11 Day: Best of Myanmar

    A classic itinerary covering all the highlights of Myanmar - ideal for first-time visitors to the country.

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    Yangon, Inle Lake, Mandalay, Bagan

    Best of Myanmar Itinerary

    Day 1: Arrival Yangon

    Yangon is a city where contemporary and colonial Myanmar (19th and 20th centuries) continues to coexist decades after the British departure. It is a handsome city with a history of over two millennia, though it has been a capital for a mere 100 years. Rebuilt on a grid plan in the 1850s, the wide tree-lined boulevards are bordered by fine stone buildings. In the 1880s, Yangon was renowned as “the Queen of the East”. Today, Yangon bustles without urgency, high-rise buildings, traffic jams or department stores. Instead, small shops sell everything from antique lacquerware to silver-backed dressing table sets left over from colonial days.

    Upon arrival, you are met and transferred to your hotel.

    This afternoon start your sightseeing with a visit to Botataung Pagoda. This 131 foot stupa is unusual in that it is hollow and visitors are able to walk around inside. The original pagoda was destroyed in 1943 when it took a direct hit from an Allied bomb. During the cleanup a golden casket containing a hair and two other relics of Buddha were found.

    Then continue on to visit the Sule Pagoda. If the Shwedagon is the soul of Yangon, then the Sule is its heart. For centuries it has been the focus of much of the social and religious activity of the city. The British established the pagoda as the centre of the urban area when they structured their grid-street system around it in the mid-19th century. The 157-foot pagoda remains the tallest building in the town area.

    At sunset visit the Shwedagon Pagoda. This architectural masterpiece is a golden fantasy of gilded stupas, serene Buddhas and mythical beasts said to be 2500 years old. According to legend, eight hairs of the last Buddha are enshrined within. On the outside the stupa is plated with 8,688 solid gold slabs while the tip is set with 5,448 diamonds and 2,317 rubies, sapphires and topaz. A huge emerald sits in the middle to catch the first and last rays of the sun.

    Overnight: The Strand Hotel

    Day 2: Yangon

    Begin your tour this morning with a trip to Syriam and its surroundings. A visit which offers a microcosm of Burmese charm - the river, a sleepy former European settlement, the countryside, golden pagodas and distant views of the Shwedagon.

    Upon arrival in Syriam, you will visit the Kyaikkhauk Pagoda, rising on a hillock to the north of the road. It's said to contain two Buddha hairs delivered to the site by the great sage himself. Most likely the first stupa on this hillock was erected by the Mon 600 to 800 years ago.

    From 1600 to 1613, Syriam was the stronghold of the Portuguese adventurer, Felipe de Brito. In 1617 the East India Company sent Messrs Forrest and Stavely to Syriam, marking the beginning of Burmese-British trade. By 1647, the East India Company had built a dock and house at Syriam.

    Syriam flourished until it was destroyed by King Alaungpaya in 1756. When the British annexed lower Burma 96 years later it was Rangoon rather than Syriam which became the main trading post. One or two European-style buildings are the only evidence of Syriam's days as host to European traders. Today's 20,000 inhabitants are mostly involved with the oil industry or the local brewery.

    After lunch at the hotel, visit the Scott Market (Bogyoke Aung San Market) where you can find all the consumer goods a Burmese family could possibly need or want. The days when it was difficult to buy so much as an electric light bulb seem to be over.

    Late afternoon, you will visit the Gems Museum where you can see all types of semiprecious and precious stones found in Myanmar including world famous ruby, sapphire and jade.

    Overnight: The Strand Hotel
    Meal Plan: B,L

    Day 3: Yangon - Heho

    In the morning you are transferred to the airport to a flight to Heho. Upon arrival you are met and will then continue on to Inle Lake, surrounded by the Shan Hills.

    Spend the afternoon sightseeing, with lunch during the day at a local restaurant.

