Explore the hidden gems of this magical Southeast Asian paradise
“This is Burma, and it will be quite unlike any land you know about.” Rudyard Kipling wrote those words more than a century ago, and they are as true as ever today. Journeying to modern-day Myanmar is an opportunity not only to see and experience one of the world’s last unspoiled, exotic paradises, but to witness its movement towards modernity following decades of internal difficulties. Its spectacular payas (pagodas), temples, and monasteries are elegant and moving reminders of an earlier age, as are the remnants of its days as British colonial Burma. And the hustle and bustle of its largest city, Yangon, belies this energetic nation’s eagerness to join the world’s economic and political mainstream. And now is the time to visit Myanmar, while traditional bullock carts still outnumber cheap, imported motorbikes and the renowned fishermen of Inle Lake still ply its waters using traditional leg-rowing rather than outboard motors.
On this new adventure you’ll discover the spectacular glories of this rich and rare land, from its dizzying array of authentic and intact tribal cultures and the majestic floating gardens of Inle Lake, to the grandeur of Yangon’s Shwedagon Paya and thousands of 800-year old temples beside the Irrawaddy River at Bagan. And our itinerary is designed to take the road less traveled, so you’ll be sharing these treasures with fewer tourists than with other companies’ groups. You’ll experience village life firsthand at markets and in the homes of locals who will invite us in, see enduring traditional practices like those of Inle Lake’s renowned leg-rower fishermen, and hike amid the beauty and serenity of Myanmar’s rural countryside to the remote villages of hill tribes like the Eng, who traditionally dress largely in black, with their teeth blackened—they are truly striking in appearance, and found only in this corner of Myanmar! Each tribe we visit will have cultures and traditions so distinct, you’d never suspect how near to one another they actually are.
Myanmar’s magnificent scenery and breathtaking cultural monuments will etch memories that you’ll keep for a lifetime, and its gentle, gracious people will bring you closer to this land than you could ever imagine. And there’s no time like the present—Myanmar’s drive toward modernity makes change inevitable and indeed, it has already begun. This journey is your chance to enjoy the best of “old Burma” balanced with the vitality of modern Myanmar. Then you will surely understand why Marco Polo described Myanmar as “one of the finest sights in the world.”
Note: The entire trip is below 6,000 feet elevation.
3 days moderate trekking and 9 days easy to moderate touring
- Explore the beautiful architectural glories of Myanmar: sacred pagodas, ancient Buddhist temples, and monasteries that defy the imagination
- Discover Inle Lake, where high hills rim calm waters dotted with floating gardens, and leg-rower fishermen ply the lake in flat-bottomed boats
- Visit hidden tribal villages and experience authentic hill tribe life, largely unchanged for centuries
- Enjoy a highly authentic experience, as we visit less touristed places and more pristine areas of even the well-travelled "must see" sites
Duration: 12 days Start Location: Bangkok End Location: BangkokDownload Detailed Itinerary
Day 1 : Arrive in Bangkok, Thailand
Arrive in Bangkok, capital of Thailand and popular gateway to all of Southeast Asia. The Novotel Suvarnabhumi Airport hotel, where you will stay tonight, operates a 24-hour airport shuttle service that runs every 10–15 minutes, and which will get you to the hotel in about 10 minutes. While you rest up here, make sure to enjoy this elegant hotel’s fine amenities, including several restaurants and bars, a beautiful pool, fitness room, and business center with complimentary internet. The hotel also features a breakfast buffet beginning at 3 a.m., which features Western and traditional Thai options.
Note: This entire trip is below 6,100 feet elevation.
Day 2 : Bangkok - Chiang Rai - Tachilek - Keng Tung
This morning you’ll depart from Bangkok’s Suvarnabhumi Airport for Chiang Rai, in the northern tip of Thailand. Upon arrival in Chiang Rai you’ll meet up with the rest of the trip members and an MTS representative, who will transfer the group to the Thailand/Myanmar border crossing at Mae Sai. Our route into Myanmar is not heavily traveled by tourists, so we’ll have a more authentic, local experience. We’ll arrive in Tachilek at around noon and meet our Trip Leader. Then we’ll take a scenic 4-hour drive through the countryside to Keng Tung, located near the border with China in the far eastern corner of Myanmar. Keng Tung is a beautiful area with great trekking and an intriguing variety of temples, due to the diverse population of ethnic tribes in the region. Upon arrival in Keng Tung, we’ll check into our hotel, where we’ll enjoy a Welcome Dinner in the evening.
Day 3 : Keng Tung
After enjoying breakfast at the hotel, we’ll begin our exploration of Keng Tung’s historical attractions and exquisite monasteries with a walk to Wat Sonkhan, Wat Inn, and Maha Myat Muni. In the afternoon we’ll walk to some nearby hot springs (possibly taking a dip ourselves!) and visit a few of the more easily accessible hill tribe villages: Wan Pauk, Palaung, and Kong Ma Wa. We’ll be invited into villagers’ homes to discover their way of life, and this will be our introduction to the fascinating ethnic diversity that is so typical of Myanmar, as we’ll experience the distinct culture, traditions, and language of each village.
