SE8 LAOS, VIETNAM, CAMBODIA & MYANMAR TOUR

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TOUR HIGHLIGHTS:

Charming Luang Prabang; Halong Bay Junk cruise; Northern Vietnam tribal encounter; Mekong Delta; The Temple Complex at Angkor Wat; Yangon: Shwedagon Pagoda; Stunning Bagan: site tour; Mandalay: "Golden City"; Ancient capital of Amarapura; Inle Lake: scenic, cultural boat tour

  • DATES & PRICES
  • FULL ITINERARY
  • MAP & HOTELS
  • TRIP INFORMATION

Dates & Prices

To book this tour, please refer to the sidebar ►

Prices are in US Dollars (USD), before taxes (if applicable) - All pricing reflects per-person Land Only expenses, however, we can book flights from virtually every city. Please call us for an air quote.


Start DateEnd DatePriceMore Info
Tue 03 Nov 2015Sat 12 Dec 2015 $9550
Tue 05 Jan 2016Sat 13 Feb 2016 $9550
Tue 01 Nov 2016Sat 10 Dec 2016 $9550

Optional Single Supplement: $2020 (number of singles limited).
This tour may require a mandatory single supplement charge of $1010, if twin-sharing accommodation is unavailable.


Tour Overview


Regions visited: Southeast Asia
Countries visited: Thailand; Laos; Vietnam; Cambodia and Myanmar


Testimonials


I loved the Plain of Jars in Laos, Luang Prabang, in fact Laos as a whole was wonderful! Halong Bay was a favourite, Hoi An, loved Saigon, had a lot of fun in the Mekong Delta. Cambodia was sad but loved the country. Our local guide, Dua in Laos was a real sweetheart. Another guide who stands out was Win, our local guide in He Ho/Inya. Our last local guide Tin Tin in Yangon was also great! We did not have a bad local guide anywhere that I can remember, just a few who stood out from the rest. We had a lot of good local food and every so often we had some Italian. (Bless the Italians!) All in all it was very good. I like trying new things! Erin, our tour leader, went out of her way to make sure you were happy. She did little special things that spiced up the trip like arranging cyclos in Vietnam and a horse carriage in Cambodia. She was wonderful! We spent 40 days with her and loved every minute of it. We had some interesting discussions and presentations on the bus throughout the tour. She was a fountain of information and if she didn t know the answer she found out. She would start by giving us a big hello and a big smile to get our attention. I am a big fan of hers as you can tell! Overall it was a great trip and I would highly recommend it.

Full Itinerary

To book this tour, please refer to the sidebar ►

Day 1 Arrival in Bangkok
Arrive in Bangkok, Thailand.

Overnight in Bangkok (airport area).

Meal plan: dinner

Day 2 Bangkok, Thailand - Luang Prabang, Laos
Today we fly to Luang Prabang, Laos, a World Heritage Site.

In the 14th century, this city was established as the royal capital by Fa Ngoum, the first monarch of Lan Xang, the "Land of a Million Elephants." By this time, the city had already been the seat of local kingdoms for 600 years. According to legend, the site of the town was chosen by two resident hermits and was originally known as Xieng Thong --"Copper Tree City".

We have an orientation of this charming town, with its one main street lined with colonial era buildings housing shops and cafes. We have a chance to explore the town on foot and to climb to the top of Phu Si Hill. Looking directly downwards you can see that the former royal palace has a cruciform ground plan. We finish at Ban Phanom, a 300 year old weaving village is where shawls and sarongs are made from silk and cotton. The people in this area were originally from South China and were traditionally the King's weavers, soldiers and palace servants. The inhabitants make sarongs with dragon motifs, and shawls which are often dyed an indigo colour using a natural dye extract from a local plant. Some of the cloth woven in the village is embroidered with delicate silver and gold thread. Girls are taught from a very young age the skills which have been handed down from their forebears in Xishuangbanna District in China's Yunnan Province.

