Myanmar and the Golden Triangle

Yangon – Bagan –Mt. Popa – Mandalay – Pyin Oo Lwin – Mandalay – Kyaing Tong – Inle Lake – Yangon

(15 days/ 14 nights)

Day 1:  Yangon

Yangon strange colonial building, Grand Lotus Tours

Welcome to Myanmar! Your guide awaits you at the Yangon International airport and transfer to your hotel. After a brief freshening up at the hotel, we begin the orientation tour of Yangon.

Explore the commercial capital Yangon, the largest city in Myanmar with a population of over 5 million. Its tree lined wide avenues, shady green parks and beautiful lakes give Yangon the reputation of one of the most charming and lively cities in Asia.

The orientation tour of Yangon includes the Sule Pagoda, quite unusual in that its octagonal shape extends right up to the bell and inverted bowl, City Hall and the colonial buildings. Visit Chaukhtatkyi Pagoda – which houses a spectacular 70 meters long reclining Buddha. Make a photo stop at the distinctive Karaweik Hall a reproduction of the Royal Barge on Kandawgyi Royal Lake; and enjoy a spectacular view on Shwedagon Pagoda.

For sunset, visit the marvelous Shwedagon Pagoda, the glistening golden stupa that towers over the metropolis, one of the wonders of the world. It is the spiritual center of the country. Witness the colors transform on the 100-meter chedi which is enclosed in over 40 tons of gold leaf. This moment will be for sure an unforgettable experience.

Oil Lamp offering ceremony, Grand Lotus Tours

 

 

Optional: Oil lamp Ceremony at Shwedagon Pagoda Live an experience unique in the world in a very spiritual place. For sunset, you will visit Shwedagon Pagoda and participate in a special event: an oil lamp ceremony organized for you and only for you. This is a perfect opportunity to learn about the Buddhist culture, taking an important place in the daily life in Myanmar. 1,000 oil lamps are waiting for you to be lighted. Both visually and spiritually stunning, this is an event that will for sure stay in your memory for ever.

 

 

 

 

 

Day 2: Yangon – Bagan (Flight)

Bagan oxcarts in the archaeological zone, Grand Lotus ToursEarly morning, you will be transferred to the airport for the flight to Bagan. The Bagan archaeological zone is one of the richest historical sites in Asia and the main tourist attraction in Myanmar. It is considered by archaeologists, historians and photographers alike as one of Asia’s holiest cities along with Varanasi in India and Angkor Wat in Cambodia. It displays the greatest collection of Buddhist sculptures, lavishly decorated monuments : temples and pagodas decorated with mural paintings and plaster carvings from the 11th to 13th centuries. During its Golden Age, in the 12th century, Bagan was known as “the City of Four Million Pagodas”. While Kublai Khan and several massive earthquakes have reduced that number drastically, what remains is quite incredible.

 

We will visit the principal pagodas including: Shwezigon Pagoda, the first monument built in pure Myanmar style, a prototype for later pagodas, is one of the oldest and loveliest temples and remains an important place of devotion for the Burmese; Ananda Temple, a masterpiece of the early style temple architecture. Built in 1066, the gilded and whitewashed Ananda is among the most elegant temples, with delicate decorations. Visit Gubyaukgyi Temple, strongly influenced by the Indian culture; the great Dammayangyi and the impressive Htinlomilo.

Go for a pony cart tour among the temples before sunset. This evening, ascend to the top of an elevated location, watch the sun sink into distant hills and experience peaceful, tranquil moments and the indescribable magical power of Bagan.

 

Day 3: Bagan: villages and lacqueware discovery, sunset cruise

Balloons over Bagan, Grand Lotus Tours

 

Optional: Balloon Flight Over Bagan. While a visit to the Bagan archaeological zone is a must for any visitor to Myanmar, the Royal Way to see the temples and pagodas is without a doubt by taking a hot air balloon flight. Passengers get picked up at dawn from their hotel and are ferried to the departure site, offered a cup of coffee or tea and snacks before a short briefing on the day’s flight. The view from above is breathtaking as the Bagan plain reveals all of it’s treasures. The immensity of the site takes its full meaning as you glide over more than 4000 temples, pagodas and stupas.  After a 40 minutes flight, the ground crew meets the passengers at the landing point and offer a glass of champagne before returning, exhilarated, to the hotel for the breakfast proper.

