Mandalay, where the farmers will be working on the fields, the villagers will be carrying out some daily rituals that have remained unchanged for centuries, the water buffalos will lazily roll in the mud and the friendly locals will wave at us from all directions. 

We will make some interesting stops, first at a fresh market and then to see bamboo weaving, which is used to construct almost everything - from roofs and walls to fans. We will take a walk through a typical village in central Myanmar village and learn about their way of life and their different crops. On our way back to town we stop at a tea shop for some delicious snacks and tea. We will be back in Mandalay at around 11:30/noon and transferred by motorbike back to the hotel. 
 

Note: Total biking distance: approx. 22km Sunscreen is essential, quarter length pants, shorts, t-shirts and comfortable closed shoes are advisable.
In the afternoon we will visit the famous Mahagandayon Monastery complex with hundreds of monks and a 100-year-old weaving training institution before we head towards Amapura to end our day enjoying the sunset at one of the most iconic places in the country: The U-Bein bridge.

Mandalay – Flight to Bagan

Day 6 Mandalay – Flight to Bagan

Meals: breakfast | Accommodation: Thazin Garden Hotel, Deluxe room (Bagan)

Our guide will meet us at the hotel after breakfast to head to the airport for our flight to Bagan, where our local guide will be awaiting us to start our exploration of such a special ancient architectural ensemble. 

We will firstly go to a view point so that we get a first impressive view over the whole area. Afterwards, our guide will plan our way to some amazing temples that have been here for hundreds of years. Places like the Ananda, Dhammayangyi, Sulamani, and Thatbyinnyu will certainly impress us. 

We will enjoy lunch at a local restaurant (not included) and around 4pm we will continue our exploration by bike (standard or electric) to Pyathagyi Pagoda for our emblematic sunset with some refreshing drinks served.

Note: Whenever you see a temple that you like, just ask the guide to stop and look at it. That’s the best way to enjoy Bagan! 

Bagan – Pakkoku – Cruise down the river

Day 7 Bagan – Pakkoku – Cruise down the river

Meals: breakfast | Accommodation: Thazin Garden Hotel, Deluxe room (Bagan)

We will drive in the morning till Pakkoku, an unspoiled small town famous for its tobacco trade and weaving workshops. We will explore its market, which offers a vast array of items from locally-grown peanuts, sesame and rice, fish and vegetables, textiles and agricultural apparatus and will have lunch at local restaurant.

Then we will visit a weaving workshop to see how Myanmar’s typical cotton blankets are made and continue to a cheroot maker where skilled young women can make hundreds of cheroots in a day.  We will also have the chance to stop by a monastery and meet a monk to learn about monastic life and Buddhist philosophy principles.

We will head to Thiho-Shin Pagoda, built by King Alaungsitthu, the pagoda contains a sacred Buddha image presented by the King of Ceylon 800 years ago, which is celebrated in an annual lunar festival falling in June/July. 

We will return to Bagan by boat (about two hours downstream) enjoying the riverbank scenery on the way. Arrival in time for sunset over Bagan. 

OPTIONAL
Sunrise Hot Air Balloon Flight (only from Oct to March, approx: 5:30 - 8:30am)    

Imagine floating over thousand year old pagodas and the mighty Ayeyarwaddy River, as the sun rises slowly from the horizon over the misty fields and temples. The magic of Bagan has inspired visitors to Myanmar for centuries. One of the most remarkable sights in Asia, where ancient temples dot the landscape as far as the eye can see. The flight duration is approx. 45min to 1hr depending on wind and air currents and other local factors. You will be picked up from your hotel and transfer to the launch site. After briefing session, we will set off for our spectacular flight.

May you be interested, please get in touch with your Handspan travel consultant informing about the total number of people so that we can provide you with the respective supplement. 
 

Bagan – Heho – Kalaw – Half day trek

Day 8 Bagan – Heho – Kalaw – Half day trek

Meals: breakfast | Accommodation: Dream Villa Resort, Superior room (Kalaw)

We will board an early morning flight to Heho and head to Kalaw (2-hour drive), a peaceful town surrounded by pine forests that was once a favorite hill station for the British. The Palaung, Pa-O, Taung-Yo, and Dha Nu hill tribes come here to buy and sell at the Kalaw market. 

