Burma holiday, rivers & railways

“You’ll experience the sights and sounds of the real Burma on this 14 day holiday, taking to the rivers and railways to explore some of its lesser-visited rural communities & historical gems.”

Highlights

Yangon | Bogyoke Market | Pyin Oo Lwin hill station | Goktiek Viaduct | Mandalay | U Bein Bridge | Ayerwaddy River cruise | Yandabo Village | Bagan: temples and pagodas | Mt Popa | Pindaya Caves | Shan Hills | Inle Lake | Sagar & the sunken stupas | Thaya Gone village visit

Description of Burma holiday, rivers & railways

Travel to Burma to discover a land of sprawling temple complexes, crumbling colonial buildings and a friendly populace still relatively unfamiliar with foreign visitors. This 14-day Burma holiday starts with an exploration of the bustling streets of Yangon, home to the iconic Shwedagon Pagoda, the country's most revered Buddhist temple. Travel to the cooler climate of Pyin Oo Lwin, the former British hill station, before taking the bumpy but exciting train journey across the scenic Goktiek Viaduct which offers breathtaking views of the surrounding countryside, a must-do experience in Burma.

Discover Mandalay, home to the 'worlds biggest book' found at Kuthodaw Pagoda, and stroll across the U Bein bridge to watch the fishermen wading in the waters below. Barding the luxury RV Paukan cruise boat and glide downriver discovering rural river life along the way. Enjoy time exploring the extensive plains of Bagan, home to over 2,000 temples and pagodas, all that remains from over 4,000 Buddhist temples originally commissioned between the 11th and 13th centuries. End with time on Inle Lake, home to the iconic leg-rowing fishermen and a host of floating villages and cottage industries producing everything from lotus flower scarves to the local cheroots. Discover the lake's way of life and the importance of the floating gardens as a source of revenue to the local Intha people and relax at your lakeside hotel.

This holiday takes you to the real Burma, allowing time to see the highlights but also get off the beaten track and discover some of the rural communities and historical sites often ignored by the bulk of visitors. Burma: a country that should be on the top of everyone's bucket list and which will offer an experience you will never forget.

