Myanmar Explorer 20 Days
Myanmar Holiday – Holidays Myanmar – The vast plain of Bagan studded with timeless temples constructed by kings whose names would otherwise have long faded into the distant past, the stately relics of ancient capitals around the fabled city of Mandalay, and the countless glittering golden spires piercing the skies from Yangon’s Shwedagon Pagoda to the mountaintop Golden Rock; all these sites and more await you on the Myanmar Explorer tour.
Take the time to get under the surface of this mystical place, getting your feet wet in the floating gardens of Inle Lake, wandering the streets of former British colonial hill stations, crossing a dizzyingly high railroad trestlein northern Shan State, and climbing the 777 steps of Mt. Popa under the watch of sacred spirits. The history, natural grandeur and cultural riches of Myanmar make touring here an unforgettable experience you don’t want to miss.
Day 1: Yangon Arrival (GP)
On arrival at Yangon International Airport, you be welcomed and transferred to your hotel in the city. After some time to refresh yourself, your guide will take you for your initial introduction to Yangon, Myanmar’s former capital city, standing at the confluence of the Yangon and Bago Rivers. Central Yangon still retains many impressive old buildings from the British colonial period.Although it has well over 5 million inhabitants, the city is green and full of trees, above which the spires of its shimmering pagodas seem to float.
The most well-known is Shwedagon Pagoda, a must for every visitor to Myanmar. Standing in midtown Yangon, this2,500 year-old pagoda is at its most brilliant in early morning or late afternoon light. From here you can wander the stalls of Scott Market (BogyokeAung San Market), known for its colonial architecture and large selection of Burmese handicraft products. Visit the nearby Sule Pagoda, a landmark in the centre of town over 2,000 years old which is said to enshrine a hair of the Buddha.
You can also visit Kaba Aye Pagoda, the ‘world peace pagoda’ which was built in 1952 for the 1945-1956 Sixth Buddhist Synod. Located north of central Yangon, near Inya Lake, the pagoda’s stupa is 34meters high and it also measures 34 meters around its base. After this, stroll through Yangon’s Chinatown, a bustling street market area where you can buy nearly anything as well as visit Kheng Hock Keong, aChinese temple which is over 100 years old.You’ll stay overnight in Yangon.
Day 2:Yangon/Golden Rock(B,G)
After breakfast at the hotel,your guide and driver will meet you to drive together to Kyaiktiyo, home to one of the most sacred Buddhist sites of Myanmar. Sitting precariously on the edge of a mountain top precipice is a massive sacred boulder, covered in gold leaf.
Legend has it that the rock’sbalance is only maintained due to a precisely placed Buddha hair in the 7.3 meter high stupaatop the rock.The gold leaf covering the boulder shows off its most brilliant colours at dawn and dusk, and the faithful meditate throughout the night here in the light of hundreds of candles. You will stay overnight near this mystical rock, allowing you to experience the site at its best.
Day 3: Yangon/Bago(B, G)
After breakfast you will drive back towards Yangon. You can stop for part of the day to explore the city of Bago. Reputedly founded in 573 AD by two Mon princes from Thaton, Bago was the centre of the Mon Kingdom during the late Mon period. The city’s mostly widely known attraction is a 55 meter reclining Buddha, dating to 994 AD, called Shwethalyaung Buddha.
Bago’s Shwemawdaw Paya has sustained earthquake damage and been renovated numerous times over its 1,000 year history. Today, its 114 meter spire is visible from a great distance. Both HinthaGon and Mahazedistupas offer exceptional views over Bago and the surrounding area. Shwegugale Paya, while appearing modern, was built in 1494 and features 64 seated Buddhas inside a dark tunnel. At Kyaik Pun Paya, there are four 30 meter seated Buddhaswhich, legend has it, would collapse if the four Mon sisters linked with the construction of the payawould have married.
Kanbawzathadi Palace & Museum, a large square complex, was a Mon palace from 1553 to 1599 and housed King Bayinnaung, founder of the 2nd Union of Myanmar. The compound includes a rebuilt audience hall and the king’s apartment, and the museum features Buddhas in Mon, Siamese and Bagan styles. You will return to Yangon for your overnight stay.
Day 4: Yangon/Kalaw (B,G)
After an early breakfast you will check out from the hotel and be driven to the airport for your flight to Heho. At Heho, you will be met and transferred by car to Kalaw, a former British hill station on the edge of the Shan plateau. A quiet town at 1,320m altitude, the market here is a great place to meet the many hill tribe people who live in the surrounding area, not to mention a good source of fresh fruits and vegetables. In the nearby Pinmagon Monastery, you can view Nee Paya, a gold lacquered bamboo Buddha. Stay overnight in Kalaw.
