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Catch an evening flight, arriving in Bangkok the next day. Your next flight takes you on to Yangon, where you’ll be met and transferred to your hotel. You’ll be staying at the historic Strand Hotel, set in a restored colonial building near the Shwedagon Pagoda.
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. After discovering 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, before venturing to Kandawgyi Lake and the golden Shwedagon Pagoda for sunset.
Stay: Two nights in a deluxe suite at the Strand Hotel
Take an early morning flight to Bagan and transfer to the Belmond Road to Mandalay vessel. Before setting off on your cruise you’ll have time for a guided tour of the 2,000 temples and pagodas for which Bagan is famed. You’ll enter some of the most significant sites before watching the sunset behind a field of ornate temples spires and domed pagodas.
After a couple of hours spent haggling for handicrafts, wood carvings, fabrics and rattan artefacts in Bagan’s hectic markets – or exploring the locale on a bicycle – you’ll set sail along the Ayeyarwady where you’ll be able to watch fishing and trading vessels busily working on this vast waterway. You’ll drift serenely past a parade of quaint villages, with homes built on stilts, and picturesque scenes of life on the busy waterside.
The following day you’ll land at the charming village of Shwe Kyet Yet, and in the afternoon you’ll be guided around Mandalay – widely regarded as the centrepiece of Burmese culture. Back on board you’ll watch the sunset and indulge in a sumptuous dinner
The next day takes you to Mingun to inspect the impressive Hsinbyume Pagoda and the world’s largest crack-free bell. From Mingun you’ll ascend into the Sagaing Hills – the living centre of the Buddhist faith in Myanmar. The small town of Sagaing is famous for its silversmiths who work in the traditional way using centuries-old skills.
Stay: Four nights in a deluxe cabin on the Road to Mandalay river cruiser
From Mandalay Airport you fly to Heho to be met and escorted 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 that takes you past traditional leg-rowed boats, floating gardens, fishing boats, the Phaungdaw Oo Pagoda and timeless local settlements – like the weaving village of Inpawkhon.
The following day you’ll sail off to the village of Maing Thauk to discover a hilltop stupa giving tremendous views over the lake and surrounding hills. An afternoon boat trip then takes you along a waterway through farmlands to Indaing.
On your final day in 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 Pa’O women still wear their traditional dress and weave bamboo baskets.
Stay: Three nights in a lake front villa at Villa Inle Resort and Spa
From Inle Lake you’ll transfer back to Heho Airport for your flight to Thandwe, where you’ll be able to relax at a luxurious resort on the edge of an immaculate white sand beach. You’ll have four glorious days to enjoy that unbeatable combination of sea, sun and sand – with shady coconut palms, a stunning pool and fabulous cuisine thrown in.
Stay: Four nights in a beachfront villa at Sandoway
All good things must come to an end. From Nagpali you’re driven to Thandwe Airport for a short hop to Yangon where you’ll connect with your flight to Bangkok and onwards home.
It was a great experience and now I have dipped my toes in the Ultimate waters I shall be back for more.- JE, October