A unique adventure through exotic Myanmar (Burma), highlighting a new trek through remote Chin villages, a remote region of tattooed faces, gourd pipes and bamboo flutes, traditional bamboo huts with protective skulls and homemade muskets. During our exploratory trek in the Chin mountains, some villagers had never (ever) seen a Westerner! Chin state, in the far western section of Myanmar bordering India, is truly one of the last frontiers of Asia, an adventurer's dream. Our journey connects the ancient Kingdoms of Bagan and Mrauk U via a remote 6-day trek and long tail boat trip through the Chin mountains, a region of Tibeto-Burman origins.
After the trek and boat trip, explore Myanmar's ancient capital of Mrauk U, wander amongst ancient pagodas, with a day to explore this vast site by bicycle. There are thousands of Buddha statues and ancient temple pagodas in the complex, and timeless village life in the village. Take a few hours to walk though Mrauk U's traditional, tropical lanes, and visit the bustling local markets.
For the first time in centuries, foreigners are allowed to travel through this forgotten part of Myanmar, where time has stood still and modern facilities are left behind. The facilities during the trip are very basic in local houses - mosquito nets, shared bathroom facilities or a wash in the communal village well, delicious local food - but the experience will be a once in a lifetime one.
Options for some beach time at the pristine Ngapali beach, where you can sit on the beach at sunset, feasting on grilled prawn, avocado salad + other exquisite local specialties, and wander down the long, palm lined coast to watch the local fishing villages bring in their morning and evening catches.
Explore the far reaches of Myanmar with Kamzang Journeys!
Chin Mountains Trek | Bagan to Mrauk U
Day 1 - Meet in Bagan | Hotel Included on Request
+ Optional Tour of Bagan Comples
Day 2 - Drive Kanpetlet (Mt Victoria National Park) | Climb Victoria Peak
Day 3 - Drive Matupi
Day 4 - Trek Amswe – Gwe Zar – Thein Zar
Day 5 - Trek Hton Nar – Mardu – Welu
Day 6 - Trek We Lu - Htin Khaung – Lone Ton
Day 7 - Trek Khapo Chay. Longtail Boat Trip Than Chaung Wah
Day 8 - Longtail Boat Trip Sun Oo. Drive Mrauk U
Day 9 - Mrauk U | Bike Tour
Day 10 - Mrauk U | Free Day
Day 11 - Trip Ends
Ngapali Beach Extension
Day 11 - Mrauk U Cruise to Sittwe. Fly Thandwe | Ngapali Beach (Fri + Sun ONLY)
Day 12 - Ngapali Beach
Day 13 - Ngapali Beach
Day 14 - Ngapali Beach
Day 15 - Fly Yangon - Trip Ends
NOTE: Options to stay even longer on the pristine Ngapali coast, or to fly from Yangon to Mandalay to extend your Myanmar journey. Browse our tours of Yangon, Bagan, Mandalay and Inle Lake + Pwin Oo Lwin.
Myanmar (Burma) Photos | Kim Bannister Photography
Burma - Kim's Journeys Through Myanmar
Trip Advisor Reviews
Read More Testimonials
- Chin State Trek
- Mrauk U
- Inle Lake Kayak, Boat + Bicycle Tours
- Yangon Spiritual Shwedagon + Historic Tours
- Boat Cruise to Sittwe
- Unique Burmese Food
- Ngapali Beach + Fishing Village Extension
- Mandalay Extension
- Ballooning over Bagan (Optional)
Kamzang Burma Blog
Myanmar (Burma) Photos | Kim Bannister Photography
Burma - Kim's Journeys Through Myanmar
Articles + Videos
Myanmar in 4K
+ Ngapali Beach Extension
+ Departures ONLY Oct - Feb
1 Person - $3800
2 People - $2195
3+ People - $1895
8+ People - $1500
+ Single Supplement - $700
+ Extra Nights Clover Wingabar Deluxe Room (Yangon) - $80/$85 (S/D)
+ Balloon over Bagan - $325 Per Person
Ngapali Beach Price (Lin Thar Oo Lodge Bungalows)
1 Person - $680
2+ People - $400
+ Single Supplement - $300
+ Lin Thar Oo Lodge – Superior Bungalows
- Hotels (Boutique - Luxury)
- Domestic Airfares
- Transportation by Private Vehicle + Boat
- Permit Fees
- Chin State Trek (All Inclusive)
- Sightseeing Tour in Mrauk U
- Optional Sightseeing Tour + Hotel in Bagan (+$)
- English Speaking Guides
- International Airfares
- Travel + Travel Medical Insurance
- Lunch + Dinners at Hotels
- Myanmar Visa
- Peak Season Surcharges (New Year's period)
Tips & Extra Cash
Allow approx $200 for meals (while not on trek), drinks (on trek) and tips. We recommend $50-$100 per person for staff tips.
Khiri Travel Myanmar
24-hour Contact Number: +95 9 42502 8175
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Arrival Hotel Yangon
Clover Wingabar Hotel
We follow the strict advice of the government of Myanmar, very cautious in regards to the safety of foreigners; our trips are well coordinated and in safe areas. Do check with your embassy or consulate before traveling.
Visas + Passports
Visitors of all nationalities need a visa in order to visit Myanmar. You can apply for this visa at a Myanmar embassy in or near your country. The visa for Myanmar is valid for 28 days and occupies a full page in your passport – the visa expires 90 days after it is issued so don’t apply too early. Please make sure you have enough pages in your passport. The passport has to be valid for at least 6 more months.
Different embassies have different rules to apply for a tourist visa, which takes about 3 working days. Generally you will need 2 or 3 photos and enough cash to pay for your visa (at most embassies it’s 30 USD). Some embassies will ask you to come in person to apply for the visa or they will ask for your CV (to check where you have been working in the past) and they might ask for your planned travel itinerary. It is also possible to apply for an eVisa for Myanmar which takes at least 5 working days.
NOTE: This only applies for arrivals at Yangon, Nay Pyi Taw and Mandalay airports.
ATM machines in Myanmar ONLY accept Master card and Visa CREDIT CARDS (NO DEBIT CARDS). You will have to bring cash as well. NEW $US, Euro and Thai Baht are easily exchanged into local currency around the country at money exchangers and banks. Make sure the notes look brand new without any writings on them and make sure they are not torn, faded or in anyway not looking brand new, otherwise they won’t be accepted.
The Kyat is the official currency of Myanmar and is available in notes of 10.000, 5.000, 1.000, 500 and 200 as well as some smaller denominations, which are often dirty, torn and not worth a lot. The last few years the Kyat has been hovering between 900 to 1200 Kyats to the US Dollar – ask your hotel or your guide about the current exchange rate on arrival and also where to exchange. There are more bank exchange counters opening all over the country, including on arrival at the airport and those counters usually give the best exchange rate. Generally it’s best to pay everywhere in Kyats. Cash in $US is only accepted in hotels. The Kyat is not freely convertible, which means that you can’t buy any Kyats outside of Myanmar, and so any Kyats you leave with can’t be exchanged anywhere else.
The FEC (Foreign Exchange Certificates) were abandoned in 2013. In theory it is possible to exchange Travelers Checks at the National Bank in Yangon, but in practice it is slow and costly. We advise you to bring cash $US or Euros and to change these Kyats in any main tourist area while traveling through the country. Any denomination of $US okay, just make sure they look brand new and check the serial number does NOT start with CB as these are not accepted.
Tipping in Myanmar is not customary. Amounts are often rounded up due to lack of small nominations notes or you are given a candy, a tissue or even a cigarette as “change”. In a relatively poor country like Myanmar, tipping is however highly appreciated. In more upscale restaurants a tip of between 5 and 10% is recommended. In other places leaving the small change or 1 USD is enough. Taxi and trishaw drivers usually don’t expect any tip at all.
Guides and drivers of rented vehicles do expect to be tipped. For guides a tip between 2 and 5 USD per person per day is customary, for drivers between 1 and 2 USD per day. Of course tipping is always related to the quality of services rendered.
Donations + Gifts
Myanmar is a country where a big percentage of the population is poor and many people have just enough money to pay for daily food (over 90% of GDP is spent on food), education and medical care. Even Myanmar people with just a slightly higher than average income are very generous and a culture of giving to poor, elderly and people in need is deeply rooted in the culture. It’s always better to give donations (money or gifts bought locally as this is better for the Myanmar economy) to adults, teachers or a village head rather than to children. Supporting somebody’s small business will also contribute positively so don’t feel swindled if your taxi driver asks a price that is 50 cents higher than your guide book indicated; he probably is not a millionaire and can certainly use the money. Also, a rich Burmese would generally also accept paying a higher price than a poor Burmese. People greatly appreciate if you bring postcards and pictures etc. from your own country to show – always a good ice-breaker to start a conversation. Gifts for school, orphanages, local hospitals are always greatly appreciated, and its best is actually to buy gifts locally at the market in Myanmar (cheaper, good fun to do, better for the economy and you can be sure the receiver knows how to use it and it also saves you space in your luggage).
Health + Innoculations
Health risks in Myanmar include: cholera, dengue fever, hepatitis, Japanese encephalitis, malaria, rabies and typhoid. We strongly recommend you to visit either your personal physician or a travel health clinic 4-8 weeks before departure. Up-to-date advice should be sought before deciding whether these precautions should include vaccination, as medical opinion is divided over its effectiveness. Malaria risk exists throughout the year in the whole country, except in bigger towns such as Yangon and Mandalay. Medical facilities with western standards are very limited in Myanmar and practically only exist in Yangon. Many doctors have been educated in Europe (especially in the UK) but have limited access to modern medicines and limited updated knowledge.
All travelers visiting Myanmar with Khiri Travel must show proof of a health insurance upon arrival in the country so in case of emergency we can assist and make sure you will receive the necessary medical attention in Myanmar or in Bangkok, where the best medical facilities are available.
See the CDC website for details of travel health + inoculations in Myanmar:
Myanmar has 3 different seasons: winter (mid Oct – Feb), summer (March – May) and green season (June – mid Oct). These seasons are very similar to the seasons in Thailand. Every season has its own advantages and disadvantages to travel. See below.
March – May (Summer)
The whole country can be hot (especially in the afternoon – around 35 degrees Celsius) so you’re advised to plan sightseeing more in the mornings and evenings. Landscapes are a bit dry – excellent time to visit the beaches and to visit higher parts of Myanmar (Shan state for example).
November – February (Winter)
The most popular season for tourists to travel because of the lower temperatures (evenings in the mountains can be cold – 10 degrees Celsius) while the chance for rain is less (although November 2013 saw more rainy days then July or August of that year). Daytime temperature is around 30 degrees Celsius. A good time to visit any place in the country but it can be busy at the major tourist locations – if you have the choice we suggest you to avoid the months of November and February when it can be very busy everywhere.
June – mid October (Green Season)
The temperatures drop (till about 25 - 30 degrees Celsius) and the scenery is green. Sightseeing is not too hot and not too dusty. A perfect period to visit Bagan, Mandalay and Shan states (Hsipaw, Kyaukme, Pyin Oo Lwin, Kalaw, Inle Lake) where it isn’t raining a lot (mostly a short shower at the end of the day). Avoid the beaches in this period (it’s raining more at the coast and most hotels are closed in this period). Yangon can get quite some rain as well so it is better to spend just 1 or 2 nights here. Sightseeing is great as there aren’t many other tourists around yet – it’s Myanmar at its best! There are in this period on average less than 10 rainy days a month upcountry: weather base website - Myanmar. This is the period we generally advise our closest friends to come and visit as it’s an excellent period to visit Myanmar.
Email + Phones
Visiting Myanmar really is a 'get-away’ experience! Consider yourself incommunicado, as your mobile phone will probably not be working. Myanmar has only a few roaming agreements. Buying a local simcard is getting easier and a temporary telephone number would cost about 2 Usd (MPT, Telenor and Oredoo) and can be bought easily in shops all around the country. Internet cafes can be found in the bigger cities and most of the hotels around the country offer Wifi. The internet connection is often a bit slower than at home and there might be days that you can’t get a connection fast enough to chat online.
When visiting Myanmar, do try to adapt to and respect the unique culture. Here are some examples of rules of which visitors should be aware.
- Feet convey messages. Do not point with your feet. Pointing with your feet means disrespect.
- Don’t stretch out your legs when you’re sitting. Tuck your feet away. Your feet should certainly never face the Buddha.
- Calling with your finger means calling for a challenge. Calling with your fingers down is considered to be polite.
- Never pat a monk on the back. You should never touch the robe of a monk. Monks are very revered in Myanmar and they observe many rules, study the Dhamma, practice meditation and they are highly respected in Myanmar society.
- Giving money to children is not advisable. Giving money or other things creates children’s dependency on tourism. Visitors should consider the saying 'Don’t give a helpless person a fish, teach them how to catch a fish and they will learn for a lifetime’.
- Don’t touch anyone on the head. The head is considered to be the most esteemed part of the body. To be touched on the head is considered aggressive.
For more good cultural tips about how to behave in Myanmar when traveling and to understand cultural differences see Myanmar Cultural Difference
Food + Drink
All water should be regarded as being potentially contaminated. Water used for drinking, or making ice should have first been boiled or otherwise sterilized.
