In Burma, between temples and smiles with Cau Costa

Myanmar

Burma (or Myanmar, officially), after years of isolation, is is one of those fast-changing destinations which have a label attached reading “VISIT NOW!”, just like that, caps and exclamation mark included.

Albeit hanging a vast historic richness, a notable spiritual and religious dimension, a relatively unspoilt natural heritage and a rather rich and diverse culture, it still remains a relatively unknown place to the eyes of the world, namely when comparing to the neighbouring touristic colossus that is Thailand.

And in spite of all this, risking to sound as a cliché, the greatest richness of the country is its people. Because if there are places in the world where the smiles are genuine, the glances sincere and the curiosity towards the visitors true, one of them is surely here.

Highlights

  • Dazzle with the far-reaching beauty of Bagan’s temples and its hot air balloons;
  • Trek for 3 days, through valleys and villages where ethnic minorities inhabit (difficulty: medium);
  • Behold the life around one of the largest lakes in the country, its craftsman and a stupa forest;
  • Discover the largest book in the world, an 8-day week, a “volcanic temple” and other curiosities;
  • Adopt the local fashion by trying a longyi, painting your face with thanaka and always wearing a smile;
  • • Remember each sunset on a temple, a teak bridge or with a wine glass in your hand.

Itinerary

Dai 1 - Arrival in Mandalaysee

Mingalaba, the last capital of the Burmese kingdoms salutes you!

The trip here was probably long, so this first day is used to rest and get used to the "shock" of landing in such a different country! Fortunately, you have the Cau waiting for you at the airport and perhaps your first Burmese sunset at the Mandalay hill.

Accommodation: hotel

Meals: -

Day 2 - Amarapura, Sagaing and Inwasee

After a typical Burmese breakfast, we are set to visit the country’s second most important pilgrimage destination, where a statue of Buddha is daily washed and covered in golden leaves. Then we head off to discover the three neighbouring royal capitals, where the history of past times blends with the spirituality and everyday life of present times. The highlights are the inspiring sights from Sagaing hill, the abandoned temples on the ancient Inwa imperial capital and, finally, the ritual life in a monastery and the unforgettable sunset at the famous teak bridge in Amarapura.

Accommodation: hotel

Meals: breakfast

Day 3 - Mandalay and Pyin Oo Lwinsee

During the morning, we will smoothly cycle in the centre of Mandalay. Here we discover the impressive citadel in the Royal Palace, some monasteries and Buddhist temples, where you can read the largest book in the world.

In the afternoon, we travel to Pyin Oo Lwin, the favourite hill station of the former British raj. Thanks to its mild temperature, picturesque calm and imperial heritage, this locality quickly became popular as a haven from the hustle and bustle of Mandalay.

To end the day big style, we might have a surprise in store, should time permit.

Accommodation: hotel

Meals: breakfast and lunch

Day 4 - Train trip and Hsipawsee

The 7 hours that await us on board this train (which can either gently lulls us, or shakes us frantically) may seem never ending at departure, but rest assured: they are well worth it.

The journey begins as soon as we get to the station, with the bustle of passengers and cargo, then continuing through villages and fields that show us a more rustic side than we have encountered thus far. One of the highlights of this itinerary is the crossing of a viaduct which remains still, to this today, a remarkable engineering feat.

Having arrived in Hsipaw, time to enjoy one more sunset and rest, in preparation for the hiking days that will follow.

Accommodation: hotel

Meals: breakfast and lunch

Day 5 - Trekking in Hsipawsee

On this first day, we walk for about 7 hours in between mountains and valleys, tea plantations and forest. After leaving Hsipaw, we go through some Burmese minority villages, the first one being of Palay-Palaung ethnicity, where a simple but invigorating lunch awaits us.

During the afternoon, we continue towards a Tai (Shan) minority village, until we arrive at the homestay that will host us for the night. It is possible that not even your English (or Burmese!) will be of much help in the verbal communication; however, you will easily understand that there are plenty of other forms of interacting with these very welcoming people.

Accommodation: homestay

Meals: breakfast, lunch and dinner

Day 6 - Trekking in Hsipawsee

After breakfast, we bid farewell to our host family and continue our journey - the 5 hours of road ahead of us already seem easier than those the day before.

During the day, we pass through several small villages of the Shan ethnic minority (which has more than 30 distinct groups), stopping for lunch and rest in one of them.

In the second host family's home conditions are basic, but the hospitality is genuine; so, an invitation to play football on the street, help prepare tea or dinner and even going through the family photos shall not come as surprising.

Accommodation: homestay

Meals: breakfast, lunch and dinner

Day 7 - Return to Hsipaw and trip to Inle Lakesee

Today our life is a little easier, since the hiking trail is mainly going downhill. After crossing some more villages and a forest area, we arrive at our last destination, a village of the Tai group.

By the end of these 5 hours’ hike, the reward for completing this mini-adventure is to relax next to a waterfall, where we have also prepared an energizing lunch.

The rest of the afternoon / evening will be spent travelling on a sleeper bus towards another of the trip’s highlights: Inle Lake!

Accommodation: sleeper bus

Meals: breakfast, lunch and dinner

Day 8 - Inle Lakesee

Today's morning is free, so everyone can rest or discover the small (but touristy) village of Nyaung Shwe, in the immediate vicinity of the lake. In the afternoon, we will take on a scenic bike ride, past some monasteries and Buddhist temples.