Day 4 : Keng Tung
Shortly after breakfast, we’ll depart the hotel to experience the energetic spectacle of market day at Kat Tauk Village or the Buffalo Market. Afterward, we’ll drive 1.5 hours to the starting point of today’s trek, which will lead us along steep, forested tracks that link villages of the Pin Tauk Lahu, Eng, and Akha hill tribes. The Eng are particularly unique, and are found only here. Striking in appearance, the Eng dress largely in black, with their teeth blackened. This is a strenuous hike, so good walking shoes and a high level of fitness are essential. We’ll enjoy a hearty picnic lunch along the way, and finish our hike in the late afternoon, when we’ll return to our hotel in Keng Tung.
Day 5 : Keng Tung - Heho - Inle Lake
This morning is yours to enjoy, either relaxing in the hotel or taking a walk around the village. In the late morning we’ll fly to Heho, then drive to picturesque Inle Lake, famous for its floating villages and traditional leg-rower fishermen. The lake’s edge is dotted with villages, monasteries, and beautiful hotels, all perched gracefully atop wooden stilts. The remainder of the evening is yours to enjoy as you wish.
Day 6 : Inle Lake
We’ll depart the hotel shortly after breakfast to enjoy a full day of exploring Inle Lake. We’ll visit the Indein village market and stroll among the hundreds of stupas that adorn the hillsides above the village. Then we’ll visit the Phaung Daw Oo pagoda, Nga Phe Chaung monastery, and the floating gardens of the local leg-rower fishermen’s village. We’ll also see blacksmiths and cigar makers at work in Nampan village, silk weavers in Inn Paw Khong, and have the option to explore the lake’s peaceful villages further by canoe! We’ll enjoy lunch at a nearby restaurant, and have the opportunity to sit down with locals for a cup of green tea and a friendly chat before returning to our hotel in the afternoon.
Day 7 : Inle Lake - Pindaya
After breakfast at the hotel, we’ll drive for about 2 hours to Pindaya, passing through the Pa-O tribal farmland of the scenic Shan Plateau. We’ll make photo stops along the way, as the area offers spectacular views of fall foliage and pastoral scenes of villagers and their buffaloes working the fields. The convergence of this area’s beautiful fall colors and the enchanting pagodas that punctuate the landscape makes for a particularly lovely scene, not to mention great photos! Once in Pindaya, we’ll walk to a nearby village of the Htutni Da-Nu tribe, then continue on to the Pindaya Buddhist Caves. These are the largest such caves in Myanmar, and are a very popular meditation site for local Burmese. Here we’ll discover a dazzling assortment of over 7,000 Buddha statues as our guides share local myths and legends with us. Then we’ll walk among hundred year-old banyan trees to Singaung village, where we’ll learn about the villagers’ cottage industry: making bamboo umbrellas.
Day 8 : Pindaya - Bagan
Enjoy breakfast at the hotel and the remainder of the morning at your leisure. In the early afternoon, we’ll transfer to the airport in Heho for our flight to the temple-studded plains of Bagan. Upon arrival we’ll transfer to the stunning Thande Hotel, perched on the eastern bank of the Irrawaddy River. Here you can unwind at the nature spa, enjoy a drink at the poolside bar, or stroll through the bird sanctuary gardens. You’ll have time to enjoy this beautiful hotel’s amenities during our two-night stay.
Day 9 : Bagan
Gracefully lining the shores of the muddy Irrawaddy River, hundreds of peaceful, scenic Buddhist temples make up the spectacular and ancient city of Bagan. Though the oldest of these date back some 2,000 years, Bagan’s brief period of grandeur lasted a mere 200 years before its destruction at the hands of Mogul hordes in 1287 AD. Covering an area of about 25 square miles, this array of temples ranges from grand structures to simple places of worship. We’ll take to bikes to explore Bagan’s highlights, including Htilominlo Temple, the finest example of late 12th century stucco carving; Tharabar Gate, a 9th century city wall; Myingaba Gubyaukgyi, with its fine early 12th century murals; Minanthu Village; Phayar Thonesu Temple; and stunning Ananda Temple, built by King Kyansit around 1105 AD, during Bagan’s heyday.
