London – Bangkok – Yangon
Take off from Heathrow in the evening for your overnight flight to Bangkok, where you’ll meet your connecting flight to Yangon. Here you’ll be met and taken to your classic, colonial-style hotel.
Stay: Two nights in a deluxe room at the Savoy 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, and the diversity of Chinatown, downtown’s colonial buildings and the Indian Quarter.
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 watch the sunset.
Yangon - Bagan
Your early morning flight to Bagan lands you in a landscape literally littered with thousands of temples and stupas rising out of sweeping plains.
You’ll tour the jaw-dropping temples of Gu Byauk Gyi and Ananda and the Shwezigon Pagoda – known for their enormous statues of Buddha – before taking in local lacquer-ware workshops and visiting the Manuha, Nanbaya and Myingaba Gu Byaukgyi temples at Myinkkaba village.
Or, for a different type of unforgettable spectacle, you could take the Bagan Shuttle to a balloon airfield for a soaring flight over the ornate temples and pagodas of Bagan. They’re even more breath-taking seen from above. Back on terra firma, a scenic overland journey will bring you to Mount Popa. Take your camera to the top of an 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 balloon rides and volcano climbing it’s time to take to the water. You’ll board the RV Paukan at Bagan Aye Yar Jetty and cruise along the Ayeyarwady to see typical local fishing and trading vessels plying their trade on Myanmar’s equivalent of the Nile.
Expect a colourful procession of scenes of waterside life and quaint villages with houses standing in the water on stilts – all viewed from an elegant river cruiser with quaint wooden cabins, and a sun deck that’s perfect for observing the passing countryside.
In the evening there’ll be cultural entertainments. 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 Gawwein jetty, where you’ll be met and guided around fabulous Amarapura with 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; it begins 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 driving a buggy around the colossal Kandawgyi National Botanical Gardens. You’ll find the English gardens here have an oriental twist, as do the Governor’s House, colonial Candacraig Hotel and the busy market – all close to your hotel.
Stay: Two nights in a deluxe room in the Sedona Hotel 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 a short boat ride will take you to your hotel. The afternoon will show you the true beauty of Inle Lake, with its traditional leg-rowed boats, floating gardens, fishing boats and untouched local villages like Inpawkhon – known for its weaving.
Over the next couple of days you’ll explore fascinating places like Maing Thauk village, a hilltop stupa offering stunning lake and hill views, and waterways that wind gently through farmlands to places like Indaing.
You’ll also meet the local people living in bamboo houses in toes-in-the-water villages – Thalee Oo is particularly picturesque – as well as visiting peanut, garlic, sugar cane and vegetable farms, a working rice mill, a monastery and Ywa Thit. In this village PaO women still wear their traditional dress and weave bamboo baskets.
Stay: Three nights in a lake house at the Inle Princess Resort.
Today you return – via a boat across the lake and a drive – to Heho from where you’ll fly to Thandwe. Here you’ll be staying at a luxurious resort on the edge of an immaculate white sand beach; perfect for relaxing. You’ll spend three restorative days doing absolutely nothing but lounging on a superb beach beneath shady coconut palms, bathing in a welcoming sea and indulging in first class Asian cuisine.
Stay: Three nights in a beachfront cottage at Sandoway Resort.
Ngaplai - Yangon - Bangkok – London
Say goodbye to magical Myanmar. You’ll fly from Thandwe to Yangon, where you’ll be able to tour round the city with your own driver, before catching an evening flight to Bangkok and on to London – arriving the early the following day.
Of your various competitors, Ayesha stood out a mile ahead with her advice, decisiveness and willingness to help- RW, India, 2014