Burma Unveiled | Bagan, Inle Lake, Yangon + Mandalay - Myanmar

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A unique adventure through exotic Myanmar (Burma)!
Explore Myanmar's ancient pagodas in the World Heritage archeological site of Bagan, Angkor Wat experience', explore the traditional Shan and ethnic villages of Inle Lake by boat, a floating world, sample Myanmar's interesting street food, wander through Mandalay and Yangon's exotic bazaars, visit historic Yangon's golden Shwedagon temple at sunset + more in one Asia's top destinations!

Spend several watery days exploring the sublimely beautiful and fascinating floating villages and gardens of Inle Lake long tail boat, and have a chance to visit some of the regions very remote villages and markets, a photographer's paradise. Options for a 'Balloon over Bagan' hot air balloon ride at sunrise over the thousands of Bagan's ancient, gilded pagodas.

Option for some beach time at the pristine Ngapali beach, where you can sit on the beach at sunset, feasting on grilled prawn, avocado salad + other exquisite local specialties, and wander down the long, palm lined coast to watch the local fishing villages bring in their morning and evening catches.

Explore the far reaches of Myanmar with Kamzang Journeys!

 

Trip

Burma Unveiled
Day 1 - Arrive Yangon | Yangon Heritage Walk + High Tea at The Strand
Day 2 - Yangon | Yangon's Hidden Neighborhoods Walk + Spiritual Shwedagon Pagoda Tour
Day 3 - Fly Mandalay | Paleik Tour
Day 4 - Mandalay | Mahamuni + Amarpura Tour
Day 5 - Fly Bagan | 'This is Bagan' Tour
Day 6 - Bagan | Picnic at Minnanthu + Sundowners on a Sandbank
Day 7 - Fly Helo (Inle Lake) | The Ruins of Indein + Floating Gardens Tour
Day 8 - Inle Lake | A Day on Inle Lake!
Day 9 - Inle Lake - Shan Afternoon + Wine Tasting at Red Mountain Winery
Day 10 - Fly Yangon - Trip Ends

Ngapali Beach Extension
Day 10 - Fly Ngapali Beach
Day 11 - Ngapali Beach
Day 12 - Ngapali Beach
Day 13 - Ngapali Beach
Day 14 - Fly Yangon - Trip Ends

NOTE: Options to stay even longer on the pristine Ngapali coast, or to fly from Yangon to Mandalay to extend your Myanmar journey. Browse our tours of Yangon, Bagan, Mandalay and Inle Lake + Pwin Oo Lwin.

Myanmar (Burma) Photos | Kim Bannister Photography
Burma - Kim's Journeys Through Myanmar

Burma Food + Markets

Bagan + Inle Lake

Yangon

Ngapali Coast + Mrauk U

Chin Mountain Trek

Highlights+Reviews

Trip Advisor Reviews

Client Highlights
Coming

Read More Testimonials
Trekkers' Comments

Trip Highlights

  • Chin State Trek
  • Bagan
  • Mrauk U
  • Inle Lake Kayak, Boat + Bicycle Tours
  • Yangon Spiritual Shwedagon + Historic Tours
  • Boat Cruise to Sittwe
  • Unique Burmese Food
  • Ngapali Beach + Fishing Village Extension
  • Mandalay Extension
  • Ballooning over Bagan (Optional)

Burma Blog
Kamzang Burma Blog

Myanmar (Burma) Photos | Kim Bannister Photography
Burma - Kim's Journeys Through Myanmar

Burma Food + Markets

Bagan + Inle Lake

Yangon

Ngapali Coast + Mrauk U

Chin Mountain Trek

Articles + Videos
Myanmar in 4K

In Depth Myanmar | WWF

Myanmar's Forgotten People

A Three Day Hike in the Highlands of Myanmar

Myanmar's Peace Prize Winner & Crimes Against Humanity

A Luminous Lake of Unusual Talents

History of the Present | Yangon

Myanmar 'Happy'

Date+Price

2017 Dates
Custom Departures
10 days

Ngapali Beach Extension
14 days

+ Options for Bird Watching Tours (Seasonal - Inquire)

Trip Price 2017
1 Person - $3980
2 People - $2680
3+ People - $2480
6+ People - $2280

+ Single Supplement - $700

Ngapali Beach Price (Lin Thar Oo Lodge Bungalows)
1 Person - $680
2+ People - $400

+ Single Supplement - $300
+ Lin Thar Oo Lodge – Superior Bungalows

Includes

  • Hotels (Boutique - Luxury)
  • Domestic Airfares
  • Transportation by Private Vehicle + Boat
  • Permit Fees
  • Chin State Trek (All Inclusive)
  • Sightseeing + Tours in Mrauk U, Bagan, Inle Lake + Yangon
  • Boat Trips + Bicycling in Inle Lake
  • English Speaking Guides

Excludes

  • International Airfares
  • Travel + Travel Medical Insurance
  • Lunch + Dinners at Hotels
  • Myanmar Visa
  • Drinks
  • Tips
  • Peak Season Surcharges (New Year's period)

Tips & Extra Cash
Allow approx $200 for meals (while not on trek), drinks (on trek) and tips. We recommend $50-$100 per person for staff tips.

Contact+Details

Trekker's Comments
Travel Books

Guide
Kim Bannister
kim@kamzang.com
Mobile: +(977) 9803414745
On-Trek Satellite Phone: +88216 21277980 (Nepal)
On-Trek Satellite Phone: +88216 21274092 (Tibet & India)

Local Guide
Burmese Guide

Kamzang Journeys
Chez Kim, Lazimpat, Kathmandu, Nepal
kim@kamzang.com, info@kamzang.com

Burma Contact
Khiri Travel Myanmar
24-hour Contact Number: +95 9 42502 8175

Follow us on Facebook
Kamzang Journeys Facebook
Trip + general updates, many posts on Asia + the Himalaya.

Arrival Hotel Yangon
Clover Wingabar Hotel

Travel Advisories
We follow the strict advice of the government of Myanmar, very cautious in regards to the safety of foreigners; our trips are well coordinated and in safe areas. Do check with your embassy or consulate before traveling.

Visas + Passports
Visitors of all nationalities need a visa in order to visit Myanmar. You can apply for this visa at a Myanmar embassy in or near your country. The visa for Myanmar is valid for 28 days and occupies a full page in your passport – the visa expires 90 days after it is issued so don’t apply too early. Please make sure you have enough pages in your passport. The passport has to be valid for at least 6 more months.

Different embassies have different rules to apply for a tourist visa, which takes about 3 working days. Generally you will need 2 or 3 photos and enough cash to pay for your visa (at most embassies it’s 30 USD). Some embassies will ask you to come in person to apply for the visa or they will ask for your CV (to check where you have been working in the past) and they might ask for your planned travel itinerary. It is also possible to apply for an eVisa for Myanmar which takes at least 5 working days.
NOTE: This only applies for arrivals at Yangon, Nay Pyi Taw and Mandalay airports.
Myanmar Visa

Money
ATM machines in Myanmar ONLY accept Master card and Visa CREDIT CARDS (NO DEBIT CARDS). You will have to bring cash as well. NEW $US, Euro and Thai Baht are easily exchanged into local currency around the country at money exchangers and banks. Make sure the notes look brand new without any writings on them and make sure they are not torn, faded or in anyway not looking brand new, otherwise they won’t be accepted.

The Kyat is the official currency of Myanmar and is available in notes of 10.000, 5.000, 1.000, 500 and 200 as well as some smaller denominations, which are often dirty, torn and not worth a lot. The last few years the Kyat has been hovering between 900 to 1200 Kyats to the US Dollar – ask your hotel or your guide about the current exchange rate on arrival and also where to exchange. There are more bank exchange counters opening all over the country, including on arrival at the airport and those counters usually give the best exchange rate. Generally it’s best to pay everywhere in Kyats. Cash in $US is only accepted in hotels. The Kyat is not freely convertible, which means that you can’t buy any Kyats outside of Myanmar, and so any Kyats you leave with can’t be exchanged anywhere else.

The FEC (Foreign Exchange Certificates) were abandoned in 2013. In theory it is possible to exchange Travelers Checks at the National Bank in Yangon, but in practice it is slow and costly. We advise you to bring cash $US or Euros and to change these Kyats in any main tourist area while traveling through the country. Any denomination of $US okay, just make sure they look brand new and check the serial number does NOT start with CB as these are not accepted.

Tips
Tipping in Myanmar is not customary. Amounts are often rounded up due to lack of small nominations notes or you are given a candy, a tissue or even a cigarette as “change”. In a relatively poor country like Myanmar, tipping is however highly appreciated. In more upscale restaurants a tip of between 5 and 10% is recommended. In other places leaving the small change or 1 USD is enough. Taxi and trishaw drivers usually don’t expect any tip at all.
Guides and drivers of rented vehicles do expect to be tipped. For guides a tip between 2 and 5 USD per person per day is customary, for drivers between 1 and 2 USD per day. Of course tipping is always related to the quality of services rendered.

Donations + Gifts
Myanmar is a country where a big percentage of the population is poor and many people have just enough money to pay for daily food (over 90% of GDP is spent on food), education and medical care. Even Myanmar people with just a slightly higher than average income are very generous and a culture of giving to poor, elderly and people in need is deeply rooted in the culture. It’s always better to give donations (money or gifts bought locally as this is better for the Myanmar economy) to adults, teachers or a village head rather than to children. Supporting somebody’s small business will also contribute positively so don’t feel swindled if your taxi driver asks a price that is 50 cents higher than your guide book indicated; he probably is not a millionaire and can certainly use the money. Also, a rich Burmese would generally also accept paying a higher price than a poor Burmese. People greatly appreciate if you bring postcards and pictures etc. from your own country to show – always a good ice-breaker to start a conversation. Gifts for school, orphanages, local hospitals are always greatly appreciated, and its best is actually to buy gifts locally at the market in Myanmar (cheaper, good fun to do, better for the economy and you can be sure the receiver knows how to use it and it also saves you space in your luggage).

Health + Innoculations
Health risks in Myanmar include: cholera, dengue fever, hepatitis, Japanese encephalitis, malaria, rabies and typhoid. We strongly recommend you to visit either your personal physician or a travel health clinic 4-8 weeks before departure. Up-to-date advice should be sought before deciding whether these precautions should include vaccination, as medical opinion is divided over its effectiveness. Malaria risk exists throughout the year in the whole country, except in bigger towns such as Yangon and Mandalay. Medical facilities with western standards are very limited in Myanmar and practically only exist in Yangon. Many doctors have been educated in Europe (especially in the UK) but have limited access to modern medicines and limited updated knowledge.

All travelers visiting Myanmar with Khiri Travel must show proof of a health insurance upon arrival in the country so in case of emergency we can assist and make sure you will receive the necessary medical attention in Myanmar or in Bangkok, where the best medical facilities are available.

Climate
Myanmar has 3 different seasons: winter (mid Oct – Feb), summer (March – May) and green season (June – mid Oct). These seasons are very similar to the seasons in Thailand. Every season has its own advantages and disadvantages to travel. See below.

March – May (Summer)
The whole country can be hot (especially in the afternoon – around 35 degrees Celsius) so you’re advised to plan sightseeing more in the mornings and evenings. Landscapes are a bit dry – excellent time to visit the beaches and to visit higher parts of Myanmar (Shan state for example).

November – February (Winter)
The most popular season for tourists to travel because of the lower temperatures (evenings in the mountains can be cold – 10 degrees Celsius) while the chance for rain is less (although November 2013 saw more rainy days then July or August of that year). Daytime temperature is around 30 degrees Celsius. A good time to visit any place in the country but it can be busy at the major tourist locations – if you have the choice we suggest you to avoid the months of November and February when it can be very busy everywhere.