    This afternoon’s sightseeing will include a visit to the Phaung Daw U Pagoda, which enshrines five golden Buddha images carried back to Myanmar by the 12th century King Alaungsithu upon his return from the Malay Peninsula. The images were deposited in a cave near the lake, and were not rediscovered until centuries later. Since their relocation to this pagoda, however, they have been covered with so much gold leaf that they look more like balls of gold than Buddha figures.

    Next you will see some Shan handicrafts.

    Inle Lake on the Shan Plateau is an oasis where you will see the unique methods of farming and fishing which sustain the local residents.

    Surrounding the lake is a wide belt of silt and tangled water hyacinths, which over time creates a thick humus-like layer. The government sells plots of this floating land to be farmed by the villagers. Women tend the plots from boats and grow cauliflower, tomatoes, cucumbers, cabbage, beans and eggplant.

    Fishing is done by means of a conical trap containing a net that the fisherman thrusts to the bottom of the lake when he sees movement. All this is done while the fisherman perches precariously on the boat’s stern with one foot and twists his other leg around a long oar that he uses to propel the boat.

    Visit the Jumping Cat Monastery. This wooden monastery, built on stilts over the lake, got its name from the monks who train their cats to jump through small hoops. Here you will see impressive Buddha images in Shan, Tibetan, Bagan and Inwa styles on a highly ornate wood and mosaic pedestal.

    Overnight: Inle Princess Resort
    Meal Plan: B,L,D

    Day 4: Inle Lake

    Begin your day with a visit to the five day market. This rotating market changes locations every five days and is where the local hill tribes come to buy and sell their goods. Items range from hand-made crafts to produce grown on the floating gardens. Take notice of the colourful outfits worn by the different hill tribes as they barter in this lively setting.

    Continue to the Sikat-style silk weaving industry at Inn Paw Khone Village.

    Next visit Nampan Village where you can witness traditional village life on the lake and observe a blacksmith’s and boat builder's workshop. You can also have a go at trying to make a cheroot, the famous Burmese cigar, in a cheroot factory.

    After lunch at local restaurant, you will cruise through a densely forested river to visit Indein which is situated on a hillside in the south-western corner of Inle Lake. Wander through this typical lakeside village all the while observing the lives of the local people. Walk through a bamboo grove and up a beautiful stairway lined with wooden columns to old Shwe Inn Dein, an impressive and thankfully unrestored collection of ancient Shan style stupas. At the top there is a stunning view out across the lake and beyond, to the hills in the east and the rolling countryside to the west.

    Overnight: Inle Princess Resort
    Meal Plan: B,L,D

    Day 5: Heho - Mandalay

    In the morning you are transferred to the airport to fly to Mandalay. Upon arrival you are met and transferred to Sedona Mandalay Hotel. After check-in, enjoy lunch at the hotel.

    In the afternoon, you will visit Shwenandaw Monastery. This monastery is of great importance, not only as a fine example of traditional Burmese carpentry but as a fragile reminder of the old Mandalay fort. The building is covered inside and out with carved panels. Unfortunately though, many exterior panels have weathered badly. Then move on to Kuthodaw Pagoda, also known as the Maha Lawka Marazein Paya. This pagoda has also been dubbed ‘the world’s biggest book’, for standing around the central stupa are 729 marble slabs on which are inscribed the entire Buddhist cannon, or Tripitaka. Each slab is housed in its own individual small stupa. King Mindon convened the Fifth Buddhist Synod and used a team of 2,400 monks to read the whole book in a nonstop relay lasting nearly six months. In 1900, a paper edition of the stone original was printed in 38 volumes each with about 400 pages. You will also visit Mandalay Hill which rises 236 metres (774 feet) above the surrounding countryside. British and Indian troops suffered heavy casualties here in March 1945 when they stormed the Japanese stronghold which controlled the plains around Mandalay. Today, there remains only the regimental insignia near the hill's summit. Two main stairways ascend from the south, under the glare of the ever-present, white chinthes which demand the removal of shoes before entering sacred ground.