Bottled water is available throughout the country. Avoid dairy products that are likely to have been made from raw milk. Only eat well-cooked meat and fish, preferably served hot. Vegetables should be cooked and fruit peeled.
Myanmar food is traditionally eaten with steamed rice using either the fingers or spoon and fork (chop sticks are sometimes used for Chinese food or noodles). In the countryside, people will all eat family style; sitting on the floor, sharing a few dishes. Traditional Myanmar food consists out of 1 or 2 curries (not very spicy), a lot of steamed rice and some pickles or salad as well as fish paste. The traditional food out of the center of Myanmar can be a bit greasy; make sure you also try the food of all the different states like Shan food, Rakhine food or mix with Chinese, Indian or Thai food.
Burmese Specialty Dishes
CHICKEN OR PORK CURRY
A traditional Myanmar curry, which comes with a strong curry taste and is very similar to an Indian curry with a layer of oil on top. Mix it with a lot of rice. In Myanmar traditional families the believe is that a guest should be always served the best and richest food hence a bit of extra oil is added!
The national breakfast dish and can be found in the streets and at market stalls as well as some hotels. It is a fish soup with vermicelli mixed with ingredients like lemon, coriander, boiled egg, banana stem or crispy fried beans. Delicious!
A kind of noodle soup mixed with vegetables and generally chicken or pork. It is an excellent dish for lunch.
One of the favorites in Myanmar and often served for breakfast. It is a thick coconut soup with rice noodles and chicken as well as onions, rice crackers and a bit of coriander.
BBQ CHICKEN, PORK, BEEF + SEAFOOD
Found at many street stalls and often accompanied by glasses of Myanmar draft beer.
A delicious dish originally from Shan state (each city in Shan state has it’s own taste) but nowadays readily available in the whole country. The bowl of noodles comes with a sauce of meat and vegetable and can be ordered as a salad or as a soup.
LET PET THOKE
Pickled tea leaves salad, is a very popular traditional snack served with sesame, peanuts, dried shrimps, garlic and chili. Mmmmmm!
Myanmar (Burma) Health Information
Photo Gallery | Trip + Trek Photos
Kim Bannister Photography
You will be met at the airport when you arrive in Yangon, Myanmar, by a representative of our local travel agency and brought to the Yangon Clover Wingaba Hotel hotel where your rooms have been booked. See Yangon Extensions (lower tabs) for day tours and options to extend for several days.
NOTE: Air Asia + Nok Air recommended flights from Bangkok.
Get your visa before arrival in Myanmar! See details in Contacts + Details topbar.
Details Supplied - Trip Booking
Extra Days in Myanmar | Customize your Journey!
Myanmar is endlessly fascinating, and one visit won't do it justice. If you have the time to plan to stay an extra week (or two) and explore more deeply into this unique country. See bottom tabs for optional tours in Yangon, Bagan, Inle Lake and Mandalay, and we can also set up custom itineraries for you in other parts of Myanmar. Consider a stay on the still pristine Ngapali Coast, with an extra day to photography the local fishing villages.
A few ideas. Bottom tab has many more options to visit Yangon in depth.
Teach English for a Day in Yangon
Give something back to Myanmar. Our wonderful travel agency is supporting a local English school whose students love to practice their conversational English with foreigners. The students are from 4 years old till adults and depending on the day you visit the school you will find yourself either playing with young kids and read stories or have discussions in English about all kind of subjects regarding Myanmar, the world and daily life of the students. The school 'bus' will pick you up from your hotel at 9:00 in the morning and bring you back around noon. A fun and interactive way to get to know the local people of Myanmar.
Yangon Heritage Walk | High Tea at Strand Hotel (Half Day Tour)
Yangon downtown is unique with much of its colonial-era architecture still standing. You find one of Asia’s most impressive collections of late nineteenth and early twentieth- century buildings, religious and secular. Starting after lunch this walking tour will take you through downtown Yangon, focusing on its old colonial buildings. Your guide will walk you through the back streets in a relaxed tempo and explain you the history of each building some of them empty, some getting restored and some used for different purposes than when built. This walk along the streets of Yangon will at least architecturally take you a step back in time, also a high tea at the famous Strand hotel will make you feel being back in colonial time. After the tour you will have time to enjoy a drink at Rangoon Tea House a cozy restaurant on lower Pansodan Street, a new place where many of Yangon’s expatriates of today meet up for a drink or meal.
All excerpts from Lonely Planet Myanmar
Lonely Planet Yangon
"One of Buddhism's most sacred sites, the 325ft zedi here is adorned with 27 metric tons of gold leaf, along with thousands of diamonds and other gems, and is believed to enshrine eight hairs of the Gautama Buddha as well as relics of three former buddhas. Four entrance stairways lead to the main terrace. Visit in the cool of dawn if you want tranquility. Otherwise, pay your respects when the golden stupa flames crimson and burnt orange in the setting sun. The following covers the history and layout of Shwedagon Paya. Freelance guides (they’ll locate you before you can find them) can provide more details. Tour agencies can also arrange guides; a good tour, including the surrounding area, is offered by Khiri Travel.
History of Shwedagon Pagoda in Yangon
Legend has it that there's been a stupa on Singuttara Hill for 2600 years, ever since two merchant brothers, Tapussa and Ballika, met the Buddha. He gave them eight of his hairs to take back to Myanmar, a land ruled over by King Okkalapa. Okkalapa enshrined the hairs in a temple of gold, together with relics of three former buddhas, which was then enclosed in a temple of silver, then one of tin, then copper, then lead, then marble and, finally, one of plain iron-brick. Archaeologists suggest that the original stupa was built by the Mon people some time between the 6th and 10th centuries. In common with many other ancient zedi in earthquake-prone Myanmar, it has been rebuilt many times. During the Bagan (Pagan) period of Myanmar’s history (10th to 14th centuries), the story of the stupa emerged from the mists of legend to become hard fact. Near the top of the eastern stairway is a brick inscribed with the date 1485.
In the 15th century, the tradition of gilding the stupa began. Queen Shinsawbu, who was responsible for many improvements to the stupa, provided her own weight (88lb) in gold, which was beaten into gold leaf and used to cover the structure. Her son-in-law, Dhammazedi, went several better, offering four times his own weight and that of his wife in gold. In 1612 Portuguese renegade adventurer Filipe de Brito e Nicote raided the stupa from his base in Thanlyin and carried away Dhammazedi's 300-ton bell, with the intention of melting it for cannons. As the British were to do later with another bell, he accidentally dropped it into the river where it remains.
During the 17th century, the monument suffered earthquake damage on eight occasions. Worse was to follow in 1768, when a quake brought down the whole top of the zedi . King Hsinbyushin had it rebuilt to virtually its present height, and its current configuration dates from that renovation. British troops occupied the compound for two years immediately after the First Anglo-Burmese War in 1824. In 1852, during the Second Anglo-Burmese War, the British again took the paya, the soldiers pillaged it once more and it remained under military control for 77 years, until 1929. Prior to the British takeover of southern Myanmar there had been defensive earthworks around the paya, but these were considerably extended by the British. The emplacements for their cannons can still be seen outside the outer wall.
In 1871 the provision of a new hti (the umbrella-like decorative top of a stupa) by King Mindon Min from Mandalay, caused considerable head-scratching for the British, who were not at all keen for such an association to be made with the still-independent part of Myanmar. The huge earthquake of 1930, which totally destroyed the Shwemawdaw in Bago, caused only minor damage to Shwedagon. The following year it wasn't so lucky, when the paya suffered from a serious fire. After another minor earthquake in 1970, the zedi was clad in bamboo scaffolding, which extended beyond King Mindon’s 100-year-old hti , and was refurbished. The stupa also had to be repaired following 2008's Cyclone Nargis. During recent centuries, the Shwedagon Paya was the scene for much political activity during the Myanmar independence movement – Aung San Suu Kyi spoke to massive crowds here in 1988 and the temple was also at the centre of the monks’ protests in 2007.
The hill on which the stupa stands is 167ft above sea level with the entire complex covering 46 hectares. As is common with all temples in Myanmar, the main terrace is approached by four zaungdan (covered walkways) each of which is flanked at its entrance by a pair of 9m-tall chinthe . If you don't want to climb the steps, there are elevators at the southern, eastern and northern entrances, while the western zaungdan has sets of escalators. All but the western zaungdan are lined with stalls selling flowers – both real and beautifully made paper ones – for offerings, buddha images, ceremonial umbrellas, books, antiques, incense sticks and much more. There are also fortune tellers and money exchange booths. You emerge from the shade of the zaungdan into a visual cacophany of technicoloured glitter at the marble-floored main terrace , littered with pavilions and worship halls containing buddha images and two giant cast-iron bells.
At the centre of the terrace Shwedagon Paya sits on a square plinth, which stands 21ft above the clutter of the main platform and immediately sets the stupa above the lesser structures. Smaller stupas sit on this raised platform level – four large ones mark the four cardinal directions, four medium-sized ones mark the four corners of the plinth and 60 small ones run around the perimeter. From this base, the zedi rises first in three terraces, then in ‘octagonal’ terraces and then in five circular bands. The shoulder of the bell is decorated with 16 ‘flowers’. The bell is topped by the ‘inverted bowl’, another traditional element of stupa architecture, and above this stand the mouldings, then the ‘lotus petals’. These consist of a band of down-turned petals, followed by a band of up-turned petals. The banana bud is the final element of the zedi before the jewel-encrusted hti tops it.
Around the stupa's base 12 planetary posts conform to the days of the week; locals pray at the station that represents the day they were born. If you want to join them, and don't know the day of your birth, the fortune tellers at the temple have almanacs that will provide the answer. Note that Wednesday is divided into births in the morning and births in afternoon – for the latter you worship at the Rahu post at the northwest corner of the stupa base. Before leaving the main terrace pop into the small museum which is chock full of buddha statues and religious ornaments. Look for the scale model of the stupa and the beautiful painting of the temple by MT Hla. The photo gallery is also well worth a look, particularly for the close-up snaps it displays of the top of the stupa.
Gear list for the Chin trek. For the rest of your trip in Myanmar, you'll want loose, cool, non-revealing and comfortable travel clothes, and larger suitcase or duffel bag.
- Small Duffel Bag
- Small Day Pack
- Light Sleeping Bag
- Hiking or Running Shoes (or Keen Sandals)
- Crocs (Evenings)
- Fleece Jacket (Evenings + Mornings)
- Microfiber or Synthetic Jacket (Evenings + Mornings)
- Lightweight Wind-Rain Jacket
- Light Trekking Pants (1)
- Confortable Pants (Evenings)
- T-Shirts (2)
- Long Sleeve Shirt (1)
- Socks (2)
- Baseball Cap or Wide-brimmed Hat
- Small Camp Towel
- Water Bottles (2)
- Toiletries, Sunscreen + Lip Balm SPF
- Camera Batteries + Battery Chargers
- Head Lamp
- Water Purifying Tablets, Small Water Filter or SteriPen (Optional)
- Laundry Detergent or Bio-degradable Clothes Soap (Optional)
- Hand Sanitizer
- Small Solar Panel (optional, recommended for iPods, iPhones, Kindles)
- Zip-Lock Plastic Bags (Optional, good for packing)
- Soft Toilet Paper | Tissues
- Baby-Wipes | Wet-Wipes or Handi-Wipes, J-Cloth or Chux (Optional, easy for a quick daytime clean)
- Rehydration | Electrolytes
- Personal Medical Supplies + Sunscreen
- Insect Repellent
Chin state in western Myanmar, with Hakha as it’s capital, is bordered by Rakhine State in the south, Bangladesh in the south-west, Sagaing Division and Magway Division in the east, the Indian state of Manipur in the north and the Indian state of Mizoram in the west. The Chin ethnic group make up the majority of the state's 500,000 people. The state is a mountainous region with few transportation links, sparsely populated and remains one of the least developed areas of the country.
Excerpts from Wikipedia
"The Tibeto-Burman peoples entered the Chin Hills in the first millennium as part of the wider migration of Tibeto-Burman peoples into the area. Some historians speculate that the Thaik or Thek people mentioned in the Burmese Chronicles might be the Chins. For much of history, the sparsely populated Chin Hills were ruled by local chiefs. Political organization in the region before the Toungoo dynasty's conquest in the mid-16th century remains largely conjectural. The first recorded instance of a western kingdom believed to be near the Chin Hills is the Kingdom of Pateikkaya, a tributary to the Pagan Kingdom in the 11th and 12th centuries. Some historians put Pateikkaya in eastern Bengal, thus placing the entire Chin Hills under Pagan suzerainty but others, citing stone inscriptions, put it near the eastern Chin Hills.
Bayinnaung's Empire: The first confirmed political entity in the region was the Shan State of Kale (Kalay), founded by the Shan people who came to dominate the entire northwestern-to-eastern arc of Burma after the fall of the Pagan Kingdom in 1287. Kale was a minor Shan state. Its authority did not extend more than its immediate surrounding area, no more than a small portion of northern Chin Hills. The minor state occasionally paid tribute to the larger Shan States of Mohnyin and Mogaung and ultimately became a vassal state of the Burmese Ava Kingdom in the 1370s. Starting in the 1480s, Ava began to disintegrate and Kale was swallowed up by the Shan State of Mohnyin by the 1520s.
