“Burmese culture is more than admiring a temple. This trip includes lunch in a local home, tea with a family, canoeing around a village and a bus ride sitting amid rice sacks.”
HighlightsYangon | Mandalay | Bagan | Elephant sanctuary |Train journey through Pa’O region | Loikaw | Boat ride on Pekon Lake | Canoeing on Inle Lake | Local markets | Optional: balloon ride over Bagan, horse and cart tour
Description of Burma cultural holidayThis two week Burma cultural holiday is a small group tour, following a carefully crafted itinerary that takes in many of, as it is now called, Myanmar’s most magnificent sites. Starting and finishing in Yangon, formerly known as Rangoon, you have plenty of time to explore this once capital city but still considered by many to be its cultural heart.
From Yangon we take an internal flight to discover the cultural gems further north, while also taking plenty of moments to experience things well off the tourist trail. So, although we take in greats such as the colonial city of Mandalay, we also visit traditional villages in Kayah State. The thousands of temples and pagodas in Bagan are an unforgettable sight, but your time cycling through rural villages outside Mandalay takes you into real Myanmar. And seeing Inle Lake with its plethora of floating villages and iconic ‘leg rowing’ fishermen is the highlight of the trip for many, although the train journey from Kalaw to Loikaw that takes you through indigenous Pa’O region is also a people watching treat.
We go out of our way to help you experience the more ‘undiscovered’ sides of Myanmar, and hope you will see that our itinerary is not like many others in that regard. When we take a six hour drive to see the elephant conservation project from Bagan to Kalaw, for example, which is not just to tick a tourist box. But to share something that we believe to be really important in terms of local conservation efforts but also just a very memorable, wildlife experience.
Responsible tourism: Burma cultural holiday
We recognise that travel in Burma is a contentious issue and welcome the recent announcement from the National League for Democracy that it now welcomes small group tours. We have operated in Burma for a number of years and have always believed that tourism in Burma has many positive benefits, providing a large number of local people with an income that they might otherwise struggle to receive. We try to restrict the amount of money funnelled towards the Burma regime by staying in privately owned rather than hotels that are government owned or owned by members of the military regime, and also by using private rather than government airlines within the country.
We discourage our clients from asking inappropriate questions of our guides; politics within Burma is a difficult issue and it is extremely important that we do not put our guides in a difficult position.
We visit a number of important historical sites on this tour. The entrance fees that we pay at these sites helps fund their preservation and ensure that this aspect of Burma’s cultural heritage remains for others to enjoy in years to come – particularly important in a country where finding resources for this can be difficult. In addition to this some of these sites contain ancient and fragile religious frescoes that are very susceptible to damage. We make a point of advising our travellers not to touch these valuable paintings to ensure that they remain as they are.
Travellers also have the opportunity to support local communities by purchasing local handicrafts.
Our philosophy is to only use small and locally owned suppliers, meaning that the income remains within the country and creates a real economic contribution. We also feel that the passion inherent within such suppliers means that your experience will be enhanced. We also try to engage with our suppliers on an equal basis – getting the lowest possible price usually isn’t the best outcome for local communities and is ultimately unsustainable. We aim to always treat our suppliers fairly and with respect; they are after all part of the key to our success and to us working together is much more than just a business arrangement, but an ongoing relationship that we aim to ensure truly benefits everyone involved.
We believe that tourism is a double edged sword that needs to be wielded very carefully. Our philosophy is to have a limited amount of departures - usually between one and three a year - for each of our itineraries. By limiting our presence in areas where local culture can be quite fragile, we hope to avoid as much as possible the phenomenon whereby an area changes in character due to repeated and prolonged exposure to tourism. We want to visit an area as friends, not intruders and to ensure that what we see will also be there for others to enjoy for many years to come.
We only employ local staff and unlike many operators we believe that to send a foreign Tour Leader along to accompany your trip is an unnecessary burden on your wallet and our carbon footprint. We believe that locals know best. Our local operators only use locally owned accommodation. This means your money stays in the area to benefit the local community. When possible we use local transport, (i.e. rail or bus) and we always use local restaurants, markets and shops and encourage our clients to interact both financially and socially with the communities that they are passing through. In doing this your travels are supporting and encouraging the development of local services. As well as our local guides and tour leaders, we employ guides from the communities and regions that we visit, ensuring that the benefits from tourism are more fairly shared and do not end up always being funnelled towards Yangon.
