MOUNTAIN, RIVERS & BEACH TOUR
18 Days Myanmar with Cruise from Mandalay – Bagan (Incl. Beach)
Day 1: Yangon
Upon arrival at Yangon International Airport, you’ll be met by your guide and transferred to your hotel for check in. After refreshment, start your Yangon orientation tour with city center landmarks Sule Pagoda, Maha Bandula Park, and other remarkable sites of downtown Yangon, including colonial era buildings and City Hall, which is on the Yangon City Heritage List. You’ll also see Botataung Pagoda (meaning “1,000 Military Officers”) by the Yangon River and observe the daily lives of people in the city center. From there, we’ll move on to Chaukhtatgyi Pagoda, featuring the colossal, 66-meter reclining Buddha. Later, witness sunset at the world famous Shwedagon Pagoda, the glistening golden stupa that towers over the capital. It is the most sacred Buddhist pagoda in Myanmar, and it is believed to contain relics of the four previous Buddhas. Overnight in Yangon.
Day 2: (B) Yangon with special visits to socially responsible organizations
After breakfast at your hotel, begin the day’s sightseeing at the National Museum and Bogyoke Aung San Market, a great shopping location for Myanmar art, handicrafts, lacquerware, and jewelry. Then visit non-profit organizations Hla Day and Pomelo, both of whom have outlets in downtown Yangon. More than just providing a sustainable market place in which local producers can sell their products, these businesses also offer skills training and creative design input. At Hla Day you may note a jump in prices, but please remember that any profit Hla Day makes is constantly reinvested back into their suppliers, many of whom are struggling to overcome disability, exclusion and poverty. Some of our favorite items on sale here are the paper mache Myanmar dinosaurs, Turquoise Mountain jewelry (an NGO founded by the Prince of Wales), the nativity set handcrafted by a Buddhist potter, and multi-colored neckties made using a range of ethnic longyi (sarong) materials.
Next, we’ll visit Pomelo, a Fair-Trade marketplace like Hla Day, stocked with the products of the same and some different suppliers. Keep an eye out for the reclaimed teak candle holders crafted by former street children trained in traditional carpentry and the handmade soap fashioned and scented by refugee women in Kachin State. From Pomelo, we’ll then walk or drive a couple of blocks to the Yuwaddy Centre. Set up by the Young Women’s Christian Association (YWCA), this small social business provides training and employment for underprivileged women in the post conflict areas of Thandaunggyi in Karen State. The products the ladies in question craft can be found inside the small shop; these range from pots of honey, freshly ground coffee, fashionable drawstring bags and hand-stitched bracelets. Schedule permitting, during your time here, we’ll also try to arrange a meeting with one of the ladies in charge if you’d like to ask questions about the business and learn more about where any profit goes. Before leaving Bogalay Zay Street, we’d recommend taking a quick look inside the YWCA building next door. Well over a century old, it is still today one of Myanmar’s leading organizations to help advance the development of women and disadvantaged in society. Projects throughout the country include child labor protection, home care for senior people, and mobile clinics for AIDS patients. But Yangon YWCA is perhaps best known for its excellent vocational training courses that provide fundamental skills for women to progress in the workplace such as computer, sewing, flower arrangement and business administration.
Leaving downtown Yangon behind, we’ll then drive 30 minutes north to Flame Tree Weaving, our final stop of the day. Founded by Sabrina, a bubbly, bright and extremely ambitious entrepreneur, this socially responsible business teaches unemployed and disadvantaged women (of all ages) the art of sewing.Between them, the close-knit team has designed and tailored a successful line of traditional cushions, purses, placemats, jewelry, bags and children’s clothing. Flame Tree works exclusively with Pomelo, so there’s a good chance you will be familiar with most of the stock already. Overnight in Yangon.
Day 3: (B) Day trip to Thanlyin and Kyauktan townships
After breakfast, pick up at your hotel in Yangon and drive across the river to Thanlyin and Kyauktan. Upon arrival, we’ll explore Kyaikkhauk Pagoda, 4 km outside of the town center. It was constructed 2,000 years ago in the same style as Shwedagon Pagoda. Then continue to Kyauktan to visit Ye Le Pagoda.This unusual temple was built under King Bawgasena on a small island in the 3rd century B.C. The temple hosts an impressive collection of paintings, sculptures and other fine demonstrations of Burmese Buddhist artwork and craftsmanship. On our return to Yangon, we’ll see the remains of an 18th century Portuguese church, then Parda Gyi Pagoda in the village of the same name. Break for lunch on your own. This afternoon we’re back in Yangon to visit Botataung Pagoda (meaning “1,000 Military Officers”) near the Yangon River. The pagoda is hollow inside and you can walk through it.