Day-by-day experiences

Day 1Depart the UK on an overnight flight to Mandalay.
Day 2Land Mandalay and transfer to the hotel. Enjoy time to freshen up before this afternoon taking a short guided walk along the Mandalay Palace moat. Continue to a colourful night market to explore food stalls and try traditional snacks washed down with a local beer. (B/D)
Day 3Explore Mandalay. Take a trip to Mandalay Hill which offers spectacular views of the city below. Also visit Shwenandaw Monastery which is known for intricate woodcarvings. Continue to Kayuktawgyi Pagoda, home to the seated marble Buddha. End the day at Kuthodaw Pagoda, also referred to as the 'Worlds Biggest Book', which comprises 729 shrines. (B)
Day 4This morning drive to the former British hill station of Pyin Oo Lwin with its cooler climate. Enjoy a horse cart ride through town and visit the Botanical Gardens with its 432 acres of leafy gardens. Overnight Pyin Oo Lwin. (B)
Day 5Depart this morning and transfer to the railway station for the 6-hour scenic journey across the Goktiek Viaduct. Enjoy a picnic lunch on board while the elevated scenery passes by. Arrive Hsipaw on the banks of the Dokhtawady River and overnight. (B,L)
Day 6Enjoy breakfast at a local tea shop this morning before enjoying a short walk around town. Depart and drive to Mandalay and en-route stop at Amarapura, the 'City of Immortality'. Visit Mahagandayon monastery, home to over 1,000 monks, and take a stroll across the iconic U Bein Bridge. Overnight Mandalay. (B)
Day 7This morning board the RV Paukan Cruise boat, home for the night. Cruise down the Ayerwaddy River towards Bagan enjoying watching rural Burmese life glide by. This afternoon stop at Yandabo Village and explore this rural community which relies on pot-making. Moor near a local village and enjoy dinner and overnight onboard. (B,L,D)
Day 8Arrive into Bagan early morning and enjoy a full day touring the temple complex, home to over 2000 temples and pagodas. The tour will include a range of architecturally and historically important sites to give an overall introduction. There is also the chance to explore laquerware workshops, a local specialist technique. Overnight Bagan. (B)
Day 9Visit the colourful Nyaung Oo market today which is bursting with local colour before continuing to Htilominlo Temple which boasts fine plaster carvings. Continue to Ananda Temple before a break to escape the heat of the day. This afternoon drive to Myinkaba village for a short walk to explore Manuha and Nan Paya temples. (B)
Day 10This morning drive through the plains of Bagan to visit Mt Popa, home to the 37 nats or Burmese animist spirits. Embark on the 900 step climb to the top if you wish! Return to Bagan and stop in a local village to sample a liquor made from toddy palms. Enjoy a traditional Burmese lunch in the shade of the toddy palms and return to Bagan. (B,L)
Day 11Fly to HeHo and drive to visit the nearby Pindaya Caves which are filled with hundreds of Buddha statues. Visit a local paper umbrella making workshop and observe how they are made from traditional coloured paper. Overnight Pindaya. (B)
Day 12Drive through the Shan Hills today and visit the colourful Nyaung Shwe morning market, a great place to meet the locals. Transfer to Inle Lake, board a private motorboat and head out on the lake with its views of the stilt fishermen and floating gardens and villages. Overnight in your lakeside hotel. (B)
Day 13This morning explore the lake and its environs. This will include visits to Phaung Daw Oo Pagoda with it's five sacred Buddha images, Inpawkhone village to see traditional silk-weaving techniques and a cheroot factory. This afternoon head to Indein to stroll around the village and explore the ancient stupas. Return to the hotel, evening at leisure. (B)
Day 14Sail to Sagar today, an area which receives few visitors. Visit the sunken stupas which are partially submerged for several months of the year. Visit the village of Thaya Gone which is known for its local rice wine and discover over 200 stupas on the western shores of Sagar. Enjoy lunch before returning to the hotel. (B,L)
Day 15Fly to Yangon and enjoy a day of sightseeing. Stroll through Kandawgyi Park, the city's green heart, and visit the focal point of the city, the Shwedagon Pagoda. The most revered temple in the country, Shwedagon was originally built over 2,500 years ago and renovated several times after repeated earthquake damage. Overnight Yangon. (B)
Day 16Immerse yourself in Yangon life with a journey on the Yangon circle train. This journeys through various neighbourhoods on the outskirts of town and disembark in Insein Township. Here you will find one of the city's best fresh markets so enjoy time strolling the stalls and chatting with locals. Return to the hotel and this evening enjoy dinner at Le Planteur. (B/D)
Day 17Today is at leisure until you return to the airport for the flight back to the UK. (B)

Travel Team

If you'd like to chat about this holiday or need help finding one we're very happy to help. The Travel Team.

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Departure information

This trip can be tailor made throughout the year to suit your requirements
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Responsible tourism

Burma holiday, rivers & railways

Carbon reduction

Your holiday will help support local people and conservation. We must also reduce CO2. Learn about the CO2 emissions of this holiday and how to reduce them.

Environment

Our ground agents are dedicated to reducing their environmental impact in all their Asian destinations. Where the scheme exists they support a social enterprise called Naga Biofuel which collects used cooking oil from hotels to recycle into biodiesel and bio degreaser for engines of all sorts before selling it at lower prices to environmental NGOs. In the regional offices staff are asked to reduce the air-conditioning to actual temperature instead of having it on max (which tends to be the norm in Asia!) regardless of the weather. They are also asked to completely turn off all computers and printers at the end of each day (there was a tendency to leave them on standby) resulting in a huge saving of energy. Drivers are asked not to leave vehicles idling while waiting for clients.

