We meet in Yangon to explore this awe-inspiring Asian city and former capital. Visit gold-plated, Shwedagon Pagoda rising high above the glorious tree lined boulevards. Continue to Bagan, the captivating "land of five thousand pagodas," built from 1050 to 1290 A.D. Then on to Mandalay to enjoy the city's best sites: a stroll along the world's longest teak bridge and a sunset climb up Mandalay Hill for astounding views. Another trip highlight is Inle Lake — known for floating gardens, 'leg rowing fishermen' and entire villages built on stilts. You can see how a culture can arise where you may have thought unlikely. Short-but-moderate treks carry you to the hospitality and culture of villagers as well as some spectacular scenery. The region is a hot spot for wildlife and biodiversity with a huge number of species.
Day 1: Welcome to Myanmar! After arrival formalities, you will be greeted by your guide who will accompany you right to the hotel. Your journey will be one of rich history and culture but with a vibrant future. Although the military government had officially relocated Burma's capital to Naypyidaw in March 2006, Yangon, with its population of over four million, is still the country's largest city and most important commercial center. The second world war saw much violent action here, following the first air raid on 23 December 1941. Over 80 Japanese planes bombed Yangon, leaving over 2000 dead civilians and by 20 December 1942, Yangon was evacuated. Since then, much has changed but today, the path towards a stable economy and society is rapidly taking shape.
After refreshing at your hotel, meet your leader and guide for an introductory tour to the old colonial-style city center with its gilded Sule Pagoda. Strolling along Mahabandoola Road, Pansodan Street and Strand Road, you'll observe historical heritage buildings such as the Central Post Office (formerly GPO), the historic Strand Hotel, Custom House and High Court (from the days of British administration and WWII) as well as the busy pulse of the neighborhoods.
Enjoy a fine lunch at the historic Strand Hotel and consider its history. During Myanmar's Japanese administration, this hotel was renamed the Yamato Hotel. After 1945 as the hotel was being renovated, workers discovered an unexploded bomb on the floor of general manager's office! All is quiet now, so after lunch, continue with an exploration to Yangon's hidden WWII cemetery and end the day with a visit to Shwedagon Pagoda and a magnificent sunset view. Overnight in Yangon.
Day 2: Yangon to Bagan. After breakfast this morning, it's time to head to the airport for your flight to Bagan. Once in Bagan, you'll be met at the airport and brought to your hotel.
Bagan's exploration begins with a visit to Upper Terrace Temple, for a panoramic view across the sweeping plains of Bagan. Visit the colorful Nyaung Oo Market where, each day, locals come to buy and sell fresh produce and a variety of goods. Nearby, the golden stupa of Shwezigon Pagoda is a fine introduction to Bagan's rich history. Wetkyi-In Gubyaukgyi, a cave temple with exquisite Jataka mural paintings and the elegant Htilominlo Temple, noted for fine plaster carvings and glazed sandstone decorations are more highlights to discover.
The afternoon gets crafty with a visit to a traditional lacquerware workshop. Here, you'll observe the painstaking details of one of Myanmar's best-known handicrafts. Ananda Temple, an architectural masterpiece and one of Bagan's most beautiful temples lies ahead. Built in the early Mon-style, Ananda contains two unique Buddha images whose expressions seem to change depending on the distance from which the statue is viewed.
A late afternoon horse cart will carry you past Thatbyinnyu (Bagan's highest temple), Dhammayangyi Temple (fine patterned brickwork) and picturesque Sulamani Temple. Enjoy an unforgettable sunset over the plains from the upper terrace of one of the temples. Finally a special cultural dinner and puppet show tonight! Overnight in Bagan.
Day 3: Bagan & Evening Cruise. After breakfast, visit the colorful Nyaung Oo Market where villagers gather each day to buy and sell their produce and goods. Visit Myinkaba village for a short walking tour exploring the temples of Manuha and Nan Paya. You can continue seeing more temples and craft shops in the area or return to your hotel to relax from the midday heat.
Thousands of ancient stupas and temples in this area make Bagan one of Asia's most remarkable archaeological sites — nominated as a UNESCO World Heritage Site. The 'Kingdom of Bagan' dates back to the early 2nd century A.D. It entered its golden age with the conquest of Thaton by King Anawrahta in 1057 A.D. From the 11th to 13th century (until Bagan was overrun by Kublai Khan's forces in 1287 A.D.) more than 13,000 temples, pagodas and religious structures were built. Thousands of stupas and temples still remain along the banks of the Irrawaddy River.