    Overnight: Sedona Mandalay Hotel
    Meal Plan: B,L

    Day 6: Mandalay

    Today you will visit U Bein Bridge, a long and rickety teak bridge crossing Taungthaman Lake that is curved to withstand the wind and waves. The teak logs and planks used were from the ruined Ava Palace. You will also observe 1000 or so monks having their main meal for the day at Mahagandayon Monastery, they are prohibited to take any food after midday. You will also stop to see a Silk Weaving Workshop. Continue to Maha Muni Paya. It was built in 1784 by King Bodawpaya and was reconstructed a century later after a fire burned it down. Here you will find the image of the Maha Muni Buddha in the centre which was transported to Myanmar from Mrauk U in Rakhine in 1784.The image is an object of devotion for pilgrims around the world. It is four metres in height and is cast in bronze. However, it has now been covered in 15 centimetres of gold-leaf by devout Buddhists. A visit to the Gold Leaf Beating workshop afterward and view artisans making thin leaves of gold leaf used for offerings.

    This afternoon, after lunch at A Little Bit of Mandalay restaurant, continue sightseeing to Innwa which was formerly known as Yadana Pura. First founded as a capital by King Thado Minbya in 1364 A.D., it is the confluence of the Ayeyarwaddy and Myint Nge rivers. The king had a canal dug to join the Myint Nge and Myint Tha rivers thus cutting off the capital as an island, safe from enemy attacks. Visit the Maha Aung Myay Bon Zan Monastery, a beautiful brick monastery which was erected in 1818 by Nanmadaw Me Nu. This graceful and beautiful stucco-decorated building was also known as Oak Kyaung , because of the masonry construction. Continue to the grand Bagaya monastery in the ancient city of Innwa. King Bagyidaw of the Innwa era built the Bagaya monastery at the confluence of the Ayeyawady and the Myitnge rivers in 1196. Afterwards, visit the Watch Tower (Nan Myint). The Leaning Tower of Inwa is 27 metres (90 feet) and is all that remains of the palace built by Bagyidaw.

    Overnight: Sedona Mandalay Hotel
    Meal Plan: B,L

    Day 7: Mandalay - Rv Paukan

    After a leisurely breakfast at the hotel, you will be transferred to the jetty to board RV Paukan.

    The embarkation is 12.30 hrs at Gawein Jetty. Enjoy a welcome cocktail in the saloon.

    Lunch will be served at 1pm. In the afternoon, visit the Mingun Complex.

    Moor overnight near a sandbank mid-stream.

    Overnight: Aboard RV Paukan
    Meal Plan: B,L,D

    Day 8: RV Paukan

    Early in the morning cruise downstream. During the two hour journey passengers can admire the natural beauty of the river and the life of its bank while relaxing on the sundeck or just sitting outside their own cabin. Enjoy the sunrise over Sagaing Hill.

    After breakfast passengers can go ashore to visit Sagaing. The cast off time is at 11:15am.

    Lunch will be served at 1pm. In the late afternoon, stop at Yandabo, a village specialising in pot-making, where the peace treaty of the First Anglo-Burmese War was signed on Feb 24, 1826. Cruise all day before mooring near a river village.

    Moor overnight near the village of Shwe Nan Tint.

    Overnight: Aboard RV Paukan
    Meal Plan: B,L,D

    Day 9: Rv Paukan - Bagan

    Enjoy the spectacular sunrise. After an early breakfast, you will disembark from the cruise at around 10am to be transferred to your hotel. The Thiripyitsaya Sakura Hotel is nestled on the banks of the mighty Ayeyarwaddy River, overlooking 800 years of history. Once a Government VIP guest hotel, this charming collection of villas is located in one of the finest sub-tropical gardens in Asia.

    After checking in, set off to visit the Nyaung Oo local market, the economic centre of Bagan, located about 5 kilometres (3.1 miles) to the north. The local market, which takes place every day, is where the locals meet to buy and sell a variety of goods, ranging from fruit and vegetables to china and lacquerware.

    Continue on to the Shwezigon Pagoda. The Pagoda is Bagan’s greatest reliquary, built to house the Buddha’s collarbone, frontal bone and tooth gathered from various countries. The location for the reliquary was determined by setting loose the white elephant that carried Buddha’s tooth from Ceylon. Where the elephant rested, the Shwezigon Pagoda was built.

