Burma - A Journey through the Golden Land


Burma - Journey through the Golden Land

Style: PioneerGroundbreaking tours to unique destinations
Duration: 15 days
Type: GroupSmall group tours with a maximum of 12 travellers

Dossier

For the first time in centuries it is possible to cross the border between Burma and Thailand overland, something many people have dreamt of but until very recently has not been possible. Be one of the first to travel this unique route crossing the Htee Khee border to Dawei which connects the more remote areas of Mon State and Kayin State. These are very much more undiscovered areas of Burma offering spectacular scenery and intriguing tribal culture dating back for centuries. The Mon are believed to be one of the first civilisations in this part of the world. The rich culture can still be seen in the daily lives of local people with their specific sarongs, traditional food, language and musical instruments. The Kayin are one of the indigenous tribes of the jungle known for their traditional boxing skills. The area offers beautiful natural scenery with traditional villages and waterways surrounded by spectacular limestone mountains. The Kayin has its own separate language and traditions, whose origins are still very much uncertain to experts. We continue to Bagan via the new capital Nay Pyi Daw, before being treated to the fertile lands of the Shan mountains. The final highlight of the trip is to discover an off the beaten track and only recently accessible part of Eastern Shan state where we can interact with local tribes such as the An(Anu) people, Akha people, Lahu people and Palaung (silver) people. You will learn about their cultures and religion (Buddhist, Christian and Animist). As well as the rich culture you will enjoy scenery from emerald rice paddies to sweeping mountain vistas. We will also enjoy some walking amongst these little visited villages. In Keng Tung you will explore the picturesque town and its surroundings and discover the British influence in the area. After Keng Tung, you will journey to Tachileik and cross the border into Thailand (Mae Sai). This is an unforgettable overland journey through an exciting and mostly unexplored part of Burma.


Tour Rating

Fitness ●●●○○ | Off the Beaten Track ●●●●○ | Culture ●●●●● | History ●●●●○ | Wildlife ●●○○○

Tour Pace

Moderate

Tour Highlights

  • Travel on a special overland journey across 2 overland borders between Myanmar and Thailand
  • Intriguing tribal culture and villages in Mon and Kayin states
  • See the new capital of Nay Pyi Daw
  • Off the beaten track cycling in the surrounds of Bagan
  • Incredible 4WD journey in the footsteps of the Top Gear crew through Eastern Shan State
  • Spectacular rice terraces and sweeping mountain vistas
  • Spend time exploring hill tribe villages around Keng-Tung
  • The remarkable pilgrimage site of Golden Rock

Tour Essentials

Accommodation: Mix of small hotels and guesthouses. Some guesthouses in Eastern Shan state do not have private bathrooms
Included Meals: Daily breakfast (B), plus lunches (L) and dinners (D) as shown in the itinerary.
Group Size: Maximum of 12
Start Point: Bangkok
End Point: Bangkok
Transport: 4WD, local buses, train, bicycle, scheduled flights
Countries: Burma (Myanmar) and Thailand

Tour itinerary notes

While our intention is to adhere to the day-by-day itinerary as printed below, a degree of flexibility is built in. Overnight stops may vary from those suggested and on occasions alternative accommodation, of a similar standard to that named below, will be used.

Tour Guide

Our guides are a key strength, chosen for their knowledge of and passion for the areas in which they work. All of our guides are carefully hand-picked, and are not just passing through these countries, but are usually locally born. Unlike some companies it should be noted we do not send a guide or tour leader from Undiscovered Destinations in the UK as we have every confidence in our locally appointed representative who is responsible for operating the tour on our behalf. On this tour you will have a different guide for Myanmar and Thailand. Often it is also necessary to have a different guide when travelling through Eastern Shan State.

Day 1 - Bangkok

Arrive in Bangkok and transfer to your hotel. The rest of the day is at leisure. Overnight at Galleria 10 hotel or similar.

Day 2 - Bangkok – Kanchanaburi – Dawei

An early morning start to drive to the Thai/Myanmar border at Baan Phu Nam Ron. After immigration meet your local Myanmar guide at the border town of Htee Khee where we commence the journey to Dawei. We share a ride in a minibus with local people and the journey should take about 3-4 hours through the southern plateau passing through jungle and mountainous terrain on a winding and sometimes quite bumpy road. On arrival in Dawei transfer to your hotel. This evening enjoy a home cooked dinner with a local family. Overnight at the Golden Guest Hotel or similar (BD)

Day 3 - Dawei and San Lan fishing village

After breakfast we explore Dawei and its surroundings. Learn about the history of the town and its old buildings, many with intricate facades and balconies. Later we journey to a picturesque gulf overlooking the fishing village of San Lan Village, characterized by its bamboo huts on the beach. We stroll through the village to observe the local fishermen going about their daily rituals. We should also be able to visit some local people in their homes. After our visit to San Lan we head back to Dawei where we enjoy dinner once again with local hosts. Overnight at Golden Guest House or similar (BD)

Dawei

Dawei, known as Tavoy in colonial times is the capital of Thanitaryi division. The town was one of the first cities settled by the British after the first Anglo-Burmese war; as a result the towns have a long history and very interesting architecture typical of the colonial era.

