Discover the stunning spires and simple lifestyle of Myanmar
Discover the stunning spires and simple lifestyle of Myanmar, a land untouched by westernisation. Indulge in long yet rewarding days packed with local colour, hidden gems and ancient mysteries; cruise the sparkling waters of Inle Lake, famed for its floating gardens, meet the descendents of Burma's former kings, and embark on unforgettable rail journeys, on this captivating eastern adventure.
Our eastern adventure begins with a flight from London to Myanmar, also known as Burma. This enchanting land has been vastly secluded from the outside world, and its relative lack of influence from the western world leaves Myanmar one of the great destinations for experienced travellers looking to experience a completely different way of life. Arriving on Day 2, we enjoy dinner together before settling in for the night.
Our exploration of Myanmar begins today, as we discover the cultural heritage and local life in Mandalay. A city of true contrast, Mandalay is a heady blend of ancient mystery, shrouded by the country's globally undisturbed nature, and the fast-paced economic revolution of a nation rushing head-first into the 21st century. Centuries-old pagodas and the serene waters of the Irrawaddy River serve as the backdrop for a buzz of activity, making the inner calm of the city's sacred spaces even more alluring.
We begin our visit, with the Kuthodaw Pagoda, a Buddhist stupa and home to 'the world's largest book': a spectacular collection of 729 marble tablets inscribed with the entire text of the Tipitaka Pali Canon, the oldest Buddhist teachings known to man.
To ensure this sacred knowledge was not lost during British colonisation, in 1857 the Burmese king ordered that the text be transcribed into stone, protecting this precious knowledge further by housing each tablet in its own shrine. Next, we tour the Golden Palace Monastery, renowned for its intricate teak carvings and unique backstory: formerly a part of the palace complex itself, the entire structure was dismantled and relocated, out of respect for King Mindon, who died within its walls in 1878. Thanks to this odd fate, the monastery was spared from the bombings of WWII that destroyed the palace complex. Our final stop this morning is the Mahamuni Pagoda, one of the most important pilgrimage sites in Burma, famed for its immaculate golden Buddha. Devotees often apply small sheets of gold leaf to the 2,000-year-old statue, adding a 15cm-thick layer of gold and slightly warping the Buddha's silhouette.
After free time for lunch, and a pause at our hotel, our tour continues later this afternoon, with a visit to Amarapura, the penultimate royal capital of Myanmar. The 'City of Immortality' was abandoned as an official residence in 1857 on the advice of a prophecy, resulting in a city with a more suburban tempo. The highlight of our visit is the iconic U Bein Bridge, a fantastic structure made of teak poles, that crosses the waters of Taungthaman Lake, and one of the most photographed places in Myanmar. Keep your camera to hand, as we follow up this picturesque moment with a scenic drive to the former British outpost of Pyin oo Lwin, where we spend the night.
Today we take to the rails to experience Burma's scenic beauty in a leisurely fashion. Our journey takes us from Pyin oo Lwin to Naung Pein, travelling over the jaw-dropping Gokteik Viaduct, the highest bridge in the country, connecting two mountains and passing over a verdant forest-filled gorge almost 1,000ft deep. Built in the early 20th century by the Pennsylvania Steel Company, the route showcases the breathtaking vistas of the region's hilly towns and rust-coloured mountains. We return to Pyin oo Lwin, and on arrival enjoy lunch in the colonial-style residence of the descendants of Myanmar's last kingdom.
On Day 5 we return to Mandalay, where we enjoy lunch in a local restaurant before travelling east of the city to Yankin Hill monastery. Here we meet with the monks, who are studying English, to chat about their daily lives, before watching the sun set over Mandalay from our unbeatable vantage point. On Day 6 we take to the water, for a private boat cruise along the Irrawaddy River to Bagan. Watch out for fishermen casting traditional conical nets in search of fresh catch, and for the temples on the horizon, indicating our approach to the timeless city of Bagan.
Our time in Bagan begins with a visit to the bustling Nyaung Oo Market, for a taste of local life, before retreating to the quiet yet decadent surrounds of the Shwezigon Paya, a gilded Buddhist stupa that dates back to the 11th century. After time to appreciate the ornate carvings of this ancient monument, we continue along tree-shaded roads to a local village. Here we find a delightful monastery, where we take part in a traditional alms-giving ceremony with the monks who reside here, by serving rice as a gesture of respect. Later, we visit the Ananda Temple, one of the most impressive of some 2,200 that litter Bagan's landscape, especially as we watch the sunset descends on its shimmering spires this evening. Our day ends with a traditional puppet show and dinner. Day 8 takes us to the charming retreat of Kalaw, passing the Shan Hills and living motifs of rural Burmese life en-route.
Today we take an excursion to the Shwe Oo Min Caves, a series of natural limestone caverns perched above Pone Taloke Lake, and filled with some 8,000 images of Buddha, left by pilgrims that have ventured here over the centuries. We explore this sacred site before lunch at a local restaurant and a scenic rail journey to Aung Ban, from where we transfer by coach to Nyaung Shwe, a small gateway town to Inle Lake.
Early on Day 10, we visit the morning market at a lakeside village, before returning to our hotel for breakfast. Mid-morning, we cruise across Lake Inle, one of the most beloved destinations in Myanmar. Our vessel carries us across the tranquil waters, passing floating gardens built on water hyacinth, houses like roosts on their wooden stilts, and boats topped with precarious fishermen, balancing like cranes as they row with one leg. We disembark at Phaung Daw Oo Pagoda, then later continue to the Indein Pagoda, its carved white spires hovering above the western shore.
After breakfast today, we visit the local canal-side market to watch the comings and goings of an authentic local tomato house, where tomatoes are sorted and priced for sale. Early this evening, we transfer to the airport for an internal flight to Yangon.
On the afternoon of Day 12 we see the 200ft reclining Buddha at the Kyaukhtatgyi Pagoda, before visiting the attractive Royal Lake in Kandawgyi Park, where the Karaweik Palace - an opulent replica of a Burmese royal barge - rests serenely. We watch the sun set over the 2,500-year-old Golden Shwedagon Pagoda, ending the day with the enchanting oil lamp ceremony, granting good health and happiness.
We transfer to the airport today for our flight to London, where we arrive on Day 14.
Provisional departure and return times, where available, can be found together with our dates and prices by clicking on the 'Prices & Availability' button. We write to all booked customers approximately 10 weeks prior to the start of their tour to advise the exact departure and return time for their particular group.
An escorted experience and all travel arrangements
Comfortable accommodation in your destination
Delicious meals included
Exciting excursions and free time to explore
Discover the stunning spires and simple lifestyle of Myanmar