Myanmar from another Perspective

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Overview

In the heart of Southeast Asia, hidden behind closed doors under military rule for the larger part of the last century, Myanmar is a country of glistering natural beauty and culture, of golden pagodas and monasteries, of aromatic food and warm people.  An in-depth journey throughout Myanmar that will lead us through the wonders of this soul-stirring country.

Itinerary at a Glance

Day 1: Yangon Arrival and discovering
Day 2: Yangon – Cycling, villages and rivers
Day 3: Yangon – Flight to Bagan – Temple Tour in Bagan
Day 4: Village Life Bagan Area
Day 5: Mount Popa - Salay
Day 6: Bagan – Flight to Heho – Inle Lake - Indein
Day 7: Inle Lake
Day 8: Inle Lake – Heho – Flight to Mandalay - Sightseeing
Day 9: Mandalay Sightseeing
Day 10: Mandalay – Mingun – Sagaing – Ava - Amarapura
Day 11: Mandalay – Flight to Yangon – Golden Rock
Day 12: Golden Rock – Bago - Yangon
Day 13: Yangon Departure

Inle Lake – Flight to Mandalay & City tour

Day 1 Inle Lake – Flight to Mandalay & City tour

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

After breakfast we will bid farewell to the lake and transfer to Heho airport for our flight to Mandalay. 
Upon arrival, we will enjoy a morning stroll through the lively Zegyo Market in the heart of the city, so that we can experience the authentic local life. 

Afterwards we will continue to the Artisan Quarters, where some of the oldest craftsmanship is showcased dating back to last kingdom of Myanmar. We will be able to observe the process of pounding gold leaf, detailing teakwood carvings and embroidering Myanmar tapestry, or how bronze and marble Buddha statues are carved, cast and molded. 

Next, we will proceed to the major highlights of the city: the sacred Mahamuni Pagoda, housing one of the most significant Buddha images, covered in several tons of gold leaf and the crown prize in wars between competing kingdoms. The Golden Palace Monastery, the sole surviving Royal Palace building in Mandalay, offering a glimpse of the original style and architecture of the Myanmar royals; and lastly, the Kuthodaw Pagoda, a compound housing Buddha’s teachings carved in the sacred Pali script on stone tablets and regarded as the world’s largest book in terms of surface area. 
We end our day with sunset panoramic view over city skyline on Mandalay Hill, the highest point in town. 

Yangon Arrival & Impressions

Day 2 Yangon Arrival & 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 and 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 Cycling tour: villages, canals, rivers

Day 3 Yangon Cycling tour: villages, canals, rivers

Meals: breakfast | Accommodation: Shwe Yee Hotel, Deluxe room (Yangon)

After breakfast, our driver will head to 49th street. Choose your bike and helmet, get a short briefing about the tour and introduction to the bike (gears …) and off we go!

After a short ride of 10 minutes through downtown Yangon, we will reach the Pansodan jetty, where we board the big ferry to Dala, across the Yangon River. We’ll be exploring the little visited neighborhoods and backstreets of Dala and also the famous golden monk.

Following the streets along the riverbank, we soon reach the Twante canal, where we will stop at a local teashop in a small village. There we will cross the canal on small boats to Kanaungto island, which is a beautiful, quiet spot to be explored by bike! We will spend 1 ½ hours of relaxed cycling there (small villages hidden in the bamboo groves, water buffaloes, street markets, watch the boat passing by on the canal …) before we reach the village of Seik Kyi, from where we will board another boat that will take us across the canal to Yangon river (great views!). Back at Wardan jetty, we will cycle on a separate bike lane past the colonial buildings on Strand road towards the end point, where refreshing drinks and snow towels will be awaiting us! Afterwards we will be driven back to the hotel, counting on free time for the rest of the day. 

