HighlightsYangon/Rangoon | Rangoon River cruise | Shwedagon Temple | Mandalay | U Bein Bridge | Pyin U Lwin | Boat tour on Irrawaddy River | Bagan | Shan Plateau | Mount Popa | Kalaw | Hill tribe villages | Pindaya | Inle Lake | Excursion by horse and cart
Description of Small group holiday to BurmaThis small group two week Burma/Myanmar holiday starts in the former capital city of Yangon, aka Rangoon, where we spend time taking in the country’s cultural and historical heart, such as the stunning Shwedagon Pagoda. The best way to see all of this wonderful city and its environs is on board the traditional railway that slowly circumnavigates bustling suburban villages. From here we fly north to the iconic city of Mandalay, continue by river to Bagan and travel through this magnificent country to the shores of Lake Inle. We conclude with a flight back to Yangon.
As well as enjoying some of Burma’s traditional tourist sites, we also include some lesser known spots and experiences in our itinerary. The former includes the hundreds of temples of Bagan which seem to dominate the horizon for miles around, the colonial hill station towns, or Lake Inle. We spend two days in and around Lake Inle, travelling daily by boat, to see the iconic fishermen, the floating gardens, homes, cottage industries and local markets, with a chance to stop at lakeside temples and villages. We visit the culturally rich world of Palaung and Danu hill-tribe villages, and up into the dramatically beautiful Shan Plateau, enveloped by the Shan Highlands.
One of the most striking things about Burma is that it has held on to its traditional lifestyles, and transport is one of these. On this trip we will, therefore, travel not only by train and plane but also by rickshaw, horse and cart, Irrawaddy River boat, bicycle and on foot. Not because this is the touristy thing to do, but because in some cases it is the only way to do it. Such as in the ancient capital of Inwa (or Awa) where the ruins are best explored by horse and cart. Or in the hills around Lake Inle, we can best discover the ruined city of Shan Bagan and vegetation covered stupas en route, by hiking there.
Throughout this Burma tour we will be enjoying wonderful Burmese food at local markets or small family owned restaurants and local tea shops. As well as staying at small locally owned accommodations, all made possible by the fact that we keep our tour groups very small, between 4-12 people.
Responsible tourism Responsible tourism: Small group holiday to Burma Show More EnvironmentIf governments see that creating and maintaining National Parks can create revenue, then it is an incentive for them to preserve such areas and create new ones instead of short term gain from logging, plantations etc. And if local communities can see that National Parks, Forest Reserves, Wildlife Sanctuaries etc bring in revenue for local communities and employment for local people then it is an incentive for them to respect such protected areas and participate in tourism schemes. We therefore feel it is essential to incorporate as many such protected areas into our itineraries as possible – not only to show the scenery and exotic flora and fauna to visitors, but also to encourage authorities and local people to establish and take care of. CommunityWe have included destinations not usually included in Burma itineraries such as Aung Ban, Kalaw, Pindaya, Pyin U Lwin as well as including less ‘touristic’ sites such as local markets in the more frequented destinations such as Mandalay and Yangon. We are also hoping to shortly introduce an extension of our itinerary to Sittwe and Rakhine State. Great care has been made to insure that a maximum of expenditure goes to privately owned and local companies, hotels, restaurants etc and a minimum amount to government owned properties such as unavoidable entrance fees to sites such as Bagan, as well as actively endeavouring to avoid places or companies that may be privately owned but have close contacts with the government.. Indeed certain state-run museums and sites we judged non-essential have been deliberately omitted from out itinerary. Additional specific schemes supported on this itinerary include; Visits to local handicraft manufacturers and ‘cottage industries’ in for example Inle and Pindaya. Visits to local markets. Use of local forms of transport where practical such as cyclos/rickshaws and ox or horse carts. Visits to hill-tribe villages – Palaung and Danu and a visit to a Palaung school where we are looking at possibilities of material assistance in terms of books, pencils, sports items etc All our group sizes are genuinely small, with scheduled tours usually limited to just 10 persons. Experience has