Day 4: (B) Yangon – Mandalay
After an early breakfast and hotel check out, transfer to Yangon airport for your flight to Mandalay. Upon arrival, you’ll be met by your guide to begin your tour of the Mandalay region, beginning with the former Royal capital of Ava (or Inwa). See the old city by horse cart and pass through the ancient city walls to visit the brick and stucco Maha Aung Mye Bon Zan Monastery and Bagaya Monastery, constructed of teak wood. We’ll also visit a small workshop where alms bowls are made for monks. After lunch, we’ll continue on to another former Royal capital, Amarapura, home of silk and cotton workshops, as well as the famous U Bein Wooden Bridge across Taungthaman Lake. Built around 1850 and spanning 1.2 km, it is believed to be the oldest and (once) longest teakwood bridge in the world. Enjoy a sunset boat ride on the lake before transferring back to your hotel. Overnight in Mandalay.
Day 5: (B) Mandalay temples and crafts
After breakfast, begin a full day of exploring Mandalay’s temples and other fascinating sites, beginning at Mahamuni Pagoda, a major pilgrimage site southwest of Mandalay with its spectacular Buddha image covered in thick layers of gold leaves. Next, discover some of Mandalay’s incredible craftsmanship at a few of the city’s workshops. First, visit a workshop specializing in Kalaga tapestries (Kalaga means “curtain.” These are heavily embroidered tapestries made of silk, flannel, felt, wool and lace against a background made of cotton or velvet indigenous to Myanmar). Next, we’ll continue to Kyauk Sit Tan Dhamar Yone Stone Carving Quarter, where you’ll find not only stone carvings, but intricate wooden handicrafts as well, such as puppets. Round out your morning with a visit to Shweinbin Monastery, built in the tradition of Burmese teak architecture. The monastery was built in 1895 by a Sino-Burmese merchant married to a Burmese woman of royal extraction.
After lunch, we’ll resume our temple-hopping at Shwenandaw (Golden Palace), a historic monastery near Mandalay Hill. The monastery is known for its teak carvings of Buddhist myths which adorn its walls and roof. Shwenandaw is built in the traditional Burmese architectural style and is the single remaining major structure of the original Royal Palace today. Next is Kuthodaw (Royal Merit) Pagoda, housing what is known as the world’s biggest book, consisting of 729 marble slabs engraved with Buddhist scriptures. Complete your day’s activities by enjoying sunset at Mandalay Hill. Overnight in Mandalay.
Day 6: Sunday departure – (B, L, D) Paukan Cruise: Mandalay – Mingun
After breakfast and hotel check out, transfer to Gawein Jetty to embark at noon for your Irrawaddy cruise to Bagan. Enjoy a welcome cocktail and briefing in the saloon or on the sundeck, followed by lunch. After cruising upstream for two hours we arrive at Mingun, where we’ll visit the impressive Mingun Pahtodawgyi. The ruins are of a massive construction project begun by King Bodawpaya in 1790 which was intentionally left unfinished. Moor overnight at a sandbank mid-stream. After dinner, guests can enjoy a Dance and Drama performance by the Mandalay Arts School on the sundeck (if available). Overnight on board.
Day 7: Monday – (B, L, D) Irrawaddy cruise: Mingun – Sagaing – Yandabo
Early this morning we continue cruising downstream. During the two-hour journey, admire the natural beauty of the river and the life of its banks while relaxing on the sundeck or just sitting outside your own cabin. Enjoy the sunrise over Sagaing Hill. After breakfast, passengers wishing to visit Sagaing can go ashore with their guide. We resume cruising at 10:30. In the late afternoon we’ll stop at Yandabo, a river village specializing in pottery-making. The Treaty of Yandabo, which ended the First Anglo-Burmese War (1824–1826), was signed here on 24 February 1826. Visit the pottery workshops, the monastery, and a local school. Moor overnight near the village of Shwe Nann Tint. Overnight on board.
Day 8: Tuesday – (B) Cruise – Bagan
Cast off early in the morning for the last leg of our journey. Enjoy the sunrise near Bagan. Passengers will disembark at Aye Yar Jetty mid-morning, where you’ll be met by your guide to begin sightseeing in ancient Bagan. Begin with the colorful Nyaung U Market in the nearby town of the same name, and then move on to Shwezigon Pagoda, completed in 1102 A.D. This was a prototype of later Myanmar stupas. Next up is the mysterious Kyansittha Umin (Cave Temple), and Gubyaukgyi Pagoda, restored in 1991 as part of a joint UNESCO/UNDP project. We’ll resume sightseeing in the afternoon at Tharabar Gate (the only surviving original gate at Bagan), and Ananda Temple, built in 1105. Adjacent to Ananda Temple is Thatbyinnyu Pagoda, built in the mid-12thcentury and featuring two primary storeys, the second housing a seated Buddha image. Continue to Dhammayangyi Pagoda, the largest of Bagan’s temples, as well as Htilominlo Temple. This temple is three stories tall and known for its elaborate plaster moldings. On the first floor of the temple, there are four Buddhas that face each direction. Later in the afternoon, visit Myinkaba Village and observe the traditional process of creating lacquerware, one of the best-known Myanmar handicrafts and a specialty of Bagan. Finishing up, stop at nearby Manuha Temple (1067) and the adjacent Hindu Nanpaya Temple. Overnight in Bagan.