The entire Chin Hills came under the authority of the Burmese kingdoms between 1555 and 1559 when King Bayinnaung of the Toungoo Dynastyconquered all of Upper Burma and its surrounding regions, stretching from the eastern and northern Shan states to the western Chin Hills and Manipur. Toungoo began to weaken in the late 17th century. By the 1730s a resurgent Manipuri Kingdom had conquered the Kabaw Valley from the Burmese. The Kabaw valley's adjacent northern Chin Hills likely came under Manipuri suzerainty.
Colonial era: The British acquired the Chin Hills a decade after the Third Anglo-Burmese War of 1885. The ensuing Chin resistance to the British was suppressed only by 1896 with the arrest of Khaikam Suantak of Siyin area. The British administered the Chin Hills as part of Arakan Division. American missionaries began arriving in the 1890s and, by the middle of 20th century, most of the Chin people had converted to Christianity.
The region was the westernmost advance of the Imperial Japanese Army, which occupied the region in November 1943, in World War II. After the war, Chin leaders headed by Vumkhohau Suantak, with Burman, Shan and Kachin leaders, participated in the Panglong Conference which discussed the future of an independent Union of Burma. Because of the region's heavy economic dependence on Burma, Chin leaders, unlike Shan and Kachin leaders, asked only for a "special administrative division", not a full-fledged state. As a result, when the 1947 Constitution of Burma granted the right of secession to states after 10 years after the independence, the Chin did not get a state. The Karen, who did not participate in the conference, received a state, with the right to secede."
All excerpts from 'Lonely Planet Burma'
Lonely Planet Bagan
One of Myanmar’s main attractions, this is a temple town. The area known as Bagan, bureaucratically known as, as the ‘Bagan Archaeological Zone’, occupies an impressive 26-sq-mile area, 118 miles south of Mandalay and 429 miles north of Yangon. The Ayeyarwady River drifts past its northern and western sides. The area’s most active town and main transport hub is Nyaung U, in the northeast corner. About 2.5 miles west, Old Bagan is the former site of the village that was relocated two miles south to New Bagan in 1990. Between the two is Myinkaba, a village boasting a long-running lacquerware tradition. Connecting the towns are paved roads making a 12-mile oval. In between and around these towns is the bulk of the Bagan action: the plain, featuring most of the temples, all connected with a vast network of bumpy dirt roads and trails.
With its shimmering gold, 170ft-high, corncob hti shimmering across the plains, Ananda is one of the finest, largest, best preserved and most revered of all Bagan temples. Thought to have been built between 1090 and 1105 by King Kyanzittha, this perfectly proportioned temple heralds the stylistic end of the early Bagan period and the beginning of the middle period. The central square measures 175ft along each side. Upper floors are closed to visitors. The entranceways make the structure a perfect Greek cross; each entrance is crowned with a stupa finial. The base and the terraces are decorated with 554 glazed tiles showing Jataka scenes, thought to be derived from Mon texts. Look back as you enter to see the huge carved teak doors that separate interior halls from cross passages on all four sides. Facing outward from the centre of the cube are four 31ft standing buddha statues. Only the Bagan-style images facing north and south are original; both display the dhammachakka mudra (a hand position symbolising the Buddha teaching his first sermon). The other two images are replacements for figures destroyed by fire in the 1600s. All four have bodies of solid teak, though guides may claim the southern image is made of a bronze alloy. Guides like to point out that if you stand by the donation box in front of the original southern buddha, his face looks sad, while from a distance he tends to look mirthful. The western and eastern standing buddha images are done in the later Konbaung, or Mandalay, style. If looked at from the right angle, the two lions at the eastern side resemble an ogre. A small, nut-like sphere held between the thumb and middle finger of the east-facing image is said to resemble a herbal pill, and may represent the Buddha offering dhamma (Buddhist teachings) as a cure for suffering. Both arms hang at the image’s sides with hands outstretched, a mudra (hand position) unknown to traditional Buddhist sculpture outside this temple.
The west-facing buddha features the abhaya mudra (the hands outstretched, in the gesture of no fear). At its feet sit two life-sized lacquer statues, said to represent King Kyanzittha and Shin Arahan, the Mon monk who initiated Anawrahta into Theravada Buddhism. Inside the western portico are two symbols on pedestals of the buddha’s footprints. Don’t leave without taking a brief walk around the outside of the temple, where you can see many glazed tiles and lovely views of the spires and terraced roofs (often away from vendor hassle too). In 1990, on its 900th anniversary, the temple spires were gilded. The remainder of the temple exterior is whitewashed from time to time. It can feel more like a souvenir stand than a temple given the proliferation of peddlers outside selling books, postcards and oil paintings, but that shouldn’t dissuade you from visiting. It’s roughly 1600ft east of Thatbyinnyu, 1600ft north of Shwesandaw and 60 miles northwest of Dhammayangyi Pahto. Most visitors access it from the northern side, where the highest concentration of hawkers are. For a quieter approach, enter from the east side.
Visible from all parts of Bagan, this massive, walled, 12th-century temple (about 1600ft east of Shwesandaw) is infamous for its mysterious, bricked-up inner passageways and cruel history. It’s said that King Narathu built the temple to atone for his sins: he smothered his father and brother to death and executed one of his wives, an Indian princess, for practising Hindu rituals. The best preserved of Bagan's temples, it features detailed mortar work in its upper levels. Narathu is also said to have mandated that the mortarless brickwork fit together so tightly that even a pin couldn’t pass between any two bricks. Workers who failed in this task had their arms chopped off: just inside the west entrance, note the stones with arm-sized grooves where these amputations allegedly happened. After Narathu died – by assassination in 1170 – the inner encircling ambulatory was filled with brick rubble, as ‘payback’. Others quietly argue the temple dates from the earlier reign of Alaungsithu, which would refute all this fun legend behind it. It’s also likely that this bricking up of the passages was a crude way of ensuring the massive structure didn’t collapse.
The plan here is similar to Ananda, with projecting porticoes and receding terraces, though its sikhara is reduced to a stub nowadays. Walking around the outer ambulatory, under ceilings so high you can only hear the squeaks of bats circling in the dark, you can see some intact stucco reliefs and paintings, suggesting the work had been completed. The mystery goes on. Three out of the four buddha sanctums were also filled with bricks. The remaining western shrine features two original side-by-side images of Gautama and Maitreya, the historical and future buddhas (it’s the only Bagan site with two side-by-side buddhas). The temple’s bad karma may be the reason it remains one of the few temples not to have undergone major restoration. Perhaps in time, one of the great architectural mysteries of Bagan will be solved.
At the west end of Nyaung U, this big, beautiful zedi is the town’s main religious site, and is most famous for its link with the 37 nat . Lit up impressively at dusk the gilded zedi sits on three rising terraces. Enamelled plaques in panels around the base of the zedi illustrate scenes from the Jataka. At the cardinal points, facing the terrace stairways, are four shrines, each of which houses a 13ft-high bronze standing buddha. Gupta-inspired and cast in 1102, these are Bagan’s largest surviving bronze buddhas. A 4in circular indentation in a stone slab, before the upwards-heading eastern steps, was filled with water to allow former Myanmar monarchs to look at the reflection of the hti without tipping their heads backwards (which might have caused them to lose their crowns). The most important site here is the small yellow compound called 37 Nat (in English) on the southeast side of the site. Inside are figures of all the 37 pre-Buddhist nat that were officially endorsed by Bamar monarchy in a compromising gesture towards a public reluctant to give up all their beliefs for Buddhism. Ask around if the compound is locked. At one end stands an original stone figure of Thagyamin, king of the nat and a direct appropriation of the Hindu god Indra. This is the oldest known freestanding Thagyamin figure in Myanmar. The site was started by Anawrahta but not completed until the reign of Kyanzittha. The latter is thought to have built his palace nearby. A path on the north side leads down to the riverbank, where you can get some interesting views.
Bagan’s most famous sunset-viewing spot, the Shwesandaw is a graceful white pyramid-style pagoda with steps leading past five terraces to the circular stupa top, with good 360-degree views. It’s located roughly midway between Thatbyinnyu and Dhammayangyi. Its top terrace is roomy, which is just as well, considering the numbers of camera-toting travellers coming by taxi or bus before sunset. If you go during the day, you’ll likely be alone, making it a good spot for temple panoramas. Shwesandaw means ‘golden holy hair’: legend has it that the stupa enshrines a Buddha hair relic presented to King Anawrahta by the King of Ussa Bago (Pegu) in thanks for his assistance in repelling an invasion by the Khmers. The terraces once bore terracotta plaques showing scenes from the Jataka but traces of these, and of other sculptures, were covered by rather heavy-handed renovations. The now-gilded zedi bell rises from two octagonal bases, which top the five square terraces. This was the first Bagan monument to feature stairways leading from the square terraces to the round base of the stupa. The hti , which was toppled by the 1975 earthquake, can still be seen lying on the south side of the paya compound. A new one was fitted soon after the quake. About 500ft north stands Lawkahteikpan Pahto, a small but interesting middle-period gu containing excellent frescoes and inscriptions in both Burmese and Mon.
Mrauk U (Myohaung)
Myanmar’s second-most-famous archaeological site, Mrauk U (pronounced ‘mraw-oo’) is different in just about every way. The temples – previously mistaken for forts due to thick bunker-style walls built against the fierce Rakhine winds – are smaller and younger, and unlike Bagan’s, are predominately made from stone, not brick. Also unlike Bagan, Mrauk U's temples are dispersed throughout a still-inhabited and fecund backdrop of busy villages, rice fields and rounded hillocks. And best of all, you’re likely to have them to yourself: in a good year, only about 5000 foreign visitors come here. The site’s remote location, a four to seven hour boat ride up a creek of the Kaladan River, plus the lack of government promotion, means this is unlikely to change in the short term.
• Andaw Paya - Andaw Paya takes the form of an eight-sided monument with a linear layout
• Shittaung Pillar - Sandstone obelisk whose sides are inscribed in Sanskrit.
• Ratanabon Paya - This massive stupa, sometimes called Yadanapon, is ringed by 24 smaller stupas and apparently built by Queen Shin Htway in 1612
The usual starting point is at this, Mrauk U’s most complex temple. Shittaung means ‘Shrine of the 80,000 Images’, a reference to the number of holy images inside. King Minbin, the most powerful of Rakhine’s kings, built Shittaung in 1535. It’s a frenzy of stupas of various sizes; some 26 surround a central stupa. Thick walls, with windows and nooks, surround the two-tiered structure, which has been highly reconstructed over the centuries – in some places, rather clumsily.
Outside the temple | Beside the southwest entrance stairway, and inside a locked mint-green building, is the much-studied Shittaung Pillar , a 10ft sandstone obelisk brought here from Wethali by King Minbin. Considered the ‘oldest history book in Myanmar’ (by the Rakhine at least), three of the obelisk’s four sides are inscribed in faded Sanskrit. The east-facing side likely dates from the end of the 5th century. The western face displays a list dating from the 8th century, outlining Rakhine kings from 638 BC to AD 729 (King Anandacandra). Lying on its back next to the pillar is a cracked, 12ft-long sandstone slab featuring an engraved lotus flower (a Buddhist motif) growing from a wavy line of water and touching an intricately engraved dhammacakka (Pali for ‘Wheel of the Law’). Along the outer walls, several reliefs can be seen (some are hard to reach); a few on the south side are rather pornographic.
Inside the temple | Inside the temple’s prayer hall you’ll see several doors ahead. Two lead to passageways that encircle the main buddha image in the cave hall (which can be seen straight ahead). The far left (southwest) doorway leads to the outer chamber , a 310ft passageway with sandstone slabs cut into six tiers. Over 1000 sculptures show a lot of detail of Rakhine customs (eg traditionally dressed dancers, boxers and acrobats), beasts of burden, and hundreds of Jataka (scenes from Buddha’s past 550 lives). At each corner are bigger figures, including the maker King Minbin and his queens at the southwest corner. The passage opens in the front, where you can step out for views. Next to the outer chamber entry is a coiling inner chamber leading past scores of buddha images in niches, passing a Buddha footprint where – it’s said – the Buddha walked during his post-enlightenment. Once you get to the dead end, double back to the hall, and see if you can feel the passageway becoming cooler. Some claim it does, symbolising the ‘cooling effect’ of Buddhist teachings.
One of Mrauk U’s star attractions, Kothaung Paya is also the area's largest temple. It was built in 1553 by King Minbin’s son, King Mintaikkha, to outdo his pop’s Shittaung by 10,000 images (‘Kothaung’ means ‘Shrine of 90,000 Images’). Kothaung Paya is located a mile or so east of the palace; follow the road directly north of the market, veering left on the much smaller road before the bridge. Much of Kothaung Paya was found in fragments. Legends vary – that lightning or an earthquake in 1776 destroyed it, jewel-seekers overturned walls, or that it was built with inferior stones by a superstitious king bent on beating a six-month timeline. Regardless, the structure as it looks today is the result of a rather heavy-handed 1996 reconstruction. Recalling Borobudur in Indonesia, the exterior is coated with bell-like stone stupas. The 90,000 images in question line the outer passageway, the entrances to which are guarded by grimacing ogres. Stairways lead up to a top terrace, once dotted with 108 stupas.