Because the lake is big, we take a shortcut by putting the bicycles in a motorized canoe so that, already on the other side, we can proceed towards one of the few wineries in the country; after a short visit to the premises we do a wine tasting, joined by a sunset overlooking the vineyards and the majestic lake.

Accommodation: hotel

Meals: breakfast

Day 9 - Inle Lake and Bagansee

Today we start the day early, navigating aboard a motorized canoe to watch the sunrise on the lake and catch sight of its fishermen, famous for balancing the canoe paddle with the leg! We then visit some local handicraft workshops (ceramics, weaving, blacksmithing, jewellery) and a group of karen women (known as longneck, because their necks are elongated by several rings).

After lunch, we take on a little further, to the impressive Indein forest, where the trees are actually stupas and temples, abandoned to the vagaries of time.

As we finish our boat trip, we fly off to Bagan, where we arrive around dinner time.

Accommodation: hotel

Meals: breakfast and lunch

Day 10 - Bagansee

Today we will finally get to know what has become the postcard picture of Burma: the thousand-year-old old capital of the kingdom of Pagan. Behind the wheel of a practical and eco-friendly electric scooter, we begin our adventure exploring temples and archaeological sites, as if we were Indiana Jones of modern times!

This huge complex of Buddhist structures and temples (more than 2000 nowadays, some over a thousand years old) is often compared, in terms of grandeur, with the temples of Angkor (Cambodia) or the pyramids of Giza (Egypt).

By this time watching the sunset has become a kind of ritual in the trip but, as you will have the opportunity to witness, nothing compares to watching the great luminar0079 fade out in a place as magical as this.

Accommodation: hotel

Meals: breakfast

Day 11 - Bagansee

Yesterday we still left a lot to visit, but no problem: we have all day on our own to look at the Irrawaddy river (the largest and most important in the country) and visit the more distant monasteries, stupas and temples.

Starting the day on top of one of them to see the sunrise is delightful, and it becomes even more special as the hot air balloons begin to dance in the sky. Of course, nothing compares to the experience of being aboard one of these balloons, and anyone who wants to do it will have their opportunity here (activity not included in the program).

At the end of the day we have the second act of this spectacle of nature, with another unique sunset. No, we just can’t get tired of following the journey of our mother star.

Accommodation: hotel

Meals: breakfast

Day 12 - Mount Popa and trip to Yangonsee

In the morning, we head off to the spiritual home of the 37 nats (the protective spirits in popular belief), known to some as Mount Olympus of Burma.

The temple sits on top of a volcanic needle, after climbing 777 steps guarded by dozens of daring monkeys, waiting for an offer or carelessness from visitors. Along the way, there are several altars and relatively exotic figures, in a curious syncretism between spirituality, nature and popular belief.

After returning to Bagan, we have some time to rest and/or visit the local shops, before taking the sleeper bus for Yangon, the unofficial capital of the country (since its move to Naypyidaw in 2005).

Accommodation: sleeper bus

Meals: breakfast

Day 13 - Yangonsee

The arrival in Yangon happens in the early hours and, after freshening ourselves up and resting a bit in the hotel, we set out to discover the various sides of this city.

We begin with its raw side, a reality check in a circular train that will take us for a few hours to the more distant suburbs, getting in touch with the Burmese everyday life.

The noble side of Yangon is present in the gardens and palace around Kandawgyi Lake, but its spiritual facet lies in the main religious centre of the country - the Shwedagon Pagoda. The visit to this huge and impressive religious complex, as we head to dusk and the pagoda lights up, is something to keep in our memories too.

Accommodation: hotel

Meals: breakfast

Day 14 - Bago and Yangonsee

Our adventure is almost at its final, but not before we visit the ancient capital of the Hanthawaddy kingdom: Bago (or Pegu). Here we will find the highest pagoda in the country (114m), a huge reclining Buddha statue (55m), and the golden palace of the Taungoo dynasty (16th century).

Back in Yangon we will have our farewell dinner, where we can share our stories and impressions from this trip and get ready for the comeback, the next day.

Accommodation: hotel

Meals: breakfast and dinner

Day 15 - Return from Yangonsee

According to the flight schedules, Cau will accompany you to the international airport of Yangon and here we will say goodbye to our Burmese adventure. On the way back home it is guaranteed that you will have your memory full of smiles and your photo camera’s full of wonderful images!

Have a good trip back home and happy travels!

Accommodation: -

Meals: breakfast

What is included?

  • Days: 15
  • Accommodation: 10 nights in hotel, 2 nights in homestay and 2 nights on sleeper bus
  • Transportation:4 tours in private van, 2 train journeys, 2 bus journeys (night/sleeper), 1 flight (internal), 1 boat tour, 2 bicycle rides, all the transfers on the dates of the program
  • 23 Meals: 14 breakfasts, 5 lunches and 4 dinners
  • Activities: All the activities mentioned on the itinerary
  • Travel insurance on the dates of the program
  • Monitoring and guidance throughout the whole trip by Cau Costa
  • Groups: 5 (minimum), 11 (maximum)

Wanderluster

What is not included?

  • International airfare (from 800€)
  • Visa: 50USD (about 45€)
  • Single room supplement: 150€
  • Unspecified meals: (+/- 15€/Day)
  • Hot air balloon flight in Bagan (60min): 290€
  • Extra activities
  • Unspecified visits
  • Expenses of personal nature
  • Tips

Next Dates

20 October to 3 November 2018 1400€ Últimas vagas