Day 4 - Dawei - Mawlamyine

For those that wish to rise early we can pay a visit to the bustling central food market by the river. After breakfast you have some time at leisure to further explore the town. Later we transfer to the bus station to take an air-conditioned bus on the journey north to Mawlamyine through the southern plateau. The air conditioned bus will leave from Dawei around 2pm and the journey takes around 8 hours. On arrival in Mawlamyine transfer to the hotel. Overnight Shwe Myint Moh Tun Hotel or similar (B)

Day 5 - Mawlamyine

After breakfast we visit the Seindon Mibaya Monastery with its magnificent wood carvings. Continue to Ni Paya for fine views over the city and we take a walk to examine some of the buildings of the city and the architecture from the colonial days. Renowned writers such as Orwell and Kipling lived in the city. We also visit the first Baptist church. We will visit the Mon Museum which has some interesting displays demonstrating the rich Mon culture. Lunch will be taken in a local home with Mon specialities. The afternoon will be at leisure. Overnight at Shwe Myint Moh Tun Hotel or similar (BL)

Seindon Mibaya Monastery

The last king of Myanmar, at the palace in Mandalay, came to power by killing many of the rival heirs to the throne at the end of the 19th century. Queen Seindon escaped and moved to what was called Moulmein in that period and became a Buddhist nun till her death (her tomb is in the compound in one of the nunneries). She built the Seindon Mibaya Monastery in Mawlamyine which is very fine example of architecture in the original Mandalay palace and has magnificent woodcarvings and other decorations. It’s a monastery so beautiful that one could actually call it a museum.

Day 6 - Mawlamyine – Golden Rock (Kyaikhtiyo)

This morning we transfer to Kyaikhtiyo and visit the important pilgrimage site of the remarkable Golden Rock. The visit involves around a 1.5 hour walk and there will be plenty of time to explore the pagoda and its surroundings. Overnight at Golden Sunrise Hotel or similar (BL)

Golden Rock

The Golden Rock is one of the most important pilgrimage sites for Myanmar Buddhists and maybe one of the strangest sights for visitors to Myanmar. Balanced on the edge of a mountain, over many years the rock has been totally covered with gold leaf by pilgrims.

Day 7 - Golden Rock (Kyaikhtiyo) – Nay Pyi Daw

Today we transfer to Nay Pyi Daw a journey of around 5 hours. On arrival transfer to your accommodation and later we can explore the town including the market, the Safari Garden and the Water Fountain. Alternatively you can have this afternoon at leisure. Overnight at Nay Pyi Daw or similar (B)

Nay Pyi Daw

Nay Pyi Daw is a new capital city of Burma established in the early 21st century to serve as the country’s new administrative centre.

Day 8 - Nay Pyi Daw – Bagan

Today we transfer to Bagan. The journey should take around 5 hours. On arrival we transfer to the hotel before taking some time to visit some of the wonderful temples in Bagan. Overnight Kumudra Hotel or similar (B)

Bagan

No words can do Bagan justice. A vast plain dotted with innumerable stupas and temples, Bagan’s heyday was between the 11th and 13th centuries, when King Anawahrata embarked upon a massive programme of building that now fills approximately 40 sq. km. on the banks of the Ayeyarwaddy. Highlights include the temples of Thatbyinnyu, Ananda Pahto, Shwesandaw and the mighty Dhammayangyi, situated in the middle of the plain. Many temples contain images of the Buddha while others are decorated with ancient frescoes. While some see relatively high numbers of tourists, others remain tantalisingly unexplored and it is quite easy to find yourself the only person there, marvelling over the wonders of an ancient civilisation. Exploring these temples, finding your way through winding and darkened corridors to emerge onto a terrace with spectacular views over the whole area, is one of the highlights of travel within the whole continent of Asia. Watching the sun set and cast a dim yellow glow over hundreds of stupas glittering throughout the plain, is a breath-taking experience not easily forgotten.

Day 9 - Bagan

Today we will enjoy some cycling in the surrounds of Bagan. Our first stop is the Z-Craft Jetty in Old Bagan. We will visit a busy market where locals bring their merchandise from across the river. We take a short boat ride across to SeLan village on the other side of the Ayeyarwaddy River. We spend some time cycling through the vegetable plantations and rural scenery observing local life. Arrive at Myitchay village where we can visit some local industry such as cane/bamboo. After lunch we cycle south around 10km’s to Kyaung Chaung Jetty where our boat will be waiting for us to bring us back to Old Bagan. The rest of the day will be at leisure to explore some of the many incredible temples. Please note you should wear clothing suitable for this activity. Closed shoes are recommended. Overnight Kumudra Hotel or similar (BL)

Please note that alternative arrangements can be made for those not wishing to cycle.

