MYANMAR – Art & Culture – 12 Days / 11 Nights

Day 1: Arrival in Yangon
Upon arrival at the airport, you will be warmly welcomed and transferred to your hotel for check-in.
In the afternoon, indulge in a full service High Tea of either Burmese or Western treats at The Strand Hotel.

Meals included: Meals on your own account
Accommodation: Overnight at the hotel

Note: Hotel rooms will be available from 14:00; early check-in is subject to availability

 

Day 2: Yangon
Through this day’s outing, you will gain a much deeper insight and understanding into the regional arts and culture scene. Begin downtown at Pansodan Gallery, which is a good introduction to your tour as its collection includes Traditional, Realism, Surrealism and Classic paintings by celebrated Myanmar artists. You will then head to New Zero Art Space, a not-for-profit gallery that nurtures emerging artists. From here, you will walk to River Gallery which features works by 20-30 artists. Approaching midday, you will head up to the “Golden Valley” neighborhood where you will have lunch at the House of Memories restaurant, an “antique” colonial manor set in a gorgeous garden.
In the afternoon, head to an antique shop where the knowledgeable owner will explain the history of various items ranging from old Buddhist scripts to British advertising signs. On your way back to your hotel, you will stop at Augustine’s Antiques, which has one of the largest selections of antiques and antique furniture in all of Myanmar. If you wish so and the time allows, make a stop on the way back at Patrick Roberts’ residence, a French designer famous worldwide. You will also have the opportunity to pay a visit to Gitameit Music Center, a non-profit community center offering music classes and organizing concerts performed by local artists or students.
In the early evening, you will drive to Yangon’s premier art gallery for a cocktail reception with local artists. Mingle with the artists who will discuss their works and how they have been inspired by personal upbringing, political events, travels and outside influences.

Meals included: Breakfast, lunch
Accommodation: Overnight at the hotel

Notes:
– Visit of Patrick Robert’s house is subject to availability and approval from the owner
– Gitameit Music Center is open from 08:30 to 09:00

 

Day 3: Yangon
On this half-day excursion, you will discover the stories behind Yangon’s historic buildings and the efforts being made to preserve the rich architectural heritage of the city. A local expert will accompany you on the walk, explaining in detail the significance of each edifice and the efforts being made to maintain it. Then head towards Shwedagon Pagoda, an absolute must-see in any Myanmar expedition. The best time to visit Shwedagon Pagoda is at sunset when its gilded stupa is bathed in the fading rays of the sun and takes on a magical glow.

Meals included: Breakfast
Accommodation: Overnight at the hotel

 

Day 4: Yangon – Bagan
Early in the morning, you will take a domestic flight to Bagan. Upon arrival you will start your discovery of the city. This excursion will introduce you to the Burmese culture, allow you to see traditional craftsmen at work and take you up the mighty Irrawaddy River to an unusual “cave” temple. Your first port of call will be an elevated viewpoint with its beautiful panorama over the Bagan plains. From here you will have a look around the Ananda Temple – one of the most exalted of Bagan’s temples. Continue to various other temples dotted around the temple plains to experience a variety of architectural styles in the area as well as the artistic wonder of the 9-14th centuries.
After a short nap back at your hotel, you will board a private river boat and set off for a cruise upriver. Throughout your Irrawaddy river cruise you will be treated to fabulous scenes of life on and by the water: fishermen, ferry boats, riverside villages and views of the Bagan temples. There will be a stop at a riverside village to allow you to go ashore for a short stroll and observe the lives of the river’s residents. After returning aboard the cruise will continue to reach the eastern side of the river from where it is only a five to ten-minute walk to a temple cave. After your exploration, you will return to the boat for a relaxing cruise back to Bagan (around 1 hour). Your day will come to an end while you will drive back to your hotel in the early evening.

Meals included: Breakfast, dinner in a local restaurant
Accommodation: Overnight at the hotel

 

Day 5: Bagan

Option: hot air balloon ride over Bagan
The morning will start with an exciting hot-air balloon ride above the Bagan countryside. You will observe one-of-a-kind views when the sun begins to rise over the Irrawaddy River and various stupas in the region.

In the morning, you will be off to the vibrant Nyaung Oo Market, where the locals come to trade fresh produce and other goods daily. From here you will have a look around the Old Bagan starting with a visit of the renowned Shwezigon Pagoda, constructed by King Anawrahta in the early 11th century as a religious memorial. Travel over dusty lanes and tree shaded roads past temples to a small village. Explore the village on foot, getting a glimpse of local lifestyles of Bagan’s residents. Continue to some lesser-known monuments in the area for the remainder of the morning. If you wish, a short walk can be arranged through a series of smaller monuments, which will allow for a unique perspective of Bagan.

