MYANMAR | Full Moon Festival, Temples and Waterways

January 17--29, 2019

Cost: $3,550 (double occupancy)

Rooted in history and rich in culture, Myanmar (formerly known as Burma) is a country filled with awe inspiring Buddhist temples and British colonial structures. The diversity of the local people can be seen with the traditional one legged fishing style on Lake Inle to the rituals of the pilgrims at the Shwedagon Pagoda. We will traverse this magnificent country, starting in the south at Yangon, and hopping to the banks of the Ayeyarwady River in Bagan for an unmatchable experience. Bagan will be the site of the Full Moon Festival where we will participate in the festivities and sample the speciality dishes.Learn how to celebrate like a local! Then we set out on Lake Inle to see the fisherman, floating gardens and a variety of wildlife. The trip concludes in the northern city of Mandalay for once last adventure in this captivating country.

Daily Itinerary:

Day 1 | Thursday, January 17 | Yangon Upon midday arrival in Yangon, your local guide will meet and transfer you to the hotel. Once you have a chance to settle in, there will be a group orientation and an invitation to a traditional welcome dinner at the hotel. Grand United Hotel (Ahlone Branch) (D)

 

YANGON (formerly Rangoon) is the former capital of Myanmar and largest city with nearly 7 million inhabitants. The center of political and economic power under British colonial rule, it still boasts a unique mixture of modern buildings and traditional wooden structures with numerous parks, it was known as the “Garden of the East”. After the revolution and independence in 1948, cities and street were renamed, but Yangon retains the beauty of its colonial architecture. It is one of the only major cities in Asia to not have motor scooters or motorcycles since 2003 when the ruling generals banned them in the city

 

Day 2 | Friday, January 18 | Yangon This morning after breakfast at the hotel, we will begin our exploration of Yangon with a stroll through the streets of the old quarter, observing the old colonial buildings at various states of preservation, evoking the prosperous old days when the city was the world’s largest exporter of rice. On our walk, we’ll see street vendors selling betel nuts, a much loved local snack that turns the eater’s mouth a vibrant red. Then we will drive to visit one of the largest reclining Buddha statues in the country, Chaukhtetgyi Paya, whose the sheer size is awe creating. Next we will continue to a viewpoint on the bank of Royal Lake before lunch at a local restaurant. In the afternoon there is time to browse at the Bogyoke Aung San Market (originally Scott’s Market) with hundreds of stalls selling souvenir items such as clothes, handicrafts, jewelry and more. In the late afternoon, we pay an extended visit to the 2,500 year old Buddhist pagoda, the Shwedagon, which Rudyard Kipling described as a “Waking, Winking Wonder.” At sunset, this stupa is illuminated by the rays of the setting sun and shines like a mountain of gold. The magnificence of the Shwedagon Pagoda has been drawing pilgrims from all over the Buddhist world for centuries. You will be able to observe the arrival of the pilgrims and the local devotees performing their rituals. Take a moment to calm your mind and take in the wonderful atmosphere of peace and tranquility that Buddhism embodies. We will return to the hotel for dinner on your own. Grand United Hotel (Ahlone Branch) (B/L)

 

Day 3 | Saturday, January 19 | Yangon to Bagan We will have an early start with a transfer to the airport and morning flight to Bagan. Upon arrival in Bagan we will visit the circular gold-leafed plated Shwezigon Pagoda, suspected to be the prototype for all later Burmese stupas. After lunch on your own, we will visit the bustling Central Market of Nyaung U, giving you a good opportunity to learn about the local foods and produce. Time permitting, we will visit Buleithee Stupa, which has the best view of Bagan then continue to the hotel for check in. The rest of the afternoon is at leisure until our dinner and a cultural performance. Floral Breeze Hotel (B/D)

 

BAGAN was founded in the 2nd century AD and was the ancient capital to unite its people. During the reign of the kingdom between the 11th and 13th centuries, over 10,000 Buddhist temples, pagodas and monasteries were constructed in the nearby area, of which nearly 2,200 temples and pagodas survive today.