This afternoon, continue to the rural village of Minnanthu, one of Bagan's least visited areas. Explore temples such as Payathonzu, Lemyentha and Nandamannya before it's time to head to the riverside pier. You'll board a slow cruise on the Irrawaddy River. As you ply the waters, observe the lifestyle of the fishermen and riverside villagers as well as the unique perspective passing Bagan's temples. Return to your Bagan hotel overnight.
Day 4: Bagan to Mandalay. Early this morning transfer to the airport for the flight to Mandalay.
We first visit Mahamuni Pagoda. This pagoda is home to one of Burma's most revered Buddha statues which, over the years, has been covered with gold leaf giving it an almost 'lumpy' texture. Mandalay is known for its skilled craftsmen. We'll tour traditional workshops to observe the production of wood carvings, kalaga tapestries, and gold-leaf where techniques have remained unchanged from those used centuries ago, crafting items for the Royal Court.
Continue exploring Mandalay with a visit to Kuthodaw Pagoda, whose 729 marble stone slabs of Buddhist scriptures earned it the title of 'World's Biggest Book'. Then on to Shwenandaw Monastery, the only remaining building from the 19th century Royal Palace. This grand teak building is known for its exquisite woodcarving. Head to the top of Mandalay Hill as the sun begins to set to enjoy magnificent views of the city and Irrawaddy River. Overnight in Mandalay.
Day 5: Mandalay, Ava, Sagaing, Amarapura. This morning, cross a bridge over the Irrawaddy River to Sagaing. Covered with 600 white-painted pagodas and monasteries, Sagaing Hill is regarded as the religious center of Myanmar and home to 3,000 monks and 100 meditation centers. Visit pagodas such as Swan Oo Pon Nya Shin and U Min Thone Sae. We'll visit Sagaing's market (which few tourists see) and its array of locally pottery, silver and handicrafts. Later, stop in a small pottery village to see the crafting of the iconic water pots found throughout Myanmar.
Continue south to Ava, the capital from 14th to 18th centuries. A short ferry ride takes us across the river to where our horse and carriage await. Visit the wooden Bagaya Monastery and the remains of the Royal Palace and Fort. Many small villages located near Ava's ruins and as you travel by horse and cart you'll get a glimpse of local life in the Burmese countryside. Stop for lunch in Ava before returning to our car.
Return to the city and stop at Amarapura, a former capital whose name means "City of Immortality." Visit a silk weaving workshop with exquisite handmade products and Mahagandayon Monastery, where over one-thousand monks reside. After touring this tranquil site, continue to 200 year-old U Bein Bridge to walk along this teak span. The bridge was constructed of 984 teak posts, once part of the deserted Inwa Palace. It is 1.2 kilometers in length making it the world's longest teak span. Enjoy a stroll along the bridge and the fabulous views of the surrounding farms and streams. Overnight in Mandalay.
Day 6: Mandalay, Heho, Pindaya, Kalaw. This morning, you'll be off early to the airport for your flight to Heho. After arriving in Heho, you'll be met and begin a drive to Pindaya. Charming Pindaya, the "Switzerland of Myanmar", is surrounded by rolling hills and verdant fields. It is home to Pindaya Cave, with more than 8000 Buddha images. Following your visit, continue to Kalaw for sightseeing around the city. Overnight in Kalaw.
Day 7: Kalaw & Begin Inle Trek. After breakfast, begin your trekking adventure. Today you pass Lut Pin and Shar Pin villages on the way to Nan The' Le Te. The first 2.5 hours pass through Shan scenery and Shar Pin and Lut Pin villages. You'll have chances to interact with the locals as well as to observe a daily life unchanged over generations, relying on the land to live. They are happy and relatively carefree with a simple life which lacks in both modern amenities as well as modern stress.
After lunch along the way, hit the trail to Nan The' Le Te village, arriving in about an hour. This is a tranquil, picturesque village of the Pa-O hill tribe. The Pa-O are adorned in their unique dress with the men and women donning long black pants and black shirts while women wear a colorful turban and large earrings. There is plenty of time to walk throughout the village absorbing daily life. Trekking Time: 4.5 hours with breaks, 9:45 AM To 4 PM. Dinner is served in the village. Overnight at Nan The' Le Te Village.
Day 8: Trek to Htee Thein. This morning, visit around Nan The' Le Te with its morning farming activity. You'll find villagers working in the field cultivating their wheat and ginger crops.
