Day 1: Arrive Yangon and Pagoda Tour
Governor’s Residence, Yangon
Arrive in Yangon and transfer to your hotel, the impressive and stately Governer’s Residence. Yangon is a city where colonial charms and a modern energy mix and linger decades after the British departure. It is a handsome city with a history of over two millennia, though it has been a capital for a mere 100 years. Rebuilt on a grid plan in the 1850s, the wide tree-lined boulevards are bordered by fine stone buildings. In the 1880s, Yangon was renowned as “the Queen of the East”. Today, Yangon bustles without urgency and small shops sell everything from antique lacquer ware to silver-backed dressing table sets left over from colonial days.
Start your visit the Sule Pagoda. If the Shwedagon is the soul of Yangon, then the Sule Pagoda is its heart. For centuries it has been the focus of much of the social and religious activity of the city. The British established the pagoda as the center of the urban area when they structured their grid-street system around it in the mid-19th century. The 157-foot pagoda remains the tallest building in the town area.
Proceed to visit Botataung Pagoda. This 131 foot stupa is unusual in that it is hollow and visitors are able to walk around inside. The original pagoda was destroyed in 1943 when it took a direct hit from an Allied bomb. During the cleanup a golden casket containing a hair and two other relics of Buddha were found.
This evening visit the dazzling Shwedagon Pagoda, a remarkable structure with a dazzling gold stupa that rises 98m above the city and is visible for miles around. Observe the lively activity as barefoot worshippers gather at the various shrines around the vast compound to worship and make offerings.
Optional: 1,000 Oil Lamps to Illuminate Shwedagon Pagoda (extra charge). Take part in lighting 1,000 special oil lamps to illuminate this magnificent structure at dusk. Shwedagon Pagoda is the most sacred of all Buddhist pagodas for the Burmese, reputed to have relics of the past four Buddhas enshrined within. Known also in English, as the Golden Pagoda, the exterior of the shrine is plated with 8,688 solid gold slabs and a giant emerald sits in the middle to catch the first and last rays of the sun. The tip of the stupa, far too high for the human eye to discern in any detail, is set with 5448 diamonds, 2317 rubies, sapphires, and other gems, 1065 golden bells and, at the very top, a single 76-carat diamond.
Day 2: Yangon to Bagan
Aureum Palace Resort
Today you’ll catch a flight from Yagnon to Bagan to explore the amazing history of this city.
Bagan is the 11th century capital of the country and one of Asia’s most extraordinary travel experiences. It is a flat plain dotted with the remains of 2,000 pagodas, temples and stupas which once stood in splendor before the sword of Kublai Khan.
Start the sightseeing with visit the Nyaung Oo local market, the economic center of Bagan, located about 3 miles north of the city. Here locals meet to buy and sell a variety of goods, ranging from fruit and vegetables and lacquerware.
Continue on to the Shwezigon Pagoda. The Pagoda is Bagan’s greatest reliquary built to house the Buddha’s collarbone, frontal bone and tooth gathered from the various countries. The location for the reliquary was determined by setting loose the white elephant that carried Buddha’s tooth from Ceylon. Where the elephant rested, the Shwezigon Pagoda was built.
Then head to the Kubyaukgyi Temple in the little village of Wetkyi-In. The Kubyaukgyi dates from the early 13th century, and has a pyramidal spire very similar to that of the Mahabodhi. Inside are some of Bagan’s finest frescoes of the Jataka tales.
This afternoon, visit the last “Burman-style” temple built in Bagan – the Htilominlo Temple. The Htilominlo Temple is 150 feet high and 140 feet at its base. Four Buddha figures on the ground and four more on the first floor face the cardinal points. Some of the old murals can still be discerned, as can a number of the friezes. Several old horoscopes, painted to protect the building from damage, can be found on the walls. After visiting Htilominlo, transfer to your hotel for check-in and some time at leisure.
This evening, enjoy a sunset cruise on the Ayeyarwaddy River. Before time was measured, the mighty Ayeyarwady River served as Myanmar’s main artery, its crucial highway. Celebrated in legend, myth, song and history, it is central to the country, sustaining life of every kind. At sunset you will enjoy a boat trip on the Ayeyarwady River. Life on the Ayeyarwady River is one of unending fascination. The riverscape offers tiny teak dwellings, cheerful waving youngsters, and statuesque ladies balancing water jugs on their head, vermilion clad monks and placid bullocks pulling heavily laden carts.
Day 3: Exploring Bagan and Balloon Ride
Aureum Palace Resort
This morning rise early to enjoy the sunrise over Bagan from aloft aboard a hot air balloon. Get a magnificent “bird’s-eye” view of the thousand year-old pagodas, temples and the mighty Ayeyarwady River to fully appreciate the scale and historical importance of this magical place.
After breakfast, Starting visit a few miles southeast of Bagan lies the village of Minnanthu. And then Dhammayangyi Temple, the largest and widest temple all of the temples in Bagan. Here you will visit Sulamani Temple, one of the largest temples among the many ruins in the vicinity.
Proceed to the Nanpaya Temple as well. The masonry work is outstanding, as well as its interior design. It reflects the strong Brahman influence that affected the Theravada Mon kings. Also, do take note of the relief of the god Brahma. There are three faces that can be discerned, all of which have the typical facial features of Mon. These are said to be representations of King Manuha. Then visit a lacquer ware workshop.
Then visit Thatbyinnyu Temple is a famous temple, built in the mid-12th century during the reign of King Alaungsithu.Thatbyinnyu Temple is shaped like a cross, but is not symmetrical. The temple has two primary storeys, with the seated Buddha image located on the second story.