Mandalay, Burma

Day 4 | Sunday, January 20 | Bagan After breakfast we head out to the Ananda Pagoda Festival, where we will be able to participate in the lively festivities and see the traditional clothes, dances and celebrations of local people, most of whom come from outlying villages to make their special offerings to the monks. Today is the most popular day to visit this festival since tonight is the full moon. After lunch, we will visit a lacquer ware workshop to learn about the amazing styles and techniques. Then we continue to the Nanpaya Temple, rumored to be the residence of the captive Mon king, Manuha. Next door is the Manuha Temple dedicated by the captive king himself and decorated with traditional Mon symbols. We end the day at the Shwesandaw Pagoda, where you can climb to capture the incredible view as the sun sets. Dinner will be on your own after we arrive back at the hotel. Floral Breeze Hotel (B/L)

 

Day 5 | Monday, January 21 | Bagan For those that are interested, early this morning there is an optional hot-air balloon ride for an unforgettable experience over Bagan and its temples (USD 300 per person). Balloon riders return in time for breakfast at the hotel. Following breakfast we all set out by e-bike providing us with many opportunities to take great photos of the centuries-old pagodas as well as a variety of activities en route. Lunch will be on your own and this afternoon is at leisure. In the evening, we are invited to partake in a special dinner of traditional food in a private home. Floral Breeze Hotel (B/D)

 

Day 6 | Tuesday, January 22 | Bagan / Mt Popa / Kalaw We depart Bagan in the early morning and drive to Kalaw. En route, we visit a toddy farmer, where he demonstrates how toddy sap is harvested from the trees to make the fermented drink called arrack, as well as other byproducts. We will next stop at Popa Mountain Resort perched on an extinct volcano overlooking the valley with incredible views of the Taungkalat Complex of Nat Shrines. Then continuing on our way, we will be able to observe the routines of daily life along the Myanmar roads, such as cattle who cross the roads at a leisurely pace totally oblivious to the traffic and, depending on the season, farmers ploughing their fields, planting or thrashing the rice paddies. In the bustling crossroads town of Meihtila, we will stop for a simple lunch at the local hotel. Our destination today is Kalaw, built as a British Hill Station, where the colonialists came to escape the oppressive heat of the lowlands during the summer hot season in Burma. There are still a number of old colonial houses intermixed with old and new Myanmar-style houses, mimicking the town’s mixed population of indigenous tribal people, Indians and Gurkhas. Upon arrival, we will check-in to the hotel. After a short rest, we will head out for dinner at a local restaurant. Kalaw Princess Hotel (B/L/D)

Kyaingthong - Temple3WS

Day 7 | Wednesday, January 23 | Kalaw / Pindaya / Nyaung Shwe After breakfast we will check out and depart for the town of Nyaung Shwe. We will visit the famous Pindaya shrine limestone cave, which contains over 8,000 images of the Buddha and then an artisan workshop. On the way from Pindaya to Nyaung Shwe, we will stop for lunch and may have time to stop and explore the activities in town. Upon arrival in Nyaung Shwe, we check into the hotel, then gather together for dinner at a local restaurant. Grand Nyaung Shwe Hotel (B/L/D)

INLE LAKE  is a shallow, 13 mile freshwater biosphere reserve. This captivating waterway has no roads or sidewalks. Locals and visitors alike get around in one-person-wide wooden boats outfitted with a primitive single outboard propeller. Fishermen work the lake, using a one-legged paddling technique you won’t see anywhere else in the world. Hydroponic (growing without soil) farming is big here, based on an aqua biotic system in use since the 1960s. The lakeside is dotted with rice paddies and stilt houses where the women weave lotus fiber, silk and other natural products.