Yangon – Flight to Bagan – Discovering Bagan Temples

Day 4 Yangon – Flight to Bagan – Discovering Bagan Temples

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

After breakfast, we will be transferred to Yangon airport for a 1hr flight to Nyang U/Bagan, where our local guide will be awaiting us to begin our journey into the Ancient Kingdoms of Bagan. A visit to the Nyaung U market, the largest market in the Bagan region, will give us a glimpse into local life first.

We will get started with our exploration from some nice spot where we will get astonishing panoramic views of the plain of Bagan. The Dhamayazeka Zedi, the Archaeological Museum and the gold gilded Swezigon Stupa will be on our list. Not far from the stupa, the Myingaba Gu Byangkgyi Temple is a sight to behold, since it is home of Bagan’s best preserved mural paintings of the Buddha’s Jataka re-incarnations. 

Next, we will learn how Bagan’s famous lacquer ware crafts are produced in Myingaba Village, and then we will visit Htilominlo Temple, where we will understand about how Burmese sand paintings are created. Our exploration will finish with a visit to the beautifully symmetric and majestic Ananda Temple, where its four standing Buddha images seem to gaze at the viewer with fixed serenity wherever the visitor stands. For sunset, we will head to the Ayeryarwaddy River for a private cruise where the views of the temple silhouettes and bustling shore will be accompanied by cocktails and local snacks on board.  

Note: whenever you see a temple you like, just ask your guide to stop to have a look at it. This is the best way to enjoy Bagan!
 

Rural Life in Bagan area

Day 5 Rural Life in Bagan area

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

This morning we will drive into the countryside. The road leads through stunning land scenery where depending on season peanuts, sesame, soya beans and other crops are planted. Each field is protected by palm trees which give shade to the farmers and protect the fields from the wind. 

We will stop in Sel Village and enjoy a walk through this wonderful quiet place. Wooden slippers are also produced here - people use them for showering or working in the fields. Many people here produce Soya Paste, a welcome ingredient to make a tasteful Burmuse dinner. From Sel, we will continue driving to Nga Thayouk village, where among other things, we will be able to see families making cooking pots. 

Sat Sat Yo will be our next village, famous for being the only place left in Myanmar where the children still have their hair tied in traditional style (the top hair is not cut but kept in a knot). We will walk around, talk to the head master of the school and learn about village life in general. Picnic lunch box will be taken in the village. The monastery or one of the nearby homes offers shelter to enjoy a break and a light snack. 

In the afternoon, we will drive for one hour to Kyauk Gu U Min temple on the eastern side of the river, famous for its amazing sandstone figures, gigantic Buddha statues and fine square frescoes. The temple itself was built against the side of a cliff; that is why its structure is completely different to the temples in Central Bagan. There we will also find some square niches on both sides of the inner and outer walls of the vaulted corridor. These niches are believed to show unfinished painted scenes from 550 Jatakas and were dedicated to practice individual meditation. Afterwards, we will take the boat for a relaxing cruise back to Bagan (around one hour) along the Ayeyarwaddy River. Transfer back to your hotel upon reaching Bagan.
 

Bagan - Mount Popa – Salay

Day 6 Bagan - Mount Popa – Salay

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

After breakfast we will head to Mount Popa (46km, about one hour), home to Myanmar's intriguing 'nats' (spirits). The 777 steps to the top of Mount Popa provide an energetic climb rewarded by fabulous views from the top. 
In the afternoon, we will drive to the town of Kyaukpadaung and visit the local market before continuing to Salay. 

We will visit the Yokesone Monastery, built on 154 teak posts and known for its 130-year-old beautiful wooden carvings of the 'Jataka Tales' (stories from the Buddha's life) which decorate the outer walls. Afterwards, we will continue to Payathonzu, a complex of three brick shrines with mural paintings from the Bagan period, and see Man Paya - a large lacquer Buddha image, said to date from the 13th century. A stop at Salay House to visit the 1906 British-Colonial building which used to be a trading company. This restored riverside warehouse is filled with antiques to recreate the flavour of this historic time period. Learn and explore how British-Burma operated with displays and information panels. We will also stop en-route at a family-run Toddy Shop to observe the process of making the rich and caramel-like toddy candies from the sap of the toddy palms. 