Optional: Dinner on the Temple grounds in Bagan (extra charge). Enjoy a unique and unforgettable experience of dinner under the stars, in a stunning location, on the grounds of an ancient Pagoda in Bagan. You will be surrounded by torches and dinner will be served accompanied by traditional Burmese music and dancing. (No alcoholic beverages allowed on temple grounds.).
Day 4: Bagan to Inle Lake
Thahara Inle Heritage
Take an early morning flight from Bagan to Heho. From Heho, a scenic one-hour drive leads to Nyaung Shwe, the gateway village to Inle Lake. Along the way, stop to see paper parasol making and the wooden Shwe Yan Pyay Monastery which features beautiful carvings and a collection of Buddha images.
After check in, visit the Phaung-Daw-U Pagoda, which enshrines five golden Buddha images carried back to Myanmar by the 12th century King Alaungsithu upon his return from the Malay Peninsula. The images were deposited in a cave near the lake, and were not rediscovered until centuries later. Since their relocation to this pagoda, however, they have been covered with so much gold leaf that they look more like balls of gold than Buddha figures.
Inle Lake on the Shan Plateau is an oasis where you will see the unique methods of farming and fishing which sustain the local residents. Surrounding the lake is a wide belt of silt and tangled water hyacinths, which over time, creates a thick humus-like layer. The government sells plots of this Floating Land to be farmed by the villagers. Women tend the plots from boats. They grow cauliflower, tomatoes, cucumbers, cabbage, beans and eggplant. Fishing is done by means of a conical trap containing a net that the fisherman thrusts to the bottom of the lake when he sees movement. All this is done while the fisherman perches precariously on the stern with one foot and twists his other leg around a long oar that he uses to propel the boat.
Visit Ngaphechaung Monastery. This wooden monastery, built on stilts over the lake. Here you will see impressive Buddha images in the Shan, Tibetan, Bagan and Inwa styles on a highly ornate wood and mosaic pedestal.
Day 5: Explore Inle Lake
Thahara Inle Heritage
Begin your day with a visit to the popular 5-day Market. This rotating market changes locations every five days and is where all the local hill tribes come to buy and sell their goods. Items range from hand-made crafts to produce grown on the floating gardens. Take notice of the colorful outfits and scarfs worn by the different Shan hill tribes as they barter is this lively setting. Continue to the Ikat-style silk weaving industry at InnPawKhone Village.
Optional: Lunch on a floating restaurant (extra charge). Your lunch is served on a rice carrier boat in the middle of Inle Lake. The boat has been transformed into a fully equipped ephemeral restaurant. This is an exclusive experience for customers you want to amaze and surprise.
Then continue to cruise through a densely forested river to visit Indein which is situated on the hill side in the southwestern corner of Inle Lake. Then take a wander through this typical lakeside village all the while observing the lives of the local people. Through a bamboo grove and up a beautiful stairway lined with wooden columns to old ShweInnDein, an impressive and thankfully unrestored collection of ancient Shan style stupas. At the top there is a stunning view out across the lake and beyond, to the hills in the east and of the rolling country side to the west.
Day 6: Explore Inle Lake
Thahara Inle Heritage
Today you will transfer to Thei Lei Oo Village via boat. This is a beautiful rural farming village that lies on the eastern shore of the Inle Lake. The villagers belong to Inn Thar and Pao ethnic minority groups. They are well known for their farming skills and use of organic farming methods. The major crops cultivated are rice, sugar cane, potato, tomato, garlic and a variety of beans, as well as cucumber and flowers.
You will follow a trail that runs from the lake through the village and the surrounding organic farmland in a wide looping curve back to the lake. It affords an excellent window into village life untouched as it is by modern development. Return to hotel by boat.
Optional: Picnic Lunch in Bamboo Forest (extra charge). Your Shan picnic is organized in a glade of the bamboo forest of Indein or Taung Toe, away from the tourist path, where you might see local citizens carrying traditional baskets on their heads. Splendid markets, ancient Pagodas and storytelling ruins will surround this unique “petit déjeuner sur l’herbe.” Cold towels to refresh, after your stroll in the forest, will be served on arrival. A luxurious picnic station for six people (maximum), will be laid out on a natural woven palm mat shadowed by Belle Époque hangings and guests will sit on pillows. The menu includes local appetizers, a choice of several main dishes and a special dessert of the day.
Day 7: Depart Inle Lake for Yangon
The Governor’s Residence
Enjoy your final views of this unique region and head back to explore the charming wonders of Yangon. Take a flight from Heho to Yangon. Upon arrival, visit Chauk That Gyi pagoda to view its magnificent reclining Buddha, which is really not a pagoda, but a pavilion housing a 230-foot statue. Also within the pagoda enclosure is a center devoted to the study of sacred Buddhist manuscripts. About 600 monks live in the monastery and spend their days studying and meditating.
Continue to the Karaweik, a barge on Kandawgyi Lake to marvel at the uniquely decorated “hamsa-bird-shaped” barge. Enjoy an afternoon visit to the Scott Market (Bogyoke Aung San Market) where you can find all the goods that the local Myanmar families could possibly ever need or want. Scott Market is a shopper’s paradise; it has everything from old household wears to ethnic fabrics, spears, masks, gems, and carvings.
Option: Farwell dinner at La Planteur (extra charge)
Day 8: Depart Yangon for your International Flight Home
Depart Yangon International Airport for your flight home, filled with the love and excitement of your new life together!