June – mid October (Green Season)
The temperatures drop (till about 25 - 30 degrees Celsius) and the scenery is green. Sightseeing is not too hot and not too dusty. A perfect period to visit Bagan, Mandalay and Shan states (Hsipaw, Kyaukme, Pyin Oo Lwin, Kalaw, Inle Lake) where it isn’t raining a lot (mostly a short shower at the end of the day). Avoid the beaches in this period (it’s raining more at the coast and most hotels are closed in this period). Yangon can get quite some rain as well so it is better to spend just 1 or 2 nights here. Sightseeing is great as there aren’t many other tourists around yet – it’s Myanmar at its best! There are in this period on average less than 10 rainy days a month upcountry: weather base website - Myanmar. This is the period we generally advise our closest friends to come and visit as it’s an excellent period to visit Myanmar.

Email + Phones
Visiting Myanmar really is a 'get-away’  experience! Consider yourself incommunicado, as your mobile phone will probably not be working. Myanmar has only a few roaming agreements. Buying a local simcard is getting easier and a temporary telephone number would cost about 2 Usd (MPT, Telenor and Oredoo) and can be bought easily in shops all around the country. Internet cafes can be found in the bigger cities and most of the hotels around the country offer Wifi. The internet connection is often a bit slower than at home and there might be days that you can’t get a connection fast enough to chat online.

Cultural Issues
When visiting Myanmar, do try to adapt to and respect the unique culture. Here are some examples of rules of which visitors should be aware.

  • Feet convey messages. Do not point with your feet. Pointing with your feet means disrespect.
  • Don’t stretch out your legs when you’re sitting. Tuck your feet away. Your feet should certainly never face the Buddha.
  • Calling with your finger means calling for a challenge. Calling with your fingers down is considered to be polite.
  • Never pat a monk on the back. You should never touch the robe of a monk. Monks are very revered in Myanmar and they observe many rules, study the Dhamma, practice meditation and they are highly respected in Myanmar society.
  • Giving money to children is not advisable. Giving money or other things creates children’s dependency on tourism. Visitors should consider the saying 'Don’t give a helpless person a fish, teach them how to catch a fish and they will learn for a lifetime’.
  • Don’t touch anyone on the head. The head is considered to be the most esteemed part of the body. To be touched on the head is considered aggressive.

For more good cultural tips about how to behave in Myanmar when traveling and to understand cultural differences see Myanmar Cultural Difference

Food + Drink
All water should be regarded as being potentially contaminated. Water used for drinking, or making ice should have first been boiled or otherwise sterilized.
Bottled water is available throughout the country. Avoid dairy products that are likely to have been made from raw milk. Only eat well-cooked meat and fish, preferably served hot. Vegetables should be cooked and fruit peeled.

Myanmar food is traditionally eaten with steamed rice using either the fingers or spoon and fork (chop sticks are sometimes used for Chinese food or noodles). In the countryside, people will all eat family style; sitting on the floor, sharing a few dishes. Traditional Myanmar food consists out of 1 or 2 curries (not very spicy), a lot of steamed rice and some pickles or salad as well as fish paste. The traditional food out of the center of Myanmar can be a bit greasy; make sure you also try the food of all the different states like Shan food, Rakhine food or mix with Chinese, Indian or Thai food.

Burmese Specialty Dishes
CHICKEN OR PORK CURRY
A traditional Myanmar curry, which comes with a strong curry taste and is very similar to an Indian curry with a layer of oil on top. Mix it with a lot of rice. In Myanmar traditional families the believe is that a guest should be always served the best and richest food hence a bit of extra oil is added!

MOHINGA
The national breakfast dish and can be found in the streets and at market stalls as well as some hotels. It is a fish soup with vermicelli mixed with ingredients like lemon, coriander, boiled egg, banana stem or crispy fried beans. Delicious!

KYA OH
A kind of noodle soup mixed with vegetables and generally chicken or pork. It is an excellent dish for lunch.

OHNO KAUKSWE
One of the favorites in Myanmar and often served for breakfast. It is a thick coconut soup with rice noodles and chicken as well as onions, rice crackers and a bit of coriander.

BBQ CHICKEN, PORK, BEEF + SEAFOOD
Found at many street stalls and often accompanied by glasses of Myanmar draft beer.

SHAN NOODLES
A delicious dish originally from Shan state (each city in Shan state has it’s own taste) but nowadays readily available in the whole country. The bowl of noodles comes with a sauce of meat and vegetable and can be ordered as a salad or as a soup.

LET PET THOKE
Pickled tea leaves salad, is a very popular traditional snack served with sesame, peanuts, dried shrimps, garlic and chili. Mmmmmm!

Myanmar (Burma) Health Information
CDC

Photo Gallery | Trip + Trek Photos
Kim Bannister Photography

Arrival Yangon

Arrival
You will be met at the airport when you arrive in Yangon, Myanmar, by a representative of our local travel agency and brought to the Yangon Clover Wingaba Hotel hotel where your rooms have been booked. See Yangon Extensions (lower tabs) for day tours and options to extend for several days.

NOTE: Air Asia + Nok Air recommended flights from Bangkok.

Myanmar Visa
Get your visa before arrival in Myanmar! See details in Contacts + Details topbar.
Myanmar Visa

Burma Contact
Details Supplied - Trip Booking

Extra Days in Myanmar | Customize your Journey!
Myanmar is endlessly fascinating, and one visit won't do it justice. If you have the time to plan to stay an extra week (or two) and explore more deeply into this unique country. See bottom tabs for optional tours in Yangon, Bagan, Inle Lake and Mandalay, and we can also set up custom itineraries for you in other parts of Myanmar. Consider a stay on the still pristine Ngapali Coast, with an extra day to photography the local fishing villages. A few ideas below, and the bottom tab has many more options to visit Yangon in depth.

Teach English for a Day in Yangon
Give something back to Myanmar. Our wonderful travel agency is supporting a local English school whose students love to practice their conversational English with foreigners. The students are from 4 years old till adults and depending on the day you visit the school you will find yourself either playing with young kids and read stories or have discussions in English about all kind of subjects regarding Myanmar, the world and daily life of the students. The school 'bus' will pick you up from your hotel at 9:00 in the morning and bring you back around noon. A fun and interactive way to get to know the local people of Myanmar.

Yangon Heritage Walk | High Tea at Strand Hotel (Half Day Tour)
Yangon downtown is unique with much of its colonial-era architecture still standing. You find one of Asia’s most impressive collections of late nineteenth and early twentieth- century buildings, religious and secular. Starting after lunch this walking tour will take you through downtown Yangon, focusing on its old colonial buildings. Your guide will walk you through the back streets in a relaxed tempo and explain you the history of each building some of them empty, some getting restored and some used for different purposes than when built. This walk along the streets of Yangon will at least architecturally take you a step back in time, also a high tea at the famous Strand hotel will make you feel being back in colonial time. After the tour you will have time to enjoy a drink at Rangoon Tea House a cozy restaurant on lower Pansodan Street, a new place where many of Yangon’s expatriates of today meet up for a drink or meal.

Shwedagon Pagoda
All excerpts from Lonely Planet Myanmar
Lonely Planet Yangon

"One of Buddhism's most sacred sites, the 325ft zedi here is adorned with 27 metric tons of gold leaf, along with thousands of diamonds and other gems, and is believed to enshrine eight hairs of the Gautama Buddha as well as relics of three former buddhas. Four entrance stairways lead to the main terrace. Visit in the cool of dawn if you want tranquility. Otherwise, pay your respects when the golden stupa flames crimson and burnt orange in the setting sun. The following covers the history and layout of Shwedagon Paya. Freelance guides (they’ll locate you before you can find them) can provide more details. Tour agencies can also arrange guides; a good tour, including the surrounding area, is offered by Khiri Travel.

History of Shwedagon Pagoda in Yangon
Legend has it that there's been a stupa on Singuttara Hill for 2600 years, ever since two merchant brothers, Tapussa and Ballika, met the Buddha. He gave them eight of his hairs to take back to Myanmar, a land ruled over by King Okkalapa. Okkalapa enshrined the hairs in a temple of gold, together with relics of three former buddhas, which was then enclosed in a temple of silver, then one of tin, then copper, then lead, then marble and, finally, one of plain iron-brick. Archaeologists suggest that the original stupa was built by the Mon people some time between the 6th and 10th centuries. In common with many other ancient zedi in earthquake-prone Myanmar, it has been rebuilt many times. During the Bagan (Pagan) period of Myanmar’s history (10th to 14th centuries), the story of the stupa emerged from the mists of legend to become hard fact. Near the top of the eastern stairway is a brick inscribed with the date 1485.

In the 15th century, the tradition of gilding the stupa began. Queen Shinsawbu, who was responsible for many improvements to the stupa, provided her own weight (88lb) in gold, which was beaten into gold leaf and used to cover the structure. Her son-in-law, Dhammazedi, went several better, offering four times his own weight and that of his wife in gold. In 1612 Portuguese renegade adventurer Filipe de Brito e Nicote raided the stupa from his base in Thanlyin and carried away Dhammazedi's 300-ton bell, with the intention of melting it for cannons. As the British were to do later with another bell, he accidentally dropped it into the river where it remains.

During the 17th century, the monument suffered earthquake damage on eight occasions. Worse was to follow in 1768, when a quake brought down the whole top of the zedi . King Hsinbyushin had it rebuilt to virtually its present height, and its current configuration dates from that renovation. British troops occupied the compound for two years immediately after the First Anglo-Burmese War in 1824. In 1852, during the Second Anglo-Burmese War, the British again took the paya, the soldiers pillaged it once more and it remained under military control for 77 years, until 1929. Prior to the British takeover of southern Myanmar there had been defensive earthworks around the paya, but these were considerably extended by the British. The emplacements for their cannons can still be seen outside the outer wall.

In 1871 the provision of a new hti (the umbrella-like decorative top of a stupa) by King Mindon Min from Mandalay, caused considerable head-scratching for the British, who were not at all keen for such an association to be made with the still-independent part of Myanmar. The huge earthquake of 1930, which totally destroyed the Shwemawdaw in Bago, caused only minor damage to Shwedagon. The following year it wasn't so lucky, when the paya suffered from a serious fire. After another minor earthquake in 1970, the zedi was clad in bamboo scaffolding, which extended beyond King Mindon’s 100-year-old hti , and was refurbished. The stupa also had to be repaired following 2008's Cyclone Nargis. During recent centuries, the Shwedagon Paya was the scene for much political activity during the Myanmar independence movement – Aung San Suu Kyi spoke to massive crowds here in 1988 and the temple was also at the centre of the monks’ protests in 2007.

Temple Layout
The hill on which the stupa stands is 167ft above sea level with the entire complex covering 46 hectares. As is common with all temples in Myanmar, the main terrace is approached by four zaungdan (covered walkways) each of which is flanked at its entrance by a pair of 9m-tall chinthe . If you don't want to climb the steps, there are elevators at the southern, eastern and northern entrances, while the western zaungdan has sets of escalators. All but the western zaungdan are lined with stalls selling flowers – both real and beautifully made paper ones – for offerings, buddha images, ceremonial umbrellas, books, antiques, incense sticks and much more. There are also fortune tellers and money exchange booths. You emerge from the shade of the zaungdan into a visual cacophany of technicoloured glitter at the marble-floored main terrace , littered with pavilions and worship halls containing buddha images and two giant cast-iron bells.

At the centre of the terrace Shwedagon Paya sits on a square plinth, which stands 21ft above the clutter of the main platform and immediately sets the stupa above the lesser structures. Smaller stupas sit on this raised platform level – four large ones mark the four cardinal directions, four medium-sized ones mark the four corners of the plinth and 60 small ones run around the perimeter. From this base, the zedi rises first in three terraces, then in ‘octagonal’ terraces and then in five circular bands. The shoulder of the bell is decorated with 16 ‘flowers’. The bell is topped by the ‘inverted bowl’, another traditional element of stupa architecture, and above this stand the mouldings, then the ‘lotus petals’. These consist of a band of down-turned petals, followed by a band of up-turned petals. The banana bud is the final element of the zedi before the jewel-encrusted hti tops it.

