A beautiful and culturally rich country cursed for decades with a brutally oppressive regime, Myanmar (Burma) has in recent years been making headlines for its tentative steps towards democracy. Now is the right time to visit this beautiful and still untouched corner of South East Asia. Having previously encouraged people to stay away in order to avoid lining the pockets of the military, Aung San Suu Kyi now welcomes responsible travel to Myanmar, encouraging tourists to use facilities that help ordinary people and avoid businesses that have close links to the military. Offering the absolute best of Myanmar, this wonderful journey will take you right into the heart of a friendly land where genuine hospitality abounds. Our journey begins in the charming colonial city of Yangon, continuing to Kalaw, Loikaw and Inle lake you get off the beaten track and see the real culture and traditions of Myanmar with trekking on the Shan Plateau to monasterys or homestays. The remote and enchanting capital of Kayah, Myanmar’s smallest states, Loikaw is a long way from anywhere. The State was until recently off-limits to foreigners but the area is slowly opening up; it is home to a number of interesting rock formations with pagodas at their peaks, and the surrounding mountains are host to caves and opportunities for trekking. Travelling to this part of Myanmar you will discover beautiful Kayah hill scenery and a large number of distinctive tribal cultures, the most internationally famous of which are the Kayan, with their tradition of ‘giraffe-necked’ women with coils that elongate their necks. There are up to ten native ethnic groups in Kayah, in addition to the people from surrounding parts of Myanmar who live here. In western Shan State, you will find the serenely picturesque Inle Lake, famous for its floating villages, gardens and markets and the unique way of life of the local Intha people, with their functioning communities based entirely on the water. In villages and towns across the lake, wooden houses are built high on stilts and fishermen steer their one-man boats with a unique rowing style, wrapping one leg around their oar. Along with fishing, traditional handicrafts are an important part of the local economy, and you will get to see silk weavers and silversmiths plying their trade on the lake. The Journeys continues with a flight from Heho to Bagan. Bagan is considered by many to be the finest collection of temples in Asia, and savouring the sunrise from the upper terrace of a temple is an experience not soon forgotten. The thousands of temples that are spread across the plains of Bagan (sometimes spelt Pagan) are the most impressive testament to the religious devotion of Myanmar’s people – and rulers – over the centuries. They combine to form one of the richest archaeological sites in Asia and provide views quite unlike anywhere else on earth. It’s an early start from Bagan to Mandalay, and it can get quite chilly in the early morning so come prepared with some warmer gear. Enjoy your breakfast on the boat and make sure to pack your camera to capture beautiful Irrawaddy riverside scenes. There are some quieter stretches on the water so this is a perfect time to catch up on some reading or write those postcards. Arrive in Mandalay the most evocative of any destination in Myanmar. From here the journey will nearly end with the exploration of some of the ancient capitals of Amarapura, Innwa, Mingun and Sagaing.
Registration can be requested for group travel or for self-travel. For group travel, registration is not binding. Upon reaching the minimum number of members necessary for the formation of the group, usually 4 or 6 people, you will be asked for confirmation of booking and payment of a deposit.
1° Day: arrival at Yangon
Upon arrival at Yangon International Airport, you will be welcomed by our representative and take a sightseeing tour of the city, which includes visits to the Reclining Buddha at Chauk Htat Gyi and the Gitameit music center which is non-profit community center and devoted to music teaching & nurturing, performing, offering exchange possibilities for Burmese students to study abroad and inviting international artists and teachers for performances and workshops in Yangon. (If time permit we will also visit pomelo handmade shop before lunch.) Afternoon sightseeing tour includes the National Museum, which is filled with many exhibits and artefacts from Myanmar’s past. Our tour will finish with a visit to the remarkable Shwedagon Pagoda, which towers over the city and is the most highly-revered religious structure in the country. It is a sight that no visitor to Myanmar should miss.
Overnight in Yangon (B).
