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Take off from Heathrow in the evening for your overnight flight to Bangkok, where you’ll meet your connecting flight to Yangon. You’ll be warmly met and taken to your classic, colonial-style hotel.
Your holiday proper now begins in a spiritually uplifting way. In the morning you’ll find yourself awed by the tranquillity of the Reclining Buddha in the Chauk Htat Gyi Pagoda – before plunging into the hectic, picturesque hurly-burly of Strand Road and Yangon Harbour. You’ll also discover the diversity of the city’s Chinese and Indian Quarters, as well as the downtown’s preserved colonial buildings.
The afternoon sees you browsing around the handicraft stalls of Bogyoke Market, before taking a serene tour of Kandawgyi Lake, culminating at the golden Shwedagon Pagoda in time to catch the sunset.
Stay: Two nights in a deluxe room at the Savoy Hotel
Your early morning flight to Bagan lands you in a landscape scattered with thousands of temples and stupas rising dramatically out of sweeping plains. You’ll tour the jaw-dropping temples of Gu Byauk Gyi, Ananda and the Shwezigon Pagoda – known for their enormous statues of Buddha – before taking in local lacquer-ware workshops. Visits to the Manuha, Nanbaya and Myingaba Gu Byaukgyi temples at Myinkaba village are also on the menu.
For a totally unforgettable spectacle, why not take the Bagan Shuttle to the balloon airfield for a soaring flight over the ornate temples and pagodas of this ancient city. They’re even more breathtaking when seen from above. Back on dry land, a scenic overland journey will bring you to Mount Popa. Take your camera to the top of the extinct volcano for views that will challenge your skills as a photographer.
Stay: Two nights in an orchid villa at the Aureum Palace Hotel
After experiencing the treasures of Bagan, it’s time to take to the water. You’ll board the RV Paukan at Bagan Aye Yar Jetty for a cruise along the fabled Ayeyarwady River.
As you drift along Myanmar’s equivalent of the Nile you’ll pass quaint villages with houses standing in the water on stilts, fishing boats and trading vessels plying their trade. Expect a colourful procession of scenes of waterside life – all viewed from your elegant river cruiser with its charming wooden cabins and sun deck that’s perfect for observing the passing countryside. Your second day aboard the RV Paukan sees you visiting Yandabo village, famed for its pot-making, before mooring at a river village a few miles from the famous Ava Bridge.
Stay: Two nights in an upper deck cabin aboard the RV Paukan
After breakfast, your cruiser sails for Mandalay, landing you at either Sagaing or Gaw Wein jetty, where you’ll be met and guided around fabulous Amarapura. Discover its Mahagandayon Buddhist Monastery – home to over 1000 monks – before travelling on to the ancient U Bein Teak Bridge and Bagaya Monastery. After breaking for lunch your tour continues to the golden Buddha at Mahamuni Pagoda. You’ll examine the world’s largest book as well as watching Kalaga tapestries being created in local workshops.
A full day tour completes your stay in Mandalay. And what a tour it is; beginning with a scenic, two-hour drive to Pyin Oo Lwin, taking in a former British hill station – now the setting for exceptional botanical gardens displaying over 480 different species of flowers, shrubs and trees.
You can take a miniature stagecoach ride to the idiosyncratic English Gothic style houses of Maymo as well as drive a buggy around the colossal Kandawgyi National Botanical Gardens. You’ll find the English gardens here have an oriental twist, as does the Governor’s House, colonial Candacraig Hotel and busy market – all close to your hotel.
Stay: Two nights in a deluxe balcony room in the Hilton Mandalay
A flight of little more than half an hour lands you in Heho where you’ll be met and driven through the highly photogenic Valley of Nyaungshwe. From here you’ll be transferred to your boutique resort on the shores of Inle Lake. The afternoon will show you the true beauty of Myanmar’s second largest lake with its traditional leg-rowed boats, floating gardens and untouched local villages.
Over the next couple of days you’ll explore fascinating places like the village of Maing Thauk, a hilltop stupa offering stunning lake views, and waterways that wind gently through farmlands to places like Indaing. You’ll also meet the local people living in bamboo houses in stilted villages – Thalee Oo is particularly picturesque – as well as visiting peanut, garlic and sugar cane farms and a working rice mill. In the Ywa Thit village, the Pa’O women still wear their traditional dress and weave bamboo baskets.
Stay: Three nights in a lake front villa at Villa Inle
Today you’ll journey to your luxury resort nestled amongst coconut palms on the immaculate white sands of Ngapali – Myanmar’s premier beach destination and the ultimate spot for relaxation. You’ll spend four restorative days doing absolutely nothing but lounging beneath shady coconut palms, bathing in a welcoming sea and indulging in first-class Asian cuisine.
Stay: Four nights in a beachfront cottage at Sandoway Resort.
Today you say goodbye to magical Myanmar. You’ll fly from Thandwe to Yangon, where you’ll be able to tour around the city with your own driver, before catching an evening flight to Bangkok and then onto London – arriving the early the following day.
It was a complicated and very individual trip, and several changes were made by me during the planning. None of this seemed to worry Ayesha and everything went according to plan.- AM, India