 

 

This morning after breakfast, visit to the vibrant Nyaung Oo Market, where the locals gather to sell their fresh product.Traditional lacquerware Bagan, Grand Lotus Tours

Then, we will take you to several hidden villages, to learn more about the village life of the inhabitants of Bagan. Discover their unbelievable handicraft and the agriculture methods that they have been uding from generation to generation. You will have many opportunities to interact and exchange with the people from Bagan; a real human experience that will remain in your memory forever.

Bagan is also famous as the centre of Myanmar’s thriving lacquerware industry. In the afternoon, the tour includes a stop at a local lacquerware workshop to watch the skilled artisans at work on the various stages of production.

This evening you will enjoy a sunset cruise on the mighty Ayeyarwaddy river that will provide you with different views of the amazing archaeological sites as well as a glimpse of the local people going about their daily lives as the sun goes down.

 

Day 4 – Bagan – Mt. Popa – Bagan

Mount Popa top, Grand Lotus ToursThis morning drive some 50 km southeast of Bagan to Mt. Popa, an extinct volcano (1,500m). On the way, stop at a palm plantation and palm sugar candy workshop in Kyaukpadaung village. Mt. Popa, the Burmese “Mt. Olympus” is a legendary home of the “Mahagiri Nats” (Powerful national spirits) and an important pilgrimage site.

After arrival at Mt Popa, enjoy an optional climb to the summit for an amazing panorama view and visit a Nat shrine and monasteries on top of the volcano. Everything about the place is dramatic: the lush vegetation on the mountain’s slopes; the petrified forest along the road; the complex of monasteries and shrines perched on the rocky crag and endless views of the plains below. The Mt Popa area has been designated a National Park.

This afternoon back to Bagan, ride a bicycle or a horse cart and lose yourself amidst the crumbling spires if this fabulous place.

 

 

 

Day 5: Bagan-Mandalay (Flight)

 

This morning, you will be transferred to Nyaung Oo airport for the flight to Mandalay, the second largest city in Myanmar. Boasting its rich cultural heritage, the city offers a unique representation of a Buddhist city with itsMandalay Palace and moat, Grand Lotus Tours conservative culture and traditional art. Mandalay was the last capital (1860–1885) of the last independent Burmese Kingdom before annexation by the British after the Third Anglo-Burmese War in 1885.

From the airport, if you wish, stop at the lovely village of Paleik, also called ‘the little Ava’. Visit the snake temple, home of several impressive pythons. Take a walk to this countryside village before driving toward Mandalay.

On the way, visit Mahamuni Temple – the most revered pagoda in Mandalay which houses a huge bronze Buddha image covered in thick layers of gold, one of the three holiest places in Myanmar. It is often crowded with pious devotees from all over the country.

Mandalay is also a center for arts and crafts. Here you will visit a gold leaf making workshop, where 24k gold is transformed into super thin gold leaves using only precise hammer blows, a technique which even the most modern hi-tech equipment cannot replicate. Walk down the marble carving street, where thousands of Buddha images are carved.

Kuthoda Paya, Mandalay,Grand Lotus Tours

 

In the late afternoon, visit the Golden Palace Monastery, the best known wooden monastery in the country, famous for its intricate carvings. It is the only original building from Mandalay Palace having miraculously survived the bombings of WWII. Kuthodaw Pagoda is known as the biggest book in the world with hundreds of marble slabs inscribed with the entire Buddhist Canon.

At sunset time, a short car ride will take you to the top of Yankin Hill. Crowned with a quiet monastery, the location offers fantastic views of Mandalay city, fields and farmland surrounding the city. A very mystical moment far from the tourist crowds.

