About Myanmar Travel
Ayeyarwady (Irrawaddy) River: One of the most pleasant ways to discover a country is from its waterways, with the pulse beneath your feet as your ship glides along the river. Ancient monasteries, temple ruins, villages of bamboo huts slip past. As early as the sixth century the river was used for trade and transport. It remains the bloodline of this once isolated land, flowing north to south, emptying into the Andaman Sea. The river is still as vital today with goods and people traveling this liquid highway.
Bagan: It may be hard to imagine this quiet town as the center of an empire that stretched from Tibet to Bangkok, Thailand. The city sits on a broad plain stretching away from Ayeyarwaddy River. It became the capital during the first Myanmar Empire, and entered its golden age about 1057. Thousands of pagodas and temples, dating from the 11th to 13th centuries, occupied a compact area of only about 41 square kilometers/16 square miles. During the 12th and 13th centuries, Bagan was a cosmopolitan center for Buddhist studies, attracting monks from as far as India. Schwezigon Pagoda was built to enshrine relicts of Buddha, with construction finished between 1086 and1090. The stupa’s graceful bell shape became a prototype for later stupas. Ananda Pahto is one of the largest, best preserved and most revered of Bagan’s temples. Thought to date around 1105, this perfectly proportioned temple heralds the stylistic end of Early Bagan period.
Inle Lake, Kakku & Kalaw: Inle Lake is nestled in a small valley rimmed with tall hills in Shan state. The lake is dotted with islands and about 17 stilt villages. They are inhabited mostly by the Intha people, who carry on time honored lifestyles much as their grandparents did. On the western shore, a stair pathway leads to the Inn Thein Pagoda with hundreds of small stupas overgrown by weeds and greenery. Farmers still grow crops using traditional methods. Along a creek, past rice fields, is Sae Ma village, which has a primary school, where visitors can meet local children and teachers. Tha Lay is a village of weavers. Kakku is known for a remarkable site with more than 2,500 pagoda ruins. Legends date the site back to the third century BC and also to the 11th century. The stupas are decorated with stucco figures of mythical animals, celestial beings and floral motifs. The complex is deep inside the country of the indigenous Pa O community. Visiting the site requires an escort. Kalaw is a hill town in Shan that was popular with the British during colonial rule. In the rolling, pine-clad hills of the Shan Plateau, the town sits to the west of Inle Lake. Every five days, the hill tribe people come to town to buy and sell their goods. Kalaw is surrounded by hazy blue mountains with hiking trails. Some 300 species of birds occupy the forest. Ma Ha Mu Ni Hnyee Buddha statue was woven from bamboo strips 500 years ago.
Kyaikhitiyo: This is the place of the remarkable and mystical pagoda that is about five meters/18 feet tall and built upon a huge gold-painted boulder some 15.24 meters/50 feet in diameter. The boulder seems perilously balanced on the edge of the rock and separated from the mountain edge by a deep chasm. At a glance, it appears that the boulder will tumble off its perch with the slightest breeze. Indeed, it appears that a piece of thread placed under the rock passes through from one side of the boulder to the other side. The bolder has maintained this unlikely position for 2,500 years. A steep road winds up from the base camp to the pagoda on top. The legend of the shrine says that it houses a relic of Buddha – hair of Gotama Buddha given to a hermit residing there by Buddha himself.
Mandalay: Riverboat, trishaw and foot are still the main methods of transportation here; and water buffalo still work in the fields. Stories tell that Buddha foretold a great city of Buddhism would be founded at the base of this hill. In 1857, King Mindon chose to fulfill the prophecy by establishing a new kingdom. After the British occupied the city in 1885, the fort became the colony’s government house and British Club. Mandalay Museum and Library contain fine examples of art and historic palm-leaf manuscripts. The 19th-century Kyauktawgyi Pagoda is famed for its huge seated Buddha carved from a single block of marble. The block required 10,000 men laboring for 13 days to transport it from a canal to its current site. On the bank of the Ayeyarwady River, Sagaing is the spiritual center of Myanmar, with 600 pagodas, more than 100 meditation centers and monasteries, home to 3,000 monks.
Ngapoli: Long stretches of coast have beautiful beaches on Andaman Sea and the Bay of Bengal. Some 800 tropical islands dot the waters off the southern tip of the country. The rich marine life provides great diving and snorkeling. A deserted section of silver sand comes easy here. Ngapoli Beach stretches between two villages – Ngapoli and Gyeiktaw. There are villages nearby and small islands to explore as well as golf and spa facilities.
Yangon: Formally Rangoon, it served as Myanmar’s capital from 1885 until about 2005, when a new city, Naypyidaw, became the administrative capital. Yangon remains the largest and the most important commercial center in Myanmar. Even so, its infrastructure is undeveloped compared to other major cities in Southeast Asia. It rests in the fertile delta of southern Myanmar on the slow Yangon River. With tree-lined boulevards, it is evocative of many of Southeast Asia’s former colonial cities. It embraces the largest collection of colonial buildings in Southeast Asia. The national museum houses the Sihasana Lion Throne, used by the last Burmese king. The Buddhist Art Museum is located in a 1952 Art Deco-style building and features an amazing lotus window with all the attitudes of the Buddha.
Suggested Myanmar Tour Itinerary
Day 1: Yangon, Myanmar
Yangon lies in the fertile delta on the wide Yangon River with tree shaded boulevards and shimmering stupas.
Day 2: Yangon
The Buddhist Art Museum, the national museum with its lion throne, and lovely pagodas, offer rich testimony to this country’s traditions.
Day 3: Yangon/Bagan
Bagan is a spectacular plain stretching away from the Ayeyarwaddy River, and dotted with thousands of 800-year-old temples.
Day 4: Bagan
The site boasts the largest and densest concentration of Buddhist temples, pagodas, stupas and ruins in the world.
Day 5: Bagan/Mandalay
Mandalay’s Buddhist monasteries are among the most important in the country, about 60% of all the monks in Myanmar reside in the Mandalay area.
Day 6: Mandalay
Inwa served as an ancient capital of Upper Burma for more than 400 years after the fall of Bagan; and Sagaing is widely regarded as the religious center of Myanmar.
Day 7: Mandalay/Heho/Inle Lake
Inle Lake is home to some 17 traditional villages on stilts, mostly inhabited by the Intha people.
Day 8: Inle Lake
Dein village is on the south end of the lake. On the way is the beautiful Alaung Sitthou area where ancient stupas are partly hidden by the vegetation.
Day 9: Inle Lake/Heho/Yangon/Bangkok, Thailand/Depart
Custom Travel Options
Ayeyarwady River (3-4 days)
Cruising the river reveals the rich textures of the countryside - life from the riverbank, children playing and ox carts cultivating fields.
Kalaw & Kakki (3 days)
Kalaw is nestled in pine tree and misty blue mountain ranges, making trekking a popular activity here. Somewhat off the beaten track, Kakki has more than 2,500 pagoda ruins that are clustered in one small area.
Kyaikhitiyo (2 days)
This small town is famous for a giant gold-painted boulder and a mystical pagoda.
Ngapoli (4 days)
Myanmar has long stretches of coast with beautiful beach resorts on Andaman Sea and the Bay of Bengal.
Land price, per person, double occupancy: Approx. $400 - $600 per day.