Built by King Minphalaung in 1571, Dukkanthein Paya smacks of a bunker (with stupas). Wide stone steps lead up the south and east side of the building considered to be an ordination hall; take the east side steps to reach the entrance. The interior features spiralling cloisters lined with images of buddhas and common people (such as landlords, governors, officials and their spouses) sporting all of Mrauk U’s 64 traditional hairstyles . The passageway nearly encircles the centre three times before reaching the sun-drenched buddha image. The poorly restored Laymyetnha Paya , 90yd north, looks a bit like a squashed-up version of the Dukkanthein, but was actually built 140 years earlier, making it the oldest temple of the Mrauk U period.
The highlight of this squat, little-visited temple is its passageway with bas-relief illustrations of the tribumi – Buddhist visions of heaven, earth and hell – including acrobats, worshippers and animals. At the end there's a 6ft central buddha and four buddhas in niches; the throne of the former includes some erotic carvings. Mahabodhi Shwegu is largely hidden behind shrubbery on a hilltop northeast of Ratanabon Paya. To get here, proceed up the barely discernible uphill path that starts behind the covered water well. Directly south, Ratana San Rwe and Ratana Hman Kin , two adjacent hilltop stupas, show the fruit of recent and extensive restoration.
Day 1 - Meet in Bagan
Meet your guide for the Chin Mountains at your hotel, with options to include a hotel in the trip.
Option in Bagan | Minnanthu + Sightseeing
We'll board a morning flight to Bagan and begin our sightseeing of this World Heritage site, a vast network of stone temples with some of Asia's most incredible murals on the walls. You will picnic at Minnanthu, a quiet area of the Minnanthu temple complex. The guide brings you by car to this forgotten part of Bagan, will spread out a blanket and serve a delicious picnic lunch in this historic spot. Afterwards you will before visiting another 2 or 3 ancient temples ruins in this area. The rest of the day the car and guide are available for additional visits of the temples if wanted. (See Bagan topbar for information on this region). Zfreeti Hotel (Deluxe) (B, L)
Option in Bagan | Bagan Sightseeing by Electric Bikes
Sightseeing by electric bicycles with an experienced guide in one of the most incredible and scenic temple complexes in all of Asia. We love Bagan even more then Angkor Wat, not just because of the beauty of each temple and not just because of the lack of hordes of tourists, but because of the stunning landscape of ancient temple ruins that seem to be spread around randomly in between toddy palms and bamboo huts. During this half day tour on a bike, your guide will show you some of the most spectacular sceneries of ancient temples and the best of all is that you can stop any time, any minute to make some beautiful pictures. Zfreeti Hotel (Deluxe) (B, L)
Day 2 - Drive Kanpetlet 1860m (Mt Victoria National Park) | Climb Victoria Peak 3070m
Leave your main luggage behind as it will be send separately to Mrauk U, and only pack your gear in a small backpack for the coming days. We'll have an early start from the hotel in Bagan, driving by 4WD and leaving the 'dry zone' behind, instead passing over several 'dry creeks'. After lunch time we slowly start climbing in the mountains, through forests of valuable teek trees, and you will notice a drop in temperature as we ascend into Myanmar's hill country. We arrive in Kanpetlet after approximately five hours of driving, and enter the national park, hiking to the top of the 3000+ meter peak, a 1 1/2 hour climb from 2720m - 3070m. Afterwards we might have time to visit the local market, packed with locally woven baskets, colorful textiles, fruit and vegetables. Overnight simple hotel in Kanpetlet. (B, D)
Day 3 - Drive Matupi
We continue driving deeper into Chin State, passing occasional villages, stopping at the local markets, and spending most of the day driving through forest on scenic roads. On arrival in Matupi we drive towards the famous seven steps waterfall (the beginning of the Lay Myo River) and walk towards the waterfall. Green rice terraces and mountains mark the way, and we'll have our first view of the indigenous banteng, 'nwanot' in local language, a cow like animal that only lives in this region of Myanmar. We can visit the waterfall (it's possible to swim) and will then continue by car to the simple guesthouse in Matupi, with shared bathroom facilities. (B, L, D)
Banteng: " The banteng is everything domestic cattle are not: rainforest-dwelling, wild, elusive, obscure, almost mystical. Yet for all that, the banteng are cattle. They just happen to be cattle of the tropical forests of Southeast Asia, sharing their dark verdured habitat with tigers, elephants, and rhinos. Although co-existing with such exotic animals, the banteng, in appearance, could almost be mistaken for domestic cattle; they are similar in both size and general impression, but a bit different in color and pattering: males sport a black coat with white stockings and rump, while females are tan to dark brown with similar stockings and rump." - news.mongabay.com
Day 4 - Trek Amswe – Gwe Zar – Thein Zar 1440m
Another early departure by car and motorbikes with drivers to the starting point of our trek, a quick hour's drive through the mountains. We have a simple breakfast at the end of the road before heading out on the trek, and set off for about 5 kilometers of relatively flat hiking, arriving at Amswe village at about 10 am. We continue our trek to Gwe Zar village, another 9 km, where we arrive in time for a simple Burmese lunch. While the guide is preparing lunch, have a walk around this fascinating village, notice the drying roots that will eventually be sold to China, the pink flowers blooming in the Silk (or Red) cotton trees (called Letpan in Burmese) trees and the daily village activities.
After lunch, the scenery is very diverse, often walking along ridges with panoramic views across the valley below, passing by monsoon mud slides, hiking through dense jungle and even passing through rice plantations in the mountains. We pass plants that resemble cardamom, orange and lemon trees, sometimes for sale along the side of the trail, and chicken coops near the villages. Thien Zar is an interesting village with a very remote feel, where few westerners have passed through. The local men make knives and guns in the village, and most of these Chin villages are home to large pigs and squealing piglets!
The religions in the Chin State are Baptist, Catholic, Presbyterian and Lutheran (in that order of popularity), and there is generally Sunday school on Saturday nights, Sunday mornings and Sunday evenings, and plenty of pastors and priests who are generally the heads of the villages. Before these Western religions were introduced by zealous missionaries to Burma, the Chin people practiced a form of animism.
We stay in a large common room in a bamboo hut which one of the villagers loans to the group. Thin pads, blankets, a pillow and mosquito nets are provided but we recommend bringing an air mattress (or yoga mat) along as well! (7 hrs) (B, L, D)
Day 5 - Trek Hton Nar – Mardu – Welu 1090m
We start the day with an early morning breakfast, possibly local fare such as mohinga, followed by a short walk to the village of Hton Nar (1450m) where local men still wear Hornbill feathers in their head dresses. Another 2 kilometers to hike for an early lunch at Mardu (1284m); lunches tend to be long as the middle of the day is hot, so take the opportunity to explore the village, or have a siesta in our local bamboo house. Mardu has three churches (Presbyterian, Baptist and Catholic) and a friendly pastor who speaks English and can explain some of the local culture. The village also has three small schools, and the cute school children will be out for lunch in their green and white uniforms, amazed to see Westerners in the village.
Enjoy the beautiful vistas over the Chin Hills as we hike another two hours, past bamboo plantations, rice fields, thick forest and open fields, to traditional Welu village. Our accommodation is similar to the previous night's hut, and we'll have the afternoon to meet the locals and get to understand this unique Chin culture. Some of the locals have never seen chewing gum, a sign of how remote these Chin vilages are! Notice the skulls of the cow-like nwanot on all of the Chin houses, amulets to protect the inhabitants and a sign of the owner's skills with his homemade guns.
These Chin villagers are still primarily hunters, raising pigs and chickens, growing a few fruit trees and crops, but existing on a very simple but delicious diet. The Chins often use ash from bamboo leaves to make their food sour, giving it a very unique flavor. The dried tubars that are sold to China are also used in their dishes. (18 km) (B, L, D)
Day 6 - Trek We Lu - Htin Khaung – Lone Ton 930m
Leaving Welu, we pass a series of interesting rice storage huts and seasonal settlements, hiking for the first 2 1/2 hours through the jungle, and the rest of the morning a lovely, breezy ridge walk (10 km). Late morning we reach the larger village of Htin Khaung (930m), where local 'Dais' dressed up in their traditional costumes and put on an incredibly interesting 'concert' of flutes and gord pipes. The older women in most of these Chin villages still have tatooed faces which look slightly green as they age, and cover most of their faces. Some of the older men sported Hornbill feather head dresses.
Htin Khaung is a beautiful, timeless Chin village flanked with traditional Chin storage houses, a square, a few shops (!) and a church. There are still several Chin women who have their face tattooed with intrinsic patterns, apparently a tradition from the past to make the women look 'too bizarre' to be taken away by the kings of the Bagan empire. The local Chin people play flute pipes and other locally constructed instruments. After lunch at Htin Khaung we'll walk another 8 km, relatively flat and through a bit of light forest, to Lone Ton village, a spacious Chin village of about 40 bamboo huts and 200 inhabitants, even a volleyball net. The local Presybetarian pastor, who also speaks some English, will probably also wander over, a great chance to ask some questions.
We stay the night in a beautiful, new bamboo house, very clean and owned by a couple with 8 children and many skulls, also of wild boar and barking deer, above the door and deck. Villagers who have never seen a Westerner will stop by to squat and watch the afternoon excitement. Have a wander to the village tap to rinse off after another hot day of hiking, and return to the deck for a beautiful sunset over the Chin hills. The guide will prepare a simple but delicious local dinner. The thatched window covers will be put up in the evenings to keep out insects - and whatever else might be lurking outside. (18 km) (B, L, D)
Day 7 - Trek Khapo Chay. Longtail Boat Trip to Than Chaung Wah
Sadly, we have to leave the Chin hills today. Starting with a lovely 8 km hike down hill, we trek through groves of bamboo on a trail which might be slightly washed out, the last section steep red clay, to the banks of the Than Chaung River. A private boat is waiting for us at the 'Lone Ton Pier' (bank of the river) to continue the trip by a basic longtail boat. The first few hours we pass some rapids, which makes the trip quite exciting. There is a driver in the back controlling the motor, and a 'poler' in front who is often out of the boat pushing and steering through shallow or tricky rapids. We continue our boat trip, stoping for lunch on the banks of the river at Ping Wa (74 km), a chance to chat with the locals and shop at the basic bamboo shops, which double as the tea shops. Kids will be jumping into the river, taking their own small boats out for rides, real water children.
Later in the afternoon the river gets wider and calmer, and we'll pass larger bamboo rafts headed to and from markets, loaded with supplies, and locals out with homemade fishing poles. En route we pass a plethora of wildlife and birds, including many varieties of kingfisher, heron, stilt, redstart, parakeet, owls, sandpiper, wagtails, water buffalos, barking deer and red monkeys, and cruise past more pink Letpan trees. We might pass Army checkposts along the way, and your guide will probably tell you to put cameras away. We arrive at the end of a beautiful river day at a traditional Chin village (Than Chaung Wah) on the bank of the river, and our accomodation will be similar to in the Chin hills. Our guide will prepare a local meal for us as we set up our bedding in the local house. (8 km hike, 6-8 hrs boat) (B, L, D)
Day 8 - Longtail Boat Trip to Sun Oo + Drive Mrauk U
After an early morning breakfast, we embark on another beautiful boat trip, today's ride about 6 hours. We stop for lunch at Ten Htung after about 26 km, and have the first tourist check post of the day. After Ten Htung we enter the region of Mrauk U, the villages become a mix of Buddhist and Christian, and the river widens considerably, soon becoming a major waterway. The next stop is at the second check post, Let Pan Daw, where watermelon might be available at the riverside shack. The next significant villages we pass are Cho May and Sinkay, but tourists from Mrauk U have found these villages of tatoo-faced women so best to motor by and continue on to the jetty near Mrauk U. Disembarking and saying goodbye to our boating companions, our private vehcicle is waiting to drive us half an hour to the historical temple city of Mrauk U. Overnight in Mrauk U at at Shwe Thazin Hotel (Superior) (B)
Day 8 - Mrauk U | Explore by Bicycle
A wonderful day of organized sightseeing around Mrauk U, an incredibly interesting and beautiful complex of ancient temples, Buddhas and ruins. Enjoy the interactive tour by private vehicle, visiting the amazing temple complexes of Mrauk U as well as the local town with an expert guide on the archaeological site. You'll learn the fascinating history of the Rakhine dynasties from your guide, a local of this once powerful region. Don't miss sunset over the pagodas at one of our secret spots! (See Mrauk U topbar for information on region). Overnight at Shwe Thazin Hotel (Superior) (B)
Day 10 - Mrauk U | Free Day
A free day to continue with explorations of this incredible and ancient complex. The guide will have suggestions of where to visit, and there will be options to rent a bike, hire a vehicle or explore the shady side streets of our neighborhood on foot. There is an interesting mareket about 1 km from the hotel, worth several hours to explore. There are several good restaurants near the hotel, all within walking distance, and all with unique Burmese dishes. Overnight at Shwe Thazin Hotel (Superior) (B)
Day 11 -Trip Ends
Depending on your schedule, we will take you to the airport or transfer you to another 'module' for more Myanmar adventures!