2°Day: TREKKING TO PAN PET
Yangon – Pan Pet – Loikaw
Early morning transfer for the flight (flight available on Mondays, wends and Fridays) to Loikaw. Upon the arrival airport we will go to the local restaurant for lunch. There are many rural villages in Loikaw and we’ll visit one of the Padaung ethnic villages, Pan Pet which is just 20 miles away from the town. Most women from that village have followed their traditional culture of wearing neck rings. Girls first start to wear brass neck coils at age of five but young generations seem not to want to continue with this tradition anymore. Over the years the coil is replaced by a longer one with more turns. The neck itself is not lengthened the weight of the brass pushes the collar bone down and compress the rib cage. All houses in the village are made of wood and bamboo. In the main room they all have corn hung from the ceiling just above the fireplace. This is the corn they will use to plant and grow. The reason for placing them there is to prevent birds from eating the corn seeds once they plant them. The smoked corn seeds will not attract them. Travel to Pemsong hamlet, to enjoy a moderately challenging trek, through lush, shady, forest. After a short climb, guests enjoy over 3 hours of continual, great views. En route, local guides will show guests various edible plants and herbal medicines which are used by community members in their “jungle larder”. A highlight of the trip is arriving at the original settlement of Pan Pet, perched on a mountain top, where evidence of past habitation is visible. This is considered one of the first Kayan settlements of Kayah state. Guests also enjoy a jungle picnic. The trek ends in Rang Ku hamlet, where guests can meet the famous Kayan people (popularly known as Long Neck Karen), who are a symbol of Kayah state. Enjoy learning a few words of Kayan language and interacting with these fun-loving and artistic people. There are also opportunities to buy local handicrafts.
Return back to the town for overnight.
Overnight in Loikaw (B/L)
3° Day: VISIT TRIBAL VILLAGE OF HTA NEE LA LET
Loikaw – Kalaw
After breakfast at the hotel we will leave the hotel and visit one of the most famous village for the distinctive ‘long-necked’ women of the Kayan tribes. The village is considered as one of the best established Community-Based Tourism programs in Myanmar, with a number of different village visit and trekking options. There are several fascinating occasions to have interesting insights into local life and culture, and activities were developed based on special elements of local life which community members feel proud and comfortable to share with guests. You will have the chance to visit also the “Hta Nee La Leh ‘Kayhtoebo” hall and shrines, where animist traditions are practiced. Guests learn why the site is important for the local community, and about festivals and ancient hunting traditions and rituals. You can even try your hand using a catapult. After lunch trnsfer drive to Kalaw (approximately five hour drive). Enjoy the nature beauty, on the way you’ll see little boys and girls helping their parents. Check in in the hotel in Kalaw for the overnight.
Overnight in Kalaw (B)
4° Day: trek to Than Daun Village
Kalaw- Kyauk Su- village
Early morning transfer to start point for trekking through beautiful pine forest with great views of paddy fields and spotted villages in the valley. It is going to be cold, it is 1400 meters above sea level. After one and half hour walk we arrive in a village of Taungyo tribe. They live on rice and vegetable farms. And then an hour walk to Shapin village, where we are going to have lunch in a village family house of Danu Tribes. Danu tribes are very friendly and hospitable people. After Lunch, continue our journey through thick pine forest on the top of the mountain ridge and suddenly open to the vast grass-land on the long mountain range. We pass through chili farms, rice plantations, potato fields and beautiful bright yellow seasome fields. It will be two and half hours walk to Kyauk Su village, where we will stay in one of the family home of Pa-O Tribes. Enjoy the sunset by watching people walking back to village with their buffalos and smokes on the top of their roofs.
Overnight in Kyauk Su village (B/L/D).
5°Day: Visit Than Daun Village
Kyauk Su- Nan Daing-Nti Tein monastry
Wake up with the sound of village life and have a delicious breakfast cooked by local traditional chef. Continue our journey for 1:30 hours to Nan Daing village, Pa-O tribes village of over 700 population, where market happen every five days and it is a great opportunity for us see colorful local market. Have local tea in the market and walk 2 hours to Htito village, have lunch at the old wooden monastery with ancient Buddha statues in a peaceful environment. Rest for some time and trek to Pattu village of Pa-O tribes for 2:30 hours, along the way you will pass through never ending rice terraces and beautiful limestone cliffs with karsts topography. Enjoy the lively rive that flow into the lake, where village buffalos stay in water on hot noon times. Walk for 30 minutes to Hti Tein monastery of Pa-O tribes and stay overnight. Witness the Buddhist monks life in a monastery.
