burmese monk with umbrella

Burma: Roads to Mandalay

27 December 2015 to 19 January 2016

“This is Burma, and it will be quite unlike any land you know about”… wrote Rudyard Kipling at the end of the nineteenth century. And so it is today; an isolated, remote country, well off the beaten tourist tracks, remaining a ‘golden land’ of tranquillity and timelessness, infused with Buddhist ideals and incredible diversity. Roads to Mandalay is a study tour to give educators an experience of this little known country, one rarely included in curriculum studies. The program introduces you to one of the greatest wonders of the world, the fabulous Shwe Dagon Pagoda in Yangon, before travelling on to the thriving city of Mandalay, the last of Burma’s Royal capitals, down the great Ayeyarwady River to uncover the splendours of former but now fading capitals such as Bagan, Wethali, Ava, and Amarapura. It explores the mysterious Inle Lake where the inhabitants live on the floating islands grown over with flower beds and vegetable gardens, encountering tribal peoples still carrying out ancient customs and visiting local schools, thriving markets and community projects. By complete contrast, we travel to the unspoilt tropical beach resorts of Ngapali where tourists can rarely be seen. Above all, we encounter the ‘Middle Way’ of the Buddhist culture through the people of this magnificently varied land; a way richly experienced on New Year’s Eve at the Golden Rock, a remote and spectacular site of Buddhist pilgrimage.

Day 1: 27 December 2015, Depart Home City to Kuala Lumpur

Day 2: 28 December 2015, Kuala Lumpur - Yangon

Fly to Yangon arriving mid-morning. In the latter afternoon you visit the great World Heritage Shwedagon Paya - its golden stupa is the 'heart' of Buddhist Myanmar and centre of ritual and faith for some 2500 years. The great central stupa is surrounded by dozens of intricately decorated buildings and images of the Buddha. Walk through the small shops where monk’s accessories, images of the Buddha, flowers and sacred offerings are sold. The entrance is always very busy with sellers and visitors from all over Myanmar. This first visit is auspicious in Buddhist ideals and will begin or deepen your understanding of Hinayana Buddhism. The Pagoda is believed to be 2,500 years old and dozens of intricately decorated buildings and images of the Buddha surround the central stupa. There are always many people praying and making offerings at Shwedagon, and it's a fascinating place to spend time watching the sacred life as it has been enacted for centuries

Everyone who comes to Shwedagon comes for a different reason. Most come as pilgrims, to make a ritual circumambulation (pradakshina); some stop at the ‘nine wish-granting images’, others make offerings at their planetary post. There is diversity in offerings-flowers, umbrellas, incense, candles-and freedom in where to place them. Each of the pavilions on the platform is unique in its architecture and the images within. There is a replica of the Mahabodhi of Bodhgaya (Bihar, India) temple, dozens of multi-roofed shrines as well as many more typical of the stupa architecture found all over the Buddhist world.

“It is the fairest place, as I suppose, that is in the world: it standeth very high, and there are foure ways to it, which all along are set with Trees of fruits, insuch wise that a man may goe in the shade above two miles in length. And when their Feast day is, a man can hardly passe by water or by land for the great presse of people; for they come from all places of the kingdom of Pegu thither at their feast” (of the Shwedagon, Ralf Fitch, 18th Century traveller)

With the recent political developments in Myanmar, the timing of this study tour will provide many opportunities for first-hand experience and development of classroom discussion and research topics on the nature of democracy, citizenship, and political change. Buddhist values and cultural encounters will feature throughout the program.

Overnight stay at Summit Parkview Hotel

Day 3: 29 December 2015, Yangon

In the morning an excursion is made to the Scott Market which gives you the opportunity to purchase some of Myanmar's wide range of handicrafts. In the afternoon, you visit the National Museum and see the Burmese royal regalia, the displays of Myanmar’s ethnic minority groups, and the ‘Lion Throne’. Later you may choose to walk along the Yangon River to see the busy harbour area, from where ferries leave for Pathein in the Delta and for upcountry towns along the Ayeyarwady River.