NOTE: The order of our sightseeing in Luang Prabang may vary depending on flight schedules that are subject to change.

Overnight in Luang Prabang.

Meal plan: breakfast,dinner

Day 3 Luang Prabang Area
An early departure today takes to the Mekong River for a boat journey to visit the Pak Ou Caves. The boat is long and quite large, covered, with comfortable seat cushions, life jackets and a WC.

The Pak Ou Caves are two clefts in the side of a mountain stuffed with thousands of old Buddha images. The site has long been sacred for the Lao, even prior to Buddhism, when they worshipped spirits. The lower cave has over 4,000 images, ranging from 3 inches to 9 feet tall, stuck into nooks and crannies. The upper cave's Buddha images are placed far back into the cliff, so it's handy to have a flashlight. A real highlight of a trip to the caves is the breathtaking view of the mountains, villages, and fishermen during the 2-hour boat ride.

We return to Luang Prabang and visit the Royal Palace, a museum containing a collection of 15th-17th century Buddha statues including the significant Golden Buddha. The last member of the Lao royalty to live here was Sisavang Vong's son, Crown Prince Sisavang Vatthana. The private chapel is one of the most interesting wings of the palace. Here you will see the priceless gold Phra Bang Buddha in Abhayamudra (dispelling fear). It is made from 90% pure gold and is said to weigh 50 kg (110 lb).

We finish with a tour of the 16th-century Wat Xieng Thong with its richly decorated wooden interior. Wat Mai is another old temple of classic Luang Prabang design with gracefully curved roofs. We see many 400 year old wooden Buddha statues at Wat Wisunalat.

Overnight in Luang Prabang.

Meal plan: breakfast,dinner

Day 4 Luang Prabang - Xieng Khouang (Plain of Jars) - Phonsavan
Today we travel by road to Xieng Khouang and the Plain of Jars.

Overnight in Phonsavan.

Meal plan: breakfast,dinner

Day 5 The Plain of Jars
In the 18th and at the beginning of the 19th century, Xieng Khouang was the center of a kingdom of the Hmong (Meo). In 1832, it was conquered by the Vietnamese, annexing the entire region. The town of Xieng Khouang was totally destroyed during the Vietnam War. Even though it has been rebuilt in 1975, the name Xieng Khouang is now primarily used in reference to the province of the same name.

The highlight of our visit here is the "Plain of Jars." Scattered over the plain are hundreds of enormous limestone jars, each about 1 to 2.5 metres high, with a diameter of about 1 meter. There is still no explanation as to how the clay jars found their way onto the plain, nor what purpose they served. Archaeologists have come up with the wildest theories, among them a claim declaring them brewery cauldrons. More likely, the jars are enormous urns. Many jars were destroyed or damaged during the Vietnam War, when American planes bombed positions of the communist Pathet Lao.

Overnight in Phonsavan.

Meal plan: breakfast,dinner

Day 6 Phonsavan - Vang Vieng
Today we travel by road to Vang Vieng, a small village nestled in a scenic bend in the Nam Song River and surrounded by breathtaking limestone scenery. This is rapidly becoming Laos's premier destination for eco-tourism. The outcrops have inspired many Lao legends and stories in Lao literature and are known as "Phou Suan Mon Nang Eua", meaning "Silk Tree Garden Mountains of the Princess". The area also contains an extensive network of caves some of which are outlets for underground streams.

The latter part of our drive is truly spectacular -- limestone cliffs and sheer drops. About 20 kms before Vang Vieng, we'll stop at a bridge with a lovely view of karsts. There's also an attractive immediately before the bridge.

Overnight in Vang Vieng.

Meal plan: breakfast,dinner

Day 7 Vang Vieng - Viangchan
Today we travel by road to Viangchan (Vientiane), the capital of Laos.

Overnight in Viangchan.

Meal plan: breakfast,dinner

Day 8 Viangchan, Laos - Hanoi, Vietnam
Today we fly from Viangchan to Hanoi.