Overnight in Hti Tein monastery (B/L/D).
6°Day: boat ride at Inle Lake
Nti Tein monastery- Nyaung Shwe (Inle)
Wake up by the Monks chanting in early morning. Enjoy the peacefulness while having breakfast and get ready for next 4:30 hours walk through villages of Pa-O tribes, mostly descending down to iIle lake. Enjoy the great view of inle lake from top of the mountain. Arrive to Than Daung village and have lunch and take a relaxing boat ride along the river and into the big lake. Arrive to hotel and ready for a good rest!!!
In the afternoon, we will then visit the revered Phaungaw U Pagoda, Leshae village and Nga Phae Caung monastery to see the floating gardens.
Overnight in Nyaung Shwe (B)
7° Day: visit Inle Lake
Today you have your own time to rest after the trekking and/or explore on your own around the town.
Overnight in Nyaung Shwe (B)
8° Day: fly to Bagan
Inle – Heho – Bagan (flight)
Transfer to the airport for your flight to Bagan. We begin our sightseeing tour of one of Asia’s best-known archaeological sites, the Bagan Temples. Highlights include the lively Nyaung Oo market, and some of the most beautiful pagodas at the site such as Shwezigon, Wetkyi-in-Gubyaukgyi, Ananda Pagoda and Ananda Ok Kyaung. After some rest, in the afternoon we visit a traditional lacquerware factory and one of the finest pagodas at the site, Dhammayangyi Pahto. Witness one of the most beautiful sunsets from atop a pagoda selected by your guide.
Overnight in Bagan (B).
9° Day: discover Bagan
A boat ride across the Irrawaddy presents an opportunity to spend the morning with the monks and villagers of Kyun Thiri Island. You’ll pay a visit to the local monastery and spend the morning learning about the local daily lives. So you’ll get an opportunity to interact with the locals and support underprivileged children. Other highlights include Shwesandaw, for its panoramic view of the temples, the mural paintings at Gubyukggyi and Abeyadana Temple, which is famed for its mural paintings about Mahayana Buddhism.
Overnight in Bagan (B).
10° Day: boat Journey Mandalay
Bagan – Mandalay (boat)
Transfer to the jetty to take a boat to Mandalay. Enjoy the Ayeyarwaddy river scenery.
Overnight in Mandalay (B).
11° Day: explore Amarapura
Mandalay – Amarapura – Mandalay
Today you will visit the highly revered Mahamuni Pagoda and see the world’s largest book at Kuthodaw Pagoda. Then we continue visit Phaung Daw Oo monastic education which is targeting children from poor family and orphans. In the afternoon, we explore some of the other ancient capitals near to the town. First off is Amarapura, which was capital during the Konbaung dynasty and includes the Mahagandayon Monastery and the world’s longest teak bridge at U Bein. Afterwards, we visit another ancient capital at Innwa, where highlights include the ‘leaning tower of Ava’, Maha Aungmye Bonzan and Bagaya Kyaung.
Overnight in Mandalay (B).
12° Day: visit Mingun, Inwa and Sagaing
Mandalay – Mingun – Innwa – Sagaing – Mandalay
After breakfast, we will go to Mandalay jetty to take the pleasant boat ride upriver to Mingun, which is the site of what would have been the world’s largest pagoda had King Bodawpaya not died in 1819 during its construction. Suffering poor luck, an earthquake in 1838 reduced it to partial rubble. However, the temple remains a spectacular sight as you approach it from the river. There is also the Mingun Bell, which was moved from the temple, and is said to be the largest hanging bell in the world. In the afternoon, we visit another ancient capital close to Mandalay, Innwa. The town was founded in 1364 and was the royal capital off and on for 400 years. Highlights here include the ‘leaning tower of Ava’, Maha Aungmye Bonzan and the teakwood monastery of Bagaya Kyaung. We head further afield in the afternoon to Sagaing, which was the capital of the Sagaing Kingdom in the 14th and 18th centuries. We will visit the Zayyatheingi Nunnery which is a home to over 60 nuns. And you can discuss with the nuns about their ways of life. Enjoy the view of thousands of stupas dotting the hill of the picturesque Sagaing Hill, from where we will enjoy sunset before returning to Mandalay.