shown that this offers major benefits in various areas, and is integral to our concept of responsible tourism. - Socially, small numbers create a much more cohesive group with far less chance of cliques or 'groups within groups' – it's often been described by those who travel with us as "more like a group of friends and not like a tour group at all". - Service is inevitably improved with a high ratio of guides and tour-leaders to customers and we are able to offer a more personalized service. Information and directions are passed on far more easily and a high level of flexibility can be maintained, which isn't possible with larger groups. - Transport; we are able to use smaller types of transport as well as making public transport more practical. i.e. pick–up trucks and minibuses instead of large coaches. This has practical as well as ecological benefits - Restaurants and Accommodation; we use smaller, locally run restaurants and accommodation that larger groups wouldn't be able to do - again another essential element of our tours. - Interacting with local people; another significant advantage is when visiting local people, villages, tribal groups and so on, a smaller group has far less impact, is far less intimidating and there's a much greater chance of a warm welcome and opportunities for genuine interaction. (No villager is going to invite 16 people in for a cup of tea!) - Nature and the Environment: Similar benefits arise with respect to any nature based activities: hiking, snorkelling, bird watching etc. Not only do smaller groups have less negative impact on the natural environment but, as above, it is easier for a guide to transmit instructions and knowledge. There is also far more chance of spotting birds and wildlife with lower numbers. Providing a balance between the well known 'must sees' and the off the beaten track 'best kept secrets' is what we're all about. Not only taking in the famous sites and well known destinations, but also the rarely visited ones not usually included in tour itineraries, but which we believe provides a more authentic insight into the countries visited. Not only does this mean you will visit sites which are more remote and which most people don't get to see, but also that the people living in these less frequented areas will also get to benefit from the tourist dollar. The vast majority of tourism in SE Asian countries only touches a few key sites: e.g. in Burma only a very small percentage of visitors get to see anything other than Bagan, Inle, Mandalay and Shwedagon. People in other parts of Burma seeking work would converge exclusively on those destinations, leading to social problems and depopulation in these rural areas and creating a serious imbalance in wealth between regions. Local food and meals are an essential part of any culture therefore an essential part of enjoying new and different cultures is discovering their traditional food. That's why on all our tours, meals are, as much as possible, based on authentic regional food eaten in local restaurants, and whenever possible, we avoid eating in hotels and flashy tourist establishments. We believe that the food eaten in a bustling night market is going to be the real McCoy! This means better and more authentic food, and also means our custom is going directly to small cafés and market vendors rather than big businesses - and again provides more opportunities for interaction with local people. By eating in this manner we are encouraging local people to offer local alternatives to visitors and indeed to increase pride in their traditional cuisines. It's a sad state of affairs, and perhaps a reflection on many tourists, that in many areas, local people are of the impression that all foreigners want to eat pizzas and drink Nescafe!? It's nice to show the locals otherwise. By explaining our methods and the reasons behind them, local agents, guides and hotels are encouraged by us to adopt further responsible tourism practices themselves. Our guides and drivers are provided with additional training in this respect. We carefully select the places we visit to ensure that none are involved in exploitative practices of its people or the environment. Providing suitable, relevant information for our customers; to help them gain a wider understanding of our style of tourism that focuses on learning, genuine interaction with the local communities, reciprocity and cultural exchange processes. To be aware of the potential impact of tourism on the local society, culture and environment, and to behave and dress appropriately with a respect and appreciation for local customs, mores and traditions and a respect for the ecology of areas visited. bringing associated economic benefits to those areas. Our guides and leaders thus facilitate communication of our values to both travellers and local communities, educating them in sustainable tourism practices