Day 4: 30 December 2015, Yangon - Kin Pun

This morning you trace a famous pilgrim route recently opened to outside visitors. You drive to the town of Bago, which, according to legend, was founded by two Mon princesses in 573AD. It was written in the chronicles that eight years after enlightenment, the Lord Buddha along with his disciples flew around the Southeast Asian countries. On his return journey while crossing the Gulf of Martaban, he saw two golden sheldrakes sitting, female on top of male, on a peak of land protruding out of the sea just enough for a bird's perch. Viewing this strange phenomenon, he predicted to his disciples that one day a country where his doctrine would thrive would come into existence in this vast sea. That part of the sea, when it was silted up and ready for habitation approximately 1500 years after the prediction, was colonized by Mons from the Thaton Kingdom. Thus, the Mons became the first rulers of this country known in history as Hongsawatoi. On the way you stop at the Second World War Allied Forces Memorial Cemetery, before continuing to visit Shwemawady, the Reclining Buddha, Kyaikpun the site of the Kanbawzathadi Palace, local markets and Kalyani. You will visit the Nga Gyi Inn Village School to glimpse the education system in Burma. Continue to Kin Pun "base camp" (110 km - 3½ hours) staging post for your ultimate destination. Overnight at the base of the mountain.

Overnight stay at Thuwunna Bumi Hotel

Day 5: 31 December 2015, Kyaikhtiyo

From Kin Pun, a steep and rough 11-km dirt road leads to the upper staging point. In the afternoon, you take a local truck up a bumpy track to the mountain top to Kyaiktiyo (pronounced chai chio, the "Golden Rock"), a huge boulder completely covered by gold leaf and delicately balanced on the edge of a cliff. From the "upper area", you must walk the final stage back down to the hotel. On arrival, watch the beauty of a sunset at this important pilgrimage site. As tonight is New Year’s Eve, it is a special place of pilgrimage, and the mountain-top platform will be packed with family groups lighting thousands of candles and making offerings of gold leaf, flowers, presents for the community of monks, and enjoying music, dance and dramatic acts.

IMPORTANT NOTES:

The region around Kyaiktiyo is still undeveloped for most aspects of tourism. Our local agents have obtained the best available accommodation, transport and facilities, but ask for your understanding for any practical aspects that do not come up to expectations and for delays or changes in the itinerary.

Overnight stay at Golden Rock Hotel or Mountain Top Hotel

Day 6: 1 January 2016, Kyaikhtiyo - Mandalay

Climb down the hill, drive to Bago and continue to the Yangon Domestic Airport for your flight to Mandalay.

Overnight stay at Emerald Land Inn

Day : 2 January 2016, Mandalay - Amarapura - Mandalay

A morning sightseeing program starts with a visit to Shwenandaw Monastery, an ancient wooden building with intricate carvings, which was once King Mindon's home. Continue to see the 'world’s largest book', being the Buddhist Scriptures inscribed on marble slabs, at Kuthodaw Pagoda. Visit Kyaukdawgyi Pagoda to see a large image of the Buddha carved out of a single block of local marble. You continue to the ancient city of Amarapura and to nearby U-Bein Bridge, which is over a kilometre long, a thousand years old and made entirely of teak. On return to Mandalay, stop at Mahamuni Pagoda, home to Mandalay's holiest Buddha image.

Day 8: 3 January 2016, Mandalay - Mingun - Mandalay

This morning you will take a local boat trip to Mingun, site of a brick pagoda towering 50 meters above the Ayeyarwady River, and home to the world's largest intact bell. The boat trip is very interesting because you see all types of wooden boats and bamboo rafts, carrying goods up and down the river. Afternoon free.