We only work with operators who are as committed as we are to putting something back into the communities we visit. This may include giving a percentage of the profits from each tour to a foundation to help street children or local conservation projects. Furthermore, in order to allow our clients to make an informed decision on where a greater proportion of their money should be spent, we avoid including pre-paid full board meals where possible. Local restaurants and cafes then benefit.
Our groups average only six clients, and many tours operate on a private basis with just two travellers. This has much less impact when travelling through rural areas, reducing our environmental and social affects. Finally to emphasis our commitment to Responsible Tourism all clients will receive a copy of our Travellers Code of Conduct with their travel documents.
Our guides will brief travellers on appropriate behaviour, both cultural and environmental. We work with our local suppliers to highlight best practice in terms of environmental issues.
|Day 1||Yangon Arrival - Arrival in Yangon and you will transfer to hotel. Overnight at Clover City Centre Hotel or similar.|
|Day 2||Yangon - This morning we visit the magnificent Shwedagon Pagoda. You will learn about the history of the pagoda, the daily lives of the people living in the immediate surroundings and a deeper insight into the Buddhist religion and how the spiritual belief is mixed with the belief in nats – the Myanmar spirits. Pass workshops, markets and monasteries along the way. The tour includes a traditional Burmese breakfast, offerings to monks and the pagoda, and a visit to a fortune teller. The afternoon is free to discover downtown Yangon with all its heritage buildings on your own. You may wish to revisit Shwedagon in the evening to see this magnificent pagoda illuminated in all its glory. Overnight at Clover City Centre Hotel or similar (B)|
|Day 3||Yangon – Mandalay - This morning transfer to the airport for your flight to Mandalay. On arrival transfer to your hotel. In the afternoon visit the Mahamuni pagoda and have a look at the century’s old Buddha statue originating from Mrauk Oo. Continue to Amarapura, a quiet village where you can hear the sound of weaving machines. Finally visit the famous Mahagandayon Monastery complex with hundreds of monks, a 100-year-old weaving vocational training institution and watch the sunset from the charming U-Bein Bridge, and taste a sip of Mandalay rum which has been produced since 1886. Overnight at Victoria Palace Hotel or similar (B)|
|Day 4||Mandalay explored by bike - This morning we explore Mandalay by bike. The ride starts in the back lanes of town, passing markets and through lively neighbourhoods heading for the north east of the city. After a short ride we find ourselves in the true countryside where farmers tend to their fields, and villagers go about their daily rituals, often stopping to wave as we pass by. We make some interesting stops, first at a market to learn about the different produce on sale, and then to see bamboo being woven which is used to construct everything from roofs and walls to fans. We take a walk through a typical central Myanmar village and learn about their way of life and their different crops. On our way back to town we stop at a tea shop for a refreshing drink and snacks. We return from our ride around noon and take you by motorbike back to the hotel. Please note: you should wear clothing suitable for this activity: quarter length pants, shorts, t-shirts are all advisable, as are comfortable closed shoes. Sunscreen and hat are a must. The rest of the day is at leisure. Overnight at Victoria Palace Hotel or similar (B)|
|Day 5||Mandalay to Bagan - This morning we take the public bus to Bagan where we arrive at lunchtime and transfer to the hotel. This afternoon, enjoy a sightseeing tour with a guide who will show you the best known temples of the area. We start by climbing a pagoda to get a first impressive view over the whole plain. From here the guide plans his way to some of the other impressive temples that have been here for hundreds of years. Places like the Ananda, Dhammayangyi and Thatbyinnyu will certainly impress you. Overnight at Nyaung U Thande Hotel or similar (B)|
|Day 6||Explore Bagan - Today is a free day in Bagan to discover its delights at your own pace. You can rent a horse cart, a bicycle or an electric bike or if you book early enough (at least 6 months is a good guide) you may be able to take a spectacular early morning balloon ride over the Bagan plain. Overnight at Nyaung U Thande Hotel or similar (B)|