Around the stupa's base 12 planetary posts conform to the days of the week; locals pray at the station that represents the day they were born. If you want to join them, and don't know the day of your birth, the fortune tellers at the temple have almanacs that will provide the answer. Note that Wednesday is divided into births in the morning and births in afternoon – for the latter you worship at the Rahu post at the northwest corner of the stupa base. Before leaving the main terrace pop into the small museum which is chock full of buddha statues and religious ornaments. Look for the scale model of the stupa and the beautiful painting of the temple by MT Hla. The photo gallery is also well worth a look, particularly for the close-up snaps it displays of the top of the stupa.

Bagan

All excerpts from 'Lonely Planet Burma'
Lonely Planet Bagan

Bagan
One of Myanmar’s main attractions, this is a temple town. The area known as Bagan, bureaucratically known as, as the ‘Bagan Archaeological Zone’, occupies an impressive 26-sq-mile area, 118 miles south of Mandalay and 429 miles north of Yangon. The Ayeyarwady River drifts past its northern and western sides. The area’s most active town and main transport hub is Nyaung U, in the northeast corner. About 2.5 miles west, Old Bagan is the former site of the village that was relocated two miles south to New Bagan in 1990. Between the two is Myinkaba, a village boasting a long-running lacquerware tradition. Connecting the towns are paved roads making a 12-mile oval. In between and around these towns is the bulk of the Bagan action: the plain, featuring most of the temples, all connected with a vast network of bumpy dirt roads and trails.

Ananda Pahto
With its shimmering gold, 170ft-high, corncob hti shimmering across the plains, Ananda is one of the finest, largest, best preserved and most revered of all Bagan temples. Thought to have been built between 1090 and 1105 by King Kyanzittha, this perfectly proportioned temple heralds the stylistic end of the early Bagan period and the beginning of the middle period. The central square measures 175ft along each side. Upper floors are closed to visitors. The entranceways make the structure a perfect Greek cross; each entrance is crowned with a stupa finial. The base and the terraces are decorated with 554 glazed tiles showing Jataka scenes, thought to be derived from Mon texts. Look back as you enter to see the huge carved teak doors that separate interior halls from cross passages on all four sides. Facing outward from the centre of the cube are four 31ft standing buddha statues. Only the Bagan-style images facing north and south are original; both display the dhammachakka mudra (a hand position symbolising the Buddha teaching his first sermon). The other two images are replacements for figures destroyed by fire in the 1600s. All four have bodies of solid teak, though guides may claim the southern image is made of a bronze alloy. Guides like to point out that if you stand by the donation box in front of the original southern buddha, his face looks sad, while from a distance he tends to look mirthful. The western and eastern standing buddha images are done in the later Konbaung, or Mandalay, style. If looked at from the right angle, the two lions at the eastern side resemble an ogre. A small, nut-like sphere held between the thumb and middle finger of the east-facing image is said to resemble a herbal pill, and may represent the Buddha offering dhamma (Buddhist teachings) as a cure for suffering. Both arms hang at the image’s sides with hands outstretched, a mudra (hand position) unknown to traditional Buddhist sculpture outside this temple.

The west-facing buddha features the abhaya mudra (the hands outstretched, in the gesture of no fear). At its feet sit two life-sized lacquer statues, said to represent King Kyanzittha and Shin Arahan, the Mon monk who initiated Anawrahta into Theravada Buddhism. Inside the western portico are two symbols on pedestals of the buddha’s footprints. Don’t leave without taking a brief walk around the outside of the temple, where you can see many glazed tiles and lovely views of the spires and terraced roofs (often away from vendor hassle too). In 1990, on its 900th anniversary, the temple spires were gilded. The remainder of the temple exterior is whitewashed from time to time. It can feel more like a souvenir stand than a temple given the proliferation of peddlers outside selling books, postcards and oil paintings, but that shouldn’t dissuade you from visiting. It’s roughly 1600ft east of Thatbyinnyu, 1600ft north of Shwesandaw and 60 miles northwest of Dhammayangyi Pahto. Most visitors access it from the northern side, where the highest concentration of hawkers are. For a quieter approach, enter from the east side.

Dhammayangyi Pahto
Visible from all parts of Bagan, this massive, walled, 12th-century temple (about 1600ft east of Shwesandaw) is infamous for its mysterious, bricked-up inner passageways and cruel history. It’s said that King Narathu built the temple to atone for his sins: he smothered his father and brother to death and executed one of his wives, an Indian princess, for practising Hindu rituals. The best preserved of Bagan's temples, it features detailed mortar work in its upper levels. Narathu is also said to have mandated that the mortarless brickwork fit together so tightly that even a pin couldn’t pass between any two bricks. Workers who failed in this task had their arms chopped off: just inside the west entrance, note the stones with arm-sized grooves where these amputations allegedly happened. After Narathu died – by assassination in 1170 – the inner encircling ambulatory was filled with brick rubble, as ‘payback’. Others quietly argue the temple dates from the earlier reign of Alaungsithu, which would refute all this fun legend behind it. It’s also likely that this bricking up of the passages was a crude way of ensuring the massive structure didn’t collapse.

The plan here is similar to Ananda, with projecting porticoes and receding terraces, though its sikhara is reduced to a stub nowadays. Walking around the outer ambulatory, under ceilings so high you can only hear the squeaks of bats circling in the dark, you can see some intact stucco reliefs and paintings, suggesting the work had been completed. The mystery goes on. Three out of the four buddha sanctums were also filled with bricks. The remaining western shrine features two original side-by-side images of Gautama and Maitreya, the historical and future buddhas (it’s the only Bagan site with two side-by-side buddhas). The temple’s bad karma may be the reason it remains one of the few temples not to have undergone major restoration. Perhaps in time, one of the great architectural mysteries of Bagan will be solved.

Shwezigon Paya
At the west end of Nyaung U, this big, beautiful zedi is the town’s main religious site, and is most famous for its link with the 37 nat . Lit up impressively at dusk the gilded zedi sits on three rising terraces. Enamelled plaques in panels around the base of the zedi illustrate scenes from the Jataka. At the cardinal points, facing the terrace stairways, are four shrines, each of which houses a 13ft-high bronze standing buddha. Gupta-inspired and cast in 1102, these are Bagan’s largest surviving bronze buddhas. A 4in circular indentation in a stone slab, before the upwards-heading eastern steps, was filled with water to allow former Myanmar monarchs to look at the reflection of the hti without tipping their heads backwards (which might have caused them to lose their crowns). The most important site here is the small yellow compound called 37 Nat (in English) on the southeast side of the site. Inside are figures of all the 37 pre-Buddhist nat that were officially endorsed by Bamar monarchy in a compromising gesture towards a public reluctant to give up all their beliefs for Buddhism. Ask around if the compound is locked. At one end stands an original stone figure of Thagyamin, king of the nat and a direct appropriation of the Hindu god Indra. This is the oldest known freestanding Thagyamin figure in Myanmar. The site was started by Anawrahta but not completed until the reign of Kyanzittha. The latter is thought to have built his palace nearby. A path on the north side leads down to the riverbank, where you can get some interesting views.

Shwesandaw Paya
Bagan’s most famous sunset-viewing spot, the Shwesandaw is a graceful white pyramid-style pagoda with steps leading past five terraces to the circular stupa top, with good 360-degree views. It’s located roughly midway between Thatbyinnyu and Dhammayangyi. Its top terrace is roomy, which is just as well, considering the numbers of camera-toting travellers coming by taxi or bus before sunset. If you go during the day, you’ll likely be alone, making it a good spot for temple panoramas. Shwesandaw means ‘golden holy hair’: legend has it that the stupa enshrines a Buddha hair relic presented to King Anawrahta by the King of Ussa Bago (Pegu) in thanks for his assistance in repelling an invasion by the Khmers. The terraces once bore terracotta plaques showing scenes from the Jataka but traces of these, and of other sculptures, were covered by rather heavy-handed renovations. The now-gilded zedi bell rises from two octagonal bases, which top the five square terraces. This was the first Bagan monument to feature stairways leading from the square terraces to the round base of the stupa. The hti , which was toppled by the 1975 earthquake, can still be seen lying on the south side of the paya compound. A new one was fitted soon after the quake. About 500ft north stands Lawkahteikpan Pahto, a small but interesting middle-period gu containing excellent frescoes and inscriptions in both Burmese and Mon.
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Lonely Planet Mrauk U

Mrauk U (Myohaung)
Myanmar’s second-most-famous archaeological site, Mrauk U (pronounced ‘mraw-oo’) is different in just about every way. The temples – previously mistaken for forts due to thick bunker-style walls built against the fierce Rakhine winds – are smaller and younger, and unlike Bagan’s, are predominately made from stone, not brick. Also unlike Bagan, Mrauk U's temples are dispersed throughout a still-inhabited and fecund backdrop of busy villages, rice fields and rounded hillocks. And best of all, you’re likely to have them to yourself: in a good year, only about 5000 foreign visitors come here. The site’s remote location, a four to seven hour boat ride up a creek of the Kaladan River, plus the lack of government promotion, means this is unlikely to change in the short term.

Shittaung Paya
    • Andaw Paya - Andaw Paya takes the form of an eight-sided monument with a linear layout
    • Shittaung Pillar - Sandstone obelisk whose sides are inscribed in Sanskrit.
    • Ratanabon Paya - This massive stupa, sometimes called Yadanapon, is ringed by 24 smaller stupas and apparently built by Queen Shin Htway in 1612

The usual starting point is at this, Mrauk U’s most complex temple. Shittaung means ‘Shrine of the 80,000 Images’, a reference to the number of holy images inside. King Minbin, the most powerful of Rakhine’s kings, built Shittaung in 1535. It’s a frenzy of stupas of various sizes; some 26 surround a central stupa. Thick walls, with windows and nooks, surround the two-tiered structure, which has been highly reconstructed over the centuries – in some places, rather clumsily.

Outside the temple | Beside the southwest entrance stairway, and inside a locked mint-green building, is the much-studied Shittaung Pillar , a 10ft sandstone obelisk brought here from Wethali by King Minbin. Considered the ‘oldest history book in Myanmar’ (by the Rakhine at least), three of the obelisk’s four sides are inscribed in faded Sanskrit. The east-facing side likely dates from the end of the 5th century. The western face displays a list dating from the 8th century, outlining Rakhine kings from 638 BC to AD 729 (King Anandacandra). Lying on its back next to the pillar is a cracked, 12ft-long sandstone slab featuring an engraved lotus flower (a Buddhist motif) growing from a wavy line of water and touching an intricately engraved dhammacakka (Pali for ‘Wheel of the Law’). Along the outer walls, several reliefs can be seen (some are hard to reach); a few on the south side are rather pornographic.

Inside the temple | Inside the temple’s prayer hall you’ll see several doors ahead. Two lead to passageways that encircle the main buddha image in the cave hall (which can be seen straight ahead). The far left (southwest) doorway leads to the outer chamber , a 310ft passageway with sandstone slabs cut into six tiers. Over 1000 sculptures show a lot of detail of Rakhine customs (eg traditionally dressed dancers, boxers and acrobats), beasts of burden, and hundreds of Jataka (scenes from Buddha’s past 550 lives). At each corner are bigger figures, including the maker King Minbin and his queens at the southwest corner. The passage opens in the front, where you can step out for views. Next to the outer chamber entry is a coiling inner chamber leading past scores of buddha images in niches, passing a Buddha footprint where – it’s said – the Buddha walked during his post-enlightenment. Once you get to the dead end, double back to the hall, and see if you can feel the passageway becoming cooler. Some claim it does, symbolising the ‘cooling effect’ of Buddhist teachings.

