Project Description





Highlights: fabled city of Mandalay / city of Ava / Mahamuni Buddha / overnight Pandaw Cruise / Bagan Ruins / Irrawaddy River / Shan State / Inle Lake / Ngwesaung Beach / Yangon / Shewdagon Pagoda

Myanmar, The Golden Land – 12 Days

Closed to Western travelers for most of the 20th century, Myanmar now draws increasing numbers of visitors with its scenic splendor, gilded pagodas, elaborately decorated temples and charming people. “It is quite unlike any place you know,” wrote Rudyard Kipling in describing Myanmar (formerly Burma). To many travelers, Myanmar remains a mysterious place of undiscovered treasures, unknown to visitors and kept away in isolation, but it is changing fast, infrastructure is improving and there’s never been a better time to visit.

Leave the ordinary behind and travel with us to this land of enchantment now emerging from ancient times and political turmoil and finding its place in the hearts of travelers. Myanmar boasts a plethora of spectacular sights from fields of ancient temples and unspoiled stretches of white sand beaches to mythical lakes with unique leg rowers and picture perfect sunsets. Fall in love with the authentic customs and traditions of the world’s friendliest people and don’t be surprised if you find an inner peace here and a longing to return for it truly is “quite unlike any place you know”.

Friday, Dec. 1

  • Guests arrive in the fabled city of Mandalay on a morning flight. The former royal capital of Mandalay is still regarded as the most Burmese of the nation’s cities.
  • After being greeted at the airport, we will travel 30 minutes to the site of the ancient Burmese city of Ava. Crossing by boat we enjoy a delicious lunch under the shade of a huge mango tree before boarding horse carts to explore the ruins. Trotting quietly through the rural countryside we come upon a monastery built from huge teak wood trees and an elaborate temple.
  • Returning to our vans we now visit the iconic U Bein Bridge, the longest teak wood bridge in the world that spans Taungthaman Lake. The 1.2-km bridge was built around 1850 to prevent British war ships from entering the area. It now serves the needs of thousands of monks that cross over from one monastery to another.
  • On the way to our hotel we will visit the Mahamuni Buddha image that is covered 15cm thick in gold leaf by centuries of devotees. We will then visit a family business to see the amazing process by which strong young men pound gold nuggets into the paper-thin leaf used in these offerings.
  • At 3:00 pm we check in to our charming boutique hotel, enjoy refreshing showers and tea time before setting off at 4:00 pm to view some of Mandalay’s most iconic sites in the rich light of late afternoon: the Royal Palace, the centuries old Shwe Kyaung temple with its exquisite wood carvings and the Kuthodaw Pagoda – a UNESCO World Heritage Site where 729 pillars are inscribed with Buddhist Tripitaka scriptures. This is considered the world’s biggest book! When first unveiled, it took 2,400 monks six months to recite the text.
  • Returning to Bagan King Hotel we can enjoy sunset from the rooftop restaurant and a delicious dinner while Burmese musicians and masterful puppeteers entertain us.

Overnight: Bagan King Hotel, Mandalay

Saturday, Dec. 2

  • Guests can sleep in this morning and enjoy breakfast at leisure, or set off by tuk tuk to take in some of the vibrant scenes of Mandalay coming to life.
  • Along the waterfront, the kaleidoscope of ramshackle warehouses, decrepit oxcarts and rickety jetties is a vision of a Southeast Asian trading post straight from the pages of a Joseph Conrad novel.
  • At 11:00 am we check out of our hotel and board an overnight Pandaw Cruise to Bagan. After settling in to well-appointed staterooms, we set sail at noon for our cruise down the legendary Irrawaddy River.
  • An inspiration to literary greats such as Rudyard Kipling and George Orwell, the Irrawaddy is one of the great rivers of Asia. We will cruise past small fishing villages and admire everyday life along the river, hear the bells and drum calls to prayer of nearby monasteries, watch elephants and water buffaloes extracting timber from the forest and possibly spot the rare Irrawaddy dolphin.
  • Our first port of call will allow us to stretch our legs as we enjoy a late afternoon walk around the old colonial village of Sameikkon.
  • Returning to our ship for sundowners and a fabulous dinner, we can enjoy stargazing from the main deck until bedtime.