    You will then visit the last “Burman-style” temple built in Bagan, the Htilominlo Temple. The Htilominlo Temple is 150 feet high and 140 feet at its base. Four Buddha figures on the ground and four more on the first floor face the cardinal points. Some of the old murals can still be discerned, as can a number of the friezes. Several old horoscopes, painted to protect the building from damage, can be found on the walls.

    Then you will see the Kubyaukgyi Temple in the little village of Wetkyi-In. The Kubyaukgyi dates from the early 13th century and has a pyramidal spire very similar to that of the Mahabodhi. Inside are some of Bagan’s finest frescoes of the Jataka tales.

    Next, you will take a horse cart ride to the Ananda Temple. Built in 1090 AD it is the best-preserved temple in Bagan and has four great golden Buddha statues. Within the temple grounds is the Ananda Olkaung, well preserved remains of a monastery complex with mural decorated walls depicting Burmese life from the 11th, 12th and 13th centuries. Enjoy lunch at The Beach restaurant.

    This evening, enjoy a sunset cocktail cruise on the Ayeyarwaddy River. Before time was measured, the mighty Ayeyarwaddy River served as Myanmar’s main artery, a crucial highway. Celebrated in legend, myth, song and history, the river is central to the country, sustaining life of every kind. At sunset enjoy a boat trip on the Ayeyarwaddy River. Life on the Ayeyarwaddy is one of unending fascination. The riverscape offers tiny teak dwellings, cheerful waving youngsters, statuesque ladies balancing water jugs on their head, vermilion clad monks and placid bullocks pulling heavily laden carts.

    Overnight: Thiripyitsaya Sakura Hotel
    Meal Plan: B,L,D

    Day 10: Bagan

    Early this morning enjoy the sunrise over Bagan from aboard a hot air balloon. Get a magnificent “bird’s eye” view of the thousand-year-old pagodas, temples and the mighty Ayeyarwaddy River to fully appreciate the scale and historical importance of this magical place.

    Later, enjoy an excursion that takes you to the environs of Mount Popa. In 442 BC a great earthquake roared through central Myanmar and from out of the barren Myingyan plains rose Mount Popa. Volcanic ash on the mountain slopes gradually became fertile soil and the peak blossomed with flowers of many colours. Popa is the Sanskrit word for “flower”.

    For the inhabitants of the surrounding regions, the sugar-loaf peak became regarded as the home of the gods, the Mount Olympus of Myanmar. Alchemists and occultists made their home on the mountain slopes, and others were convinced mythical beings lived in the woods and among the flowers. So it was a matter of course when Mount Popa became the focus of national worship and the official home of the Mahagiri Nats during the reign in Bagan of King Thinlikyaung.

    Lunch will be served at the Popa Mountain Resort before returning to Bagan for more sightseeing. A few miles southeast of Bagan lies the village of Minnanthu. Here you will visit Sulamani Temple, one of the largest temples among the many ruins in the vicinity.

    Overnight: Thiripyitsaya Sakura Hotel
    Meal Plan: B,L,D

    Day 11: Depart Yangon

    This morning, you are transferred to the airport to fly to Yangon. Upon arrival mid-morning., you are met and transferred to the city for final sightseeing.

    Today, you will visit the National Museum, the showpiece of which is the Lion’s Throne. The throne made of wood is inlaid with gold and lacquer work. It is a striking example of the Myanmar art of woodcarving. The throne was taken from Mandalay in 1886 by the English and later in 1964 returned as a goodwill gesture.

    Then stop at the Reclining Buddha Pagoda, which is not really a pagoda but rather a pavilion housing a 230 foot statue. Also within the pagoda enclosure is a centre devoted to the study of sacred Buddhist manuscripts. About 600 monks live in the monastery and spend their days studying and meditating.

    Lunch will be served at Padonmar Restaurant.

    Afternoon transfer to the International airport for your departure flight.

    Meal Plan: B,L

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