Day 10 - Bagan - Heho – Inle Lake

This morning we transfer to the airport for an internal flight to Heho. On arrival we transfer to Nyaung Shwe on the periphery of Inle Lake. We visit the Buddha museum which is housed in the former “Haw” (palace) of the last Shan prince of Nyaung Shwe. After lunch at a local restaurant we take a stroll around the local market and visit the ancient teak wooden Shwe Yan Pyay monastery with its photogenic oval windows. Later we take to the water exploring small canals and the floating gardens to get a feel for local Inthar life. Today ends with a visit to one of Burma’s only vineyards where you can taste some wine and relax with a great view. Overnight at Paradise Nyaung Shwe Hotel or similar (BL)

Please note that alternatively you can choose to do a boat trip on Inle Lake itself. Please advice at the time of booking.

Inle Lake

Enormous Inle Lake is one of Myanmar’s key attractions. With a shoreline littered with stilt villages, it is famous for its fishermen, who row their boats using their legs – an amazingly photogenic sight. A boat trip around the lake reveals small villages with water buffalo wading into the water, and wooden monasteries that have been here for centuries. The surrounding area is mountainous and home to the Pa-O people, among other ethnic groups, who can be found wearing their traditional headgear. 

Day 11 - Nyaung Shwe – Kunhing 4WD

Today we start a real adventure through Eastern Shan state by 4 wheel drive through an area only recently opened up to tourism in 2014, where infrastructure is very basic and where local people have had very little contact with Westerners. On the way we pass some of the most beautiful scenery in Myanmar, through forested areas that have remained largely untouched. The road follows the infamous route for opium couriers using mules to pass goods through the famous Golden Triangle. By late afternoon or early evening we arrive at Kunhing and a simple dinner will be served at a village house. Overnight in the village at the house of a village elder or a local guesthouse (Basic facilities and shared bathroom) (BLD) 

Eastern Shan State

Following in the trails of the BBC Top Gear team, Eastern Shan state has been closed to tourists until as recently as 2014. It is only now that the area can be visited with special permits. The region is stunning with high mountains and sweeping vistas around every turn. The area is home to fascinating hill tribes, who have had very little contact with Westerners. Certainly it would be not exaggerating to say that this is a truly pioneering journey on a route that will certainly yield many fascinating travel stories at the dining table when you’re back home.

The facilities during the trip through Eastern Shan state are very basic. Expect shared bathroom facilities and basic Shan food consisting of rice and noodles. Shan state is rich in produce so lots of fresh fruit and vegetables are available.

Day 12 - Kunhing - Phan Lan - Mong Ping

For those that rise early we can visit the local market and then after a simple breakfast we continue on our adventure weaving through the mountains. En route we will make stops to take in the magnificent views and also stop at some Shan villages where we will have an opportunity to meet local hill tribe people. This afternoon arrive at Mong Ping, a pleasant town situated on the road to Keng Tung. Overnight at local guesthouse with shared bathroom (BLD)

Day 13 - Mong Ping - Keng Tung

After a simple breakfast we will visit Mong Ping market and then continue the drive through outstanding scenery comprising of forests, deep valleys, and emerald rice paddies all the ways to the capital of Eastern Shan State - Keng Tung. On arrival in Keng Tung we will explore the town including the standing Buddha and one tree hill where a magnificent 250 year old tree stands in isolation. We can enjoy the sunset and this evening have dinner by the picturesque lakeside. Overnight Keng Tung Princess Hotel or similar (BLD) 

Day 14 - Hill tribe villages around Keng Tung

This morning we transfer to Pin Tauk, in beautiful countryside where we will enjoy walking in the countryside to visit local villages of the Pan Lac (Ann), Won Lar (Akha) and Nam Lin Mai (Ann) tribes giving you a chance to meet and learn about the different minority people in the area. A simple picnic lunch will be served during the walk. The villages in this area have little contact with western tourists in this isolated part of Myanmar. Later this afternoon we return to Keng Tung. This evening you are free to dine at your leisure in the town. Overnight at Keng Tung Princess Hotel or similar (BL)

Day 15 - Keng Tung - Tachileik - Mae Sai

Early this morning we visit the local market in Keng Tung and try a local Shan breakfast. Later we transfer to Tachileik (around 5 hours) and cross the border back into Thailand (Mae Sai), and continue to Chiang Rai airport for your late afternoon flight back to Bangkok. The tour ends on arrival at Bangkok airport (B)

For those that wish to end their trip in Northern Thailand please let us know. Extension arrangements can also be made in Northern Thailand

Inclusions:
Arrival and departure transfers in Bangkok
Domestic flight in Thailand
All accommodation
Services of English speaking guide / tour leader
Meals as listed (B – Breakfast, L – Lunch, D – Dinner)
Entrance fees for sites listed as part of the itinerary

Excluded:
International flights
Travel Insurance
Visa – at present an e-visa is not possible for overland travel – see visa information
Drinks
Items of a personal nature
Tips (discretionary) 


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