Day 9: 4 January 2016, Mandalay - Ava - Mandalay

Todays’ journey will take you well off the tourist track to a small town on a lake called Paleik, It is a beautiful place which reveals the authentic lifestyle of rural Upper Burma with small pagodas and monasteries around the lake with many palm trees. There is significant bird life around the lake. Visit some village homes to see local handicrafts, such as silk weaving, cane mats and alms bowls manufacture. Then (time permitting) it’s a drive across Ava Bridge, built by British engineers, to visit picturesque SagaingHill, which is perhaps the living centre of Buddhist faith in Myanmar today. Here the hillsides are dotted with numerous pagodas and monasteries.

Day 10: 5 January 2016, Mandalay - Bagan (on the boat)

Early morning transfer to the banks of the Ayeyarwady River to catch our boat to Bagan. Boarding at the riverbank in the early morning darkness is quite an experience as the ‘docks’ are crowded with every conceivable type of craft loading a wide range of products and peoples for the journey up or down the ‘road to Mandalay’. Once you depart, have cameras ready as the magnificent dawn catches the purple river set against glittering golden spires of the Buddhist temples on either side of the river. The River is fascinating to navigate because of constantly moving sandbanks and, particularly between December and March, the ferry may move very slowly.

The scenery along the Ayeyarwady is timeless – oxen working the fields, water buffalo wallowing in the mud, golden pagoda spires, fishermen, villagers bathing in the river and, of course, every type of boat and river craft that you can imagine. In the late afternoon you round a great sweep in the Ayeyarwady, and above the jungle pressing to the river bank, glimpse solid golden temple finials in the gathering sunset. Walk up the sandy bank to your waiting coach. Bagan is one of the world’s greatest archaeological sites of cultural heritage.

Overnight stay at Bagan Thande Hotel

Day 11: 6 January 2016, Bagan

This morning, start your Bagan exploration with a visit to see the golden stupa of Shwezigon Pagoda, which is Bagan's most important reliquary shrine – look out for images of the 37 'nats' housed in a small hall. See 12th Century frescoes adorning the corridors of Kyansittha 'Cave' Temple. Continue to Gubyaukgyi (Wetkyi In village), another 'cave' temple with fine frescoes of the 'Jataka Tales'. Next stop is Htilominlo, the last Bamar style temple built in Bagan, with old murals and friezes. Continue to Ananda Temple, a whitewashed masterpiece of Mon architecture with four standing Buddhas, and the adjacent brick monastery with beautiful, well-preserved 18th century murals. Make a photo stop at the tallest temple measuring 61 metres - Thatbyinnyu known as 'temple of omniscience' and dating from 1144. At this time of the year, depending on the lunar calendar, we often encounter the ‘Ananda Paya Festival’ at which hundreds of local people participate with their ox carts, wooden ‘Ferris’ wheels (man powered), music and dance.

In the afternoon, visit the Archaeological Museum. Continue to Dhammayangyi, a massive- temple dating from 1170 which is famous for its interlocking mortarless brickwork. Next, visit Mingalazedi, the last of the large Pagodas built in the 13th Century, representing the pinnacle of Bamar pagoda architecture. Late afternoon, stop at a lacquer ware factory to watch craftsmen skilfully making this most famous of Bagan handicrafts. Observe a sunset in the vicinity of Bagan's ancient monuments or riverbanks. Dinner with Burmese marionette show at Nanda Restaurant.

On past programs, many participants have opted to take a ‘Balloons Over Bagan’ flight which is truly spectacular. Imagine floating over these thousand year old temples as the sun rises over the distant mountains. The magic of Bagan has inspired visitors for centuries with one of the most remarkable sights in Asia and indeed the world. You will experience the vast expanse of this once powerful city as it has never been seen before. Advance bookings MUST be made, so if interested, just contact me. You will get it cheaper than from the website. http://www.easternsafaris.com

Day 12: 7 January 2016, Bagan

Your Bagan sightseeing tour continues with a visit to Sulamani, one of Bagan's great two-storied Bamar style Temples, which has 4 seated Buddha images. Continue to Lemyethna Temple, topped by an Indian-style spire similar to the Ananda temple. Then the three shrines of Payathonzu (if open), which are connected by passages adorned with Mahayanist or Tantric mural paintings. Visit Nandamannya Temple with fine frescoes and an unexpectedly erotic mural. Take a break from temples and wander through the village of Minnanthu to see how the local people live. Lunch at Sunset Garden Restaurant and return to our hotel.