Overnight: Staterooms aboard Pandaw Cruise

Sunday, Dec. 3

  • No one should miss the glory of sunrise over the Irrawaddy River this morning. The ships crew can deliver breakfast to your stateroom or you can join others on the outer deck to take in the magic of a Myanmar morning.
  • At 10:00 am we arrive at our port, the ancient city of Bagan. Home to a sea of thousands of pagodas, the plains of Bagan (the size of Manhattan) make up the largest archeological site in the world.
  • Until recently, Bagan (also known as Pagan) had UNESCO World Heritage Status, but it was removed when the Military Government failed to adhere to preservation requirements.
  • After checking in to the beautiful and spacious Bagan Sanctuary Resort fronting the Irrawaddy River and having time to relax at the poolside, we will set off by trail bike or horse and buggy to view part of the ancient city in the beautiful evening light.
  • At sunset we will watch the full moon rise over Bagan before returning to our resort for a delicious dinner. Everyone will want to bed down early tonight for a pre-dawn wake up call the next morning.

Overnight: Thiripyitsaya Sanctuary Resort, Bagan

Monday, Dec. 4

  • We wake before first light this morning for those wanting the unforgettable experience of seeing the sunrise over Bagan (as the full moon sets in the west) from the lofty height of a hot air balloon.
  • Those guests less inclined to heights, or saving their spending money for more shopping, can enjoy a bicycle tour or horse and buggy ride through the ruins.
  • Whether soaring over Bagan in a balloon, or trotting around the temples by horse and buggy, this will surely be a morning no one will forget.
  • Returning to our luxury lodge for breakfast, we will enjoy a leisurely mid day at the poolside and shopping.
  • In the afternoon, we will visit the nearby Archeological Museum and a lacquer ware studio before enjoying sundowners as the sunsets over the Irrawady River.

Overnight: Thiripyitsaya Sanctuary Resort, Bagan

Tuesday, Dec. 5

  • We set off by charter mini van this morning right after breakfast for the 3-hour drive through the lovely Burmese countryside to the town of Meiktila where we will take in the sights along the Royal Lake and enjoy a delicious lunch.
  • Constructed by King Anawrahta in ancient times, this lake has held historic importance ever since and supplies the region with both drinking and irrigation water. The name Meiktila comes from an Indian Kingdom called Mithila.
  • From Meiktila we have another 3-hour drive before we reach our destination for the day – the delightfully cool hill town of Kalaw.
  • Kalaw was founded as a hill station by the British civil servants fleeing the heat of the plains. The town still feels like a high altitude holiday resort; the air is cool, the atmosphere is calm, the streets are tree–lined and the surrounding hills are lovely.
  • Kalaw is also notable for its significant population of Nepali Gurkhas and Indian Hindus, Sikhs and Muslims, brought here by the British to build the roads and railway during the colonial era.
  • Checking into the charming Dream Mountain Resort, we can enjoy sundowners from our balcony overlooking the lovely landscape before sitting down to a delicious dinner.

Overnight: Dream Mountain Resort, Kalaw

Wednesday, Dec. 6

  • Waking up in the delightful cool of a mountainside morning, we will enjoy a good hot breakfast before setting off to trek some of the trails connecting hill tribe villages here in Shan State.
  • No fewer than seven distinct hill tribe cultures thrive as cultivators of the rich red soils of this region, growing rice, safflower, potatoes, pumpkins, garlic, shallots and other crops for home consumption and market. Trekking from one hill tribe village to the next through gorgeous landscapes, we will come to know the hardships and joys of local life.
  • It’s just a short drive from where we end our half-day trek to Inle Lake where we will have two days to enjoy this watery wonderland.
  • Inle Lake and the surrounding hills in Burma’s Shan State offer remarkable examples of human adapting to their environment and creating sustainable economies. The Intha, a Tibeto-Burma ethnic group that have made the lake their home for centuries, have adapted perfectly to a challenging habitat.
  • They have developed a unique way to row their boats with their legs while standing upright to see over tall reeds and set their fishing nets. They create floating islands from lake vegetation to grow their gardens, build stilt houses to cope with fluctuating lake levels and have discovered a way to weave thread from the lake’s lotus flower stems to create beautiful robes.
  • Our resort for the next two nights is the lovely and secluded Inle Sanctuary Resort, located in a quiet region of the lake. Here we can sip sundowners from the privacy of our patios and soak in the serenity of this Shan State Shangri’la.