Return to the trail to continue with a 2.5 hour trek to reach Kon Hla village via Baw Hnin Kone and Htun Kom Villages. After a trailside lunch, we hike onward about 1.5 hours to pass through Pauk Tu Village and reach Htee Thein Village. The trail rewards us with fine panoramic views of the Shan mountain range and its unspoiled natural beauty.
Upon arrival in Htee Thein, it's a leisurely afternoon of exploration and dinner. Trekking Time: 6 hours with breaks, 9 AM To 5 PM. Overnight at Htee Thein Village.
Day 9: Indein To Inle Lake Trek. The final day trekking carries you to Inle Lake, with an option to end at the village of Indein or Than Daung to see the five-day floating market. The trek to Indein takes three hours, or add one hour to end in Than Daung.
Explore the unique and colorful floating market, have a delicious lunch and transfer to your hotel on Inle Lake by motorized boat for an evening and dinner on your own. Trekking Time: 4-5 hours with breaks from 9:00 AM To 5:00 PM. Overnight at Inle Lake.
Day 10: Inle Lake. A private motorboat will take you out on Inle Lake, one of Myanmar's most spectacular sights, after breakfast. Float past villages of the local Intha people, with houses built on stilts over the lake. You'll see the leg-rowing fishermen and their floating gardens built from strips of water hyacinth and mud, anchored to the lake's bottom by bamboo poles. Visit Nga Hpe Chaung Monastery with its dozens of Shan Buddha Images. Continue to Phaung Daw Oo Pagoda, Inle Lake's main sanctuary, containing five sacred Buddha images covered in gold leaf.
Explore the local crafts of Inle Lake with a stop at the weaving village of Inpawkhone and a Cheroot factory, where Burmese cigars are still handmade. If time permits, take a walk through one of several nearby lakeside villages. Overnight, Inle Lake.
Day 11: Inle Lake to Kengtung. You'll enjoy a peaceful morning at the lake before departing to the airport where you board your flight to KengTung and arrive at your hotel.
After a short break, begin with an orientation tour of the city. Kengtung is located in a lush valley and you will see that most of the city's buildings reflect the traditional Shan architectural style — wooden houses with balconies. Take time to roam the city streets, discover nearby hot springs and marvel at the Maha Myat Muni Pagoda.
Day 12: KengTung Trek. After breakfast, start a trek to the villages of Wan Nyat and Wan Shan. First, a 25 mile (2 hour!) drive will bring you from Kengtung and on the way to Mong La. Our destination is accessible by vehicle up to Wan Nyat Village in season only. But, we can trek about 4 miles, three hours uphill to reach both villages from the Kengtung-MongLa road.
The Lwe La people live here in long houses of the Wa-Palaung sub-group (includes Wa, Lawa, Lwe La and Sanhton races). The village highlight is a wooden monastery said to be over 300 years old, carved in many places and with a double super-imposed roof. An elaborately decorated ceiling is lifted by huge red-lacquered poles. A little brick pavilion is found at the back which is believed to be the Ordination Hall with its colorful door and wall paintings, showing scenes from Jataka stories.
Hill tribesmen wear tattoos from their waist to thighs with designs that are wider spaced then those found on other races. They live in long houses along with with several families. You can guess number of families in one long house by counting the fire places. In the afternoon return to Kengtung for free time to explore or relax. Overnight in Kengtung.
Day 13: Day Trek. Today, enjoy a day trip to the village of Loimwe. You will spend today enjoying a beautiful countryside ramble and village exploration. By late afternoon, return to Kengtung and relax. Overnight in Kengtung.
Day 14: KengTung to Yangon. After breakfast, visit Kengtung's vibrant market. This is a bustling daily market is visited by villagers from throughout the surrounding area, here to sell their products and barter for goods. While strolling the market, you will see minority hill tribes in their traditional dress.
Then it's time to transfer to airport for your flight to Yangon. You'll be met on your arrival in Yangon, visit the city and check in at your hotel. Tonight enjoy our farewell dinner. Overnight in Yangon.
Day 15: Yangon Departure Day. This morning, consider an optional ride on Yangon's famous Circle Train — a unique ride on the city's circular train ride through the outskirts of town (45 minutes). This slow moving train presents a unique opportunity to observe the lively, colorful lifestyle of the neighborhood people. Disembark at the Insein Market to peruse the intriguing stalls with a variety of Myanmar's bounty and interact with chatty sellers before returning. Then, visit Bogyoke Market (formerly called Scott's Market) where you can browse through the wide array of Myanmar handicrafts and unique goods for any last–minute memories and gifts before departing Burma with a final ride to Yangon's International Airport for your flight.
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