After lunch, we will drive to the northwest and stop at junction A. From there we will take a footpath and follow certain trails that go through beautiful scenery. After approx. 1 ½  hrs we will arrive at Pane Hne Pin, a  Palaung Tribal Village.

They make their living from farming and hunting. They live in long houses, shared by 4-5 families. From Pane Hne Pin we will walk another ½ hour to a nice View Point. Then we will return to Pane Hne Pin and walk for another ½  hr to reach junction B, where our care will  be waiting for us to go back to Kalaw.
 

 

Kalaw – Shwe Nyaung – Inle Lake

Day 9 Kalaw – Shwe Nyaung – Inle Lake

Meals: breakfast | Accommodation: Mount Inle Hotel, Superior room (Nyaung Shwe)
 

After breakfast we will stroll around Kalaw before being transferred to the station to catch our train at 13:30 to Shwe Nyaung through a wonderfully scenic trip across the forested slopes of the Shan Hills and pretty patchwork fields.

The train is picturesque and simple - our open window carriage is of wooden-slatted benches shared with villagers laden with fruit and vegetables to sell. Note that the train can frequently be delayed, so we should consider this as a pretty local adventure. Arrival at Shwe Nyaung Station, transfer by car and boat to our hotel on Inle Lake.
 

Exploring the Inle Lake by boat

Day 10 Exploring the Inle Lake by boat

Meals: breakfast | Accommodation: Mount Inle Hotel, Superior room (Nyaung Shwe)

If it coincides with our visit, we will get started our exploration of this watery world by the 5-day rotating market in the area - a fascinating insight into the life-style of the ethnic Pa-O, Danu and Intha people who visit these markets to buy and sell. During today's excursion by boat on Inle Lake we will see the famous leg rowers, the typical floating gardens where fruit and vegetables are grown and the traditional floating houses on stilts. A highlight may be a visit to the traditional village of Paukpar, with neat rows of bamboo houses. If possible we will stop to visit a family and enjoy some Shan tea with them. 

In the afternoon we will visit Phaung Daw Oo Pagoda, home to five gold leaf-covered Buddha figures, and the holiest religious site in southern Shan State. We will also go to a boat construction workshop at Nampan village and stop to see some traditional handicrafts - silk weaving on wooden handlooms in Inpawkhon village, a cheroot-maker's workshop and a blacksmith's forge. 

Then we will continue by boat to visit one of the oldest monasteries on the lake, the Nga Phe Kyaung Monastery, where we can see exquisite Buddha statues which are more than 200 years old. Return to our hotel by boat as the sun sets over the lake.  
 

Inle Lake – Taunggyi – Kakku – Inle Lake

Day 11 Inle Lake – Taunggyi – Kakku – Inle Lake

Meals: breakfast | Accommodation: Mount Inle Hotel, Superior room (Nyaung Shwe)

We will drive in the morning up through pine-clad hills to Taunggyi (about 1 hour, 31 km), the capital of southern Shan State and a former British hill station, where we will visit the local market where ethnic minority people sell their products.

Approximately, a 2-hours drive from Taunggyi lie the ruins of Kakku, inhabited by Pa-O people, it counts on a pagoda encircled by dozens of small stupas. Little is known about the origins of this unusual place - the Pa-O believe that the original pagoda dates back to  2,000 years ago. We will wander through the stupas which are decorated with fine stucco work and Buddha images - some have been restored, others not. 

On our way back to Nyaung Shwe we will also visit a large monastery in Taunggyi, from where we will head to Nyaung Shwe by boat.
 

Day 12 Inle Lake – Heho – Yangon Departure

Meals: breakfast | Accommodation: not included

We will leave after breakfast to Heho airport for our flight back to Yangon where we will board our onward flight.

Price

*This is a sample itinerary with no selection of accommodation and/or domestic air tickets. Please contact our travel consultant at info@handspan.com to tailor this trip to your personal preferences and needs. We will be pleased to assist you.

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