Day 5: Kalaw/Pindaya/Inle Lake (B, G)
This morning you will be driven to Pindaya, where you can visit a sacred cave complex featuring over 8,000 Buddha images in various materials. The caves also hold a set of stalagmites that can be struck with large wooden beams to produce tones like a gong. Exiting the caves, you can tour Pindaya’s umbrella factory, where Shan paper is produced and fashioned into beautiful Burmese umbrellas.
From Pindaya you will continue across the Shan Plateau to reach NyaungShwe, where you will board a boat and be ferried to your hotel on Inle Lake.
Measuring 22 km by 11 km and at a comfortable 875 m altitude, Inle Lake is very shallow, only two to three meters deep. The lake is surrounded by high plateaus and overlooked by the misty Shan Mountains. It is the home of the Intha people, who have adapted to their environment by building entire villages standing on stilts above the shallow waters. These lake dwellers grow an array of flowers and vegetables in picturesque floating gardens and fields, tended from canoes. They have become famous for their uniquely graceful leg-rowing technique. You will spend the night at your hotel on Inle Lake.
Day 6: Inle Lake (B, G)
Your full day boat tour around Inle Lake will start off with a visit to a “Five-Day Market”, thus known because the market’s location rotates between villages on a five day basis. The market features many products grown on the floating gardens, and is frequented by tribal groups from throughout the area. NgaPhe Monastery, apart from its ancient Buddha images, is often visited because the patient monks have convinced their feline friends to jump through hoops (literally), earning this place its nickname, the “monastery of jumping cats”.
If all this entertainment is making you peckish, you may want to head for KaungDaing Villageon the northwest shore of the lake, known for its rice crackers, tofu snacks and fried beans, as well as hot springs just outside the village. Numerous traditional craft villages surround the lake, featuring boat makers, cheroot (Burmese cigar) rollers, gold and silver smiths, paper makers and silk weavers.
The lakeside Indein Village is known for the atmospheric forest of stupas (1,094, to be exact) which surround its pagoda. Off the southern tip of the lake, Phaung Daw U Pagoda is considered the region’s most sacred site. It is home to five gold-leaf-covered statues (three Buddhas and two Arahats) which are transported by barge around the lake during the 18-day Phaung Daw U Festival, held annually in the fall. Spend the night at your hotel on Inle Lake.
Day 7: Inle Lake/Mandalay(B, G)
After breakfast this morning, you will checkoutfrom the hotel and your guide will bring you to the airport for your flight to Mandalay, a bustling city surroundedby numerous ancient sites. You can start your exploration of Mandalay at the imposing Royal Palace. Originally built in 1857, this walled city within Mandalay was destroyed during WWII, but was subsequently reconstructed, using concrete instead of wood. The reconstruction does house many original artefacts, and you can climb a 33m watchtower for good views over the complex and surrounding city.
Mandalay’s many sacred sites offer a fascinating look into Burmese history and tradition. Mahamuni Pagoda houses a four meter bronze statue of Mahamuni Buddha, long since covered with a thick layer of gold leaf which the faithful apply. At Khuthodaw Pagoda, you can browse the “world’s biggest book” – consisting of 729 marble slabs inscribed on both sides, together presenting the entirety of the Tripitaka, the canon of Theravada Buddhism. An impressively large seated Buddha image, carved from a single block of marble, is featured at KyauktawgyiPaya Pagoda.
At ShweInbin Monastery you can view exquisitely carved wooden balustrades and cornices, dating back to 1895, while inside the palace complex itself you find ShweNandaw Monastery (Golden Palace Monastery) which was dismantled and then reassembled at its current site after King Mindon died inside the structure. A pagoda with mirrored hallways stands at the top of Mandalay Hill, which, for a pleasant climb (you can also drive up halfway), offers lovely sunset views over the old city.
If you are interested, we can set up visits to some local artisans around Mandalay, with products ranging from bronze castings and marble or wood carvings to gold leaf, tapestries and silks. You’ll spend the night in Mandalay.
Day 8: Ancient Cities (B, G)
After breakfast at your hotel, you will set out to visit the three ancient cities of Ava, Sagaing and Amarapura:
Just downriver from Mandalay around 25 km, the city of Ava (Inwa)was the Burmese capital for some 360 years, being finally abandoned after it was destroyed by earthquakes in 1839. Here, you can visit the remarkable teakwood BagaYar Monastery, built in 1834. A 27 meter tower called Nanmyin is the only remaining structure of the stately palace that King Bagyidaw built in 1834. The MahaAungMyayBonzan Monastery, a unique brick and mortar structure built when wood was the standard material used, was restored in 1873 and is among the more remarkable relics of Ava.