|Day 7||Bagan to Kalaw - This morning we have a long drive (around 6 hours) to an elephant conservation project near Kalaw. If time allows after the journey, we will take a wonderfully peaceful walk in the forest before encountering the elephants and their mahouts. The project was started by local school friends with a focus on protecting the local environment, elephants and the traditions of local people living in the area. The project includes a natural environment for retired working Asian elephants and helps the local population through education and micro finance. We will learn about the elephants and have time to help wash them in the river and feed them in beautiful surroundings. We will also have lunch at the project in its perfect natural setting before continuing on to Kalaw. Overnight at the Dream villa hotel or similar (BL)|
|Day 8||Kalaw – Loikaw by Train - An early start this morning to take a spectacular train journey through the beautiful landscape of Pa O area. The train leaves Kalaw at 0600 and arrives at Saung Byaung station around 1600, but be prepared for some delays. On arrival we continue by private car to Loikaw where you will enjoy a traditional, home cooked meal at a local family house. Overnight at Three Season Hotel or similar (BD)|
|Day 9||Loikaw - Today start with a visit to the bustling morning market of Loikaw, the former palace of the Kayah prince and Kayah Museum and see some of the artefacts of this state. Travel to Kasae Kum village to see how the rings that some Kayah women wear around their necks are made. This is an excellent opportunity to learn about the legends of the longneck women. Continue to Pemsong village where we take a 4 hour walk of the ‘trail of the ancestors’. During the walk, your local guide will tell you the story of their ancestors including their belief in spirits, the importance of the totem pole and herbal medicines. Enjoy a picnic lunch before continuing the walk to one of the Kayah villages where you will meet more longneck women. We then drive towards Loikaw and visit a traditional Kayah boxing training centre and enjoy some sundowners with typical Kayah liquor (or simply a beer) with Kayah sausages. Overnight at Three Season Hotel or similar (BL)|
|Day 10||Loikaw – Kayah Village Walk - This morning we visit Hta Nee La Leh and meet some members of the community who will explain their shrines where animist traditions are practiced, and enjoy lunch in a local home. The rest of the day is at leisure. Overnight at Three Season Hotel or similar (BL)|
|Day 11||Loikaw – Pekon – Samkar – Inle Lake - This morning drive to Pekon where we take a private boat over the wide Pekon Lake towards Samkar village (approx. 2 hours) where we visit Samkar monastery. Continue by boat to Inle Lake (approx. 2.5 hours). Overnight at Hupin Kaung Dine Hotel or similar (B)|
|Day 12||Inle Lake - Enjoy a full day exploring this magical lake by boat. We discover its natural beauty, visit the floating gardens, see some of the famous leg rowing fishermen, and have a cup of tea at a local home. Around the lake, traditional markets are held in different villages according to a 5-day rotating schedule. Today we visit one of these colourful markets frequented by Shan and PaO people. We also visit a local cheroot factory (where Burmese cigars are made), floating tomato gardens, Phaung Daw Oo Pagoda, Intha Heritage house - where Burmese cats are bred - and if there is time a weaving factory. Overnight at Hupin Kaung Dine Hotel or similar (BL)|
|Day 13||Inle Lake - We visit the ruins of Indein, partly covered by vegetation and which until recently lay undiscovered. If time allows we will take a short walk to enjoy a fantastic view over the lake and visit a school in Tha Ley village. A home-made cooked lunch will be served in a local house. We continue towards the Nam Pan village for a very interesting trip by small canoe exploring the side channels and observing village life. We ten visit a recently set up vineyard, one of only a couple in the whole country. Overnight at Hupin Kaung Dine Hotel or similar (BL)|
|Day 14||Inle Lake via Heho to Yangon - This morning, transfer to Heho airport for a flight back to Yangon and on arrival transfer to the hotel. The rest of your day is free in Yangon. Overnight at Clover City Centre Hotel or similar (B)|
|Day 15||Yangon Departure - Transfer to the airport for your homeward flight. (B)|
|EXTENSION||Contact us for details for extension to Ngapali Beach or Mon/Kayin State|
All tour descriptions and conditions are given in accordance with the information of Responsible Travel