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Your Example Itinerary
Fly from the UK to Yangon.
Arrive in multicultural Yangon, formerly Rangoon, a melting pot of British, Burmese, Chinese and Indian influences, and meet the rest of your group at your hotel. To get your bearings, you could wander down to the covered Bogyoke Market and test out your bargaining skills or take a look at the grand architecture of the Strand Hotel. Explore the sights and sounds of the city with your guide, including the Shwedagon Pagoda, a brilliant golden edifice visible from all over Yangon. The colour changes depending on the light – sunset is a lovely time, as the stupa glows warm oranges and reds.
Fly to diverse Mandalay with its pagodas, churches and temples. Head down to the waterfront and catch a boat to Mingun and Mingun Pahtodawgyi, the world’s largest pagoda, or it would be, if it had been completed. Instead it holds the record for the world’s largest pile of bricks. On the subject of world-beaters, you’ll also see the world’s largest unbroken bell and the world’s largest book. Learn more about the ruins of the city of Amarapura and cool down with a trip up to pretty Maymyo hill station, filled with English country houses and Chinese temples.
Take the ferry along the Ayeyarwady River to Bagan, a journey that takes 9 hours to cover 36 kilometres – definitely the slow and scenic route. Sail past the traditional fishing villages and see every day life in rural Burma pass by. Once in Bagan, start exploring the 3000 temples that dot the landscape and watch the sun set, a rather magical experience. If you are feeling energetic, climb the 777 steps to the top of Mount Popa, an extinct volcano with a shrine at the top. For a truly memorable and romantic way to explore the delights of Bagan, why not take to the skies on a hot air balloon ride (at extra cost, must be booked well in advance).
Fly on to Inle Lake, a tranquil freshwater lake with plenty of traditional fishing villages and activity going on. Here you can rent a canoe to row to one of the villages and admire the lush floating gardens, many of which are filled with flowers. Look out for the local Intha fishermen who use an ingenious method of rowing that involves holding the oar with one leg, allowing them to stand and row at the same time. Look out for local birdlife too, including egrets, cranes, ducks and storks. Check out the Indein ruins complex with its 8th century stupas, then head off on a full day’s hike between the villages, monasteries and stupas, rounding it off with a local Shan meal for dinner.
Fly on to Kyaiktiyo where you’ll ascend the 1180 metres to the Golden Rock pagoda. This unique sight consists of a boulder gilded in gold with a small pagoda perched on the top. It looks like it’s in a very precarious position, and legend says it is held by a strand of Buddha’s hair. Many pilgrims come here to attach gold leaf to the boulder, and a glimpse of its gravity-defying position is believed to be enough to inspire anyone to turn to Buddhism.
Leave Kyaiktiyo and stop off at Bago on the way back to Yangon. Bago is an ancient Mon kingdom settlement with various religious monuments to catch your eye. Take a look at the soaring Shwemawdaw Pagoda, otherwise known as the Golden God Temple, which goes nicely with the enormous reclining Buddha (Shwethalyaung Buddha) which is 55 metres long and 16 metres tall, believed to have been created in 994. After all that sightseeing, return to Yangon for the night.
Drive west to Bassein to view the colourful hand painted umbrellas and see how they are made before swinging by the beautiful beach at Ngwesaung. This pristine white sweep of sand is your own tropical paradise, with palm trees, turquoise water, sunshine and relaxing time the order of the day. Have a swim, visit the fishing villages and markets, perhaps cycle around the area or take a boat to the off-shore islands (not included).
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