Kothaung Paya
One of Mrauk U’s star attractions, Kothaung Paya is also the area's largest temple. It was built in 1553 by King Minbin’s son, King Mintaikkha, to outdo his pop’s Shittaung by 10,000 images (‘Kothaung’ means ‘Shrine of 90,000 Images’). Kothaung Paya is located a mile or so east of the palace; follow the road directly north of the market, veering left on the much smaller road before the bridge. Much of Kothaung Paya was found in fragments. Legends vary – that lightning or an earthquake in 1776 destroyed it, jewel-seekers overturned walls, or that it was built with inferior stones by a superstitious king bent on beating a six-month timeline. Regardless, the structure as it looks today is the result of a rather heavy-handed 1996 reconstruction. Recalling Borobudur in Indonesia, the exterior is coated with bell-like stone stupas. The 90,000 images in question line the outer passageway, the entrances to which are guarded by grimacing ogres. Stairways lead up to a top terrace, once dotted with 108 stupas.

Dukkanthein Paya
Built by King Minphalaung in 1571, Dukkanthein Paya smacks of a bunker (with stupas). Wide stone steps lead up the south and east side of the building considered to be an ordination hall; take the east side steps to reach the entrance. The interior features spiralling cloisters lined with images of buddhas and common people (such as landlords, governors, officials and their spouses) sporting all of Mrauk U’s 64 traditional hairstyles . The passageway nearly encircles the centre three times before reaching the sun-drenched buddha image. The poorly restored Laymyetnha Paya , 90yd north, looks a bit like a squashed-up version of the Dukkanthein, but was actually built 140 years earlier, making it the oldest temple of the Mrauk U period.

Mahabodhi Shwegu
The highlight of this squat, little-visited temple is its passageway with bas-relief illustrations of the tribumi – Buddhist visions of heaven, earth and hell – including acrobats, worshippers and animals. At the end there's a 6ft central buddha and four buddhas in niches; the throne of the former includes some erotic carvings. Mahabodhi Shwegu is largely hidden behind shrubbery on a hilltop northeast of Ratanabon Paya. To get here, proceed up the barely discernible uphill path that starts behind the covered water well. Directly south, Ratana San Rwe and Ratana Hman Kin , two adjacent hilltop stupas, show the fruit of recent and extensive restoration.

Itinerary

Day 1 - Arrive Yangon | Yangon Heritage Walk + High Tea at The Strand
Arrival at Yangon International Airport in Myanmar. You will be picked up at the airport by your guide and transferred to your hotel in Yangon near the Shwedagon Pagoda. Yangon is Myanmar's largest city of Myanmar, dominated by the resplendent Shwedagon Pagoda, beautifully lit up at sunset.

Head with your guide on an in-depth heritage tour of Yangon, exploring the endlessly fascinating small lanes, colonial and traditional architecture colorful markets and gilded Buddhist monasteries of historic Yangon. Yangon downtown is unique with much of its colonial-era architecture still standing. You find one of Asia’s most impressive collections of late 19th + early 20th century buildings, religious and secular. The guide will take you through downtown Yangon, focusing on its old colonial buildings, and lead you through the back streets in a relaxed tempo and explain you the history of each building some of them empty, some getting restored and some used for different purposes than when built. Along the streets of Yangon will at least architecturally take you a step back in time, also a high tea at the famous Strand hotel will make you feel being back in colonial time, a unique look into the old 'colonial' past of Burma.

In the late afternoon, we'll walk along Merchant Street towards Chinatown for the colorful evening market. Option to enjoy a drink at Rangoon Tea House, a cozy restaurant on lower Pansodan St where many of Yangon’s expats meet up for a drink or meal, after the tour. Chatrium Hotel (Deluxe) (Bowl of Soup, Drinks at Strand)

+ NOTE: Depending on your arrival time in Yangon, we may rearrange the sightseeing options.

Day 2 - Yangon | Yangon's Hidden Neighborhoods Walk + Spiritual Shwedagon Pagoda Tour
Mingle with the locals during an energetic trip using public transportation to see lesser known parts of this vibrant city using taxis, train, ferry and trishaw. Scratching under the surface of the city, you will visit locals markets, small workshops where pagoda accessories are made and cross the river to see rural Yangon to get a taste of local life. Your guide will pick you up from the hotel by taxi to visit 42nd Street Market, and then head to the jetty where we take a local ferry across the river to Dalat town and a trishaw ride to the fishing villages, pagodas and countryside. A delicous and plentiful lunch will be served at a local restaurant, a chance to sample some intricate Burmese fare.

Leaving Dalat behind, you will return to Yangon by ferry and walk to the main station for a fun train ride to one of the oldest, colonial stations in the country. From here you continue on foot crossing small workshops where pagoda accessories are made, returning back to the hotel by taxi.

One of Myanmar's most incredible sights, the massive complex of Shwedagon Pagoda, one of Asia's top pilgrimage destinations, is gilded in gold and breathtakingly beautiful and bursting with local life. You'll have an in depth tour of this amazing pagoda as well as other of Yangon's sights, and wander down to the Strand hotel and ports if you'd like. The tour includes a traditional Burmese breakfast, offerings to monks and the pagoda, a visit to a fortune teller and a Burmese lunch. Request a morning tour of the local markets in Yangon if you're interested, a wonderful photographic opportunity! Chatrium Hotel (Deluxe) (B, L)

+ NOTE: Depending on yesterday's activities, we may rearrange the sightseeing options.

Book an Extra Day in Yangon | See Options!

Day 3 - Fly Mandalay | Paleik Tour
Breakfast at the hotel. Your guide will meet you at the hotel and transfer to airport for your flight to Mandalay where you will meet your guide at the airport and visit Paleik, an ideal morning excursion! The snake temple in Paleik is known for the three pythons sleeping at the Buddha statue that are being washed and fed daily by local worshipers. Lesser known are the ancient temple ruins in the same area, many of them over 200 years old and partly overgrown by vegetation. It’s a sort of 'mini Bagan' and you probably find yourself alone, feeling like the first foreigner ever to discover this place, surrounded by temples. Mandalay Hill Resort (Superior) (B)

Day 4 - Mandalay | Mahamuni + Amarpura Tour
Breakfast at the hotel, followed by this interesting tour, the perfect introduction to Mandalay. We start at 2 pm with the Mahamuni pagoda and have a look at this century’s old Buddha statue originating from Mrauk Oo. It is a very lively temple compound where men are sticking gold leaves to the Buddha statue. The Mahamuni is also an excellent place to shop around for the perfect Buddha statue (bronze or wood). Find a marble statue at the next stop on the tour, a bustling marble carving street.

The old capital of Amarapura is a quiet village where you hear the sound of the weaving machines. We walk through the famous Mahagandayon monastery complex with hundreds of monks, visit a 100 year old weaving vocational training institution and walk over U-Bein Bridge where we taste a sip of Mandalay rum which has been produced since 1886! You'll have lunch at a local restaurant, and the rest of the day car and guide are available for additional visits. Mandalay Hill Resort (Superior) (B, L)

Book an Extra Day in Mandalay | See Options!

Mandalay | Ayeyarwaddy River Cruise, Mingun + Ava Tour
Mandalay and the other former royal capitals of Myanmar have all been capital cities for one major reason, that they are all situated on the Ayeyarwaddy River (Irrawaddy). Feel the breeze of the river and imagine how it must have been to arrive by boat in Mingun or at the court of Ava. From the jetty in Mandalay we go upstream to Mingun and visit the Mingun Pagoda with the big crack caused by an earthquake and the giant bronze bell. We take a leisurely boat cruise for about three hours downstream to Ava. A simple lunch will be served while cruising downstream. Arriving in Ava, horse carts are ready to take us around this magnificent site with various ancient temple ruins that used to be majestic buildings during the 400 years that Ava was the capital. Return to Mandalay by car and enjoy a beautiful sunset at U Bein Bridge. An ideal excursion if you don’t take the boat from Mandalay to Bagan since the most interesting part of the long boat ride is covered in this shorter cruise. Mandalay Hill Resort (Superior) (B, L)

Mandalay | Bicycle Tour Magnificant Mandalay
A fantastic morning tour just outside the city, operated by Grasshopper Adventures, a small specialised biking company in Mandalay. You will start biking from the conveniently located shop and ride through the back lanes to get out of town. You will cycle through local markets and lively neighbourhoods, heading for the north east of the city. After a short pedal you will find yourself in the true countryside of Mandalay, where farmers tend to their fields and villagers go about the daily rituals that have remained unchanged for centuries. Water buffalo lazily roll in the mud, goats nibble at the foliage, and friendly locals wave from all directions. You will make some interesting stops, first at a fresh market to learn about the different produce on sale and then continue on to see bamboo weaving which is used to construct everything from roofs and walls to fans. We see a much sought after bean curd being produced and listen to the owner who will have you convinced it is the best quality bean product in the country. You wil take a walk through a typical central Myanmar village and learn about their way of life and their different crops. On our way back to town we stop at a tea shop for some delicious snacks and tea. We return to our shop at around 11:30/noon and bring you by motorbike back to the hotel. Please note, you should wear clothing suitable for this activity: quarter length pants, shorts, t-shirts are all advisable, as are comfortable closed shoes. Sunscreen is essential!

The tour includes transfers at 7:15 AM from your hotel to the starting point of the trip, and back to your hotel by motorbike. Mandalay Hill Resort (Superior) (B)

Day 5 - Fly Bagan | 'This is Bagan' Tour
Breakfast at the hotel. Your guide will meet you at the hotel and transfer to airport for your flight to Bagan. You'll start the full day tour  of fantastic Bagan by AC car, with an experienced guide, visiting the World Heritage site's best known temples. (See Bagan topbar for information on this region).

Start the day climbing a pagoda to get a first impressive view over the whole area. From here, the guide plans his way to some of the other amazing temples that have been here for hundreds of years. Places like the Ananda, Dhammayangyi, Sulamani, and Thatbyinnyu will certainly impress you. Lunch will be taken at a local restaurant and around 4pm we continue the tour by horse cart to Pyathagyi Pagoda for sunset with some refreshing drinks served.

The best part of this tour: whenever you see a temple you like, just ask you guide to stop to have a look at it. Simply pick your own favorite temple! Areindmar Hotel (Deluxe) (B, L)

Day 6 - Bagan | Picnic at Minnanthu + Sundowners on a Sandbank
Breakfast at the hotel. More sightseeing of this World Heritage site, a vast network of stone temples with some of Asia's most incredible murals on the walls. You will picnic at Minnanthu, a quiet area of the Minnanthu temple complex. The guide brings you by car to this forgotten part of Bagan, will spread out a blanket and serve a delicious picnic lunch in this historic spot. Afterwards you will before visiting another two or three ancient temples ruins in this area. The rest of the day the car and guide are available for additional visits of the temples if needed.

You have to stay at least two nights in Bagan; one to see the sun go down from the top of an ancient temple, the other one to take a boat ride on the mighty Ayeyarwaddy River and have some sundowners on a sandbank in the middle of the river (if the river is not too high). A private boat tour on the river during sunset time will hopefully show you a spectacular sunset while your guide will be serving cocktails and some snacks. Enjoy this once in a lifetime experience! Bagan Lodge (Villa) (B, L)

Book an Extra Day at Bagan! | See Options

Bagan Sightseeing by Electric Bikes + Balloon over Bagan!
Start your morning with a sublime hot air balloon over Bagan, a once in a lifetime experience! Afterwards, head out sightseeing by electric bicycles with an experienced guide in one of the most incredible and scenic temple complexes in all of Asia. We love Bagan even more then Angkor Wat, not just because of the beauty of each temple and not just because of the lack of hordes of tourists, but because of the stunning landscape of ancient temple ruins that seem to be spread around randomly in between toddy palms and bamboo huts. During this half day tour on a bike, your guide will show you some of the most spectacular sceneries of ancient temples and the best of all is that you can stop any time, any minute to make some beautiful pictures. Bagan Lodge (Villa) (B, L)

Day 7 - Fly Helo (Inle Lake) | The Ruins of Indein + Floating Gardens Tour
After breakfast at the hotel, you will be transferred to the airport for your flight to Heho, the jumping off point for Inle Lake. Upon arrival, you will meet your guide at the airport and transfer by private vehicle to Inle Lake. You'll board a private, motorized sightseeing boat for the scenic ride through Inle Lake. Bring a wind jacket.