FishermanWS

Day 8 | Thursday, January 24 | Nyaung Shwe / Inle Lake In the morning we have two options: an easy hike to a small village; or spending the morning on your own exploring the town. For the hiking portion, we will take tuk-tuks to the outskirts of Nyaung Shwe. We will walk for about 20 to 30 minutes to reach the small village of Htet Ain, which we will explore on foot before visiting the local school. If we have time, we might visit a natural cave that has been protected by one monk. Then we will circle back to the starting point and join the non-hikers for lunch. Following lunch, we visit the NGO, Inle Speaks, to learn about some of their projects; new schools, training the local community in skills related to tourism to ensure that income inequality would be minimized in the future. Tourism is an important industry for Inle Lake and 70% of the fees paid to visit the region either go back to the town or into the Tourism Masterplan fund that the government has been working on for a couple years. The new government appears to want to tap into the tourism market as a way of generating income for its citizens. Next we drive out of town to a reservoir where we will continue on foot down on a short path through the vineyards to one of Myanmar’s few wineries, Red Mountain Winery. Here where we will have a chance to sample the wine while enjoying the magnificent view of valley and the famous Inle Lake. If we are lucky we will catch the sunset, before returning to the hotel for dinner on your own. Grand Nyaung Shwe Hotel (B/L)

 

Day 9 | Friday, January 25 | Inle Lake This morning after breakfast we will visit the Central Market of Nyaung Shwe, bustling with housewives shopping for their family’s food, before proceeding to the jetty. There we board the “long-tail boat”, a type of outboard motor boat, and explore the amazing Inle Lake. We cruise through small villages with house build on stilts and observe the Innthar people working in their floating gardens. We will learn about lotus cloth-weaving as well as the tension looms used by the long-necked women for weaving. We will see the superb collection of ancient Buddha images at Ngaphechaung Monastery, the picturesque pagoda Complex of Indein and also the famed Phaung Daw Oo Pagoda, which draws thousands of devotees from all over the country especially during the annual festival held in October. After a delightful day on the lake we will return to the hotel for dinner on your own. Grand Nyaung Shwe Hotel (B/L)

Day 10 | Saturday, January 26 | Heho – Mandalay by air In the morning we head to the Heho Airport with a quick stop en route at an old wooden monastery. The flight from Heho to Mandalay is a short 25 minute hop. Upon arrival in Mandalay, we will drive into the city and visit one of the most revered Buddha images in the whole Buddhist world, Mahamuni, which means “The Great Sage”. Pilgrims have been putting gold leaf on the image for so many years that it has grown larger than its original size. Next we will head for the Guild of Gold-Leaf Beaters to learn about the incredible process of making gold leaves. Lunch will be at a local restaurant. We will spend the afternoon visiting Shwe Nan Daw Monastery, a magnificent wooden structure from the 19th Century; and Kuthodaw Pagoda, known for housing the world’s biggest book, what is commonly referred to as the Buddhist Bible. Finally, we stop at the legendary Mandalay Hill, which looms over the city and is a popular place to watch the sunset. After checking into the hotel, we will enjoy dinner at a local restaurant. Yadanarpon Dynasty Hotel (B/L/D)

 

MANDALAY is Myanmar’s second largest city and the cultural hub of the Burmese people. The name ‘Mandalay' is perhaps the most evocative of any destination in Myanmar, mainly due to the famous poem by Rudyard Kipling, and yet it is a city whose significant charms need to be uncovered. But if you take the time to explore, there is much to be enjoyed, including many temples, monasteries and markets, as well as great street food and panoramic views from Mandalay Hill.

 

Day 11 | Sunday, January 27 | Amapur / Sagaing / Mandalay This morning we will skip breakfast at the hotel in order eat at a local teashop instead to learn about people of Mandalay and their life. After breakfast we venture out of the city to the region of Sagaing, visiting the Myat Setkyar Monastery, where a few hundred monks reside and study; continue to Swan Oo Punyashin Pagoda atop the Sagaing Hill which provides breathtaking views over the Ayeyarwaddy Valley. Later, if time permits, we will stop by a nunnery where we learn about the lives and traditions of Buddhist nuns. Lunch will be at a local restaurant. Then we go to the ancient capital city of Ava, heart of the government on five separate occasions from the 14th to the 19th centuries, but abandoned in 1839 after a series of devastating earthquakes. Now there are only intricate ruins in a small village where our sightseeing includes the Bagayar Monastery, one of the oldest teakwood monasteries of Myanmar or the Menu Oak Kyaung, an incredible reproduction of traditional wooden monastery in bricks that dates back to the early 19th century. Finally , we visit the U Bein Bridge, the world’s longest teak span at the sunset hour. We will return to Mandalay for dinner on your own. Yadanarpon Dynasty Hotel (B/L)