 

 

 

Day 6: Mandalay and the Ancient Capitals

Balloon flight over Mandalay, Grand Lotus Tours

 

Optional: Balloon Flight Over Mandalay. Mandalay is the second largest city in Myanmar and is the center of the Burmese culture. See the Royal City from up high, gliding in the basket of a hot air balloon. Starting in 2016, Balloon Flights allow visitors to see the Royal Palace complex and it’s moat, Mandalay Hill, the ancient capitals of Amarapura and the famous U-Bein bridge in the distance, long lines of saffron robed monks canvassing neighborhoods for the morning Alm-Giving, the busy life of the city as well as river activity on the Ayeyarwaddy. Discover hidden treasures that can only be seen from above with an exhilarating and exclusive flight : the best way to start a day of visit in Mandalay. A glass of sparkling wine after landing completes the surreal experience. 

 

 

 

This morning, cross the bridge and drive to Sagaing Hills, dotted with pagodas and  over 500 monasteries, it is a famous place for a retreat for Buddhist devotees. It is home to around 3,000 monks and nearly 100 meditation shrines. You’ll visit pagodas such as Swan Oo Pon Nya Shin, U Min Thone Sae and Shwe Taung Oo Maw.

Then, cross a small river and continue to Ava (which was the Royal Capital for almost 5 centuries, from the 14th through the 18th). The visit is done by pony cart; you will see Maha Aungmye Bonzan monastery, Nan Myint Watch tower (also called “the leaning tower of Ava“) and the very famous Bagaya teak wood monastery.

Amarapura, U Bein Bridge, Grand Lotus Tours

 

This afternoon before the sunset, you may visit the traditional cotton and silk weavers whose ancestors used to weave magnificent robes for the royalty. The weaving of silk longyis is so intricate and colorful that they can only complete an inch a day, it is truly amazing.

At sunset, visit the most picturesque U Bein Bridge on Taungthaman Lake, a half-mile long teak walkway also known as the longest teak bridge in the world.

 

Optional: Sunset Boat with Cocktails and Snacks. At sunset, visit the most picturesque U Bein Bridge on Taungthaman Lake, a half-mile long teak span also known as the longest teak bridge in the world. Enjoy an exclusive boat ride with cocktails and snacks on board. Then return back to Mandalay.

 

 

Day 06 – Mandalay- Pyin Oo Lwin

Purcell Tower, Pyin Oo Lwin, Grand Lotus Tours

 

 

This morning, take the interesting two hours drive to Pyin Oo Lwin (Maymyo), originally a Shan-Danu village. In 1896, it became a hill station that served as a retreat from the heat for European civil servants stationed in Mandalay. It is considered the melting pot of Burma as it still has the largest community of Anglo-Burmese, Anglo-Indian, native Shan, Myanmar and Chinese immigrants, especially from Yunnan.

During your stay, you will visit the colorful market and take an easy stroll in the center of the town to see the Purcell tower, a gift from the Queen of England. The main street is a mix of colonial-era buildings and modern Chinese buildings.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Day 7 – Pyin Oo Lwin – Mandalay

Flower horse cart, Pyin Oo Lwin, Grand Lotus Tours

 

This morning, take a unique horse drawn carriage to the National Botanical Gardens. The natural forest was transformed into a botanical garden in 1915. The 436 acre garden includes many species of local and foreign trees, rare indigenous and endangered native orchid species, and seasonal flowers of native and foreign origin, recreational lawns and alluring landscape. A walk through the rain forest and swamp walkway is a real delight.

Drive back to Mandalay in the evening.

 

 

 

Day 9: Mandalay – Kyaing Tong (Flight)

Kyaing Tong lake, Golden Triangle, Grand Lotus ToursThis morning, transfer to the airport for the flight to Kyaing Tong, the capital of the Eastern Shan State.

The famous Golden Triangle, where the borders of Thailand, Laos and Myanmar meet, was once the dangerous haunt of drug dealers and a center of opium production. Nowadays, its residents have been encouraged to abandon the drug trade and to cultivate coffee, flowers and vegetables in the heart of a very attractive landscape. The Golden Triangle of Myanmar is rich in culture, breathtaking scenery and friendly people.