Afternoon at leisure for reflection on the splendour of Bagan and ways you will introduce this little-known treasure into your curriculum. If you wish to further explore more of Bagan’s thousands of temples, the local villages or markets, you can hire a bicycle and explore the dusty roads and tiny villages around the great monuments by yourself.

Day 13: 8 January 2016, Bagan - Kalaw

Leave Bagan in the early morning and drive into the countryside along the banks of the Ayeyarwaddy River through Chauk, where you will see the old Burma Oil installations. Continue on a magnificent scenic drive into the Shan State where you will visit Green Hill Valley, a reafforestation initiative which is also home to working elephants. You may encounter these magnificent creatures with a ’hands-on’ experience of feeding and helping to wash them. As you approach Kalaw, you will drive across the Shan Plateau, through fields of mountain rice to the old British Hill Station which stands high on the western edge of the Shan Plateau. This was a popular relaxation place in the British days and it is still a peaceful and quiet place. At an altitude of 1320 m it is also pleasantly cool and a good place for hiking amid gnarled pines, bamboo groves and rugged mountain scenery. The population is a mix of Shan, Indian Muslims. Bamars and Nepalis (Gurkhas retired from British military service).

Overnight stay at Pine Lodge

Day 14: 9 January 2016, Kalaw - Pindaya

An early morning departure for a short ride to the local railway station, where all things considering, (which actually means ‘if the train is serviceable!’) you will board the local train for a 2 hour journey to the next stop where your coach will be waiting. (Note Burma’s trains are notoriously unreliable, so anything can happen. But a marvellous experience if it works). Drive to Pindaya. The road to Pindaya through endless paddy fields in the morning and rolling hills in the afternoon, as the road climbs into the mountains of southern Shan State. As you approach Pindaya, you will drive across the Shan Plateau, through fields of mountain rice. Arrive in Pindaya in the late afternoon.

Overnight stay at Inle Inn

D 15: 10 January 2016, Pindaya

This morning, you visit the magnificent Pindaya Caves, set in a limestone ridge overlooking a picturesque lake, where thousands of different types of Buddha images are placed in the various cave chambers. Visit some local houses where families produce Shan paper and parasols. The afternoon is free for your individual exploration of the little town with its bustling shops and local markets. Fascinating.

Day 16: 11 January 2016, Pindaya - Inle Lake

You leave Pindaya this morning and drive down into the valley to Nyaung Shwe on the edge of Inle Lake and board our own local boat to take you to your hotel.

Overnight stay at Pristine Lotus Spa (floating duplex)

Day 17: 12 January 2016, Inle Lake

This morning, a superb boat trip on Inle Lake – a photographer's dream, its calm waters are dotted with floating vegetation and fishing canoes, to which scenic high hills provide the perfect backdrop. See the lake's unique “leg rowers” – the Intha people row standing up with one leg wrapped around an oar. Visit Phaung Daw Oo Pagoda, the holiest religious site in southern Shan State. See traditional handicrafts - silk weaving on wooden handlooms and a blacksmith shop. Pass endless floating gardens, where fruit and vegetables are grown.

In the afternoon, you enjoy another boat tour to Indaing, at the western end of the Lake. The boat takes you through a long channel where you watch the farmers cultivate their produce. This ride is one of the most scenic boat tours on Lake Inle. At Indaing some Padaung families have migrated from the remote hills to establish a cash income through weaving activities. The Padaung women are inappropriately called ‘giraffe-neck women’, as a sign of beauty is to stretch the neck with successive brass rings. Whilst thismay be interpreted as mutilation or oppression, it will give rise to many issues for lively discussion. The Padaung now charge a small fee to take photographs and wish to sell their beautiful weaving. Individuals make the decision to visit the village which isjust off the track leading from our boat landing. Return in the evening light just prior to sunset over the lake.