|Day 1:||Departure from UK.|
|Day 2:||Arrival in Yangon (Rangoon) and check-in to a comfortable, downtown hotel close to the famous Scott Market. Time to relax before an afternoon walking orientation tour of the city followed by a scenic sunset boat cruise on the Rangoon River.|
|Day 3:||Morning departure for a fascinating and unusual train journey on the Rangoon circular line. The (very) slow local train completes a loop through the suburbs and outlying villages providing an original and behind the scenes view of local life and Rangoon – a great introduction to Burma. After lunch we’ll take a stroll through the picturesque Kandawgyi Lake Gardens before a sunset visit to the incredible Shwedagon Temple – Burma’s most sacred and certainly one it’s most awe inspiring sites.|
|Day 4:||Morning flight to Mandalay and time to relax or explore the area before an afternoon trip to the nearby ancient city and former 14th to 19th century capital of Ava (Inwa). Discover the ruined city, temples and villages by horse and cart before a sunset visit to the iconic U Bein Bridge – reputed to be the longest wooden bridge in the world.|
|Day 5:||Day tour and scenic drive to the old British hill-station of Pyin U Lwin located on the edge of the Shan Plateau. The small town’s 1,200m altitude meant it was a popular and cool retreat for the former British colonists and many historic buildings remain as well as its famous botanical gardens. We’ll time our return journey for sunset and sundowners, on the Mandalay riverside with spectacular view over, Irrawaddy River.|
|Day 6:||Early morning departure by boat down the Irrawaddy to Bagan; bucolic river scenes, mountain views and a great way to arrive in the historic ancient city. Late afternoon orientation visit and sunset at the site of the ruined 11th to 13th century capital – still containing over 2,000 chedis, stupas, pagodas scattered across a riverside plain and certainly one of the most incredible sites of South East Asia.|
|Day 7:||Visit Bagan at your leisure. Armed with a map, hat and torch (to discover temples’ hidden stairways), roam the country lanes by bicycle, hire a pony and trap, visit the best known temples or find some hidden chedis of your own. Your guide will be on-hand to advise and recommend but we’d like to let you visit this phenomenal site at your own leisure and pace.|
|Day 8:||Morning departure by road, heading eastwards to the distant Shan Plateau. Our first stop will be Mount Popa – one of the country’s most sacred sites located on the summit of an extinct volcano which rises dramatically and near vertically from the plains below. Local style lunch in the town of Meilktila before a scenic climb up the Plateau itself to our destination, the charming little town and old hill-station of Kalaw.|
|Day 9:||Morning hike through the surrounding hills to visit one of the local Paluang hill-tribe villages; a scenic walk, mountain views, visit to the village and chance to meet some it’s friendly inhabitants. Afternoon return to Kalaw and some time to wander around the small town, and perhaps explore the market or sit in a local tea shop and watch the world go by?|
|Day 10:||Day trip through the picturesque countryside of the Shan Plateau taking in, firstly, one of the local farmers’ markets before heading to the town of Pindaya to visit the spectacular Shwe Umin cave temples. Lunch by the lake and a chance to check out the traditional umbrella making which Pindaya is famous for. In the afternoon we’ll continue our scenic route to Nyuangshwe – gateway town to the famous Inle Lake.|
|Day 11:||Day boat trip around the picturesque lake including visits to a lakeside village market, a traditional hand rolling cheroot factory, a fascinating lotus weaving project and the highly unusual floating gardens.|
|Day 12:||Morning departure across the lake and up river to the small lakeside village of Indein from where we’ll hike through the picturesque landscape to visit the site of a ruined Shan city, known as the Shan Bagan, where myriad ruined stupas dot the lush vegetation. Return to Nyaungshwe for lunch and an afternoon at leisure.|
|Day 13:||Free morning at Lake Inle to do your own thing; cycle to the extraordinary Red Mountain Winery, check out the local market, visit a local village by canoe or just relax in a tea shop before an afternoon return flight to Yangon.|
|Day 14:||Free time to perhaps do some last–minute shopping or souvenir hunting at the famous Scott Market and a late afternoon departure.|
|Day 15:||Morning arrival in UK.|