Just across the river from Ava,Sagaingwas the centre of the short-lived Sagaing Kingdom (1315-1364) and is today the site of numerous monasteries and religious centres. At UminThounzeh (30 Caves Pagoda), you can view a long row of 45 seated Buddha images behind a curved façade with 30 entrances designed to resemble caves. The central pagoda of Sagaing Hill, Soon U Ponya Shin Paya, offers great views over the pagoda-dotted Sagaing Plain to the Irrawaddy River.
One of the most iconic sights of all of Myanmar is found in Amarapura, where the U Bein Bridge, the longest teak bridge in the world, links the two shores of a shallow lake. Built in the late 18th century with teak beams taken from the palace at Ava, the sunset view of this bridge brings visitors from far and wide.
You will return to Mandalay to spend the night at your hotel.
Day 9: Pyin U Lwin (B, G)
This morning you’ll be driven east from Mandalay up to the former British hill station of PyinULwin, at an altitude of 1,070 m. The town retains much of its colonial architecture and has a beautiful botanical garden. You can step aboard a traditional stagecoach to tour the tree-lined lanes of this town, known as the “city of flowers”, which offer a welcome respite from the typical heat of the plains below.
The town’s attractions include the century old brick Church of the Immaculate Conception, and the town centre overlooked by the Purcell Clock Tower, granted by Queen Victoria. NaungKanGyiPayaoffers nice views over the town, and you can also visit a Chinese temple built by migrants from Yunnan. Previously offering employee quarters for Bombay Burma Trading Company, the CandacraigHotel is a picture-perfect relic of colonial times. You will stay overnight in PyinU Lwin.
Day 10: Gokteik Viaduct/ Hsipaw (B, G)
This morning you’ll be taken to the station to board the train which crosses the Gokteik Viaduct. Constructed under the British, the bridge was the largest such railway trestle in the world at its completion in 1900. After crossing the trestle you will arrive in Gokteik, then continue by car to Hsibaw, where you can enjoy touring the nearby fruit orchards along the banks of the Dokhtawaddy River. Hsibaw is one of the oldest northern Shan cities, and has played a key role through history in both the Shan region and in national politics. You will stay in Hsibaw for the night.
Day 11: Lashio (B, G)
This morning you will continue by road from Hsipaw to Lashio.The largest town in northern Shan state, Lashio’sinhabitantsinclude large numbers of ethnic Shan and Chinese. The end of the rail line, Lashiois the southern terminus of the Burma Road which crosses the rugged terrain linking the country to China, and which was famously used by the Allies in World War II.Lashio’s central market, with its colourful variety of different ethnic groups, is a fascinating place to visit, and the hot springs just outside of town are also popular. You will spend the night in Lashio.
Day 12: Mandalay(B, G)
Today you will take the drive from Lashioback to Mandalay. Driving time is approximately five hours, and after arriving in Mandalay you will have the remainder of the day free to relax or explore the city, where you will spend the night.
Day 13: Bagan (B, G)
After checking out from your hotel in Mandalay, you will be transferred to the airport for your flight to NyaungOo. Your guide will meet you at the airport and accompany you for a full day of sightseeing in Bagan.The deserted, ancient city of Bagan is Myanmar’s greatest wonder. Here, over 2,000 temples and pagodas spread over 40 square km along the Irrawaddy River are the locus of Burma’s spiritual heritage, and make up one of the most astonishing archaeological sites in Asia. You will spend nearly two days exploring this ancient wonder. Here are some of the highlights:
Ananda Templeis one of the finest and largest temples of Bagan, fully restored after suffering damage in the 1975 earthquake. Built around 1105, this temple heralds the stylistic end of the early Bagan period and the beginning of the Middle period. There are four large wooden Buddha figures,two of whose facial expressions appear to change as you approach them.
Dhammayangyi Temple,built during the 12th century by Kalagya Min, resembles a pyramid from the side with impressive mortar-less brickwork. The king demanded that the bricks fit together so tightly that not even a pin could fit between them, otherwise (it is said) he cut off the workers hands.
Htilo-Minlo Temple, a massive complex built in 1218 by King Nantaungmya, features traces of murals, original fine plaster carvings and glazed sandstone decorations.