Overnight: Inle Sanctuary Resort, Phayartaung

Thursday, Dec. 7

  • Sunrise over Inle Lake as the fishermen prepare to set out their fish traps is truly a sight to behold. After an early breakfast this morning we set off for a full day to explore the wonders of Inle.
  • Morning markets here are simply amazing as people arrive from all over the lake by boat to shop for their daily needs.
  • We will view Buddhist temples, ancient ruins, a monastery where monks have trained feral cats to jump through hoops like circus animals, floating gardens and a number of cottage craft industries run out of local homes.
  • Towards evening we can photograph local fishermen that pose for sunset photos doing a one-legged balancing act while holding huge fish traps.
  • We will end our boat journey in the lively tourist town of Nyaung Shwe where we will enjoy a delicious dinner, take in some sights and a Burmese puppet show.
  • The Burmese have long been masters of minarets. For centuries this has been a form of free expression even under martial law. Puppeteers can mock officialdom and get away with it, as the Burmese believe the puppet said it… not the person controlling the strings.
  • Following the 30-minute performance we will journey back to our resort to enjoy the magic of starlight from our room decks.

Overnight: The Inle Sanctuary, Phayartaung

Friday, Dec. 8

  • We have one last morning to relax in the serenity of Inle Lake over breakfast before we pack up and drive 1-hour to Heho Airport for our flight to Yangon, the bustling capital of Myanmar.
  • After the short flight we will transfer to our hotel to freshen up before taking in some of the city sights. While the heady rush of development is forever changing the face of Myanmar’s largest city and financial center, there are still many heritage buildings from the colonial period that are worth seeing and what is perhaps the most spectacular Buddhist pagoda in the world – the Shwedagon.
  • When people talk of Burma as “the Golden Land” it is for good reason. The 2,500 year old Shwedagon Pagoda, which enshrines strands of Buddha’s hair and other holy relics, is one of the most sacred and impressive Buddhist sites in the world
  • The 110 meters high pagoda is covered with hundreds of gold plates much of which was taken in war booty when the Burmese twice sacked the Siamese (Thailand) Kingdoms of Sukothai and Ayutaya. The top of the stupa is encrusted with 4,531 diamonds; the largest of which is a 72-carat diamond. It is clearly one of the wonders of the religious world.
  • We will time our visit to the Shwedagon for late afternoon to see the beauty of the illumination and watch hundreds of worshippers arrive to make merit after work hours.
  • Yangon has a plethora of good restaurants to choose from for our dinner this evening before we return to our hotel for a good night’s rest.

Overnight: Best Western Green Hill Hotel, Yangon

Saturday, Dec. 9

  • We enjoy a relaxing breakfast this morning before departing by mini van to Myanmar’s magical coast on the Bay of Bengal.
  • Ngwesaung Beach is accessible by a five-hour drive from Yangon, but it’s well worth the effort as it embodies the essence of a hidden paradise. While many tourists would rather soak up the sun in rollicking Ngapali beach, those who are looking for peace and tranquility can find their souls rejuvenated by miles of empty white sand beaches on the shores of Ngwesaung. Tucked under the lush tropical forest of the Rakhine mountain range, this hidden beach spot has just recently become a tourism destination.
  • On arrival, we check in to the beautiful Emerald Sea Resort right on the beach and enjoy the seaside ambience.

Overnight: Eskala Resort, Ngwesaung Beach

Sunday, Dec. 10

  • It’s a tried and true rule in travel that ‘less becomes more’ towards the end of an adventure-packed trip, so today will be a day to totally unwind, sleep in, swim, sunbathe, lounge in a hammock or stroll the beach.
  • Those looking for more action can hire horses to gallop down miles of pristine beach, help local fishermen haul in their nets or bike through the scenic countryside.
  • Everyone will want to catch the sunset on the beach tonight where two rock temples act as dramatic cultural silhouettes.
  • There will be an open bar starting at sunset and a special dinner party tonight to celebrate Thom’s 69th revolution around the sun.

Overnight: Eskala Resort, Ngwesaung Beach

Monday, Dec. 11

  • We can enjoy one more laid-back morning before packing up and departing our resort at 10:00 am. The 5-hour drive back to Yangon will be broken up by photo stops and a lunch break.
  • Returning to Yangon in the late afternoon, guests will have an opportunity to shop and sightsee on their own until dinner time.
  • There are lots of sights to see in this vibrant city, and delightful coffee shops, bakeries and cafes to stop at for a shopping break. Our hotel is located just a short walk from the center of Yangon and beautiful Kandawgyi Lake.
  • We will all gather for a special closing dinner tonight and a chance to reflect back on our adventures together in a beautiful candle ceremony.

Overnight: Best Western Green Hill Hotel, Yangon

Tuesday, Dec. 12

  • There will be no rush this morning to eat breakfast and check out as our Thai Air Asia flight to Bangkok departs at 12:46 pm, arriving in Bangkok at 2:31pm in time for connecting flights home.
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