Bagan – Flight to Heho – Inle Lake – Indein

Day 7 Bagan – Flight to Heho – Inle Lake – Indein

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

After an early breakfast at the hotel, we will be transferred to the airport for our flight to Heho.  
From Heho, a scenic one-hour drive leads to Nyaung Shwe, the gateway village to Inle Lake. En-route we will stop at a local family workshop to learn how Shan umbrellas and paper are made by using traditional methods, with the fibres of the mulberry tree. 

Then we will board our private local boat to reach our hotel. Inle Lake is simply magical. At 1000 metres elevation, the temperatures are pleasant, and the calm waters are dotted with Intha stilt house villages, floating vegetable gardens and fishing canoes, set against the back drop of the beautiful Shan hills. Motorised boats are the means of transport across the lake, although the Intha people get around in traditional flat bottomed boats using a unique and skillful form of leg rowing.

In the afternoon, we will enjoy a boat tour to Indein, at the western edge of the lake, passing through the busy village of Ywama, the largest one, with many channels and tall teak houses on stilts. We will disembark at the jetty and walk for 15 minutes through Indein village to reach the 14th - 18th century pagoda ruins of Nyaung Ohak. Many pagodas here remain charmingly unrestored, with plants and even small trees growing out of them, making the area very atmospheric. A covered walkway popular with souvenir stallholders leads up to Shwe Inn Thein Paya, a complex of weather-beaten 17th - 18th century zedi; some newly reconstructed. We will then return to the boat jetty with a leisure 'nature walk' through the trees, and travel back across the lake to your hotel.
 

Inle Lake

Day 8 Inle Lake

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

The Shan cuisine is famous for its refined taste and the possibility to make amazing dishes with just a few local ingredients. After breakfast, we will be picked up by tuk tuk or boat by either Mr. or Mrs. Min, our chef for the cooking class this morning. 

First, we will head to the Mingalar market or the 5-day rotating market, a fascinating insight into the life-style of the ethnic Pa-O, Danu and Intha people who visit these markets to buy and sell. The chef explains how to shop, traditional bargaining and explains the ingredients being purchased. Then, we will drive for about 15-20 to a stunning location on the lake. 

After a cup of tea we will start with the cooking class and learn how to prepare 8-10 special Shan dishes. At the end, we will sit down to enjoy our creations for lunch. We will also get a very nice recipe book of all the dishes to take home to impress your family and friends about our cooking. After lunch, we can also go on a short (approx. 20 min.) canoe trip around the area to see some of the floating gardens and villages.

We will then continue by boat to keep on exploring the lake. At some point we will run into some real Intha fishermen and will be able to observe their fishing techniques. We will stop at Phaung Daw Oo Pagoda, the holiest religious site in southern Shan State and continue to Nampan village, where we can witness traditional Ikat weaving techniques first-hand. Afterwards we will head to Inpawkhon village, where we will have the chance to interact with locals, immersing ourselves in the rural life. It will also be possible to visit a boat builder’s workshop, a blacksmith’s and cheroot making factory, where we can try to make the fabled Burmese cigar.  
We will return to our hotel by boat as the sun sets and the light turns into a very special orange. 

Getting to know Mandalay

Day 9 Getting to know Mandalay

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

Mandalay has a lot to offer for those who know where to find it. This tour has been designed to reveal Mandalay from a diverse and interesting perspective.

We will start our day with a visit to the local jade market. Hosting up to 40,000 people at its peak, is where wholesalers, jewelers and locals who look for something special to give as a gift gather all together.  After wandering through the market, we will go to a lovely tea house where we can try a cup of local tea or coffee while observing how the locals do their daily business. 