Way down at the bottom of of the lake, the fascinating ruins of Indein are certainly worth a visit! Partly covered by vegetation the area looks like a 'pagoda forest'. We'll walk about an hour to enjoy a fantastic view over the lake, and after some sightseeing and photography, a home cooked lunch will be served in a local house. We'll continue towards the Nam Pan village for a very interesting trip through the floating gardens, traveling by your own small canoe. Whenever you are tired of paddling yourself, we'll continue by motorboat back to your hotel. Sanctum Inle Resort (Cloister Deluxe) (B, L)

Day 8 - Inle Lake | A Day on Inle Lake!
Breakfast at the hotel, after which your guide will meet you and transfer to Inle Lake for some more sightseeing. Inle Lake in southern Shan State is a vast natural lake surrounded by traditional Shan villages. On the lake itself the Intha people have been living for many centuries in village built entirely on stilts on the lake.

We will take you by private motorboat around the lake to discover the natural beauty of the lake, visit the floating gardens, see some of the famous leg rowers and have some tea at a local family’s house. On and around the lake traditional markets are held in different villages according to a 5-day rotating schedule and today we will take you to visit a colourful market frequented by Shan and PaO people living nearby. We will also visit a local house where cheroot, the Burmese cigars are made, visit the floating tomato gardens and explore Phaung Daw Oo Pagoda, and an Intha house. We will be served a traditional Intha lunch at this Intha house, followed by a visit to a local weaving factory. Sanctum Inle Resort (Cloister Deluxe) (B, L)

Day 9 - Inle Lake - Shan Afternoon + Wine Tasting at Red Mountain Winery
After an extended breakfast and free morning on the lake, you'll embark on a Shan afternoon, ending with some local wine tasting! Shan culture is extremely rich and interesting, especially in Nyaung Shwe where you still get a bit of the feeling of the former Shan kingdom of Nyaung Shwe. You will start the day with a visit of the Buddha Museum which is housed in the former 'Haw' (palace) of the last Shan prince of Nyaung Shwe, Mr Sao Shwe Thaike (who became Myanmar's first prime minister after independence).

A traditional Shan lunch will be served at the Viewpoint Restaurant, from where you'll continue the tour to the local market, shopping for  traditional Shan cotton and dresses. Next is a visit to the ancient teak Shwe Yan Pyay monastery, its oval windows offering an opportunity for some great photos. You will be paddled in a small about through narrow canals, passing through beautiful floating gardens, to see more of the local Inthar life from the water. End the tour with a visit and some wine tasting of the excellent wines at the Red Mountain Winery in Nyaung Shwe. Sanctum Inle Resort (Cloister Deluxe) (B, L)

Book an Extra Day at Inle Lake | Options!

Inle Lake | Hop On + Hop Off Bicycle + Boat Tour
Visiting Inle Lake is not just about being on the water, but also about discovering the fascinating Shan and Intha villages on the banks of the river. From the hotel you'll be treated to a full scenic day of cycling and boating, starting with a boat ride to Indein village. From here you wil bike to Than Htaung village (1 1/2 hrs) where you can have a chat with the monks and visit local homes. You will continue by boat or bike (about 30 min depending on water level) to Yay Mae Pin village where you visit an areca nut plantation. Back in the boat to Khaung Dine for lunch at a local restaurant, followed by more beautiful cycling for an hour to Theto in Nyaung Shwe. From here you can choose to continue by bike or by boat to your hotel, a great day out in the nature and an interesting vignette of local life in Myanmar's countryside. Sanctum Inle Resort (Deluxe) (B, L, Cocktails)

Inle Lake | Pa O Day Hike
A wonderful day of trekking through traditional Pa O villages in the hills surrounding Inle Lake, enjoying a local lunch en route. The Pa O ethnic group wears a distinctive red or orange turban, and are known for their farming techniques and trading skills. You will come to know their traditionsal lifestyle, sample their unique food and even have the chance to dress in a Pa O outfit. The trip starts with a 15 minute horse cart ride from Nyaung Shwe followed by a 2 1/2 hour walk, slightly uphill, to arrive at our first Pa O village. You will have the opportunity to speak with the monks, visit a local school and wander through the village. Continuing about half an hour along flat ground you will arrive in another village Pa O where you'll enjoy a traditional lunch is served; dishes might include ginger soup, pumpkin leaf salad and sukini leaf salad, with time after the meal to relax. The afternoon walk is another 1 1/2 hours, and includes stunning views down to Inle Lake and the patchwork of ginger, garlic and tumeric plantations. Just before boarding the boat to bring you back to the hotel we stop for a last beautiful view over the lake. Sanctum Inle Resort (Deluxe) (B, L)

Inle Lake | Kayak Trip
A fantastic half-day of paddling around Inle Lake on our own kayaks, visiting the numerous villages of various ethnic groups, photographing the floating villages and watching life on the lake, endlessly fascinating! An active adventure awaits, as you paddle with lightweight, 2-person kayaks through rural Shan villages on the lake, areas that few Westerners visit. Depending on the location of your hotel a transfer by motorboat across the lake, a half-hour journey, brings you to In Phaw Khone, the famous weaving center of the Intha people right in the middle of Inle Lake.

A landscape of watery villages, beautiful landscapes and the mountains of Shan state as the backdrop is sublime as we continue on the two-hour paddle. We pass by floating gardens, and stop in in a traditional Intha village, visiting their homes on the lake, learning about their cultures and sampling locally produced foods. We continue paddling until lunch when we arrive at an Intha house where we will be welcomed in for a home-cooked lunch. From here we leave the kayaks behind and continue by motorboat back to the hotel, or continue for more visits on the lake with a boat and guide. Sanctum Inle Resort (Deluxe) (B, L)

Day 10 - Fly Yangon - Trip Ends
Breakfast at the hotel and transfer to Heho airport for your flight back to Yangon mid-morning. On arrival Yangon, you will meet with the guide at the airport and do some sightseeing.  Car and guide will be available for additional visits. Depending on your schedule, we will take you to the airport or transfer you to another 'module' for more Myanmar adventures! (B, L)


Ngapali Beach Extension

Day 10 - Mrauk U Cruise to Sittwe. Fly to Thandwe | Ngapali Beach
Transfer to airport for your morning flight to Ngapali beach on the west coast of Myanmar. Transfer to hotel on beautiful Ngapali Beach. Our recommended hotel is the wonderful Lin Thar Oo Lodge Bungalows.

Day 11 - Ngapali Beach
Beach day! Head to the fishing villages on the southern end of the beach in the morning, to watch the local fishermen and village women unloading and sorting the evening catch, endlessly colorful and fascinating. And your dinner this evening, probably!

Day 12 - Ngapali Beach
Another beach day on this idyllic stretch of sand, under the palms. Take a walk to the end of the beach, and take a look at the local crafts exhibited by talented women en route.

Day 13 - Ngapali Beach
You may want to head to one of the local markets in the village, a step back in time and an incredibly exotic and bustling marketplace.

Book the St Andrew’s Bay | Snorkelling, Village Life + Home Cooked Meal (Half Day Tour)
The traditional village of Maung Shwe Lay is about an hour south of Ngapali by local fisherman boat, a relaxing and fun day in the beautiful St Andrew’s Bay. We pick you up from your hotel by boat, and you'll enjoy a leisurely ride across the sea to this perfectly shaped, quiet bay. You'll stop the boat to go snorkelling in the bay in front of the village, where you will see coral and colorful fish (you’re advised to wear swim wear and bring a beach towel from your hotel) before continuing on to the village. Maung Shwe Lay is a local fishing community where life stood still; we walk around the village and show you the local market, village school and library. We continue on foot or by oxcart through the village back to the beach, enjoying real rural life in this part of Myanmar.

A home cooked lunch with seafood is prepared by your host family in a local house on the beach, a moment to get to know the people. Around 2 pm in the afternoon we bring you back to your hotel in Ngapali.

Day 14 - Transfer to Airport. Fly Yangon. Trip Ends
Transfer to airport. Fly to Yangon. Transfer to the international airport for your trip home.

Yangon Tours

If you book a private tour, add on any number of days + tours in Yangon, Inle Lake, Bagan, Mandalay or another of Burma's endlessly fascinating destinations and beaches to enrich your Myanmar journey!

Yangon Heritage Walk (Half Day Tour)
Yangon downtown is unique with much of its colonial-era architecture still standing. You find one of Asia’s most impressive collections of late nineteenth and early twentieth- century buildings, religious and secular. Starting after breakfast or lunch this walking tour will take you through downtown Yangon, focusing on its old colonial buildings. Your guide will walk you through the back streets in a relaxed tempo and explain you the history of each building some of them empty, some getting restored and some used for different purposes than when built. This walk along the streets of Yangon will at least architecturally take you a step back in time. The walk ends with a drink at Rangoon Tea House a cozy restaurant on lower Pansodan Street, a new place where many of Yangon’s expatriates of today meet up for a drink or meal.

Yangon in the Early Morning – Markets, Monks & Mohinga (Half Day Tour)
What’s happening in the streets of Yangon when most people are still sleeping? You’re going to find out soon. An early wake-up call is planned at 6 am and the guide is expecting you in the hotel lobby at 6.30 to start with a visit to the fish market. The Yangon River is already busy. We continue to a vegetable market, which is open 24 hours a day and go to try the famous Burmese breakfast called Mohinga (a mild fish soup with noodles and crackers). By that time the monks are walking through the streets of Yangon to collect their alms and you will wait for them to pass and donate some food. Continue to the fruit and vegetable market before heading back to your hotel (around 09:30 am) to have your full western breakfast.

Spiritual Shwedagon Pagoda (Half Day Tour)
So what’s behind the golden façade of the Shwedagon Pagoda? During this interactive half-day tour we take you through the back door and show you the full history of the pagoda, the daily life of all people living in its immediate surroundings and a deeper insight in the Buddhist religion and how the spiritual belief is mixed with the belief in nats – the Myanmar spirits. An intriguing day starting from the bottom of the hill and passing the workshops, markets and monasteries which will be useful or even essential to understand more of the country during the rest of your journey. The tour includes a traditional Burmese breakfast, offerings to monks and the pagoda, a visit to a fortuneteller and a Burmese lunch.

Yangon City (Full Day Tour)
Yangon is a sprawling city with a relatively small downtown area including several markets, colonial buildings, the Yangon River and a very green area with tree-lined streets and several lakes. During this full day tour we show you the different faces of Yangon. During the day you visit the Sule Pagoda, colonial downtown, the harbour, The Strand for a drink, and one of the colourful local markets. The reclining Buddha will be visited just before taking a tasteful lunch of typical dishes from tribes from all over the country like Kachin, Shan and Rakhine. A local market will lead us to a small station where we take the famous circular train to bring us right behind Bogyoke Aung San market before heading back to your hotel.

Yangon After Sunset Including Shwedagon (Evening Tour)
At the end of the day many Yangonites leave their office and on the way back home they stop for some shopping, catch up with friends at a teashop, visit a pagoda or go to a beer station. This is exactly what you are going to do as well this evening. Highlight of the tour will be the evening visit to the illuminated Shwedagon pagoda – a magic and mystical moment at a time it’s not very busy on the main platform. After the pagoda visit there will be local snacks to be tasted as well as a local draft beer or a fresh lime juice. The tour includes drinks, a walk over the night market in downtown, tea and snacks as well as a tasty bowl of noodles shared with some locals.