Option: cooking class with a local at home
You will be invited to a local home to join for a traditional cooking experience. Meet the friendly host who will wait in the humble kitchen while preparing an array of ingredients for the class. Your friendly host will greet you and explain her market finds of the day, and if you’re in luck, some seasonal vegetables native to Bagan region will be on the menu. Share cooking methods, stories and some laughs as you prepare your lunch. After a couple hours of cooking, it will be time to enjoy the meal together in the home garden.

From there you will journey by horse cart for an excursion passing some of the tallest temples in Bagan. Take pleasure in an extraordinary sunset from the upper terrace of one of the surrounding temples. The perfect ending to a perfect day!

Meals included: Breakfast
Overnight at the hotel.

Note:
– The hot air balloon ride is only available from October/November to March
– For the cooking class, guests should notify in advance if they avoid any particular kind of meat or vegetable

 

Day 6: Bagan – Mandalay
After breakfast, you will take the road to Mandalay. Upon arrival, you will check in at your hotel. Then you will start south of Mandalay Hill where stands the Kyauktawgyi Pagoda, known as the pagoda of the Great Marble Image. Admire the huge Buddha, carved from a single block of marble. Proceed to Kuthodaw Pagoda, frequently dubbed as “The World’s Biggest Book” for its collection of 729 marble slabs inscribed with Buddhist teachings. You will then reach Shwenandaw Monastery, the Golden Monastery which is the only enduring structure from the Royal Palace of the 19th century. Your Mandalay guided tour will continue with a visit to the Mahamuni Pagoda. This pagoda houses one of the country’s most honored Buddha images, completely covered in gold leaves that are every day applied to the statue by male devotees. There are also many craft workshops in Mandalay and, should you wish, you can stop for a visit to one making gold leaf, tapestries, wood carvings or marionettes if you are interested and if time allows.

Option: Myanmar traditional puppet show
You will drive to Mandalay Marionette Theatre in the evening and settle in at this small theatre for the evening performance. Over the next hour, you will be treated to various aspects of Myanmar traditional theatre commencing with local music and dance and then followed by a selection of marionette shows. Each mini skit tells a tale or legend of the local culture and the skilled puppeteers make this ‘come to life’ with their life like movements of the marionettes.

Meals included: Breakfast
Accommodation: Overnight at the hotel
Distances: Bagan to Mandalay: 304 kilometers – 4.5 hours

 

Day 7: Mandalay – Sagaing – Ava – Amarapura
Your day will begin with an expedition to investigate the previous capitals of Amarapura, Ava and Sagaing. Cross the bridge over the Irrawaddy River in to Sagaing, generally seen as the spiritual hub of Myanmar and residence of around 3,000 monks and nearly 100 meditation shrines. You will visit several of the most important pagodas. Continue then to Sagaing’s local market, a less visited tourist site. Head over to a small pottery village to observe the tradesmen here applying their traditional methods for producing their goods. Next visit will be a nunnery where you will learn a lot on and experience everyday life of nuns in Myanmar. Firstly, you will buy a few biscuits, shampoo, candles, juice, toothbrushes and toothpaste at the market of Sagaing to donate them at the monastery and to the nuns. To thank you, the nuns will prepare a delicious lunch in their small kitchen.
The afternoon’s activities will kick off with a visit to Ava, which was the standing capital from the 14th through the 18th centuries. You will cross the small river by ferry and travel in a traditional horse and carriage to the wooden Bagaya Monastery renowned for its extraordinarily elaborate woodcarvings. Be sure to check out the Nanmyint Watch Tower – also called “the leaning tower of Ava”, which is what’s left from the remnants of the ancient palace and Maha Aungmye Bonzan Monastery. It will then be time to head to Amarapura, Myanmar’s penultimate royal capital. First you will stop at a silk weaving workshop known for their exquisite merchandise. Continue to Mahagandayon monastery, home to more than a thousand young monks and renowned as a center for monastic study and strict religious discipline. Once the sun will start to set, you will want to stroll along the legendary U Bein Bridge, before heading back to Mandalay.

Meals included: Breakfast, lunch at a nunnery
Accommodation: Overnight at the hotel

Notes:
– Clients need to be respectful in clothing, manners and volume while at the nunnery. They must keep their voices down.
– No alcohol and no smoking inside the nunnery grounds.