Day 18: 13 January 2016, Inle Lake

Today is an entirely free day for you to simply relax, or take any number of visits to local markets, and places of interest. What better place to take in the complete serenity of this timeless country?

Day 19: 14 January 2016, Inle lake - Heho - Ngapali

Transfer by your private boats to Nyaung Shwe and then proceed to Heho Airport where you take a flight to Ngapali Beach and transfer to the Resort.

Overnight stay at Thande Beach Hotel (Deluxe garden View)

Day 20: 15 January 2016, Ngapali Beach

The premier beach destination in Myanmar rivaling any in the world as it’s completely unspoiled by tourism. Ngapali boasts 3km of palm-fringed sands on the beautiful Bay of Bengal. The turquoise waters deliver a bounty from the sea and this town serves up some of the country’s best food. The beach resort is very local and close by little restaurants, fishing villages and places to unwind and reflect on your learning during the journey. Consequently, we have not organized any specific program here as it’s a place to unwind and soak up the local atmosphere. But there is plenty to do. Nearby is a delightful fishing village – to get to it, you have to swim out to a local boat in the crystal waters swarming with tropical fish: a paradise.

Day 21: 16 January 2016, Ngapali Beach – Yangon

More relaxation today on a free day for local activities.

Day 22: 17 January 2016

Morning flight back to Yangon where the rest of the day is free. Time to revisit the Scott Market to catch up on last minute shopping, or take a circle train ride around the city.

Overnight stay at Summit Parkview Hotel

Day 23: 18 January 2016

This morning you drive through the colonial style buildings, remnants from the times of the British, the Chinatown area and the Indian quarter to the Chaukhtatgyi Reclining Buddha, Royal Park and Lake. Lunch at a local restaurant. Afternoon transfer to the Airport for your departure flight to Kuala Lumpur to arrive at 16:00. Adelaide flight will depart at 22:30.

Day 24: 19 January 2016

Arrive into your home cities. (Perth flight will depart Kuala Lumpur at 09:30 and arrive at 15:00)

Tour Cost Per Person Twin Share excluding international airfares AUD 5125.00
Single Supplement AUD 1390.00

Prices may fluctuate due to changes in charges, taxes and currency. Prices and flights are correct at time of preparing this program and are subject to availability at time of booking. Special conditions and seasonal surcharges to airfares and package prices may apply depending on date of travel. Flight times are subject to change by the airline. Please visit http://www.smarttraveller.gov.au or ring 1300 139 281 for information on current Government travel advice.

COST INCLUSIONS:

• International Airport transfers in Yangon if utilising the same flight number/arrival/departure time in Yangon
• Overnight accommodation in Kuala Lumpur
• Accommodation with daily breakfast in twin sharing room in the hotels mentioned or similar
• Domestic flight and tax (Yangon – Mandalay, Heho – Thandwe – Yangon)
• Meals as mentioned in the program
• Transfer and transport in private air conditioning vehicle
• Entrance Fee at sites, excursions, boat fare, horse cart, truck to go up and down to the Golden Rock
• Local bottle water and towel in Zarmani’s vehicles
• Baggage handling at airports and hotels
• Baggage car separate for airport transfers
• English speaking guide (Mr Zaw) throughout the tour
• Full day cruise from Mandalay to Bagan
• Australian Tour Manager subject to 16 passengers participating.

COST EXCLUSIONS:

• International flight from Adelaide (currently around AUD 1800.00)
• Expenditure of a personal nature such as extra drinks, souvenirs, laundry, meals not mentioned etc,
• Visa for Myanmar
• Travel Insurance
• Balloons Over Bagan
• Compulsory Tips (USD 110.00)
 
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