Arrive In Mandalay
Your flight arrives into Mandalay, Myanmar's second largest city and last royal capital. A representative is at the airport to meet you and take you to your hotel where you can rest after your journey. Depending on your arrival time you may want to head out to see some of the sights or might prefer to take it easy at the hotel, looking forward to what the next two weeks will bring.
Mingun And Amarapura
Today is your introduction to the rich history and culture of Myanmar and starts with a one-hour cruise on the Irrawaddy River to the town of Mingun. Even from a distance you can see the massive form of Mingun Pahto, a huge pagoda built at the end of the 18th century and damaged by an earthquake some 50 years later that has left dramatic cracks in the stone. You also visit the Mingun Bell, of a similarly enormous scale, and reputed to be the largest working bell in the world. You take the boat back to Mandalay and visit Ava, an historical Shan and Burmese capital, seeing the Bagya teak monastery and Namyin watchtower, also known as the 'leaning tower of Ava'. From here you travel to Amarapura, a well-known textile centre, and on to U Bein bridge, an elegant teak structure spanning 1.2 km across Taungtaman Lake. Watch the sunset here, either on dry land or from the water, before returning to your hotel in Mandalay.
Mandalay City Tour
This morning you have a tour of the main sights of Mandalay. These include Mahamuni pagoda, one of the most revered Buddhist sites in the country, and its centrepiece the Mahamuni Buddha which is covered in several tons of gold leaf and wears a crown decorated with diamonds and rubies. You also see the golden palace monastery, also known as Shwenandaw, that used to be part of the royal palace and is a fine example of 19th century woodwork, and Kuthodaw pagoda, where Buddha's teachings are inscribed on stone tablets forming the world's largest book measured by surface area. At the end of this tour you transfer to the airport for the flight to Bagan, where you are taken to your hotel.
In And Around Bagan
After breakfast your first visit is to Shwezigon Paya, a beautiful gilded stupa said to contain a holy tooth relic of the Buddha and whose location is reputed to have been chosen by a white elephant. Next you tour 2 cave temples of Kyansitha Umin and Gubyaukgyi, both with lovely painted frescoes. At Htilominlo temple you learn how sand paintings are made, and then travel to the impressive Ananda temple. one of the best preserved of Bagan's holy buildings and notable for the 4 standing Buddhas positioned in each corner of the temple. The tour continues to the largest of the temples in the complex, Dhamayangyi, and concludes at Shwesandaw pagoda, dating back to 1057, where you watch the sunset over the Irrawaddy River.
Temples And Villages Of Bagan
Myingaba village just south of Bagan is known for the production of lacquer ware, and today you have a ringside seat as you watch the skilled work that goes into creating it, before touring some nearby temples, one of which has some of Bagan's best-preserved wall paintings. You then head to Dhamayazeka pagoda in the southeast with its unusual pentagonal layout, from where you have panoramic views over the Bagan temple plains. There are some interesting wood and bamboo houses here, too. In the afternoon you tour some temples that represent a later phase in Bagan's history including Nanda Man Nya which contains some fine frescoes, before returning to your hotel.
Time for a change of scene, as you board a flight bound for Heho in the Shan hills. From here you are driven to a local workshop where Shan paper and parasols are made in the traditional manner. Continuing the journey, you travel down into the valley with views of rice paddies and the Shan Hills, and on to your hotel near Inle Lake. Having checked in and been shown to you room, you set off by boat to the pagodas of Indein. These vary considerably in size and shape and some are over 1,000 years old. Later you have a demonstration of weaving at a local village, learning how the lovely linen and silk fabrics are created, all done by hand.
Villages And Sites
You start the morning with another boat trip, this time travelling for two to three hours to the southern part of Inle Lake to reach Nampan village. In this area there are populations of different ethnic groups: Pa-O, Inthar, Shan and Paduang, whose lives are still relatively untouched by the outside world and modern developments. Walking through villages you can get a feel for life in this remote location, where livelihoods rely on the production of goods such as pottery, woven cloth, bamboo ware, as well as the cultivation of sugar cane and fishing. Your day continues with visits to the ruins at Sagar and Thar Kong, both good examples of the Shan style of architecture. Later you board the boat for the journey back to your hotel.
Fly To Mrauk U
After breakfast you have a boat and road transfer to Heho airport for the flight east to Sittwe. From here you have a drive to Mrauk U, an historic site and former capital city. If time permits, you stop off at Mahamuni pagoda with its famous golden Buddha. On arrival in Mrauk U you check in to your hotel.
Wethali And Mrauk U
Today you set off for Wethali, about 11kms north of Mrauk U. The Wethali kingdom was founded in AD 327 and lasted about 400 years. Today you can see the impressive walls of the main palace, and the 'Wethali Great Image', a 5-metre-high sitting Buddha, said to be carved from a single block of stone. On return to Mrauk U you visit several prominent pagodas and temples including the massive Koethaung temple and ending at Harritaung pagoda at the top of a hill where you should get great views of the sunset.
Chin Village Visit
An exciting day begins with a half hour drive to Nam Kyar village, where you board a boat for the two-and-a-half-hour trip to the Chin villages. Sit back and enjoy the ride along the Lay Myo River. On arrival you see the distinctive bamboo houses of the Chin people. Another notable feature of this tribe is that many of the older women have tattooed faces. These tattoos were an old tribal tradition, done to mark out the Chin females and prevent men from other tribes taking them as wives. The practice is no longer performed; hence it is only the older women who bear these marks. Your visit includes lunch, and later you return by boat and car to Mrauk U.
Fly To Yangon
Enjoy a leisurely breakfast at the hotel before checking out and taking a boat back to Sittwe. Lunch is included on board. From here you fly to Yangon and transfer to the hotel. The rest of the day has been left free, so you can relax after a busy few days, or opt for some shopping or sightseeing as you wish.
Guided Tour Of Yangon
Today you have a guided tour of Yangon. This starts in the colonial city and Sule pagoda, notable for its octagonal design and 44-metre tower topped by a traditional hti, a many-tiered ornament. The pagoda was built over 2,000 years ago and is now surrounded by modern buildings. Chauk Htat Gyi pagoda has a splendid reclining Buddha, and at Kandawgyi Lake you can see Karaweik Hall, a gleaming golden barge designed to resemble the karaweik, a mythological bird. From here you look round Bogyoke Market (also known as Scott's Market), where there are stalls selling all manner of goods including clothes, jewellery, food, art and craft work. The tour culminates in a visit to Yangon's iconic Shwedagon pagoda located at the top of a hill and standing 99 metres high, dominating the city skyline. The golden dome is topped by stupa covered in precious stones, a suitably splendid finale to your holiday.
After breakfast it's time to pack your bags and transfer to the airport in time to check in for your flight home.
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