 

Day 8: Mandalay – Heho – Inle Lake
In the morning, you will drive to Mandalay airport for your domestic flight to Heho.
From Heho, you will experience a lovely scenic one-hour drive to Nyaung Shwe, gateway village to Inle Lake. Along the way, you will have the opportunity to visit rural workshops that specialize in traditional Shan paper and unique handcrafted umbrellas. Make sure to also stop at the teak monastery of Shweyanpyay to witness the intricate wood carving artwork and craftsmanship of the monks there. Upon reaching the edge of the lake, you will board a private motorboat and begin heading out onto Inle Lake. Along the way, you will pass several villages built on stilts over the lake, inhabited by the local Intha people. Observe the daily activities of the local leg-rowing fishermen and see their “floating gardens”, built up from strips of water hyacinth anchored to the bottom of the lake with bamboo poles. You will also visit Nga Hpe Chaung Monastery, which houses loads of early Shan Buddha Images. Proceed to the Phaung Daw Oo Pagoda, the lake’s main haven that contains five sacred images of Buddha decorated in gold leaf. There are also many traditional crafts originating on Inle Lake and, should you wish, you can stop for a visit to one making incredible woven items from lotus silk, boat builders (depending on the time of year), a cigar making workshop, blacksmiths or even silver smiths. The tour will come to a close with a return trip by boat to your hotel.

Meals included: Breakfast
Accommodation: Overnight at the hotel

 

Day 9: Inle Lake – Indein
After breakfast you will pay a visit to the lake’s morning market. The market’s location rotates between the lake’s villages in a 5-day schedule and is also visited daily by the lake’s inhabitants as well as the surrounding natives coming to sell and trade their wares. A 1-hour boat ride down a small canal will take you to the Pa-Oh village of Indein, positioned on the western shores of Inle Lake. Take a leisurely stroll around the village before ascending to the top of a hill. Once arrived at the summit, you will be greeted by an iconic Buddha image sitting enshrined among hundreds of stupa ruins and overgrown shrubbery. The Indein Pagoda complex is undoubtedly one of the most amazing sites around the shore of the lake and it consists of hundreds of small stupas overrun by moss and greenery. On your boat ride back, should time allow, you will stop at the Inthar Heritage House to learn more about the history and culture of the lake’s indigenous people and enjoy a delicious coffee and cake.

Meals included: Breakfast
Accommodation: Overnight at the hotel

Note:
– The market is open every day apart from dark moon and full moon calendar days
– Snack break not included at the Inthar Heritage House

 

Day 10: Inle Lake – Sagar
Set off in the morning for a panoramic ride to Sagar, the far southern region of Inle Lake. The boat journey takes around 3 hours but is full of fabulous views and home to many unique species of birds, both indigenous and migratory. Upon arriving in Sagar area you will make several stops (the order will depend on the time, boats traffic and activity in the villages): the “sunken” stupas of Sagar, a local monastery and the village of Thaya Gone, known for its production of local rice wine. In Thaya Gone, you will also have the chance to climb to the top of a small hill where there are great views of the lake and surrounding villages. Another stop will be made in Sae Khaung Pottery Village to see the crafting of oil and water pots as well as the natural, underground kilns used by the villagers. On the western shores of the Sagar area is Tar Kaung, a series of more than 200 stupas which also make a fabulous photo stop. Around a couple of hours walking around the site, you will begin your journey back to the main section of Inle Lake. As you will travel back in the afternoon, you will see that the light has shifted making the route look much different on the return, with different activities occurring on the water and in the villages. Rice noodles can be seen drying in the sun, spun cotton is hanging out to dry and kids are returning from school at this time of day. You will reach your hotel early in the evening, on time to freshen up and watch the sunset.

Meals included: Breakfast
Accommodation: Overnight at the hotel

Note: Sagar has a distinctive dry and rainy season which can affect the suggested itinerary. From approximately June to September, the rain can be heavy and thus the pottery workshops are closed. Also, at this time, thick vegetation on the water can cause blockages in the narrow passages leading to the village preventing boats from reaching all villages. When the water levels drop there may also be some places mentioned that are inaccessible. Should any of these occur, visits to alternate villages in the area will be substituted.

 

Day 11: Inle Lake – Heho – Yangon
You will leave your hotel on time to catch your flight back to Yangon.
Upon arrival in Yangon, you will reach your hotel and check in for some relaxation. The rest of the day will be at leisure for you to enjoy Yangon as you please.

Meals included: Breakfast
Accommodation: Overnight at the hotel

Note:
– From Nyaung Shwe to Heho airport: 1-hour drive
– Hotel rooms will be available from 14:00; early check-in is subject to availability
– A car and a guide will be available for you for the drive from the airport only

 

Day 12: Yangon departure
If time allows, you will explore the sprawling mess of Bogyoke Market, where you can glance through the extensive collection of Myanmar crafts and merchandises. The remainder of the day will be at your leisure to do as you please until your departure flight. Your private car will drive you to Yangon International Airport.

Meals included: Breakfast

Note: the market is usually closed on Mondays as well as public holidays