In the Footsteps of Bogyoke Aung San (Half Day Tour)
The father of Myanmar independence, the national hero and the person who fought against the British and later against the Japanese to give Burma independence in 1947. Bogyoke (which means general) Aung San is still loved by people nationwide. During this half-day tour we visit places in Yangon related to the life of general Aung San who brought independence to Myanmar and your guide will give background information about his life and the history of Myanmar. Places to be visited include Yangon downtown, the recently re-opened Aung San museum (closed on Mon and Public Holidays) and his wife’s mausoleum. The tour is ending with a lunch in Aung San’s former office.

Multiculturalism in Yangon – 8 Places of Worship (Full Day Tour)
One of the exciting aspects of travelling in Myanmar is the fact that the country was closed and therefore unchanged for so many years. The population consists out of more than a 100 different nationalities and races (who often preserve their own dialect, customs, food and religious backgrounds). Only in Yangon you can visit eight different places of worship in a day. During this full day tour we visit Indian town, Chinatown and the National Museum to see a display of the traditional dress of the main groups of people living in Myanmar. It’s also a day to discover the different religious backgrounds of the population and we will visit a Buddhist pagoda, a Christian church, a mosque, a synagogue, a Hindu temple, a Chinese temple, a Sikh temple and a place where spirits are honored.

Temples + Pagodas in Bago. A Train Ride Home (Full Day Tour)
Bago (about 1, 5 hr. driving) used to be the capital of Myanmar under king Bayinnaung (till 1819). It is an excellent place to see the remains of a former capital, especially if you don’t have enough time to visit Mandalay or Bagan. In the morning we stop at a local market to buy some fruits and snacks and to pay respect to the thousands of allied soldiers buried at the Taukkyan War Cemetery. In Bago city we visit the Kyatkha Wain monastery, one of the largest in the country. We try to arrive in time to see the monks’ preparations for lunch. During the afternoon we visit Shwemawdaw Pagoda as well as the Shwetalyaung Buddha and the remains of the former palace. We return to Yangon by train to see a different way of local live and countryside.

Village Life Along the Old Dhammazedi Road (Full Day Tour)
An exciting day is ahead of us as we’re going to follow parts of the old Dhammazedi Road (used by former Bago kings to visit the Shwedagon Pagoda) and meet countryside communities, from farmers to village teachers. From Yangon (or from Bago) we drive in about 2 hours towards Kyauk Tan where mountain bikes are ready for a trip through the country side to Ohn Ne. The bike trip is about 2.5 hours (29 km), partly unpaved, all flat road. We visit the beautiful monastery and continue by car to Thakala. Our host family is waiting for us in this small town to accompany us by bike, boat, motorbike or on foot (45 min) - depending on the season and the path conditions - to their community. Htee Tan village is a traditional village showcasing typical life: it has a village pond where water is collected during the raining season so the villagers have water to drink, wash, and cook during the dry season. There is a village school, a monastery that serves as a community centre, there is no electricity, no running water or even wells. A quiet community where people have been living for ages and stay together in good times and bad times. A family style lunch awaits us, followed by a stroll around the town. In the afternoon we continue by car towards Thongwa to visit the lively market before crossing the river and arrive in downtown Yangon.

A Fortuneteller Told Me | Meditation, Traditional Medicine + Good Luck! (Half Day Tour)
Religion has always been very important for the Burmese. Apart from paying respect to Buddha there are many different ways to try to give your body and soul a bit more “peace of mind”, to build up karma, or to get directions on what to do or what to avoid in life. During this full day tour the principles of mediation are explained to you at one of the famous meditation centers. Get a foot massage in a school for blind people before a traditional lunch. Gain deeper insight in the Burmese traditional medicine at a local traditional medicine shop and find out the secret of the beautiful Burmese skin. End the day with a visit to a traditional fortuneteller who will read your palm. Oh ... and today’s lunch is vegetarian!

Pampering + Shopping (Half Day Tour)
An excellent half day tour during your trip to Myanmar starting (or ending) with a lunch at a local entrepreneur who is growing organic vegetables and producing locally made “French” cheese, ham and other delicious food. A 1 hour foot massage by blind or deaf people, trained by a local charity, is what you deserved after a long trip to Myanmar. Our specially selected shopping guide will bring you to whatever shop you like to find your souvenirs to bring home, whether it is shopping for a longyi (local sarong), umbrella’s, old books, gold leaves or even a trishaw (bicycle taxi) or contemporary painting – our specialist knows where to find it.

The Daily Commute | Yangon’s Hidden Neighbourhoods (Morning Tour)
Mingle with the locals during an energetic trip using public transportation to see lesser known parts of this vibrant city using taxis, train, ferry and trishaw. Scratching under the surface of the city, you will visit locals markets, small workshops where pagoda accessories are made and cross the river to see “rural Yangon” to get a taste of local live. Your guide will pick you up from the hotel by taxi to go to the main station for a fun ride to one of the oldest, colonial stations in the country. From here you continue on foot crossing lively markets and taste 5 different local snacks and see how food is produced – an interesting sight. We leave Dalat town behind us and return to your hotel by ferry and taxi.

Yangon Nat Walk with Htwe Oo Puppet Show (Afternoon Tour)
Discover Yangon in its most mysterious yet superstitious way, your guide will take you on a walking tour to learn about the Nat spirits that owe their origins to Burmese mythology. The belief is that this form of animistic worship was created from karmic martyrdom, and even today the Nat belief still exists alongside Theravada Buddhism. After your tour, you will experience their story told the traditional way, by puppets! The art of Puppetry Yoke thé literally "miniatures" is the Burmese name for marionette puppetry and has been around since 17th century. During the show, notice how both male and female puppets are manipulated according to their master’s gender, at the end of the performance, you can also be a puppet master and have a go yourself! Before or after the show, enjoy a dinner at LinkAge Restaurant run by a NGO volunteer group named Forever Humanitarian. This restaurant helps disadvantaged street kids by providing them with training in Food & Beverage education and supports them with lodging, food and clothing.

Bagan Tours

If you book a private tour, add on any number of days + tours in Yangon, Inle Lake, Bagan, Mandalay or another of Burma's endlessly fascinating destinations and beaches to enrich your Myanmar journey!

Ballooning over Bagan (Half Day Tour)
One of the many highlights when visiting Myanmar. Early morning before sunrise you will be picked up at your hotel and driven to the launch site for a spectacular hot air balloon ride over the temple zone in Bagan. The mostly British balloon pilots are operating each balloon under highest UK safety standards and the views you will get are simply breathtakingly spectacular. After floating in the air and following the wind you will land safely and be welcomed back on the ground by a smiling crew serving cold champagne before bringing you to your hotel.

This is Bagan! (Full Day Tour)
A full day tour by car, with an experienced guide through Bagan will show you the best known temples of the area. We start the day climbing a pagoda to get a first impressive view over the whole area. From here the guide plans his way to some of the other amazing temples that have been here for hundreds of years. Places like the Ananda, Dhammayangyi, Sulamani, and Thatbyinnyu will certainly impress you. Lunch will be taken at a local restaurant and around 4pm we continue the tour by horse cart to Pyathagyi pagoda for sunset with some refreshing drinks served! Oh… we forgot to mention the best part of this tour; whenever you see a temple you like, just ask you guide to stop to have a look at it. Simply pick your own favorite temple.

Sundowners on a Sandbank (Evening Tour)
We’ve decided that you have to stay at least 2 nights in Bagan; one to see the sun go down from the top of an ancient temple, the other one to take a boat ride on the mighty Ayeyarwaddy River and have some sundowners on a sandbank in the middle of the river (if the river is not too high). A private boat tour on the river during sunset time will hopefully show you a spectacular sunset while your guide will be serving cocktails and some snacks.

Markets, Monasteries + a Hidden Cave Temple (Full Day Tour)
An ideal excursion on your second in Bagan when you feel like you have seen most of the temples (or at least enough) and also want to discover a bit more of the Myanmar country side. We go by private car to Kyauk Gu Ohnmin cave temple that rarely sees foreign visitors, continue to Pakkoku and visit a local slipper factory, the market and see where the famous Pakkoku blankets are made. A private boat is ready for you at the jetty in Pakkoku for a leisurely 2 hour trip downriver while lunch is being served on board. In the afternoon your guide and driver will show local village life in the dry zone and we will visit later in the day a lacquer ware workshop in Myinkaba village.

Bagan Food Tour | Breakfast + Lunch (Half Day Tour)
It’s all about cuisine this morning! The last king of Bagan was famous for his enormous appetite and he ordered that every meal should include 300 different dishes! Today you are going to discover what kind of food he must have eaten. We learn more about herbs and greens at the market in Myinkaba visit home-based cottage industries where products like tamarind paste or candies are made and we visit Mingalazedi pagoda which was built by this last king. Try the different tastes from sweet till bitter of typical Burmese ingredients in a local monastery and end the excursion with a meal like the last king of Bagan would have savored it, just a bit more moderate with “only” 30 different dishes to try.

Biking Through Bagan (Half Day Tour)
We love Bagan, even more then Angkor Wat, not just because of the beauty of each temple and not just because of the lack of hordes of tourists. We like Bagan most because of the stunning landscape of ancient temple ruins that seem to be spread around randomly in between toddy palms and bamboo huts. During this half day tour on a bike, your guide will show you some of the most spectacular sceneries of ancient temples and the best of all is that you can stop any time, any minute to make some beautiful pictures.

Dry Zone Safari | Local Village Visit (Half Day Tour)
A trip without temples but just pure, village life experiences to discover the dry zone. Drive out of Bagan with 4x4 car while local women carrying fire wood etc. for the market and communities are starting their daily activities. Nyaung Gyi is the first village visit and we stop to see a black smith work shop. In Se Ywa village we visit several local workshops (Plum purifying, cooking oil producing and wooden slipper maker). Then we continue to Taung Kong village where majority of the people are farmers but also making pottery. Total about 5 hours’ drive with stops. A great trip for photographers and anyone interested in daily life of local people.

Bike Trip without Temples (Full Day Tour)
We start the day to bike from your hotel to the Z-Craft Jetty in Old Bagan. In the morning you find a busy market where local bring their merchandise from across the river. After checking out the market we take a 10 min boat ride across to Se Lan village on the other side of the Ayeyarwaddy River. We spend about one hour biking through vegetable plantations, seeing local way of life to Myitchay village. Here we will visit workshops like cotton weaving and cane/bamboo ware workshops. Lunch will be in a local restaurant. After lunch we continue on our bikes south (10 km) to Kyaung Chaung Jetty where our boat will be waiting for us to bring us back to Old Bagan. From here we return to our hotel by bike. A great trip for photographers and anyone interested in daily life of local people.

Mount Popa + Surroundings (Full Day Tour)
Mount Popa is one of the places to be visited in the surroundings of Bagan as it is the birth place of the 37 “nats” of Myanmar which are the protective spirits. We will steer you away from the normal trodden paths and visit today also the country side including a temple in Minnanthu area, rural village life in Shwe Si Tine village as well as the fruit and flower market and plantations near Popa. Lunch will be taken at Popa Mountain Resort. Return back to Bagan at the end of the day – in time to catch a beautiful sunset.

Scary Ghosts, Superstitious Kings + Brutal Conquerors (Half Day Tour)
The history of the Bagan temples and the Bagan kingdom does not only have a sunny side from the glory days but has also seen a lot of bloodshed in the past. During this half day tour, our guide will bring you to all places with a scary history and tell you hair rising myths and anecdotes. Is the spirit of the Tharaba gate really the soul of a person buried alive inside the doorpost? How many construction workers had their arm chopped of at that stone at Dhammayangyi stupa? And are there still ghosts here at night? The guide will tell you all during this tour around Bagan, give you an insight in the behaviour of kings and queens during this period and explain what happened when the Mongols invaded. Especially children and families will love this tour. Car and guide available till 6 pm if wanted.