Day 10 : Bagan - Yangon
This morning we’ll cap our stay in Bagan by experiencing a vibrant local vegetable market, and with a visit to the astounding gold-gilt temple of Shwezigon Pagoda, considered the prototype for all Burmese stupas and believed by some to enshrine holy relics of the Gautama Buddha. We’ll then continue on to the Kyaukgu Umin cave temple, an elaborate three-tiered structure built into sandstone cliffs and containing beautiful stone devotional sculptures. We’ll likely find locals meditating among the ruins here. After visiting the temple, we’ll stroll down to the banks of the Irrawaddy and board longtail boats for our return trip to Bagan. We’ll enjoy lunch at a local restaurant and then visit a toddy palm farm before transferring to the airport for our short flight to Yangon (formerly Rangoon, the capital city of Burma).
Day 11 : Yangon
Today we trade the laid back feeling of the past several days for the bustling verve of Yangon. Though the capital of Myanmar was relocated from Yangon in 2006, this energetic and varied city continues to be the largest in the country, as well as its most important commercial center. We’ll spend the day exploring Yangon’s large metropolitan area, taking in the striking contrasts that characterize the city: tall skyscrapers and coliseums provide a thoroughly modern counterpoint to Victorian-era structures that hearken back to the days of colonial Burma. During our walk we’ll also witness the ethnic diversity of Yangon, as we pass churches, mosques, synagogues, Burmese pagodas, and Hindu and Chinese temples. We’ll have lunch at a local restaurant and then transfer to Bogyoke Market, where we’ll see Yangon locals shopping. In mid-afternoon we’ll take tea at the elegant and romantic Strand Hotel, a Victorian mansion that was once the haunt of Rudyard Kipling and Somerset Maugham. After tea we’ll visit Yangon’s grandest temple, Shwedagon Pagoda, where we’ll linger to witness the awesome beauty of the temple at sunset. Later, we’ll have a festive Farewell Dinner at Le Planteur Restaurant, an elegant oasis of fine dining in the center of the city.
Day 12 : Fly to Bangkok (and onwards)
Transfer to the airport at 8:30 am for your departure flight to Bangkok (PG702 Yangon - Bangkok 10:30 am - 12:25 pm).
DATES: Best time to go: November - December Departures: Nov 15 - 26, 2014 Dec 2 - 13, 2014 Nov 3 - 14, 2015 Dec 2 - 13, 2015
Novotel Suvarnabhumi Airport HotelBangkok
The Novotel Suvarnabhumi Airport is a 4 star hotel located 10 min walk from Suvarnabhumi International Airport in Bangkok. Boasting 612 comfortable and contemporary rooms, the hotel also offers 2 bars and 4 restaurants. With a 24 hr airport shuttle every 10 min from Gate 4 Level 2 and parking available, there is no better place to stay.
Bagan Thande HotelBagan
The Bagan Thande Hotel is proud to be considered one of the most exclusive hotels in Bagan. The property boasts a charming setting, with wonderful views of the Ayeyarwaddy River and located inside the Bagan Archaeological Zone. Facilities include a stunning outdoor swimming pool and jacuzzi; Thande spa, art gallery and a beautiful riverside restaurant.
The colonial-style Chatrium Royal Lake Yangon is a luxury property committed to excellent service. The outdoor pool area is a tropical respite from frenetic Yangon. The hotel's amenities also include a fitness center, Nemita spa and several restaurants (Chinese, Japanese and Continental). The hotel is centrally located in Yangon, near many attractions including the world's oldest pagoda, the Shwedagon Pagoda.
Pristine Lotus ResortInle Lake
This new boutique resort features individual villas set on Inle Lake in a lush garden setting. It is a perfect place to unwind, sitting on your veranda with a book, or having a drink in the spacious gardens. Other amenities of Pristine Lotus include an extensive on-site spa, indoor and outdoor dining, business center and salon. The resort is close to many nearby attractions and has it' own jetty and boat rental.
Inle Inn PindayaPindaya
Inle Inn Pindaya features alpine-style chalets in a picturesque mountain setting. The property is hidden off a small road and boasts a quiet, old world charm. There is a large grassy courtyard where guests can enjoy a drink, read or just relax. The restaurant has warm wood decor and delicious food.
Properties shown are representative of the accommodations we use on this trip, may not be inclusive of all accommodations we use, and are subject to change.
Expert leadership is the key to an exciting, unforgettable experience. Our trips feature gifted leaders for whom leading trips is a true vocation. Besides showing you wonders you’d never find on your own, they make sure everything runs smoothly and safely without a hitch. They are knowledgeable about all aspects of your trip, and take great pleasure in sharing their insights with you. More than just guides, they positively elevate your experience by being teachers, companions, and the best of friends. You’ll be in good hands with them every step of the way.
Kyaw Zaya grew up in Burma and has long had a passion for guiding. After earning his diploma in Gemology, he went on study Tour Guiding. He has led groups for numerous overseas travel companies for the past two decades--from budget trips to high end and experiential travel. The majority of his clients hail from the UK, the US and Belgium. He is a strong leader and is comfortable with groups of any size. In his free time, he enjoys bicycling and reading. Kyaw looks forwards to sharing this adventure in his home country with you.