Upon arrival in Kyaing Tong you will be transferred to your hotel. (Note: please check with us for surcharge for transfer from Thai border or Tachileik airport).

Go for a first exploration of the town; explore the city streets with a mix of traditional wooden houses and modern concrete buildings. Discover the ”One Tree hill”, a 245 years old Kanyin-Byu (Dipterocarpus Spp) tree stands. The tree was planted by Alaungmintaya, the founder of Third Myanmar Empire.  Three brothers had planted one tree each to show their mutual assistance. Now, only one remains. Visit a family-run lacquerware workshop, where the technique used is very different from Bagan. Finally, enjoy a pleasant and relaxing sunset walk around the lake of Naung Tong.

 

Day 10: Kyaing Tong

Option 1: Loimwe and Kabaye (Very light walk to moderate. Can be adjusted to your physical condition and wishes)

This morning, visit the colorful and busy town market, where your guide will introduce you to the local specialties. Then drive for one hour along a stunning road until the hill Tribal visits, Golden Triangle, Grand Lotus Toursstation of Loimwe, located 1 600 meters above sea level.  The town of Loi Mwe is a hill station where the Christians missionaries use to spread their Catholic believes; many churches and Heritage buildings still remain. This is a lovely and peaceful town, reputed to have a pleasant and chill climate: a perfect escape to the heat in Myanmar.

Take a look at the Pagoda, stroll around the lake and even taste some local wines at one of the local restaurant in town.

On the way, you will have the opportunity to visit a traditional village. Take a walk there, stretch your legs and discover the ways of life of its inhabitant.

In the afternoon, a one hour drive leads to Akhu tribe villages, one of the rarest hill tribe living in Shan State.  Located at the east of Kyaing Tong, the whole area is home to a lovely monastery for novices, some hidden beautiful villages and a meditation center offering a 360 degree view on the mountains. A beautiful sunset can be enjoyed from the terrace.

 

Note: All the visits can be done by car, even though the road is very bumpy at some parts. In case of rain, if the road is too muddy and if the villages aren’t accessible, an alternative option will be offered.

 

Option 2: Hogyin Villages (Moderate trekking)

trekking to Akha villages, Golden Triangle, Grand Lotus ToursAfter breakfast, go to the market to choose your picnic lunch and drive for 45 minutes to the starting point of your trek. Today, you will walk for around 4 hours, passing through several Akha (Hokyin) villages. It will be an excellent opportunity to observe the rich culture and traditions of the Akha people.

The Akha are mostly Buddhist in faith, but they also practice animism, or spirit worship. Even though some villages are becoming more modern, the Akha women still wear their traditional costumes and silver jewels in abundance.

After this fantastic discovery of the fascinating traditions of the Akha people, you will drive back to Kyaing Tong. You’ll arrive in the late afternoon and will have the rest of the day at your leisure to explore on your own or relax at your hotel.

 

 

Trekking Info:

Total walk: 4 hours

Steep at the beginning during 1h30. Then 20% up and 20% down, 60% flat.

 

Day 11: Kyaing Tong
Pine Thauk trekking to tribal villages, Grand Lotus Tours

Set off after breakfast for a full day trek to Pine Thauk village. Drive 1.5-hour northwest of Kyaing Tong leading to your starting point: the Akha village of Wanpin from where you will start a trek of 4 hours (the route and the timing is flexible). Visit several villages in the area and experience the life styles of the Ann, Akha and Lahu tribes. From Wan Pin, an uphill hike until the village Ann of Bang Le; where you may be invited for a cup of tea with the friendly villagers. The village overlooks the mountain and offers stunning views on the surroundings rice fields.

Pine Thauk area is also home to the Pa Kyaw and the Nam Lin Mai villages. A picnic lunch will be taken on the way.

After your trek, return to Wan Pin where your car will await you to drive back to Kyaing Tong. On the way, stop at an interesting distillery. Wan Kam will offer an opportunity to try the local frighteningly powerful rice wine before returning to Kyaing Tong for the night.