Lesser-known Temples + Myinkaba Market (Half Day Tour)
The busy market in Myinkaba is a very lively affair each morning when people from all around town come and buy their vegetables, herbs and meat and other ingredients for dinner. Your guide will give an assignment to go and buy and taste 3 different kind snacks typical for the region. There will be also some more time left to buy some souvenirs. We continue to Taungbi village where we visit the old wooden monastery built for royalty and 2 temples that are not well known but certainly worth a visit. The rest of the day the car and guide are available for additional visits of the temples till 6 pm if wanted.


Inle Lake Tours

If you book a private tour, add on any number of days + tours in Yangon, Inle Lake, Bagan, Mandalay or another of Burma's endlessly fascinating destinations and beaches to enrich your Myanmar journey!

A Day on Inle Lake (Full Day Tour)
Inle Lake in southern Shan State is a vast natural lake surrounded by traditional Shan villages. On the lake itself the Intha people have been living for many centuries in village built entirely on stilts on the lake. Today we will take you by private motorboat around the lake to discover the natural beauty of the lake, visit the floating gardens, see some of the famous leg rowers and have some tea at a local family’s house. On and around the lake traditional markets are held in different villages according to a 5-day rotating schedule and today we will take you to visit a colourful; market frequented by Shan and PaO people living nearby. We will certainly also visit a local cheroot factory (where the Burmese cigars are made), floating tomato gardens, Phaung Daw Oo Pagoda, Intha Heritage house where the Burmese cats are bred and if wanted we visit a weaving factory. Lunch is included.

Ruins of Indein, Home-Cooked Food + Floating Gardens (Half Day Tour)
In the south of the lake the ruins of Indein are certainly worth a visit. Partly covered by vegetation the area looks like a “pagoda forest”. We will walk about 1 hour to enjoy a fantastic view over the lake. A home-made cooked lunch is served in a local house. We continue towards the Nam Pan village for a very interesting trip going local with a small canoe. Whenever you are tired peddling yourself we continue by motorboat back to your hotel.

Nyaung Shwe by Bike + Peddle Boat (Full Day Tour)
Nyaung Shwe is a very lively little town which used to be the home of the Shan prince of Nyaung Shwe (Mr Sao Shwe Thaike, who later became the first prime minister of Myanmar after independence). Nowadays the town’s market still functions as a busy trading centre for all surrounding villages. During this day excursion on a bicycle starting from the centre of Nyaung Shwe we visit the local Mingala market, bike through some gorgeous scenery to the ancient teak wooden Shwe Yan Pyay monastery with the oval windows and visit the former palace of the last Shan prince. We have a Shan lunch at the Viewpoint restaurant. In the afternoon we first going to peddle ourselves in small boats (2 persons per boat) through the small canals and floating gardens to see local life from the water and then continue to visit the picturesque pagoda near Nanthe village. We end the tour with a visit and some wine tasting of the excellent wines at the Red Mountain winery in Nyaung Shwe. Total biking distance: around 8 km. Suitable for anybody with a normal health condition

A Shan Afternoon, Ending with Wine Tasting (Half Day Tour)
As described in many books, the Shan culture is very interesting and rich and especially in Nyaung Shwe you still get a bit of the feeling of the former Shan kingdom of Nyaung Shwe. We start with a visit of the Buddha museum which is housed in the former “Haw” (=palace) of the last Shan prince of Nyaung Shwe (Mr Sao Shwe Thaike, who later became the first prime minister of Myanmar after independence). We have a Shan lunch at the Viewpoint restaurant and then continue the tour to the local market looking for some traditional Shan cotton and Shan traditional dresses. A visit to the ancient teak wooden Shwe Yan Pyay monastery with the oval windows is certainly giving the opportunity for some great pictures. You will be peddled around some small canals and pass floating gardens in a small wooden boat for about half an hour to see more of the local Shan life from the water. End the tour with a visit and some wine tasting of the excellent wines at the Red Mountain winery in Nyaung Shwe

Discover the Lake’s West Bank on Bike and Foot (Full Day Tour)
An active day on the west bank of the lake with fantastic views over the lake and the villages surrounding the lake covering parts of the area not frequently visited by tourists. From Nyaung Shwe we take a bicycle and bike in an hour or so to Khaung Dine village passing numerous Shan villages. From here we continue towards the south of the lake. A simple lunch is prepared on the way. We go for a 2 hour walk near Indein village where we visit the ancient temple ruins. A boat is ready to take us back to our hotel in Nyaung Shwe.

Biking to Nampan Village on Inle Lake’s East Bank (Full Day Tour)
Visiting Inle Lake is not just about being on the water but also about discovering the Shan and Intha villages on the banks of the river. From Nyaung Shwe (or any hotel on the east bank of the lake) we bike passing several picturesque villages where we stop for a chat with the local monks at the forest monastery in Maing Thauk for a good view over the lake. We take lunch at the Intha Heritage house and continue from there by boat to visit a local cheroot factory as well as one of the oldest monasteries built on stilts on the lake and of course the famous floating gardens on Nampan. At the end of the day we go back by boat to the hotel.

Downhill through Shan State by Bike + Train (Full Day Tour)
An exhilarating day with great views over the lake and the southern Shan State. From Nyaung Shwe you leave around 08.00 am for an hour bike ride passing the famous monastery with oval windows. We take the local train that is slowly climbing up the mountain for about 2 hours until we hop off in Heho. A lunch is taken on the way. From Heho we cycle mostly downhill towards the lake this routing offers us fantastic panoramas. Once we are at the same level as the lake we leisurely continue cycling through the idyllic scenery of the Shan countryside for about 1,5 hours back to Nyaung Shwe.

Aung Ban to Indein by Bicycle (Full Day Tour)
Probably the best way to arrive in Inle Lake! Mountain bikes are ready for you to start a 4-5 hour biking trip to Indein. The trip is mostly off-road and technically easy with most of the roads flat or downhill although the first hour some parts are going uphill. Biking through numerous Pa O villages in an area where few foreigners have been before is a great experience. Stop on the way to enjoy the fantastic views over the lake and the Shan country side. Lunch is included in a local village. From Indein we continue to your hotel by private motorboat where the luggage is already delivered in the room. A great trip that can start from Kalaw, Nyaung Shwe, Khaung Dine or Heho. Attention: the last part of the biking trip is quite fast downhill and we urge everybody to go down very slowly and use your brakes or to walk downhill. If wanted an alternative flat bike route can be offered from Thaung Lay Lone to Indein.

Shan Cooking Class (Half Day Tour)
The Shan cuisine is famous for its refined taste and the possibility to make amazing dishes with just a few local ingredients. At 08:30 the local chef of the Viewpoint restaurant will take you to the market for a discovery of local products which you will bring back to the kitchen of the restaurant. Learn the secret recipes of the Shan cuisine and cook your own lunch. An aperitif is offered in the kitchen. A great half day excursion that will teach you the basics of Shan cooking (to try it at home!)

Thaung Lay Lone to Indein Ruins by Bike (Half Day Tour)
Certainly the most fun way to arrive at the lake. On arrival at Heho airport (or from Kalaw or Pindaya) we drive you by car to the starting point of this leisurely bike ride from Thaung Lay Lone to Indein. A 3 hours bike trip – mainly flat – passing sugarcane and garlic fields, Khaung Dine village with some beautiful views on Inle Lake. On arrival in Indein we visit the famous ruins and continue by motorboat to your hotel. A fun and easy way to start your Shan State adventure.

Kayaking through Intha Villages on Inle Lake (Half Day Tour)
An active adventure is waiting today as we bring you in the morning to the starting point of an interesting trip per kayak through rural villages in this part of Shan state. Depending on the location of your hotel, a transfer by motorboat over the lake will bring you in 30 minutes to In Phaw Khone, the famous weaving centre of the Intha people in the middle of Inle Lake. Light kayaks are ready for you to start peddling on the lake (2 persons per kayak) for a trip that takes you in about 2 hours through rural areas few people visit. A landscape of villages, beautiful nature with the Shan mountains in the background and floating gardens is passing by, while every now and then we stop in a traditional Intha village. After about 1 hour we stop in a village for a short walk to meet some of the villagers in their house and learn more about their life style or to discover some locally produced food production. We continue peddling and around lunch time we arrive at an Intha house were we are welcomed for a home-cooked lunch. We leave the kayaks behind and continue from here by motorboat back to the hotel or we continue for more visits on the lake by boat and guide.Total kayaking time (non-stop) would be about 2 hours of gentle peddling on the lake. Including stops in villages and lunch total excursion is a bit more than half a day while the rest of the day a motor boat and guide are available for additional visits on the lake.

Pa O Trekking (Full Day Tour)
One of the distinctive hill tribes from Shan State are the Pa O who are known for their navy blue clothes and colorful red or orange turban and their good farming and trading skills.
During this day trekking you get to know life as the Pa O live it and will visit their villages in the hills, eat their food and have the chance to dress like a Pa O (fun, at least for the picture!). We start with a 15 minutes horse cart ride from the hotel in Nyaung Shwe (or a boat ride from your hotel on the lake) and begin with a 2, 5 hours walk (a bit uphill) to arrive in a Pa O village where you have time to talk with the monks, visit a local school and where you will be invited to wear the traditional dress. Continue about 30 minutes (mainly flat) and arrive in a village where a traditional Pa O lunch is served with dishes like ginger soup, pumpkin leave salad and sukini leave salad.
Time to relax and prepare for the afternoon walk which is about 2, 5 hour with stunning views on the lake and plantations with crops like ginger, garlic and turmeric. Just before boarding the boat to bring you back to the hotel we stop for a last beautiful view over the lake as a reward for having passed the Pa O experience.

Authentic Shan Cooking Class in Local House on Lake (Full Day Tour)
Meet Tin Tin – an Intha native from the lake who will share her traditional Shan recipes with you today during a traditional Shan cooking class in a family house built on stilt on the lake. It’s not a Master Chef course from a Michelin restaurant owner but it’s simple, tasteful, home-cooked food from a local lady who has been cooking her whole life for her family and enjoys it! Together with an English speaking translator we visit the local market to find all ingredients, go by boat to the traditional house and help cleaning vegetables, chopping the ingredients, frying or boiling it, adding the right herbs and mixing the right ingredients.

Dished to be taught so you can prepare them at home as well are:
Shan Pumpkin soup
Fried rice cake
Shan noodles
Steamed Inle fish in banana leaves
Vegetable curry cooked Shan style
Tomato salad from the lake with pounded peanuts

Of course the class ends with a very tasteful lunch. A kitchen apron, some specific local kitchen tools and a list with all ingredients to try it at home. A fantastic day to learn a bit of delicious cooking but certainly also to get a taste of the real local life of an Intha on the lake so not only for master chefs. Guide and boat available for the rest of the day for additional visits on the lake if wanted.

A Walk through the Winery (Late Afternoon Tour)
A relaxing morning or afternoon which includes a delicious lunch (or dinner) and tasting of several locally produced wines. From Nyaung Shwe we go by car towards Aythaya market and stop on the way in a local Pa O village to get to know this interesting tribe from this area a bit better. We have tea in a local house and continue by car to the lively local market. The guide will give you 1000 Kyats per person with a challenge to find as many different types of local snacks to taste, a good way to learn your first words of Pa O or Shan language spoken in this area and interact with the population. From the market we start for a walk through the different plantations (about 1,5 hour) and arrive at the entrance of the Aythaya winery from where we walk through the vineyard for another 30 minutes to arrive at the restaurant of the winery for a Shan lunch or dinner together with tasting of 4 different wines.