Overnight in Mandalay (B).
13° Day: depart from Mandalay
Mandalay international airport
Transfer to the airport to take your flight back home.
This itinerary has been designed in order to promote direct or indirect benefits for local communities, environment and cultural heritages. We have carefully selected accommodation for both your comfort and for their sensible approach to social and environmental issues, following general principles and practices of responsible tourism.
Whilst enjoying the fabulous landscapes and temples of Burma, you will also have opportunities to meet with rural Burmese people and support them whether by buying their artifacts or donating to their schools. For a more immersive experience, and to really get a taste of the life of the local Danu, Pa-O, Palaung and Taung Yo ethnic groups, you will have the chance of a three-day hike. Local guides will benefit from the tour, giving them a source of income and at the same time giving you a real and authentic taste of Burmese tribal culture; they will take you on trips with beautiful views of the Shan hills surrounding Kalaw, as well as numerous pagodas and hill tribe villages.
When travelling in Myanmar, the best way to ensure your money reaches the people is to support local communities – buy local products and eat where locals eat. Some of the ills that Myanmar still faces happen in the background or out the of view of tourists – but as you travel around the country, you may find that you are confronted with issues such as child labour, the insensitive renovation (or even destruction) of historical structures, and unpleasant, uncollected litter. Whilst always remaining polite and sensitive to the Asian concept of ‘saving face’, you should feel free to raise these concerns with locals, particularly those in authority. In the long term, it can make a difference. It is important to be aware that entrance fees, which are paid in US dollars and are charged when entering many popular destinations such as Bagan and Inle Lake, go to the government. Some say that this is absolutely a bad thing, but in today’s environment of change, the truth is more nuanced; the government of Myanmar is far from perfect, but it is now actively seeking advice from NGOs and European governments on responsible tourism and development. In Yangon you will have a chance to visit the Gitameit Music Center; it is a non-profit community center and music school in downtown Yangon devoted to music teaching & nurturing, performing, offering exchange possibilities for Burmese students to study abroad, and inviting international artists & teachers for performances and workshops in Yangon. the programs and projects incorporate study of western music genres (classical, jazz, rock, pop, contemporary art music), Burmese traditional and folk music, and a program of listening to and learning about music genres from all over the world. In addition, musicians are encouraged to learn about other art forms – poetry, theatre, literature, and plastic arts – to further extend the possibilities of their imagination. Still in the Myanmar’s capital you will have the possibility to support Pomelo’s initiative through responsible shopping. Pomelo’s mission is to work with marginalized producers, small family businesses, community groups and individuals in Myanmar providing them with a fair trade market place that targets tourists and international customers, opening opportunities for them to improve their social and economic situation. Its aim is benefiting those who find it difficult to sell into the international market and to trade responsibly and profitably when they do. Rather than creating dependency on aid, they use a market-based approach that empowers producers to get a fair price for their work.
Moreover, your contribution of 50 euros will support education scholarship in favour of one of the most marginalised communities of Myanmar; in particular, 25 euros will go for the support of Kayan children of a village school located near the city of Loikaw and other 25 euros to support the education of children from poor family and orphans of Phaung Daw Oo Monastry.
This itinerary promises to be a memorable experience, offering opportunities for cultural exchange, fantastic trekking opportunities and a chance to get a taste of local tribal life. However it is not fit for everyone. You should be ready for long distance trekking (approximately 5 hours for 3 days!) into the hill stations of Kalaw. The colonial hill station of Kalaw (now a backpacker mecca) and the lakeside town of Pindaya are famed for the walks you can take in the surrounding Shan hills, with beautiful views and chances to take in tribal village life. Because it offers such a interesting and scenic route to another one of the Myanmar’s tourist highlights, the journey takes three days, including two overnight stays – one at a local tribe farmstead, the other at a Buddhist temple. This tour includes cooked meals and bedding, and your bags can be taken separately by car to your hotel in Inle Lake (where you will stay at the town of Nyaung Shwe). Check with your physician to confirm that you are healthy to travel. Inform your doctor where you are going to see if there are any special concerns. Because of the climate and general lack of medical facilities, you should be reasonably fit before setting off these 3 days of hiking and trekking.
