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London – Doha – Yangon
Fly out of Heathrow in the morning, arriving at Doha in the evening. Your next hop will land you in Yangon early the following morning.
You’ll be staying in an elegant, colonial-style hotel in one of the most picturesque areas of Yangon – within walking distance of Shwedagon Pagoda and the People’s Park. You’ll be able to explore at leisure, whilst your organised city tour will show you the shops and markets of Strand Road, Yangon Harbour and Botathaung Pagoda, and take you through the downtown area, Chinatown and Indian Quarter. In the afternoon you’ll have marvellous photo opportunities at Scott’s Market, Kandawgyi Lake and the fabulous Shwedagon Pagoda cloaked in the golden rays of the setting sun.
Stay: Two nights in a deluxe room at the Savoy Hotel.
Today you fly over to Bagan where you’ll be immersed in busy local markets and awe-inspiring landmarks like the Shwezigon Pagoda, Gu Byauk Gyi and Ananda Temple – famed for its four huge standing Buddhas. Later in the day you’ll visit Myinkaba Village, and the temples of Manuha, Nanbaya and Myingaba Gu Byaukgyi. Your hotel is set in Old Bagan, surrounded by more than 4000 ancient temples and pagodas.
The following day you have the option of taking a hot air balloon ride over the area, before journeying overland to Mount Popa, an extinct volcano with a shrine dedicated to animist spirits.
Stay: Two nights in a deluxe room at Tharabar Gate.
Now it’s time to take to the water for your cruise along the Ayeyarwady, one of Myanmar’s most important rivers, busy with fishing and trading vessels. You’ll be cruising aboard the stylish Paukan riverboat – akin to a floating boutique hotel – sailing past a parade of quaint villages with homes built on stilts on your way to Mandalay. You’ll alight at the traditional river village of Yandabo – famous for its ceramics – and moor overnight at either Ywar Thit Gyi or Pauk Myaing Pauk Taw, close to picturesque Ava Bridge.
Stay: Two nights in an upper deck cabin aboard RV Paukan.
You’ll disembark in Mandalay and take a leisurely road trip to Pyin Oo Lwin and its unmissable botanical gardens, established in 1915. You’ll also glean an insight into an original British hill station as you tour places like Candacraig Hotel, the local Church of England and Governor’s house, before having lunch in a colonial British restaurant.
Stay: One night in a deluxe room at Hotel Pyin Oo Lwin.
An interesting three and a half hour road trip takes you through gorgeous countryside to Hsipaw; your gateway to the old Shan village and a trek through panoramic paddy fields and over twinkling creeks to visit unchanged Shan villages – known for their cigar-making and bamboo-weaving – local schools and monasteries.
The following day you’ll be able to wander through the gardens and get to know the history of Hsipaw’s regal Shan Palace, before sailing off along the Dokthawaddy River to the Ban Jyo Pagoda and a monastery built by a prince of the Hsipaw Royal Family.
Stay: Two nights in a deluxe duplex bungalow at the Riverside Hsipaw Resort.
After visiting a local market you’ll board a train to Mandalay, taking you through spectacular scenery that includes mountains and over the soaring Gokteik Viaduct – not to mention a historic track through quaint towns and tiny villages. On arriving at Mandalay you’ll check into a luxury hotel nestled within four acres of picturesque grounds with great views of the city, the Royal Palace and Mandalay Hill.
Stay: One night in a deluxe room at the Sedona Hotel Mandalay.
Your next road journey takes you from Mandalay to Inle Lake, via beautiful paddy fields, rolling hills and the mountains of southern Shan State. From Nyaungshwe a private boat will take you to your hotel on the east bank of the famous lake. The next day a motorboat will take you across Inle Lake to visit entire villages standing on stilts at the water’s edge, floating gardens and colourful traditional markets used by the Shan and PaO people.
You’ll also call in at cheroot factories, floating tomato gardens, Phaung Daw Oo Pagoda, a weaving factory and a breeding house for Burmese cats. The following day sees you voyaging south across the lake to the pagoda forest of Indein. You’ll have lunch in a traditional village home and take trips aboard a canoe to Nam Pan Village.
Stay: Three nights in a lake house at Inle Princess Resort.
From Inle Lake you’ll transfer back to Heho Airport for your flight to Yangon where you’ll be met and escorted to Golden Rock, via a poignant cemetery – the last resting place for thousands of PoWs who died whilst working on the infamous Kayin and Mon State death railways. Your aim is to witness sunset over Golden Rock, but first you must start at Kin Pun base camp and ride in open trucks to the upper staging point, from where you’ll climb upwards for about 45 minutes to reach Golden Rock. It’s an experience that is truly worth the effort.
Stay: One night in a deluxe room at the Mountain Top Hotel.
The following morning you’ll take another view of the Golden Rock and the Kyaiktiyo Pagoda that is perched perilously on its summit. So perilously, in fact, that legend says that only some hair from Buddha prevents the pagoda from crashing down into the ravine below. More solidly founded are the quaint tea shops and monasteries, and local apothecaries selling traditional medicine and souvenirs.
Your next stop is Hpa An from where you’ll be able to discover the spectacular wildlife and distinct local culture of Mon and Kayin State – two of the most remote regions of Myanmar. Mon culture still lives on today in the treditional dress, music, language, food and customs of the local people. You’ll explore either on foot or in kayaks that will take you through paddy fields to small villages, the Kayin Forest and a local home for a traditionally-prepared lunch.
Your final day in Hpa An sees you cruising off along the picturesque Thanlwin River with its endless photo opportunities, to Pa Lin Village populated by Kayin, Shan, Mon, Bamar and PaO people. You’ll also visit U Na Auk Village for a tuk tuk trip around the ornate temples and hall, before sailing on to the city of Mawlamyine with its Mon Museum, impressive colonial buildings and the wonderful Seindon Mibaya Monastery.
Stay: Three nights in a Kayin cottage at Hpa An Lodge.
Today you travel from Hpa An through the rural scenery of Mo and Kayin to see the 7th century Buddha statues at Kawgun Cave and the Royal Palace at Bago. Then you board a train back to Yangon; a two and a half hour journey that reveals even more breath-taking scenery.
Stay: One night in a deluxe room at the Savoy Hotel.
You’ll fly out of Yangon in the morning, to connect with your flight to London at Doha. You’ll land at Heathrow in the early evening.
What was particularly impressive was the way in which Catherine listened to what we like to do and combined all of this in a destination we would not have considered - a truly terrific effort.- OL, Caribbean, 2014