Day 9: (B) Balloon over Bagan – sightseeing in Salay and Popa
Early this morning, the balloon team will pick you up from your hotel and take you on an hour-long balloon ride at sunrise over the ruins – an unforgettable experience! Return to your hotel for breakfast before transferring to the important religious center of Salay on the eastern bank of the Irrawaddy River. On the way, you can take in the local Morning Market in the small town of Chauk. In Salay, visit Yoke Sone Kyaung, a large wooden monastery built in the late-1800’s. It is known for its detailed original woodcarvings depicting court life and scenes from the Buddha’s past lives. Continue to Mt. Popa, a volcano which rises 1,520 meters into the sky. Climbing to the summit of Mt. Popa takes about 45 minutes and you can visit the Mahagiri Shrine dedicated to the Nats (spirits) at the top, as well as enjoy the wonderful panoramic view. Overnight in Bagan.
Day 10: (B) Excursion to Irrawaddy River west bank rural villages
After breakfast at your hotel, you’ll be transferred to the jetty for a private, 45-minute boat cruise on the Irrawaddy to explore the villages on its west bank which specialize in various cottage industries. At Thazin Village you can observe the process of cane weaving (plates, tissue boxes and more). Htan Taw Kyauk Village craftspeople weave baskets from palm leaves, and at Ey Shey Village cotton is king. After seeing the rural side of Bagan, you will move on to Tantkyitaung Pagoda, which is perched on a hill and offers great views of the river. The pagoda was built by the King Anawrahta in the 11th century, and you will have time to walk around the complex while admiring the sweeping views across the Irrawaddy along with the temples of Bagan on the other shore. Leaving the pagoda, you’ll travel back to the waterfront to rejoin your boat and sail back to the jetty, where your vehicle will be waiting to take you to your hotel to refresh. Later in the afternoon, enjoy an excursion to the lesser-visited countryside village of Minnanthu, then experience an hour-long sunset horse cart ride among the pagodas. Overnight in Bagan.
Day 11: (B) Bagan – Heho – Pindaya – Inle
After breakfast and hotel check out, transfer to the airport for your flight to Heho in Shan State. Upon arrival, you’ll be met by your guide and driven to Pindaya. This is an interesting drive up into the hills and across the Shan Plateau through fields of mountain rice. Explore the magnificent Pindaya Caves,where thousands of different types of Buddha images are on display in the various chambers. Visit some local houses where families produce Shan paper and parasols. Then proceed to Inle Lake to check in to your hotel. Overnight at Inle Lake.
Day 12: (B) Inle – Indein excursion
After breakfast, embark on a boating excursion on Inle Lake, famous for its unique one-leg rowers, floating gardens, fishing and village life. Visit the 5-day rotating market with its Intha and Pao tribes offering their wares, a Cheroot Factory, and the Phaung Daw Oo Pagoda housing five sacred and almost shapeless Buddha images, contorted because of the quantity of applied gold leaf, gifts from devotees. The Buddha images are purported to have come here in the 12th Century. Break for lunch.
In the afternoon, proceed to Indein to see the ancient Bagan and Shan-style pagodas, built during Bagan Period. The ruins of the pagodas, some hidden in the overgrowth, will give you the impression of being there in the 12th – 13th centuries. Explore Shwe Indein, a group of Buddhist pagodas in the village of Indein. Afterward we’ll stop at Myaynigone Village to observe the local way of life and enjoy a cup of green tea with some of the villagers, then Inn Paw Khon, known for its lotus weaving and floating garden. Dinner and overnight at Inle Lake.
Day 13: (B) Inle – Heho – Ngapali Beach
After breakfast and hotel check out, you’ll be transferred to Nyaung Shwe jetty by private boat, then by scenic drive to Heho Airport for your flight to Thandwe. Upon arrival, transfer to your resort at Ngapali Beach for check in. You are free at leisure the rest of the day. Overnight at Ngapali Beach.
Day 14: (B) Ngapali Beach
After breakfast, enjoy your day at the beach. Overnight at the same resort.
Day 15: (B) Ngapali Beach
After breakfast, enjoy your day at the beach. Overnight at the same resort.
Day 16: (B) Ngapali Beach
After breakfast, enjoy your day at the beach. Overnight at the same resort.
Day 17: (B) Ngapali Beach – Yangon
After breakfast at your hotel, you’re free at leisure until transfer to the Thandwe Airport for your flight back to Yangon. Upon arrival, you’ll be transferred to your hotel for check in. Spend the rest of the day exploring or shopping in Yangon on your own. Overnight in Yangon.
Day 18: (B) Yangon
This morning, free time on your own until check out and transfer from your hotel to Yangon International Airport for your departure. End services