Continuing our exploration, we will head to the railway bazaar, a fascinating market experience where the locals ply their trade on the railway track, scattering each time a train comes along. A vibrant cacophony of sights, smells and sounds offering a host of photo opportunities, this market is a must see for anyone who wishes to witness a unique side of life in Burma.

From here, we will get on a cyclos for a fun ride through the back streets. Afterwards we will return back to our hotel, enjoying the rest of the day at leisure

Mingun – Sagaing – Ava - Amarapura

Day 10 Mingun – Sagaing – Ava - Amarapura

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

Today we will discover the ancient kingdoms of Myanmar, on the surroundings of Mandalay. Our tour will start with a 1-hour cruise across the mighty Ayeyarwaddy River (Irrawaddy) to Mingun village, known for its massive unfinished pagoda cracked by an earthquake in the 1800s and visit Mingun’s massive bronze bell, believed to be largest ringing bell in the world. 

A drive through small countryside road will take us to the Ancient Kingdom of Sagaing, where we will enjoy the magnificent views from the Sagaing Hills. Being one of the most important Buddhist centres in Myanmar, we will take advantage to visit a monastery or nunnery and learn about daily life to the devotees.

We will continue to Ava (Inwa), the ancient capital of the Shan and Burmese Kingdoms for over four centuries and explore the small roads and ruins of Ava by bike. We will end our day with a visit to another beautiful ancient capital city, Amarapura, famous for its weaving traditions and the iconic Ubein Bridge, a simple yet strong teak structure that spans 1,2km over Taungtaman Lake. The bridge silhouetted by the setting sun is one of the most magical experiences in Myanmar and a photographer’s dream.
 

Mandalay – Flight to Yangon – Golden Rock

Day 11 Mandalay – Flight to Yangon – Golden Rock

Meals: breakfast | Accommodation:  Golden Sunrise Hotel, Deluxe room (Golden Rock)

After an early breakfast, we will transfer to Mandalay airport for our flight to Yangon, from where we will start our journey by road to Kyaikhtiyo, the Golden Rock.

In the afternoon, we will get to Kyaikhtiyo Base Camp (approximately 5 hrs) and travel by local, open-air truck along a winding road (45 minutes), being dropped off from a short 5-minute walk from Golden Rock. A huge boulder covered by gold leaf and delicately balanced on the edge of a cliff, Golden Rock is one of Myanmar's most important pilgrimage sites.  The pagoda here is said to hold a hair of the Buddha, and Buddhists from across the country come here to pay homage. 
 

Golden Rock – Bago - Yangon

Day 12 Golden Rock – Bago - Yangon

Meals: breakfast | Accommodation:  Hotel Shwe Yee, Deluxe room (Yangon)

After breakfast, we will start with our journey back to Yangon. En route, we will stop in Bago, which also known as Pegu, was the capital of the Mon Kingdom in the 15th century and is a town steeped in legend.

The sites in Bago are spread throughout the town. We will spend some time exploring with our guide, learning about the history and myths of the city (the 55-metre long reclining Shwethalyaung Buddha, the four seated Buddhas at Kyaikpun, the old palace of Kambozathadi, a Mon neighborhood where locals produced woven textiles). The Mon-style Shwemawdaw Pagoda is the most outstanding religious monument in Bago. This golden temple stands at an impressive 114 metres tall, higher than Yangon’s Shwedagon Pagoda, and can be seen from around 10 km outside of the city. 

From Bago, we will head to Yangon in the afternoon and before reaching the city, we will stop in Htaukkyan Township to visit the beautifully landscaped Allied War Cemetery. 
Upon arrival in Yangon, we will enjoy a traditional massage at one of the best massage spots in Yangon. We will deserve it after our long trip around Burma! 


 

Day 13 Yangon - Departure

Meals: breakfast | Accommodation: not included

Depending on our onward flight, we may have some free time before being driven to the airport. 

Day 14

PRICE

*This is sample itinerary with no selection of accommodation and/or domestic air tickets. Please contact our travel consultant at info@handspan.com to tailor this itinerary to your personal specifications.
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