This holiday stays in the Villa Inle Resort & Spa which is a new addition to Inle Lake and has worked hard to create a hotel which fits harmoniously into the environment. During the construction phase the hotel planted a huge number of indigenous trees including 1,000 banana trees, 500 lime trees, 500 mango trees and 2,000 teak trees. Not only do these help the environment they also provide an important source of produce for the hotel kitchens. The gardens are also all organic thereby avoiding adding unnecessary pesticides and herbicides into the natural environment. Recycling of most materials including paper, plastic, cans and glass is practiced in the resort and used cooking oil is used to make candles. The hotel is staffed by 90% locals thereby keeping the majority of staff salaries in the local economy.

Community

Our local Burma agent has been operating socially responsible trips to the country for many years and has a wealth of experience and expertise in the region. They have a strong responsible travel ethos and, in the wake of their exceptional efforts raising nearly $200,000 towards the Nargis Cyclone Relief Effort in Burma (which was used to help rebuild schools, clinics and houses), they established their own charitable foundation. With a realisation that tourism can change local lives for better and for worse, our agents have established a responsible travel ethos creating authentic travel experiences which mutually benefit locals and visitors.

The village of Ah Lett Chaung is located on the banks of the Yangon River and was one of the villages heavily affected by the cyclone seeing the destruction of many homes, farms and gardens and the pollution of drinking water supplies causing the spread of many diseases. With the aid of our agents, the village clinic was re-built and is still in operation treating 70-80 patients per week for a minimal fee. Clinic staff also regularly visit neighbouring villages where no clinic exists.
Since 2011, our ground agents have taken over the provision of salaries to the doctors, nurses and a security guard and a representative visits regularly to oversee the allocations of funds. The next goal is to improve the provision of safer drinking water to the village.
For all bookings made through us a donation is made which covers one field visit or training session to surrounding villages on aspects of sanitation and hygiene, an important factor in helping avoid the spread of disease in rural communities.

Our ground agents also support a community library in a village near Ngapali Beach, Burma. The community has 2,500 inhabitants and very remotely located with limited school facilities available. With their understanding that education is important for the village children the villagers set about establishing a small library through donations but lacked the further vital funding to be able to stock and maintain it. After visiting the village, our ground agents offered to support the project and funded the purchase of 800 books as well as tables, chairs and shelves and the training and ongoing paying of 2 villagers to manage the facility. Visiting to read the books and journals is free to all but a small fee is chargeable to borrow an item with the funds going back to the library.

Other projects undertaken by our local agents to encourage responsible and sustainable tourism in Burma include tree planting in Bagan and fund raising to build schools in remote rural areas such as Inle Lake, providing the funding for children to attend school longer or even go to university. In addition to clean, hygienic and well-constructed classrooms, our agents aim to ensure clean drinking water and sanitation facilities are available in order to help improve the health of local children.

Fair salaries are paid to all employees and regular training is provided to support future career development. Only local guides who are aware of local customs and cultures are employed which not only keeps the funds paid to staff within the local community but also helps avoid any potential cultural clashes between visitors and locals. All guides are also required to sign an agreement with our ground agents agreeing not to take visitors in their charge to unplanned sites such as schools, orphanages etc or to ask for donations or tips. Guides are required to turn off vehicles when idling to minimise unnecessary emissions.

1 Reviews of Burma holiday, rivers & railways

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Reviewed on 19 Nov 2016 by

1. What was the most memorable or exciting part of your holiday?


It's difficult to choose one moment. The train ride from Pwin Oo Lwin to Hsipaw was wonderful. Spending days on Inle Lake was fabulous. Seeing the ancient city of Bagan from the basket of the hot air balloon was magic!

2. What tips would you give other travellers booking this holiday?


Try not to do too much on any given day. Take some time to sit and watch people as they go about their daily lives. Don't stick strictly to any given
itinerary.

3. Did you feel that your holiday benefited local people, reduced environmental impacts or supported conservation?


Local people were employed as guides and drivers. We supported local crafts people as much as possible. However, it is difficult to ease the impact on
the cultural and physical environment when tourism is encouraged 'in a big way' in such a fragile developing country.

4. Finally, how would you rate your holiday overall?


Fabulous!

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