Ballooning over Inle Lake (Morning Tour)
Nestled between the mountains of the southern Shan State lies one of Myanmar’s top destinations: spectacular Inle Lake. The Lake itself (approx. 20km by 11km) can be found in the Southern Shan Hills, with the scenery providing stunning panoramic views. With its stilted villages, Intha leg-rowing fishermen, floating vegetable gardens and layered mountains as a backdrop, Inle Lake is one of the most unusual and extraordinary places in the World in which to enjoy a hot air balloon flight. You will be served fresh tea, coffee and pastries before your flight. After landing, enjoy water, fruit juice, fresh seasonal fruit and wine. An adventure not to be missed in this incredible and unique location!

Mandalay Tours

If you book a private tour, add on any number of days + tours in Yangon, Inle Lake, Bagan, Mandalay or another of Burma's endlessly fascinating destinations and beaches to enrich your Myanmar journey!

Mandalay Orientation | Mahamuni & Amarapura (Half Day Tour)
This tour is the perfect introduction to Mandalay. We start at 2 pm with the Mahamuni pagoda and have a look at this century’s old Buddha statue originating from Mrauk Oo. It is a very lively temple compound where men are sticking gold leaves to the Buddha statue. The Mahamuni is also an excellent place to shop around for the perfect Buddha statue (bronze or wood). Can’t find what you are looking for? Find a marble statue at the next stop which is the marble carving street. The old capital of Amarapura is a quiet village where you hear the sound of the weaving machines. We walk through the famous Mahagandayon monastery complex with hundreds of monks, visit a 100 year old weaving vocational training institution and walk over U-Bein Bridge where we taste a sip of Mandalay rum which has been produced since 1886! The rest of the day car and guide are available for additional visits.
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We start with the old capital of Amarapura is a quiet village where you hear the sound of the weaving machines. We walk through the famous Mahagandayon monastery complex with hundreds of monks, visit a 100 year old weaving vocational training institution and walk over U-Bein Bridge where we taste a sip of Mandalay rum which has been produced since 1886! Visit the Mahamuni pagoda and have a look at this century’s old Buddha statue originating from Mrauk Oo. It is a very lively temple compound where men are sticking gold leaves to the Buddha statue. The Mahamuni is also an excellent place to shop around for the perfect Buddha statue (bronze or wood). Can’t find what you are looking for? Find a marble statue at the next stop which is the marble carving street before heading back to your hotel.

A Cruise on the Ayeyarwaddy River (Full Day Tour)
Mandalay and the other former royal capitals around it have all been capital cities for a while for one major reason: they are all situated on the Ayeyarwaddy River (Irrawaddy). Feel the breeze of the river and imagine how it must have been to arrive by boat in Mingun or at the court of Ava. From the jetty in Mandalay we go upstream to Mingun and visit the Mingun Pagoda with the big crack caused by an earthquake and the giant bronze bell. We take a leisurely boat cruise for about 3 hours downstream to Ava. A simple lunch packed in rattan baskets will be served while cruising down. Arriving in Ava, horse carts are ready to take us around this magnificent site with various ancient temple ruins that used to be majestic buildings during the 400 years that Ava was the capital. Return to Mandalay by car. An ideal excursion if you don’t take the boat from Mandalay to Bagan since the most interesting part of the long boat ride is covered in this shorter cruise

Ava, Sagaing & Amarapura Cruise (Full Day Tour)
From the jetty in Mandalay we take a leisurely boat cruise for about 2 hours downstream to Sagaing passing the temple dotted hills where we stop and visit the Setkyar Thida nunnery. We continue by boat to Ava, horse carts are ready to take us around this magnificent site with various ancient temple ruins that used to be majestic buildings during the 400 years that Ava was the capital. Lunch will be taken in Ava before continuing to Amarapura by car. The old capital of Amarapura is a very quiet village nowadays where you only hear the sound of the weaving machines. We visit one of the small weaving factories and walk over U-Bein Bridge. An ideal excursion if you don’t take the boat from Mandalay to Bagan since the most interesting part of the long boat ride is covered in this shorter cruise.
 
A Visit to Mingun (Half Day Tour)
If you have limited time in Mandalay but still want to have the cruise experience we suggest you to visit Mingun. A short ride from the hotel brings you to the Mingun jetty where your boat is ready to cruise upstream. In Mingun you visit the bell as well as the cracked temple. Return by boat to Mandalay and visit the lively Yadanabon market which starts at 3pm in the afternoon before returning to the hotel around 6pm.

The Glass Palace + the Royal History of Mandalay (Half Day Tour)
King Thibaw and Queen Supayalat were the last king and queen of Burma until being sent to exile in India. King Thibaw became king in 1878 apparently after 79 other candidates were brutally murdered by his wife and mother-in-law. The famous book “The Glass Palace” by Amitav Ghosh describes this period in detail. We start by going inside the Mandalay fort and visit the rebuilt palace that was designed by king Mindon. From here we continue to visit the most beautiful part which is the wood-carved Shwenandaw monastery just outside the palace in which king Mindon lived and died. King Thibaw later used this building for meditation. We continue to the lesser-known Setkyathiha pagoda with the 5 meter high bronze sitting Buddha statue that was brought by king Thibaw to Mandalay just before the beginning of the war. The royal family collected many religious artifacts and handicrafts made in Mandalay and we are visiting some of the old workshops were gold leaves are made, woodcarvings are done and kalagas (tapestry) are made with silver or gold colored thread. We finish the excursion with a lunch of traditional Mandalay curries. The rest of the day the car and guide are available for additional visits till 6 pm if wanted.

Visiting the Temple Ruins of Paleik (Half Day Tour)
This is an ideal excursion in the morning. The snake temple in Paleik is known for the 3 pythons sleeping at the Buddha statue that are being washed and fed daily by local worshippers. Lesser known are the ancient temple ruins in the same area, many of them over 200 years old and partly overgrown by vegetation. It’s a sort of “mini Bagan” and you probably find yourself alone, feeling like the first foreigner ever to discover this place, surrounded by temples. After visiting Paleik we continue to your end destination.

Meditating in Ava & Sagaing (Full Day Tour)
Sagaing is the centre of Buddhism in Myanmar and is housing more than 6000 monks and nuns, in monasteries near over 500 stupas. Set on a hill on the riverbank of the Ayeyarwaddy river it’s a very peaceful place and a meditation teacher will introduce the principles of Buddhism and meditation. Nope – it’s not only for Buddhists – it’s simply an eye-opener for everybody to concentrate on breathing, focussing the mind on one thing only and de-stressing. We’re sure you will be amazed by the results to get “peace of mind”. And if you really don’t like it after 30 minutes? Don’t worry – Sagaing is a lovely village to walk around and we will visit the nunnery. We continue to Ava for lunch and to take a horse cart and visit the beautiful wooden monastery and the ancient temple ruins in the afternoon.

Mandalay Monuments – the Hill, the Monastery & the Book (Half Day Tour)
It’s not just the former capital cities around Mandalay that are interesting to visit. During this half day tour (morning or afternoon) we will take you to the most famous monuments of Mandalay starting with the top of Mandalay hill for a great view over the Mandalay fort. We continue to Atumashi and the Shwenandaw monasteries which are excellent examples of the architecture and crafts work of this region and we end with a visit to Kuthodaw Pagoda with the white marble slabs. The rest of the day the car and guide are available for additional visits till 6 pm if wanted – we suggest you to visit Yankin Hill.
 
Horse Cart Ride in Pyin Oo Lwin (Full Day Tour)
A private taxi will take you to the entrance of the botanical gardens in Pyin Oo Lwin (Maymyo) which was established in 1915. You will arrive in this former British hill station around 10:30am and have time to walk around the well maintained garden featuring over 480 species of flowers and trees. Visit in the colonial town places like for example the colonial Candacraig hotel, the former Japanese police station, the Church of England, the Governors house a local colonial house and the market. Lunch is served in a colonial restaurant. During this tour you will get to know the colonial history of this former British hill station.

Amarapura by Bike (Half Day Tour)
An active and interesting half day trip outside the city. Bike leisurely together with your guide from the centre of Mandalay to the quiet town of Amarapura. We stop on the way at a local teashop and visit a colourful market. On arrival in Amarapura we park our bikes and walk over the teak-wooden U Bein Bridge, visit the nearby monastery. On the way back we visit a local weaving workshop and a workshop were tiny bits of gold are flattened into thin gold leaves. Transfers to and from the bike shop with local transportation which could be anything from a trishaw to a local bus!

Snake Temple, Picnic in Ava + a Motorbike Ride (Full Day Tour)
A day on which you don’t have to wake up early since we only leave around 10 AM on motorbikes (1 person per motorbike taxi) in the direction of Paleik so take your time for breakfast! The snake temple in Paleik is known for the 3 pythons sleeping at the Buddha statue and being washed and fed daily at 11 AM by local worshippers. Lesser known are the ancient temple ruins in the same area, many of them over 200 years old and partly overgrown by vegetation. We continue by motor bikes over a small road leading us through “the back door” to the former capital of Ava (Inwa), where we enjoy a picnic lunch right next to one of the ancient temple ruins that used to be frequented by kings and queens of the Ava court. We continue by motorbikes and stop at any temple you like before taking a ferry across the small river and heading back towards Mandalay around 5 PM

Night Market, Beer & BBQ + the Mandalay Marionettes (Evening Tour)
A fun tour to get to know the real Mandalay, starting with a visit to a viewpoint near the Ayeyarwaddy River as well as the lively fish market. Continue to the busy Yadanar night market to have some traditional snacks and a walk around before heading to one of the most famous beer stations and BBQ restaurants in Mandalay. Your guide will order the food and make sure you’re satisfied. Continue before 0830 PM to the excellent Mandalay marionettes theatre for a show performed by a mix of traditional dancers, musician and puppeteers

Mandalay Markets + Fine Food (Full Day Tour)
Mandalay is known for its food and interesting market showcasing food from all around the country. Today no temples or pagodas for you but food and markets. We start early morning with a local breakfast (Nan Gyi Thoke) and visit to the vegetable market. Continue with a stroll to a lively neighbourhood with house industries showing you how to make Mandalay sweets, local cakes and noodles. We continue to the country side and stop at a farm to see where all the food actually comes from. A typical home made Mandalay lunch is served at one of the lesser known monasteries in the country side where we donate and help planting a few “Sein Ta Lone” mango trees – producing in a few years the best mango in the country – as a Burmese saying says: “the best time to plant a mango tree is 10 years ago – the second best time is today”. Return to the hotel around 3PM or continue to the fish market which is starting around this time.

Biking Tour | Magnificent Mandalay Mornings (Half Day Tour)
A fantastic tour just outside the city operated by Grasshopper Adventures a small specialised biking company in Mandalay.
We start biking from our conveniently located shop and ride through the back lanes to get out of town. We pass through fresh markets, lively neighbourhoods and head for the north east of the city. After only a short pedal we find ourselves in the true countryside where farmers tend to their fields and villagers go about the daily rituals that have remained unchanged for decades, if not longer. Water buffalo lazily roll in the mud, goats nibble at the foliage, and friendly locals wave from all directions. We make some interesting stops, first at a fresh market to learn about the different produce on sale and then continue on to see bamboo weaving which is used to construct everything from roofs and walls to fans. We see a much sought after bean curd being produced and listen to the owner who will have you convinced it is the best quality bean product in the country. We take a walk through a typical central Myanmar village and learn about their way of life and their different crops. On our way back to town we stop at a tea shop for some delicious snacks and tea. We return to our shop at around 11:30/noon and bring you by motorbike back to the hotel. Please note, you should wear clothing suitable for this activity: quarter length pants, shorts, t-shirts are all advisable, as are comfortable closed shoes. Sunscreen is also a must.
The tour includes transfers at 07:15 AM from your hotel to the starting point and back to your hotel by motorbikes.

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