Option Mrauk U to Yangon | Boat Sittwe. Fly Yangon
The perfect ending to our journey, we board an early morning boat for a scenic cruise along the Kaladan River with stunning views of the surrounding fields and mountains in the distance, certainly a highlight of the trip to Mrauk U. The 3-4 hour boat trip to Sittwe is an excellent opportunity to watch daily life passing by on the nearby banks. At Sittwe you will be transferred to the airport and board a flight back to Yangon. The afternoon is at your leisure, enjoy! Overnight at Clover Wingaba Hotel (Deluxe) (B)
Ngapali Beach Extension
Day 11 - Mrauk U Cruise to Sittwe. Fly to Thandwe | Ngapali Beach
Only on Friday and Sunday. Transfer to hotel on beautiful Ngapali Beach. Our recommended hotel is the wonderful Yoma Cherry. (garden view room)
Day 12 - Ngapali Beach
Beach day! Head to the fishing villages on the southern end of the beach in the morning, to watch the local fishermen and village women unloading and sorting the evening catch, endlessly colorful and fascinating. And your dinner this evening, probably! Overnight at Yoma Cherry (garden view room)
Day 13 - Ngapali Beach
Another beach day on this idyllic stretch of sand, under the palms. Take a walk to the end of the beach, and take a look at the local crafts exhibited by talented women en route. Overnight at Yoma Cherry (garden view room)
Day 14 - Ngapali Beach
You may want to head to one of the local markets in the village, a step back in time and an incredibly exotic and bustling marketplace. Overnight at Yoma Cherry (garden view room)
Book the St Andrew’s Bay | Snorkelling, Village Life + Home Cooked Meal (Half Day Tour)
The traditional village of Maung Shwe Lay is about an hour south of Ngapali by local fisherman boat, a relaxing and fun day in the beautiful St Andrew’s Bay. We pick you up from your hotel by boat, and you'll enjoy a leisurely ride across the sea to this perfectly shaped, quiet bay. You'll stop the boat to go snorkelling in the bay in front of the village, where you will see coral and colorful fish (you’re advised to wear swim wear and bring a beach towel from your hotel) before continuing on to the village. Maung Shwe Lay is a local fishing community where life stood still; we walk around the village and show you the local market, village school and library. We continue on foot or by oxcart through the village back to the beach, enjoying real rural life in this part of Myanmar.
A home cooked lunch with seafood is prepared by your host family in a local house on the beach, a moment to get to know the people. Around 2 pm in the afternoon we bring you back to your hotel in Ngapali.
Day 15 - Transfer to Airport. Fly to Yangon - Trip Ends
Transfer to hotel in Yangon. Transfer to the international airport for your trip home.
NOTE - There are not daily flights from Sittwe to Ngapali Beach. Inquire for current schedule.
If you book a private tour, add on any number of days + tours in Yangon, Inle Lake, Bagan, Mandalay or another of Burma's endlessly fascinating destinations and beaches to enrich your Myanmar journey!
Yangon Heritage Walk (Half Day Tour)
Yangon downtown is unique with much of its colonial-era architecture still standing. You find one of Asia’s most impressive collections of late nineteenth and early twentieth- century buildings, religious and secular. Starting after breakfast or lunch this walking tour will take you through downtown Yangon, focusing on its old colonial buildings. Your guide will walk you through the back streets in a relaxed tempo and explain you the history of each building some of them empty, some getting restored and some used for different purposes than when built. This walk along the streets of Yangon will at least architecturally take you a step back in time. The walk ends with a drink at Rangoon Tea House a cozy restaurant on lower Pansodan Street, a new place where many of Yangon’s expatriates of today meet up for a drink or meal.
Yangon in the Early Morning – Markets, Monks & Mohinga (Half Day Tour)
What’s happening in the streets of Yangon when most people are still sleeping? You’re going to find out soon. An early wake-up call is planned at 6 am and the guide is expecting you in the hotel lobby at 6.30 to start with a visit to the fish market. The Yangon River is already busy. We continue to a vegetable market, which is open 24 hours a day and go to try the famous Burmese breakfast called Mohinga (a mild fish soup with noodles and crackers). By that time the monks are walking through the streets of Yangon to collect their alms and you will wait for them to pass and donate some food. Continue to the fruit and vegetable market before heading back to your hotel (around 09:30 am) to have your full western breakfast.
Spiritual Shwedagon Pagoda (Half Day Tour)
So what’s behind the golden façade of the Shwedagon Pagoda? During this interactive half-day tour we take you through the back door and show you the full history of the pagoda, the daily life of all people living in its immediate surroundings and a deeper insight in the Buddhist religion and how the spiritual belief is mixed with the belief in nats – the Myanmar spirits. An intriguing day starting from the bottom of the hill and passing the workshops, markets and monasteries which will be useful or even essential to understand more of the country during the rest of your journey. The tour includes a traditional Burmese breakfast, offerings to monks and the pagoda, a visit to a fortuneteller and a Burmese lunch.
Yangon City (Full Day Tour)
Yangon is a sprawling city with a relatively small downtown area including several markets, colonial buildings, the Yangon River and a very green area with tree-lined streets and several lakes. During this full day tour we show you the different faces of Yangon. During the day you visit the Sule Pagoda, colonial downtown, the harbour, The Strand for a drink, and one of the colourful local markets. The reclining Buddha will be visited just before taking a tasteful lunch of typical dishes from tribes from all over the country like Kachin, Shan and Rakhine. A local market will lead us to a small station where we take the famous circular train to bring us right behind Bogyoke Aung San market before heading back to your hotel.
Yangon After Sunset Including Shwedagon (Evening Tour)
At the end of the day many Yangonites leave their office and on the way back home they stop for some shopping, catch up with friends at a teashop, visit a pagoda or go to a beer station. This is exactly what you are going to do as well this evening. Highlight of the tour will be the evening visit to the illuminated Shwedagon pagoda – a magic and mystical moment at a time it’s not very busy on the main platform. After the pagoda visit there will be local snacks to be tasted as well as a local draft beer or a fresh lime juice. The tour includes drinks, a walk over the night market in downtown, tea and snacks as well as a tasty bowl of noodles shared with some locals.
In the Footsteps of Bogyoke Aung San (Half Day Tour)
The father of Myanmar independence, the national hero and the person who fought against the British and later against the Japanese to give Burma independence in 1947. Bogyoke (which means general) Aung San is still loved by people nationwide. During this half-day tour we visit places in Yangon related to the life of general Aung San who brought independence to Myanmar and your guide will give background information about his life and the history of Myanmar. Places to be visited include Yangon downtown, the recently re-opened Aung San museum (closed on Mon and Public Holidays) and his wife’s mausoleum. The tour is ending with a lunch in Aung San’s former office.
Multiculturalism in Yangon – 8 Places of Worship (Full Day Tour)
One of the exciting aspects of travelling in Myanmar is the fact that the country was closed and therefore unchanged for so many years. The population consists out of more than a 100 different nationalities and races (who often preserve their own dialect, customs, food and religious backgrounds). Only in Yangon you can visit eight different places of worship in a day. During this full day tour we visit Indian town, Chinatown and the National Museum to see a display of the traditional dress of the main groups of people living in Myanmar. It’s also a day to discover the different religious backgrounds of the population and we will visit a Buddhist pagoda, a Christian church, a mosque, a synagogue, a Hindu temple, a Chinese temple, a Sikh temple and a place where spirits are honored.
Temples + Pagodas in Bago. A Train Ride Home (Full Day Tour)
Bago (about 1, 5 hr. driving) used to be the capital of Myanmar under king Bayinnaung (till 1819). It is an excellent place to see the remains of a former capital, especially if you don’t have enough time to visit Mandalay or Bagan. In the morning we stop at a local market to buy some fruits and snacks and to pay respect to the thousands of allied soldiers buried at the Taukkyan War Cemetery. In Bago city we visit the Kyatkha Wain monastery, one of the largest in the country. We try to arrive in time to see the monks’ preparations for lunch. During the afternoon we visit Shwemawdaw Pagoda as well as the Shwetalyaung Buddha and the remains of the former palace. We return to Yangon by train to see a different way of local live and countryside.
Village Life Along the Old Dhammazedi Road (Full Day Tour)
An exciting day is ahead of us as we’re going to follow parts of the old Dhammazedi Road (used by former Bago kings to visit the Shwedagon Pagoda) and meet countryside communities, from farmers to village teachers. From Yangon (or from Bago) we drive in about 2 hours towards Kyauk Tan where mountain bikes are ready for a trip through the country side to Ohn Ne. The bike trip is about 2.5 hours (29 km), partly unpaved, all flat road. We visit the beautiful monastery and continue by car to Thakala. Our host family is waiting for us in this small town to accompany us by bike, boat, motorbike or on foot (45 min) - depending on the season and the path conditions - to their community. Htee Tan village is a traditional village showcasing typical life: it has a village pond where water is collected during the raining season so the villagers have water to drink, wash, and cook during the dry season. There is a village school, a monastery that serves as a community centre, there is no electricity, no running water or even wells. A quiet community where people have been living for ages and stay together in good times and bad times. A family style lunch awaits us, followed by a stroll around the town. In the afternoon we continue by car towards Thongwa to visit the lively market before crossing the river and arrive in downtown Yangon.
A Fortuneteller Told Me | Meditation, Traditional Medicine + Good Luck! (Half Day Tour)
Religion has always been very important for the Burmese. Apart from paying respect to Buddha there are many different ways to try to give your body and soul a bit more “peace of mind”, to build up karma, or to get directions on what to do or what to avoid in life. During this full day tour the principles of mediation are explained to you at one of the famous meditation centers. Get a foot massage in a school for blind people before a traditional lunch. Gain deeper insight in the Burmese traditional medicine at a local traditional medicine shop and find out the secret of the beautiful Burmese skin. End the day with a visit to a traditional fortuneteller who will read your palm. Oh ... and today’s lunch is vegetarian!
Pampering + Shopping (Half Day Tour)
An excellent half day tour during your trip to Myanmar starting (or ending) with a lunch at a local entrepreneur who is growing organic vegetables and producing locally made “French” cheese, ham and other delicious food. A 1 hour foot massage by blind or deaf people, trained by a local charity, is what you deserved after a long trip to Myanmar. Our specially selected shopping guide will bring you to whatever shop you like to find your souvenirs to bring home, whether it is shopping for a longyi (local sarong), umbrella’s, old books, gold leaves or even a trishaw (bicycle taxi) or contemporary painting – our specialist knows where to find it.
The Daily Commute | Yangon’s Hidden Neighbourhoods (Morning Tour)
Mingle with the locals during an energetic trip using public transportation to see lesser known parts of this vibrant city using taxis, train, ferry and trishaw. Scratching under the surface of the city, you will visit locals markets, small workshops where pagoda accessories are made and cross the river to see “rural Yangon” to get a taste of local live. Your guide will pick you up from the hotel by taxi to go to the main station for a fun ride to one of the oldest, colonial stations in the country. From here you continue on foot crossing lively markets and taste 5 different local snacks and see how food is produced – an interesting sight. We leave Dalat town behind us and return to your hotel by ferry and taxi.
Yangon Nat Walk with Htwe Oo Puppet Show (Afternoon Tour)
Discover Yangon in its most mysterious yet superstitious way, your guide will take you on a walking tour to learn about the Nat spirits that owe their origins to Burmese mythology. The belief is that this form of animistic worship was created from karmic martyrdom, and even today the Nat belief still exists alongside Theravada Buddhism. After your tour, you will experience their story told the traditional way, by puppets! The art of Puppetry Yoke thé literally "miniatures" is the Burmese name for marionette puppetry and has been around since 17th century. During the show, notice how both male and female puppets are manipulated according to their master’s gender, at the end of the performance, you can also be a puppet master and have a go yourself! Before or after the show, enjoy a dinner at LinkAge Restaurant run by a NGO volunteer group named Forever Humanitarian. This restaurant helps disadvantaged street kids by providing them with training in Food & Beverage education and supports them with lodging, food and clothing.
If you book a private tour, add on any number of days + tours in Yangon, Inle Lake, Bagan, Mandalay or another of Burma's endlessly fascinating destinations and beaches to enrich your Myanmar journey!
Ballooning over Bagan (Half Day Tour)
One of the many highlights when visiting Myanmar. Early morning before sunrise you will be picked up at your hotel and driven to the launch site for a spectacular hot air balloon ride over the temple zone in Bagan. The mostly British balloon pilots are operating each balloon under highest UK safety standards and the views you will get are simply breathtakingly spectacular. After floating in the air and following the wind you will land safely and be welcomed back on the ground by a smiling crew serving cold champagne before bringing you to your hotel.