Shwezigon Pagodawas started by Anawratha but completed under the reign of Kyanzittha (1084-1113), its graceful bell shape becoming the prototype for Myanmar’s pagodas. The Shwezigon, marking the northern edge of the city,supposedly enshrines one of the four Buddha tooth replicas from Kandy, Sri Lanka.
UpaliThein is one of few ordination halls still standing; most such buildings were wooden and have long since disappeared. It takes its name from Upali, a well-known monk, and features some brightly painted late 17th and early 18th centuryfrescos.
Mingalazedi, called the “blessing stupa”, was built in 1277 by Narathihapati. Noted for its many beautiful glazed Jataka tiles,it is an excellent spot for a nice afternoon view, located on the far western extent of the Bagan Plain.
Thatbyinnyu Temple, built in the 12th century by Alaungsithu, is Bagan’shighest building at 61 meters. Its size and design make it a classic example of Middle Bagan period architecture.
Dhammayazika Pagoda, similar in appearance to the Shwezigon Pagoda, was built in 1196 by Narapatisithuupon a pentagon terrace with five small temples, each containing a Buddha image. This pagoda also offers nice views over the plain.
Gawdawpalin Temple, considered the crowning achievement of the Late Bagan period, is one of Bagan’slargest and most imposing temples. Badly damaged in the 1975 earthquake, its ensuing reconstruction was one of the biggest such efforts undertaken after the earthquake.
Gu-Byauk-Gyi from the 13th century features amazing, fine frescos representing scenes of Buddha`s life.
After the day’s exploration of the Bagan Plain, you will stay overnight in Bagan.
Day 14: Bagan(B, G)
Today you have the chance to take what is surely among the world’s most breath-taking rides – floating by hotairballoon over Bagan’s vast plain of ancient temples and pagodasduring sunrise! Depending on weather conditions,the flight will last around 45 to 60 minutes. Our initial tour price does not include the Balloon OverBaganrate, but we highly recommend the experience. Book your place early as capacity is quite limited. All balloons were produced by Cameron Balloons Ltd., one of the world’s largest manufacturers of hotairballoons. The operating crew consists of qualified pilots and technicians who are all registered in Great Britain.
The rest of the day will be filled with continued exploration of the incredible Bagan Plain’s practically countless relics, and you will stay overnight in Bagan.
Day 15: Mount Popa and Salay (B, G)
After breakfast you will be driven about 1½ hours south of Bagan to visit Salay, an ancient religious centre of Central Myanmar. Between visiting its numerous ancient monasteries adorned with beautiful woodcarving, enjoy the beauty of this compact city of colonial buildingsand stupas. At MogokVipassanaYeikthameditation centre, you can view the hollow Lacquer Buddha (Nan Paya).
From here you will continue on to reach Mount Popa, the “flower mountain”. 777 stairs lead to the peak of this volcanic plug, where pagodas and small temples are perched at the 737m high summit. Mount Popa is home to the country’s most powerful Nats (sacred spirits) and offers an entrancing view across the plains. You will return to Bagan for the night.
Day 16 to Day 18: Ngapali Beach (B, DP)
This morning, after eating breakfast and checking out of your hotel, you will be transferred to the airport to catch your flight to Thandwe for some time at Ngapali Beach.At the airport in Thandwe you will be met and driven directly to your resort, and you’ll have the rest of the day free.
In Ngapali, you will find unspoiled white sand beach and crystalclear water for snorkelling, sailing and wind surfing. Relax in the shade of palm trees, wander along the silver sands and watch the fishermen bring in their daily catch, or just let the breeze from the Bay of Bengal clear your mind.Overnight at Ngapali Beach.
Day 19:Ngapali Beach/Yangon (B, G)
After more time in the morning to spend at your Ngapali Beach resort, you’ll be driven to Thandwe Airport and fly back to Yangon. If you have time, you can visit more of Yangon’s sites.
Just east of Shwedagon Pagoda, view the Chaukhtagyi Reclining Buddha, almost as large as the enormous figure in Bago.Round out your Yangon experience at Botataung Pagoda. The pagoda houses relics of the Buddha which were transported from India over 2,000 years ago. This monument, totally destroyed during World War II and rebuilt immediately after, is one of few pagodas in Myanmar where you can walk inside instead of just around the exterior.
We will bring you to your hotel for one last night in Yangon, the “Garden City of the East”.
Day 20: Yangon departure (B, G)
After breakfast at your hotel this morning, your guide and driver will meet you for transfer to the airport to catch your departing flight home. Myanmar Holiday – Holidays Myanmar – Avada Travel Myanmar
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