From the irrepressible energy of the markets and shops of Yangon to the absolute serenity of 2000 year old Sule Pagoda. From the peaceful Inle Lake to the war-like historic fort at Gwechaung, built in 1860 to protect Royal Myanmar from the British.
From an astounding balloon fight over the temples and pagodas of Bagan to a meeting with 37 animist spirits on Mount Popa. Spirit of the Ayeyarwady reveals the soul of Myanmar.
London – Yangon
Catch an evening flight to Bangkok, arriving the next day. Your onward flight takes you to Yangon, where you’ll be met and taken to your hotel. You’ll be staying in a restored colonial teak mansion near the Shwedagon Pagoda and within 10 minutes of the centre of town.
Day 3: A day of unrivalled sightseeing now presents itself. From the grave solemnity of the Reclining Buddha in the Chauk Htat Gyi Pagoda you’ll find a complete contrast in the colourful bustle and noise of places like Strand Road, Yangon Harbour, Chinatown and the Indian Quarter and downtown’s colonial buildings. Your morning ends at the 2000 year old Sule Pagoda. In the afternoon you’ll visit Bogyoke Market, specialising in handicrafts, and then peace descends with a trip to the Kandawgyi Lake and on to the golden Shwedagon Pagoda for sunset.
Stay: Two nights in a deluxe garden view room at the Belmond Governor’s Residence.
Ayeyarwady River aboard the Belmond Orcaella
Your voyage to discover the Ayeyarwady begins with a trip along the British-constructed colonial Twante Canal that connects the Yangon River with the Ayeyarwady and is still a major trading route.
Stay: Eight nights in a deluxe cabin on the Belmond Orcaella.
Your first port of call is the quaint little town of Danuphyu – scene of a defiant Burmese defensive against the British imperialists during the Anglo Burmese War. Today you will find a monument to the gallant Burmese leader General Maha Bandula, as well as cheroot makers and charming local tea shops, who welcome the British!
The next day is spent on board cruising past the cliff carvings at Akauk Taung and being entertained by palm-reading astrologers, weaving and textile demonstrations. You’ll also enjoy a talk on Myanmar’s poets and writers, cookery classes, a cocktail party and an indulgent dinner.
Prepare for some astonishing sightseeing. Today you’ll be guided around the ancient, fabulous city of Sri Ksetra with its strange cylindrical stone stupas and its history dating back to the 5th century. On the way back to your ship you’ll call in at the breath-taking Shwesadaw Pagoda, allegedly built in 589 BC, with its 10-storey tall sitting Buddha.
The morning is spent sailing and learning about the culture and history of Myanmar. In the afternoon you’ll visit the historic fort at Gwechaung, built in 1860 by Italian architects with the express purpose of guarding Royal Myanmar from the British. A traditional ox cart will then take you to Gwechaung Village where you’ll experience the timeless rural lifestyle of people living on the banks of the Ayeyarwady.
Your mode of transport changes from stately river cruiser to buzzing tuk tuk as you zip into Magwe town to experience the hustle and bustle of a local market. More peacefully, you’ll also visit the tranquil Myathalon Pagoda. Dinner tonight is followed by a traditional Myanmar puppet play.
Sale and Bagan
This morning you tour Sale and call in to see the exquisite wood carvings in the 19th century timber monastery of Yout-Saun-Kyaung before continuing by coach to take in some of the most awe-inspiring sights in the Bagan area, including sunset over the Bagan Plain.
For a truly spectacular experience you should take an optional hot air balloon ride over the Bagan region. With over 2000 temples and pagodas on show this is the best way of seeing most of them all at once, and is an unrivalled photo opportunity.
Back on terra firma you can visit the market at Nyaung Oo, the temples of Hti-Lo-Min-Lo and the revered Shwezigon Pagoda. Not to mention Mount Popa, the home of 37 Nats (animist spirits) and a toddy palm plantation. You can also embark upon a local tour by horse-drawn carriage or bicycle.
After breakfast you disembark from the Belmond Orcaella to be driven to Bagan Airport for your flight to Heho where you’ll be met and guided through the beautiful Valley of Nyaungshwe where a boat will take you to your hotel. In the afternoon you’ll have ample time to appreciate the beauty of Inle Lake, on a cruise past traditional leg-rowed boats, floating gardens, fishing boats, the Phaungdaw Oo Pagoda and picturesque local settlements – like the weaving village of Inpawkhon.
The following day you’ll sail off to Maing Thauk village to discover a hilltop stupa giving tremendous views over the lake and surrounding hills. An afternoon boat trip takes you along a waterway through farmlands to Indaing.
On your final day at Inle Lake you’ll visit Thalee Oo; a village with its toes in the water. You’ll meet local Intha families living in bamboo houses and cultivating peanuts, garlic, sugar cane and vegetables. You’ll stop at a working rice mill before venturing uphill to a monastery and the village of Ywa Thit, where PaO women still wear their traditional dress and weave bamboo baskets.
Stay: Three nights in a lake front villa at Villa Inle Resort and Spa.
Inle – London
After breakfast you say goodbye to the lake as you’re driven to Thandwe Airport for a short hop to Yangon where you’ll connect with your flight to Bangkok and onwards home.