Note: Please note that the route can be amended according to your level and your wishes. 

 

 

Day 12: Kyaing Tong – Heho – Inle Lake (Flight)

This morning after breakfast, visit Kyaing Tong’s landmark religious monuments such as MahaMuni Temple. Visit Wat Zom Khum Pagoda, which is very famous amongs the locals who come to pray and meditate.

Transfer to the airport for the flight to Heho, the gateway to the Southern Shan State. Upon arrival, an hour drive to Nyaungshwe followed by one hour boat transfer to your hotel at Inle Lake. Natural and unpolluted, famous for its scenic beauty and the unique leg-rowing of the Inthas; the native lake dwellers, Inle Lake is a hidden spot of scenic beauty.

Inle Lake, Shan State, Grand Lotus ToursThe different tribes living in the nearby mountains gather in town to meet and sell their fresh product. Visit the town market and a couple of famous pagodas before continuing to Inle Lake, a world’s hidden spot of scenic beauty.

You have the rest of the day for explorations of the lake and environs by longtail boat. View the traditional lifestyle of the inhabitants of the area, the Inthar, best known for their unique leg-rowing technique and peculiar cultivation of floating gardens.

Visit Nga Hpe Chaung Monastery, which houses plenty of early Shan Buddha Images. In the past this temple was known for its ‘jumping cats’ but these days there are only a few felines walking and playing around. But none of them are jumping anymore.

Other highlights today, in addition to the beautiful mountain scenery that surrounds you, include a visit to the venerable Phaung Daw U Pagoda, the holiest place in the southern Shan State.

The Inthar and their unique fishing method, the floating gardens and villages, the friendly hill tribe people will leave you a lifetime of memories.

 

 

Day 13: Inle Lake – Excursion to Indein

Balloon flight over Inle Lake, Grand Lotus Tours

Optional: Balloon Flight Over Inle. Your journey commences with an early morning flight over Inle Lake, home of the Inthar people. The pilots carefully use their knowledge of the winds to steer the balloon over the floating villages and water gardens. Breakfast is taken either on your special retriever boat in the middle of the lake or next to one of the beautiful Shan villages wherever we land. To fly over the lake in a balloon, has to be one of the most beautiful ways to experience one of Myanmar’s most scenic and cultural attractions.

Today, spend a full day aboard a boat exploring the breathtaking lake, surrounded on both sides by high hills. You will have a chance to visit the market, which is held once in every five days. Its location rotates between the lake’s villages in a 5 day schedule, and is one of the best opportunities to see hill tribe people coming down to sell their products and to buy provisions.

Situated on the western shore of the lake, the Pa-oh Indein temple complex is often referred to as a mini Angkor. After a short and pleasant walk through a bamboo forest, the mysterious monuments appear, some still covered in vegetation. The internal wall of the ruins, dating back to 1054 AD and nearby shrines will take you back in time and make you feel like explorers.

In the afternoon, visit Impawkhone, a silk weaving village, a traditional blacksmith workshop, a cheroot (the Burmese cigars) making workshop and surrounding villages. Return to the hotel in the evening.

 

Day 14 – Inle Lake – Yangon (Flight)

Bogyoke market, Yangon, Grand Lotus Tours

After your breakfast at the hotel, transfer to the airport for the return flight to Yangon. Upon arrival in Yangon, visit to one of Yangon’s fabulous bazaars- an endless jumble of color, clamor, heady aromas and contraband goods. The Bogyoke Aung San Market (Scott Market) has an enormous array of handicraft and arts goods. This will be a wonderful opportunity to pick up some souvenirs to bring home. If shopping doesn’t tickle your fancy, you can head out to Chinatown and check out that busy part of town or take a stroll along the waterfront to see well preserved colonial buildings or simply stop at a tea shop and mingle with the locals.

 

 

 

 

 

Day 15 – Yangon (Departure)

Breakfast at the hotel, enjoy a leisurely morning. You will be transferred back to the airport in time for your flight back home.