As with all countries, Myanmar has its own set of unique cultural traditions and idiosyncrasies. Some of these are fascinating, some require sensitivity and some require the visitor to adjust. Therefore, it is advised that you following carefully a code conduct which respects local culture to avoid any hassles or unwanted troubles along your journey. Buddhism is at the heart of Myanmar culture and it permeates private and public life. Most young people spend time in monastic education, and monks and nuns hold a revered place in society: they should not be touched; they always sit at the highest place available (for example at a table or on a bus – which often means on the roof); and they hold privileges such as the freedom of first class travel on public transport, sometimes with their own reserved places. Couples should avoid public displays of affection, such as hugging, kissing etc., as this behaviour is not appreciated by local people. Shoes and socks should be removed before entering any shrine, pagoda or monastery. It is also customary to remove shoes before entering private homes and many offices. The head and feet are important in Myanmar culture, as the highest and lowest points of the body. No one, including children, should be touched on the head. Feet should never be put on tables or used for touching or pointing. Myanmar women should not in general be touched by men. If a woman wishes to shake hands, she will offer her hand first.
You are also advised to follow a certain dress code. There are basically two reasons why it is recommended to be careful about what clothes you wear while traveling to Myanmar. The first reason is to prevent you from hurting the sentiments of the local people and second, to protect you from the varied weather conditions prevailing in seasons.. Revealing clothing is sometimes frowned upon, although it is increasingly common amongst Myanmar women. But at religious sites, legs and shoulders should always be covered. Second is to protect you from the varied weather conditions prevailing in seasons. Though it may be hot and humid, your best protection against insects and thorny plants and vines is long sleeves and pants. With generally high temperatures in the popular locations around the country, lightweight cotton and linen clothing is recommended for most of the year; warmer clothes may be needed for the evenings, which can sometimes be cool. Even outside the rainy season there can on occasion be downpours, so it is advisable to pack a light raincoat. Travelling to higher altitudes and further north, it is advisable to take warmer clothes, particularly in the cool season, when temperatures can drop significantly. It is also advised to keep your arms and legs covered because it provides protection (however, don’t forget to bring with you mosquito nets and repellents, especially for cruises and trekking in the forest). During trekking wear comfortable shoes.
The US dollar is widely used as an alternative currency, particularly for larger purchases; foreigners are sometimes expected to pay in dollars for hotels, flights and access to historical sites. If payment is made in kyat for these transactions, it may sometimes be at a worse rate. When paying in dollars, change will often be given in kyat. Smaller purchases, such as taxi rides, buses and meals are quoted and are almost always paid for in kyat (although some high-end hotels and restaurants quote meal prices in dollars). You should expect to exchange roughly half the money you take to Myanmar into kyat. While you are spending few days outside the main cities, make sure to exchange enough money beforehand; it can be difficult to change money outside the main cities, and you will probably get a worse rate. ATMs are also more difficult to find in these areas (see more information below). US dollar bills taken to Myanmar must be in PERFECT CONDITION! Dollar bills should be brought to Myanmar in differing denominations: take plenty of $10, $5 and $1 bills to pay for historical sites, and take $100 or $50 bills for exchanging to kyat (larger denominations sometimes get a better rate). Traveller’s cheques are not generally accepted in Myanmar.
It is advised that you get onto India’s time zone as soon as you leave home and try to eat and sleep on Indian time. Also, if you reach Myanmar early in the day, try to stay awake – this will help the body’s internal clock to reset
We selected traditional simple hotels but with good facilities throughout the tour. During the trekking you will be host in a traditional house for one night in the Kyauk Su village and for another night in Hti Tein monastery in order to experience the tradition and culture of Pa-O tribes.
Private AC vehicles, mini coaches according to the number of participants throughout the tour.Two internal flights from Yangon to Heho and from Heho to Bagan. From Bagan to Mandalay you will take a boat on the Ayeyarwaddy river for a day cruise.
Myanmar has a tropical climate, with the southwest monsoon bringing rain from May to October. Roads can become impassable, particularly from July to September. From October onwards the rains subside; the best time to visit most of Myanmar is from November to March, when temperatures are relatively manageable. From March to May, the country becomes very hot, particularly the dry zone of the central plains where Bagan and Mandalay often see temperatures in excess of 40°C.