This is Bagan! (Full Day Tour)
A full day tour by car, with an experienced guide through Bagan will show you the best known temples of the area. We start the day climbing a pagoda to get a first impressive view over the whole area. From here the guide plans his way to some of the other amazing temples that have been here for hundreds of years. Places like the Ananda, Dhammayangyi, Sulamani, and Thatbyinnyu will certainly impress you. Lunch will be taken at a local restaurant and around 4pm we continue the tour by horse cart to Pyathagyi pagoda for sunset with some refreshing drinks served! Oh… we forgot to mention the best part of this tour; whenever you see a temple you like, just ask you guide to stop to have a look at it. Simply pick your own favorite temple.
Sundowners on a Sandbank (Evening Tour)
We’ve decided that you have to stay at least 2 nights in Bagan; one to see the sun go down from the top of an ancient temple, the other one to take a boat ride on the mighty Ayeyarwaddy River and have some sundowners on a sandbank in the middle of the river (if the river is not too high). A private boat tour on the river during sunset time will hopefully show you a spectacular sunset while your guide will be serving cocktails and some snacks.
Markets, Monasteries + a Hidden Cave Temple (Full Day Tour)
An ideal excursion on your second in Bagan when you feel like you have seen most of the temples (or at least enough) and also want to discover a bit more of the Myanmar country side. We go by private car to Kyauk Gu Ohnmin cave temple that rarely sees foreign visitors, continue to Pakkoku and visit a local slipper factory, the market and see where the famous Pakkoku blankets are made. A private boat is ready for you at the jetty in Pakkoku for a leisurely 2 hour trip downriver while lunch is being served on board. In the afternoon your guide and driver will show local village life in the dry zone and we will visit later in the day a lacquer ware workshop in Myinkaba village.
Bagan Food Tour | Breakfast + Lunch (Half Day Tour)
It’s all about cuisine this morning! The last king of Bagan was famous for his enormous appetite and he ordered that every meal should include 300 different dishes! Today you are going to discover what kind of food he must have eaten. We learn more about herbs and greens at the market in Myinkaba visit home-based cottage industries where products like tamarind paste or candies are made and we visit Mingalazedi pagoda which was built by this last king. Try the different tastes from sweet till bitter of typical Burmese ingredients in a local monastery and end the excursion with a meal like the last king of Bagan would have savored it, just a bit more moderate with “only” 30 different dishes to try.
Biking Through Bagan (Half Day Tour)
We love Bagan, even more then Angkor Wat, not just because of the beauty of each temple and not just because of the lack of hordes of tourists. We like Bagan most because of the stunning landscape of ancient temple ruins that seem to be spread around randomly in between toddy palms and bamboo huts. During this half day tour on a bike, your guide will show you some of the most spectacular sceneries of ancient temples and the best of all is that you can stop any time, any minute to make some beautiful pictures.
Dry Zone Safari | Local Village Visit (Half Day Tour)
A trip without temples but just pure, village life experiences to discover the dry zone. Drive out of Bagan with 4x4 car while local women carrying fire wood etc. for the market and communities are starting their daily activities. Nyaung Gyi is the first village visit and we stop to see a black smith work shop. In Se Ywa village we visit several local workshops (Plum purifying, cooking oil producing and wooden slipper maker). Then we continue to Taung Kong village where majority of the people are farmers but also making pottery. Total about 5 hours’ drive with stops. A great trip for photographers and anyone interested in daily life of local people.
Bike Trip without Temples (Full Day Tour)
We start the day to bike from your hotel to the Z-Craft Jetty in Old Bagan. In the morning you find a busy market where local bring their merchandise from across the river. After checking out the market we take a 10 min boat ride across to Se Lan village on the other side of the Ayeyarwaddy River. We spend about one hour biking through vegetable plantations, seeing local way of life to Myitchay village. Here we will visit workshops like cotton weaving and cane/bamboo ware workshops. Lunch will be in a local restaurant. After lunch we continue on our bikes south (10 km) to Kyaung Chaung Jetty where our boat will be waiting for us to bring us back to Old Bagan. From here we return to our hotel by bike. A great trip for photographers and anyone interested in daily life of local people.
Mount Popa + Surroundings (Full Day Tour)
Mount Popa is one of the places to be visited in the surroundings of Bagan as it is the birth place of the 37 “nats” of Myanmar which are the protective spirits. We will steer you away from the normal trodden paths and visit today also the country side including a temple in Minnanthu area, rural village life in Shwe Si Tine village as well as the fruit and flower market and plantations near Popa. Lunch will be taken at Popa Mountain Resort. Return back to Bagan at the end of the day – in time to catch a beautiful sunset.
Scary Ghosts, Superstitious Kings + Brutal Conquerors (Half Day Tour)
The history of the Bagan temples and the Bagan kingdom does not only have a sunny side from the glory days but has also seen a lot of bloodshed in the past. During this half day tour, our guide will bring you to all places with a scary history and tell you hair rising myths and anecdotes. Is the spirit of the Tharaba gate really the soul of a person buried alive inside the doorpost? How many construction workers had their arm chopped of at that stone at Dhammayangyi stupa? And are there still ghosts here at night? The guide will tell you all during this tour around Bagan, give you an insight in the behaviour of kings and queens during this period and explain what happened when the Mongols invaded. Especially children and families will love this tour. Car and guide available till 6 pm if wanted.
Lesser-known Temples + Myinkaba Market (Half Day Tour)
The busy market in Myinkaba is a very lively affair each morning when people from all around town come and buy their vegetables, herbs and meat and other ingredients for dinner. Your guide will give an assignment to go and buy and taste 3 different kind snacks typical for the region. There will be also some more time left to buy some souvenirs. We continue to Taungbi village where we visit the old wooden monastery built for royalty and 2 temples that are not well known but certainly worth a visit. The rest of the day the car and guide are available for additional visits of the temples till 6 pm if wanted.
Inle Lake ToursIf you book a private tour, add on any number of days + tours in Yangon, Inle Lake, Bagan, Mandalay or another of Burma's endlessly fascinating destinations and beaches to enrich your Myanmar journey!
A Day on Inle Lake (Full Day Tour)
Inle Lake in southern Shan State is a vast natural lake surrounded by traditional Shan villages. On the lake itself the Intha people have been living for many centuries in village built entirely on stilts on the lake. Today we will take you by private motorboat around the lake to discover the natural beauty of the lake, visit the floating gardens, see some of the famous leg rowers and have some tea at a local family’s house. On and around the lake traditional markets are held in different villages according to a 5-day rotating schedule and today we will take you to visit a colourful; market frequented by Shan and PaO people living nearby. We will certainly also visit a local cheroot factory (where the Burmese cigars are made), floating tomato gardens, Phaung Daw Oo Pagoda, Intha Heritage house where the Burmese cats are bred and if wanted we visit a weaving factory. Lunch is included.
Ruins of Indein, Home-Cooked Food + Floating Gardens (Half Day Tour)
In the south of the lake the ruins of Indein are certainly worth a visit. Partly covered by vegetation the area looks like a “pagoda forest”. We will walk about 1 hour to enjoy a fantastic view over the lake. A home-made cooked lunch is served in a local house. We continue towards the Nam Pan village for a very interesting trip going local with a small canoe. Whenever you are tired peddling yourself we continue by motorboat back to your hotel.
Nyaung Shwe by Bike + Peddle Boat (Full Day Tour)
Nyaung Shwe is a very lively little town which used to be the home of the Shan prince of Nyaung Shwe (Mr Sao Shwe Thaike, who later became the first prime minister of Myanmar after independence). Nowadays the town’s market still functions as a busy trading centre for all surrounding villages. During this day excursion on a bicycle starting from the centre of Nyaung Shwe we visit the local Mingala market, bike through some gorgeous scenery to the ancient teak wooden Shwe Yan Pyay monastery with the oval windows and visit the former palace of the last Shan prince. We have a Shan lunch at the Viewpoint restaurant. In the afternoon we first going to peddle ourselves in small boats (2 persons per boat) through the small canals and floating gardens to see local life from the water and then continue to visit the picturesque pagoda near Nanthe village. We end the tour with a visit and some wine tasting of the excellent wines at the Red Mountain winery in Nyaung Shwe. Total biking distance: around 8 km. Suitable for anybody with a normal health condition
A Shan Afternoon, Ending with Wine Tasting (Half Day Tour)
As described in many books, the Shan culture is very interesting and rich and especially in Nyaung Shwe you still get a bit of the feeling of the former Shan kingdom of Nyaung Shwe. We start with a visit of the Buddha museum which is housed in the former “Haw” (=palace) of the last Shan prince of Nyaung Shwe (Mr Sao Shwe Thaike, who later became the first prime minister of Myanmar after independence). We have a Shan lunch at the Viewpoint restaurant and then continue the tour to the local market looking for some traditional Shan cotton and Shan traditional dresses. A visit to the ancient teak wooden Shwe Yan Pyay monastery with the oval windows is certainly giving the opportunity for some great pictures. You will be peddled around some small canals and pass floating gardens in a small wooden boat for about half an hour to see more of the local Shan life from the water. End the tour with a visit and some wine tasting of the excellent wines at the Red Mountain winery in Nyaung Shwe
Discover the Lake’s West Bank on Bike and Foot (Full Day Tour)
An active day on the west bank of the lake with fantastic views over the lake and the villages surrounding the lake covering parts of the area not frequently visited by tourists. From Nyaung Shwe we take a bicycle and bike in an hour or so to Khaung Dine village passing numerous Shan villages. From here we continue towards the south of the lake. A simple lunch is prepared on the way. We go for a 2 hour walk near Indein village where we visit the ancient temple ruins. A boat is ready to take us back to our hotel in Nyaung Shwe.
Biking to Nampan Village on Inle Lake’s East Bank (Full Day Tour)
Visiting Inle Lake is not just about being on the water but also about discovering the Shan and Intha villages on the banks of the river. From Nyaung Shwe (or any hotel on the east bank of the lake) we bike passing several picturesque villages where we stop for a chat with the local monks at the forest monastery in Maing Thauk for a good view over the lake. We take lunch at the Intha Heritage house and continue from there by boat to visit a local cheroot factory as well as one of the oldest monasteries built on stilts on the lake and of course the famous floating gardens on Nampan. At the end of the day we go back by boat to the hotel.
Downhill through Shan State by Bike + Train (Full Day Tour)
An exhilarating day with great views over the lake and the southern Shan State. From Nyaung Shwe you leave around 08.00 am for an hour bike ride passing the famous monastery with oval windows. We take the local train that is slowly climbing up the mountain for about 2 hours until we hop off in Heho. A lunch is taken on the way. From Heho we cycle mostly downhill towards the lake this routing offers us fantastic panoramas. Once we are at the same level as the lake we leisurely continue cycling through the idyllic scenery of the Shan countryside for about 1,5 hours back to Nyaung Shwe.
Aung Ban to Indein by Bicycle (Full Day Tour)
Probably the best way to arrive in Inle Lake! Mountain bikes are ready for you to start a 4-5 hour biking trip to Indein. The trip is mostly off-road and technically easy with most of the roads flat or downhill although the first hour some parts are going uphill. Biking through numerous Pa O villages in an area where few foreigners have been before is a great experience. Stop on the way to enjoy the fantastic views over the lake and the Shan country side. Lunch is included in a local village. From Indein we continue to your hotel by private motorboat where the luggage is already delivered in the room. A great trip that can start from Kalaw, Nyaung Shwe, Khaung Dine or Heho. Attention: the last part of the biking trip is quite fast downhill and we urge everybody to go down very slowly and use your brakes or to walk downhill. If wanted an alternative flat bike route can be offered from Thaung Lay Lone to Indein.
Shan Cooking Class (Half Day Tour)
The Shan cuisine is famous for its refined taste and the possibility to make amazing dishes with just a few local ingredients. At 08:30 the local chef of the Viewpoint restaurant will take you to the market for a discovery of local products which you will bring back to the kitchen of the restaurant. Learn the secret recipes of the Shan cuisine and cook your own lunch. An aperitif is offered in the kitchen. A great half day excursion that will teach you the basics of Shan cooking (to try it at home!)
Thaung Lay Lone to Indein Ruins by Bike (Half Day Tour)
Certainly the most fun way to arrive at the lake. On arrival at Heho airport (or from Kalaw or Pindaya) we drive you by car to the starting point of this leisurely bike ride from Thaung Lay Lone to Indein. A 3 hours bike trip – mainly flat – passing sugarcane and garlic fields, Khaung Dine village with some beautiful views on Inle Lake. On arrival in Indein we visit the famous ruins and continue by motorboat to your hotel. A fun and easy way to start your Shan State adventure.
Kayaking through Intha Villages on Inle Lake (Half Day Tour)
An active adventure is waiting today as we bring you in the morning to the starting point of an interesting trip per kayak through rural villages in this part of Shan state. Depending on the location of your hotel, a transfer by motorboat over the lake will bring you in 30 minutes to In Phaw Khone, the famous weaving centre of the Intha people in the middle of Inle Lake. Light kayaks are ready for you to start peddling on the lake (2 persons per kayak) for a trip that takes you in about 2 hours through rural areas few people visit. A landscape of villages, beautiful nature with the Shan mountains in the background and floating gardens is passing by, while every now and then we stop in a traditional Intha village. After about 1 hour we stop in a village for a short walk to meet some of the villagers in their house and learn more about their life style or to discover some locally produced food production. We continue peddling and around lunch time we arrive at an Intha house were we are welcomed for a home-cooked lunch. We leave the kayaks behind and continue from here by motorboat back to the hotel or we continue for more visits on the lake by boat and guide.Total kayaking time (non-stop) would be about 2 hours of gentle peddling on the lake. Including stops in villages and lunch total excursion is a bit more than half a day while the rest of the day a motor boat and guide are available for additional visits on the lake.