Day 12 | Monday, January 28 | Mandalay / River excursion After breakfast at the hotel, we will head to the dock to board a private boat for a leisurely excursion upstream. You will be able to enjoy the bustling life on the riverbank from the sundeck of your boat as it winds its way to Mingon. Daily river life will pass you by, such as the working fishermen, teak rafts full of goods and sand-diggers, as well as seeing the work of the local artisans on the banks. Our destination is Mingun. Although its a small village there are a number of historical sites, such as the intentionally unfinished Pahtodawgyi, a monumental project started in 1790 which, if completed, would have been the biggest temple on earth. Nearby you can find the world’s largest intact Mingon Bell (weighing in at 90 tons) which would have accompanied this immense temple, and the cracked base of the gigantic Chinthes (a lion-like statute or Leogryph), which would have served a guardian of the temple. Returning to Mandalay by boat, the balance of the afternoon is free for lunch on your own, last minute shopping, the jade market or exploring the city. We will gather in the evening to celebrate together with a farewell dinner and performance Yadanarpon Dynasty Hotel (B/D)

 

Day 13 | Tuesday, January 29 | Mandalay / Home After breakfast you will be transferred to Mandalay International Airport for your departure flight (B)

In-Country Guide:

 
 

TIN AUNG MOE

 
Since 1996, "Moe" has been working as an English speaking tour guide. In 2004 , he met American traveler  who introduced him to Friendship Force International (FFI) whose mission is home-stay exchanges with friends from different countries. With the influence of FFI he created a program for visits, meals and activities at local homes and monasteries in Myanmar. After the devastation of the cyclone in 2008, Moe was disillusioned with the lack of response by the ruling generals to the disaster needs of the country and he moved his family to Singapore for a better life. However, with the general’s recognition of Aung San Suu Kyi, “The Lady”, he returned to his country. with renewed optimism.  He expanded his people-to-people program into the tour company now known as Care and Share Myanmar Travels. Moe is the director and primary guide, welcoming travelers from all over the world to learn about his country. He creates a unique and personal experience as he shares his love of Myanmar.

Moe photo by treeWS

Journey Notes:

 

NOTE:  Travelers should be aware that many city streets in Myanmar have uneven surfaces and sidewalks. The countryside is underdeveloped and has in some areas a rugged terrain. In Bagan, there is a morning excursion with an e-bike. Those not comfortable riding alone have to option to have a driver and ride as a passenger. At Inle Lake and other waterways, we will be traveling in local motorboats that require the traveler to be able to climb in and out of boats and up on to docks and narrow walkways. The steps at many of the pagodas are steep and without railings. This journey requires participants to be able to walk a couple hours each day. There are many times to rest but ability to keep up the group’s pace is essential. Most people find no issues with the activity level but those with any conditions should call our office to discuss their limitations.

 

INCLUDED: All in country transportation per the itinerary in an air conditioned motorcoach; 2 domestic flights within Myanmar; all hotels; breakfast buffet daily, 8 lunches, 7 dinners (B/L/D per itinerary); all entrance fees on itinerary; preparation materials; tips for bus drivers, boat drivers, horse cart drivers, bellman and included meals on itinerary; CCJ trip manager; professional English speaking tour guide; bottled water on the bus; two wet towels per day.

 

NOT INCLUDED: International air travel to Myanmar; Myanmar visa, alcoholic drinks; meals not on itinerary, 3 lunches, 4 dinners, (B/L/D per itinerary); excursions not on the itinerary; tips for local guide and chambermaids (optional, yet customary); travel cancellation and evacuation insurance (strongly recommended, info will be sent upon registration), photography fees.

TRAVEL PROTECTION: For more information on the recommended travel protection plans or to enroll, contact Travelex Insurance Services at 800-228-9792 and reference location number 47-0272.Please advise Travelex that Cross Cultural Journeys is the travel company for this trip. For a summary of plan details on benefits, coverages, limitations and exclusions, please refer to the applicable Description of Coverage. Travel Insurance is underwritten by Transamerica Casualty Insurance Company, Columbus, Ohio; NAIC #10952. 1308294

January 17--29, 2019

$3,550 (Double Occupancy)

ADD: $550 (Single Room)

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