Pa O Trekking (Full Day Tour)
One of the distinctive hill tribes from Shan State are the Pa O who are known for their navy blue clothes and colorful red or orange turban and their good farming and trading skills.
During this day trekking you get to know life as the Pa O live it and will visit their villages in the hills, eat their food and have the chance to dress like a Pa O (fun, at least for the picture!). We start with a 15 minutes horse cart ride from the hotel in Nyaung Shwe (or a boat ride from your hotel on the lake) and begin with a 2, 5 hours walk (a bit uphill) to arrive in a Pa O village where you have time to talk with the monks, visit a local school and where you will be invited to wear the traditional dress. Continue about 30 minutes (mainly flat) and arrive in a village where a traditional Pa O lunch is served with dishes like ginger soup, pumpkin leave salad and sukini leave salad.
Time to relax and prepare for the afternoon walk which is about 2, 5 hour with stunning views on the lake and plantations with crops like ginger, garlic and turmeric. Just before boarding the boat to bring you back to the hotel we stop for a last beautiful view over the lake as a reward for having passed the Pa O experience.
Authentic Shan Cooking Class in Local House on Lake (Full Day Tour)
Meet Tin Tin – an Intha native from the lake who will share her traditional Shan recipes with you today during a traditional Shan cooking class in a family house built on stilt on the lake. It’s not a Master Chef course from a Michelin restaurant owner but it’s simple, tasteful, home-cooked food from a local lady who has been cooking her whole life for her family and enjoys it! Together with an English speaking translator we visit the local market to find all ingredients, go by boat to the traditional house and help cleaning vegetables, chopping the ingredients, frying or boiling it, adding the right herbs and mixing the right ingredients.
Dished to be taught so you can prepare them at home as well are:
Shan Pumpkin soup
Fried rice cake
Steamed Inle fish in banana leaves
Vegetable curry cooked Shan style
Tomato salad from the lake with pounded peanuts
Of course the class ends with a very tasteful lunch. A kitchen apron, some specific local kitchen tools and a list with all ingredients to try it at home. A fantastic day to learn a bit of delicious cooking but certainly also to get a taste of the real local life of an Intha on the lake so not only for master chefs. Guide and boat available for the rest of the day for additional visits on the lake if wanted.
A Walk through the Winery (Late Afternoon Tour)
A relaxing morning or afternoon which includes a delicious lunch (or dinner) and tasting of several locally produced wines. From Nyaung Shwe we go by car towards Aythaya market and stop on the way in a local Pa O village to get to know this interesting tribe from this area a bit better. We have tea in a local house and continue by car to the lively local market. The guide will give you 1000 Kyats per person with a challenge to find as many different types of local snacks to taste, a good way to learn your first words of Pa O or Shan language spoken in this area and interact with the population. From the market we start for a walk through the different plantations (about 1,5 hour) and arrive at the entrance of the Aythaya winery from where we walk through the vineyard for another 30 minutes to arrive at the restaurant of the winery for a Shan lunch or dinner together with tasting of 4 different wines.
Ballooning over Inle Lake (Morning Tour)
Nestled between the mountains of the southern Shan State lies one of Myanmar’s top destinations: spectacular Inle Lake. The Lake itself (approx. 20km by 11km) can be found in the Southern Shan Hills, with the scenery providing stunning panoramic views. With its stilted villages, Intha leg-rowing fishermen, floating vegetable gardens and layered mountains as a backdrop, Inle Lake is one of the most unusual and extraordinary places in the World in which to enjoy a hot air balloon flight. You will be served fresh tea, coffee and pastries before your flight. After landing, enjoy water, fruit juice, fresh seasonal fruit and wine. An adventure not to be missed in this incredible and unique location!
If you book a private tour, add on any number of days + tours in Yangon, Inle Lake, Bagan, Mandalay or another of Burma's endlessly fascinating destinations and beaches to enrich your Myanmar journey!
Mandalay Orientation | Mahamuni & Amarapura (Half Day Tour)
This tour is the perfect introduction to Mandalay. We start at 2 pm with the Mahamuni pagoda and have a look at this century’s old Buddha statue originating from Mrauk Oo. It is a very lively temple compound where men are sticking gold leaves to the Buddha statue. The Mahamuni is also an excellent place to shop around for the perfect Buddha statue (bronze or wood). Can’t find what you are looking for? Find a marble statue at the next stop which is the marble carving street. The old capital of Amarapura is a quiet village where you hear the sound of the weaving machines. We walk through the famous Mahagandayon monastery complex with hundreds of monks, visit a 100 year old weaving vocational training institution and walk over U-Bein Bridge where we taste a sip of Mandalay rum which has been produced since 1886! The rest of the day car and guide are available for additional visits.
We start with the old capital of Amarapura is a quiet village where you hear the sound of the weaving machines. We walk through the famous Mahagandayon monastery complex with hundreds of monks, visit a 100 year old weaving vocational training institution and walk over U-Bein Bridge where we taste a sip of Mandalay rum which has been produced since 1886! Visit the Mahamuni pagoda and have a look at this century’s old Buddha statue originating from Mrauk Oo. It is a very lively temple compound where men are sticking gold leaves to the Buddha statue. The Mahamuni is also an excellent place to shop around for the perfect Buddha statue (bronze or wood). Can’t find what you are looking for? Find a marble statue at the next stop which is the marble carving street before heading back to your hotel.
A Cruise on the Ayeyarwaddy River (Full Day Tour)
Mandalay and the other former royal capitals around it have all been capital cities for a while for one major reason: they are all situated on the Ayeyarwaddy River (Irrawaddy). Feel the breeze of the river and imagine how it must have been to arrive by boat in Mingun or at the court of Ava. From the jetty in Mandalay we go upstream to Mingun and visit the Mingun Pagoda with the big crack caused by an earthquake and the giant bronze bell. We take a leisurely boat cruise for about 3 hours downstream to Ava. A simple lunch packed in rattan baskets will be served while cruising down. Arriving in Ava, horse carts are ready to take us around this magnificent site with various ancient temple ruins that used to be majestic buildings during the 400 years that Ava was the capital. Return to Mandalay by car. An ideal excursion if you don’t take the boat from Mandalay to Bagan since the most interesting part of the long boat ride is covered in this shorter cruise
Ava, Sagaing & Amarapura Cruise (Full Day Tour)
From the jetty in Mandalay we take a leisurely boat cruise for about 2 hours downstream to Sagaing passing the temple dotted hills where we stop and visit the Setkyar Thida nunnery. We continue by boat to Ava, horse carts are ready to take us around this magnificent site with various ancient temple ruins that used to be majestic buildings during the 400 years that Ava was the capital. Lunch will be taken in Ava before continuing to Amarapura by car. The old capital of Amarapura is a very quiet village nowadays where you only hear the sound of the weaving machines. We visit one of the small weaving factories and walk over U-Bein Bridge. An ideal excursion if you don’t take the boat from Mandalay to Bagan since the most interesting part of the long boat ride is covered in this shorter cruise.
A Visit to Mingun (Half Day Tour)
If you have limited time in Mandalay but still want to have the cruise experience we suggest you to visit Mingun. A short ride from the hotel brings you to the Mingun jetty where your boat is ready to cruise upstream. In Mingun you visit the bell as well as the cracked temple. Return by boat to Mandalay and visit the lively Yadanabon market which starts at 3pm in the afternoon before returning to the hotel around 6pm.
The Glass Palace + the Royal History of Mandalay (Half Day Tour)
King Thibaw and Queen Supayalat were the last king and queen of Burma until being sent to exile in India. King Thibaw became king in 1878 apparently after 79 other candidates were brutally murdered by his wife and mother-in-law. The famous book “The Glass Palace” by Amitav Ghosh describes this period in detail. We start by going inside the Mandalay fort and visit the rebuilt palace that was designed by king Mindon. From here we continue to visit the most beautiful part which is the wood-carved Shwenandaw monastery just outside the palace in which king Mindon lived and died. King Thibaw later used this building for meditation. We continue to the lesser-known Setkyathiha pagoda with the 5 meter high bronze sitting Buddha statue that was brought by king Thibaw to Mandalay just before the beginning of the war. The royal family collected many religious artifacts and handicrafts made in Mandalay and we are visiting some of the old workshops were gold leaves are made, woodcarvings are done and kalagas (tapestry) are made with silver or gold colored thread. We finish the excursion with a lunch of traditional Mandalay curries. The rest of the day the car and guide are available for additional visits till 6 pm if wanted.
Visiting the Temple Ruins of Paleik (Half Day Tour)
This is an ideal excursion in the morning. The snake temple in Paleik is known for the 3 pythons sleeping at the Buddha statue that are being washed and fed daily by local worshippers. Lesser known are the ancient temple ruins in the same area, many of them over 200 years old and partly overgrown by vegetation. It’s a sort of “mini Bagan” and you probably find yourself alone, feeling like the first foreigner ever to discover this place, surrounded by temples. After visiting Paleik we continue to your end destination.
Meditating in Ava & Sagaing (Full Day Tour)
Sagaing is the centre of Buddhism in Myanmar and is housing more than 6000 monks and nuns, in monasteries near over 500 stupas. Set on a hill on the riverbank of the Ayeyarwaddy river it’s a very peaceful place and a meditation teacher will introduce the principles of Buddhism and meditation. Nope – it’s not only for Buddhists – it’s simply an eye-opener for everybody to concentrate on breathing, focussing the mind on one thing only and de-stressing. We’re sure you will be amazed by the results to get “peace of mind”. And if you really don’t like it after 30 minutes? Don’t worry – Sagaing is a lovely village to walk around and we will visit the nunnery. We continue to Ava for lunch and to take a horse cart and visit the beautiful wooden monastery and the ancient temple ruins in the afternoon.
Mandalay Monuments – the Hill, the Monastery & the Book (Half Day Tour)
It’s not just the former capital cities around Mandalay that are interesting to visit. During this half day tour (morning or afternoon) we will take you to the most famous monuments of Mandalay starting with the top of Mandalay hill for a great view over the Mandalay fort. We continue to Atumashi and the Shwenandaw monasteries which are excellent examples of the architecture and crafts work of this region and we end with a visit to Kuthodaw Pagoda with the white marble slabs. The rest of the day the car and guide are available for additional visits till 6 pm if wanted – we suggest you to visit Yankin Hill.
Horse Cart Ride in Pyin Oo Lwin (Full Day Tour)
A private taxi will take you to the entrance of the botanical gardens in Pyin Oo Lwin (Maymyo) which was established in 1915. You will arrive in this former British hill station around 10:30am and have time to walk around the well maintained garden featuring over 480 species of flowers and trees. Visit in the colonial town places like for example the colonial Candacraig hotel, the former Japanese police station, the Church of England, the Governors house a local colonial house and the market. Lunch is served in a colonial restaurant. During this tour you will get to know the colonial history of this former British hill station.
Amarapura by Bike (Half Day Tour)
An active and interesting half day trip outside the city. Bike leisurely together with your guide from the centre of Mandalay to the quiet town of Amarapura. We stop on the way at a local teashop and visit a colourful market. On arrival in Amarapura we park our bikes and walk over the teak-wooden U Bein Bridge, visit the nearby monastery. On the way back we visit a local weaving workshop and a workshop were tiny bits of gold are flattened into thin gold leaves. Transfers to and from the bike shop with local transportation which could be anything from a trishaw to a local bus!
Snake Temple, Picnic in Ava + a Motorbike Ride (Full Day Tour)
A day on which you don’t have to wake up early since we only leave around 10 AM on motorbikes (1 person per motorbike taxi) in the direction of Paleik so take your time for breakfast! The snake temple in Paleik is known for the 3 pythons sleeping at the Buddha statue and being washed and fed daily at 11 AM by local worshippers. Lesser known are the ancient temple ruins in the same area, many of them over 200 years old and partly overgrown by vegetation. We continue by motor bikes over a small road leading us through “the back door” to the former capital of Ava (Inwa), where we enjoy a picnic lunch right next to one of the ancient temple ruins that used to be frequented by kings and queens of the Ava court. We continue by motorbikes and stop at any temple you like before taking a ferry across the small river and heading back towards Mandalay around 5 PM
Night Market, Beer & BBQ + the Mandalay Marionettes (Evening Tour)
A fun tour to get to know the real Mandalay, starting with a visit to a viewpoint near the Ayeyarwaddy River as well as the lively fish market. Continue to the busy Yadanar night market to have some traditional snacks and a walk around before heading to one of the most famous beer stations and BBQ restaurants in Mandalay. Your guide will order the food and make sure you’re satisfied. Continue before 0830 PM to the excellent Mandalay marionettes theatre for a show performed by a mix of traditional dancers, musician and puppeteers
Mandalay Markets + Fine Food (Full Day Tour)
Mandalay is known for its food and interesting market showcasing food from all around the country. Today no temples or pagodas for you but food and markets. We start early morning with a local breakfast (Nan Gyi Thoke) and visit to the vegetable market. Continue with a stroll to a lively neighbourhood with house industries showing you how to make Mandalay sweets, local cakes and noodles. We continue to the country side and stop at a farm to see where all the food actually comes from. A typical home made Mandalay lunch is served at one of the lesser known monasteries in the country side where we donate and help planting a few “Sein Ta Lone” mango trees – producing in a few years the best mango in the country – as a Burmese saying says: “the best time to plant a mango tree is 10 years ago – the second best time is today”. Return to the hotel around 3PM or continue to the fish market which is starting around this time.
Biking Tour | Magnificent Mandalay Mornings (Half Day Tour)
A fantastic tour just outside the city operated by Grasshopper Adventures a small specialised biking company in Mandalay.
We start biking from our conveniently located shop and ride through the back lanes to get out of town. We pass through fresh markets, lively neighbourhoods and head for the north east of the city. After only a short pedal we find ourselves in the true countryside where farmers tend to their fields and villagers go about the daily rituals that have remained unchanged for decades, if not longer. Water buffalo lazily roll in the mud, goats nibble at the foliage, and friendly locals wave from all directions. We make some interesting stops, first at a fresh market to learn about the different produce on sale and then continue on to see bamboo weaving which is used to construct everything from roofs and walls to fans. We see a much sought after bean curd being produced and listen to the owner who will have you convinced it is the best quality bean product in the country. 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 some delicious snacks and tea. We return to our shop at around 11:30/noon and bring 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 is also a must.
The tour includes transfers at 07:15 AM from your hotel to the starting point and back to your hotel by motorbikes.
FROM OUR AGENT: A highlight, while travellng in Myanmar, is always meeting the local people and really getting to know the population and the culture. A good way to do so is visiting a local temple festival called “pwe” which are normally held once a year in every village or city in Myanmar mostly between the months of October to April, the time after the end of the rainy season until the water festival in April. The rainy season is also the time of the Buddhist lent, a time that is best described as a time of contemplation. In former times, monks were not allowed to travel and also the Buddha was said to be returning to the Tavatimsa heaven to preach the Kings residing there. The end of the Buddhist lent is marked by the Full Moon Festival of Thadingyut in October. People all over Myanmar will light up candles to show Buddha the way back to earth. When the rainy season finally ended, the time for Pwe has come – the festival season.
A 'pwe' festival is a combination between a fun fair, a religious ceremony and entertainment. People from all around the area will go for shopping, eating, drinking and watching dance, sing or theatre performances – do attend if you have the chance! The Pwe often starts in the afternoon and continues till late at night.
+++ 2017 FESTIVALS +++
Kachin Manaw Festival (Kachin State Day) (9 + 10 JANUARY)
A festival to honour the local spirits which are accompanied with dance performances in traditional costumes of the various Kachin tribes and offering of animals (mostly cows or buffaloes) in front of the Kachin totems poles in the middle of the ceremony field. The festival is excellent to visit when in Myitkyina but since Myitkyina is far from the normal travel itinerary (and flights not scheduled long in advance) it’s not worth planning your whole holiday in Myanmar around it.
Naga New Year Festival (14 - 16 JANUARY)
The Naga New Year festival is organized yearly by the ministry of Hotel and Tourism in coordination with a tour company and is mostly held in a remote part of the country (Sagaing Division close to the Indian border). Booking for this festival needs to be done many weeks in advance to get the required permits and is mainly suggested for people really interested in the culture of the Naga people and see them dancing in their traditional costumes.
Ananda Pagoda Festival (12 - 27 JANUARY)
A very lively festival attended by families from the area around Bagan who all come with their ox cart for this yearly event to buy new clothes, furniture or kitchen ware. It’s amazing to see how traditional this area of Myanmar still is and foreigner will almost certainly be stared at (and laughed at) when walking around this fair. There are usually also some performances in the evening (dances, marionettes, slapstick comedy, singing, movies) although nobody ever seems to know the exact program and timing. Most families attending the festival are camping around the temple. Fun to visit for an hour or two to see the traditional lifestyle and to walk around on the market. Also good to visit after your dinner and see what’s happening. If you visit Myanmar in January, try to make sure you’re in Bagan during the festival time.
Chinese New Year (28 JANUARY)
There are no official public holidays to celebrate the Chinese New Year but Chinese communities around the country celebrate the New Year by performing dragon dances in the streets. Especially China town in Yangon becomes very lively and there are competitions of dragon dances on poles which are very spectacular to watch. Of course all celebrations go with a lot of good food and drinks.
Shwesettaw Pagoda Festival (1 - 17 FEBRUARY)
Myanmar, Minbu, Magwe
On the banks of the Mann Chaung Creek in Magwe Division a yearly festival is held at the place where you can allegedly see a footprint of Buddha’s foot. Thousands and thousands of pilgrims from all over the country flock to the temple site and camp for days in temporary bamboo shelters. Only interesting if you have a lot of time and just want to watch how local Myanmar people spend their holidays
Mahamuni Pagoda Festival (9 - 11 FEBRUARY)
Concentrated around the Mahamuni pagoda in Mandalay, this is a large yearly temple festival very similar to the Ananda Festival in Bagan although it’s more modern. Try the antique (?) Ferry-wheel or the merry-go-round and buy the latest pop music CD’s at the market. A traditional “chin lone” (= cane football) competition is held during this festival attracting teams from all over the country. If you happen to be in Mandalay during the festival it’s worth visiting
Htamane (Harvest Festival - Full Moon Day of Taboetwe) (11 FEBRUARY)
The harvest festival is celebrated all over the country by eating “htamane” which is made of glutinous rice mixed with peanuts, sesame seeds, shredded coconut, ginger and oil. The htamane is often prepared in big pots that can feed up to a 100 persons.
Peasants Day (2 MARCH)
A public holiday without really activities or celebrations organized but a day off for everybody from offices and schools.
Kakku Pagoda Festival (10 - 12 MARCH)
Myanmar, Shan State (south of Taunggyi)
The ancient stupas of the Kakku pagoda are the centre point for this festival by the Pa-O people who are easily recognized by their indigo clothes and colourful orange and red head scarves. This is a very colourful festival in a traditional and beautiful setting that is certainly worth attending. Try to catch the local train from Taunggyi southwards for about 2 hours to experience more of the festive atmosphere of people travelling to and from the temple site.
Tabaung Festival (12 MARCH)
A pagoda festival at Shwedagon pagoda.
Thingyan (Water Festival) (7 - 13 APRIL)
A fun and often wild festival which is celebrated all around the country. Especially in Mandalay and in Yangon everybody is throwing water to everybody for 4 days (13-16 April) from 10:00 in the morning till 18:00 in the evening. Big (and smaller) stages are built around the city with a row of water pipes in the front to hose everybody passing. On stage people are singing and dancing (mostly pop and rock music) while in front of the stage overloaded cars are passing through the water. Bring your water gun and bucket to join the fun or stay at home – there is no way to avoid the water during these 4 days so make sure money and camera are safely wrapped in plastic bags. It is a bit like a carnival atmosphere throughout the country and good fun (similar to Songkran in Thailand but a bit wilder and with definitely more water splashing). Thingyan is worth coming for to Myanmar. If you find yourself in Myanmar during this festival and you want to avoid it, go to the beach, stay indoors at your hotel or visit small villages like Bagan or Inle Lake where it’s a bit quieter. Offices are often closed for a period of 10 days.
Shwemawdaw Pagoda Festival (4 - 16 APRIL)
This is a typical traditional pagoda festival not too far from Yangon (about 2 hours’ drive on the way to the Golden Rock) which is a very good reason to see a bit more of the country side if you were planning to visit Yangon only.
Shin Phyu (Noviciation Ceremony) (APRIL - BUDDHIST LENT - JULY)
Every male Buddhist is a least one time in around the town (on a horse, by car, by boat) while family and friends follow in their best clothes to go to a monastery for the ceremony. First the boy pays respect to his parents and the head monk, he then receives the monk robes and his head is shaven before going into monk hood. After the ceremony all people are invited to enjoy lunch together. If you happen to pass by a noviciation ceremony it’s no problem to stop and watch from a distance and make pictures. You might even be invited to join the ceremony!
Popa Nat Festival (17 APRIL 2017)
Myanmar, Mount Popa
Mount Popa is home of the nats (spirits) in Myanmar and the spirit statues are displayed at the mountain (each spirit has its own name, accessories and typical dress). During the Nat festival devotees come and pay respect, give donations to the nats and you can see people dancing wildly like being possessed by the spirit. An interesting time to visit Mount Popa although it can be crowded and pretty wild. Be careful of the monkeys, don’t feed them and try to ignore them.
Full Moon Day of Kason (10 MAY)
A public holiday in the whole country. Crowded with people throwing water to the sacred Bo tree.
Taungbyone Nat Festival (31 JULY - 7 AUGUST)
Myanmar, Mandalay Division
The Taungbyone Nat Festival near Mandalay (about 2.5 hours drive) lasts about a week and it is the biggest spirit festival in Myanmar. Mediums and devotees coming from all over the country take part and watch nats (spirit possessed people) dance all night - and consume a lot of alcohol - until they reach a state of sub conscience. This is a bit strange festival which has according to some people a bit of a hippy / Woodstock atmosphere.
Yadana Gu Nat Festival (8 - 15 AUGUST)
A very similar spirit festival as Taungbyone but a bit smaller (and easier to reach from Mandalay) which is held yearly on the banks of Taungthaman Lake (famous for the U-Bein Bridge).
Phaung Daw Oo Pagoda Festival (21 SEPTEMBER - 8 OCTOBER)
Myanmar, Inle Lake
A spectacular festival whereby boats with up to 50 or 60 leg rowers are pulling a barge with sacred Buddha images from one village to the other on the lake. The exact schedule is often only known a few weeks in advance and there are always some “resting days”. Try to be in a private boat on the lake and ask the boatman to enquire where the procession will be passing and you can be sure to make some great images of this procession. It is a nice festival to visit although it can be a bit crowded. Plan to have a couple of days in Inle Lake to make sure you don’t miss the procession.
Dancing Elephant Festival (4 - 6 OCTOBER)
Kyaukse, about 3 hours drive from Bagan (same distance from Mandalay) is famous for the big paper-mâché elephant costumes made here. 2 man wearing the elephant costume show acrobatic dancing in the streets of Kyaukse. A good festival to see village life in Myanmar, there are no real elephants involved in this festival.
Thadingyut (Festival of Lights) (4 - 6 OCTOBER)
The end of the Buddhist Lent is a time to pay respect to parents, teachers and elderly persons. On the full moon day in October (often the middle of October) houses and pagodas are lit with candles. If you’re in the country on this day, light a candle near your hotel and walk around the city in the evening (or visit the Shwedagon Pagoda in Yangon if you happen to be there) and enjoy the magical atmosphere.
Festival Mya Tha Lon (17 OCTOBER - 4 NOVEMBER)
One of the famous pagoda festivals in the central part of Myanmar in Magway Division. This pagoda has the legend connected with the Buddha.
Shwezigon Pagoda Festival (21 OCTOBER - 4 NOVEMBER)
This is a temple festival attended by thousands of villagers from the whole region. Highlight is the procession of hundreds of monks collecting donations on the full moon day of Thazaungdine. Very interesting to go and see the festival if you’re in the Bagan area.
Taunggyi Balloon Festival (28 OCTOBER - 4 NOVEMBER)
Taunggyi is famous for the Tazaungdine celebrations when huge papier-mâché hot air balloons (in different shapes) are launched from the crowded festival field in Taunggyi. Once the balloon reaches a height of about 20 meter the fireworks attached to the balloons are launched in all directions. A fun and spectacular festival which you should try to join if you’re in Myanmar. Don’t get too close to the launch site of the balloons, hot dripping wax (or fire cracker) tend to fall on the crowd.
Tazaungdine (Festival of Lights) (2 - 4 NOVEMBER)
This is the time that yellow robes (and many other monks’ accessories) are offered to monks around the country. During the days before the festival you will see around town bamboo poles full with donations (including bank notes folded in beautiful shapes). On the evening of the festival, hot air balloons are launched throughout the country and most of the temples organise weaving competitions. A good time to be in any medium sized town in Myanmar.
Festival of Alodaw Pyae Pagoda (26 NOVEMBER - 2 DECEMBER)
Many Buddhists come to the pagoda to pray for their wishes come true. The pilgrims come to take part in the festival and to receive the donations from the donors during the festival time.
New Year at Kyaikhtiyo Pagoda (31 DECEMBER)
Myanmar, Kyaikhtiyo Pagoda (Golden Rock)
New Year is not celebrated traditionally in Myanmar although at the Golden Rock pagoda devotees are lightening thousands of candles at the shrine on this evening. A spectacular sight if you’re staying at the Golden Rock that night.
NOTE: Event details can change, therefore please check that the event is happening before making any travel arrangements!