Hanoi is a lovely city with lakes, fine boulevards and flourishing parks, as well as having a public centre that is an architectural museum piece. Hanoi is situated on the right bank of the Red River (Song Hong) which is spanned by two bridges, the old Long Bien Bridge and the new Chuong Duong bridge.

In the centre of downtown Hanoi is Hoan Kiem Lake (also called the Lake of the Restored Sword or the Small Lake.) Emperor Le Thai To (1428-1433), following a momentous victory against an army of invading Ming Chinese, was sailing on the lake when a golden turtle snapped at (and broke off) the tip of his sword, so signifying that its work was done. There is a modest tower (the Tortoise Tower) commemorating the event on an islet in the southern part of the lake. In fact, the lake does contain large turtles; one captured in 1968 was reputed to have weighed 250 kg (552 pounds). The park that surrounds the lake is used by the residents of the city every morning for jogging and tai chi (Chinese shadow boxing) and is regarded by locals as one of the city's beauty spots. When the French arrived in Hanoi at the end of the 19th century, the lake was an unhealthy lagoon surrounded by so many huts that it was impossible to see the shore.

Overnight in Hanoi.

Meal plan:

Day 9 Hanoi: City Tour
Today we have a full day of sightseeing, starting with the Hoa Lo Prison Museum, known to American prisoners of war as the Hanoi Hilton. This museum was a prison used by the French colonists in Vietnam for political prisoners and later by North Vietnam for prisoners of war during the American / Vietnam War.

We also see the Mausoleum of Ho Chi Minh, a site of pilgrimage (the building has been closed to visitors of late; probably an outside viewing only). The building was constructed from materials gathered from all over Vietnam. Modeled closely on Lenin's Mausoleum, Ho Chi Minh lies at rest in this Vietnamese version.

We continue to the house on stilts, where Ho Chi Minh lived and worked from 1958 to 1969. Its construction and decor illustrates the importance of simplicity and modesty to this Vietnamese revolutionary. The building is elegantly crafted with lacquered and polished wood, following the model of a traditional communal house on stilts.

We will also admire the elegance of the One Pillar Pagoda, originally built in 1049. The temple is lotus-shaped and is situated in the middle of a water-lily pond.

We continue to the new Ethnology Museum, one of Vietnam's finest. Dedicated to the ethnic minorities of Vietnam, this museum provides educational displays and descriptions and provides a real insight to peoples found primarily in the high country.

Next is the Temple of Literature, the site of the first national university dating back to 1076 and one of Hanoi's best-preserved ancient sites. From here we walk to the Fine Arts Museum, housed within a large colonial building, where we will see contemporary Vietnamese art and handicrafts.

Tonight we will enjoy a (+/- one hour) water puppet show. This is a fantastic art form unique to Vietnam and derives from the Red River Delta area.

Overnight in Hanoi.

Meal plan:

Day 10 Hanoi - Halong Bay: Huong Hai Junk Cruise
This morning we depart for Halong Bay. The route today, via Haiphong, will be our first opportunity to see rural Vietnam. We will arrive at Halong Bay in the early afternoon. Halong Bay, located in the Gulf of Tonkin, covers an area of 1500 square km. With more than a thousand limestone peaks soaring from its crystalline emerald water this area is one of the natural wonders of Vietnam and now a UNESCO World Heritage Site. The islands are dotted with
innumerable white sandy beaches and grottoes created by wind and waves. The name Halong means "where the dragon descends into the sea". Legend has it that the islands of Halong Bay were created by a great dragon who lived in the mountains.

On arrival at Halong Bay we will board our Huong Hai Junk cruise and enjoy a welcome drink. The Huong Hai ('Ocean Flavours') junks are unique, 'antique' (replica) accommodations that are scrupulously clean, fully-crewed and comfortable. Our junk/s are large boats with private bath, air conditioning and fan, and plenty of deck space. An onboard chef prepares delicious, local seafood dishes (non-seafood dishes available).

After lunch on board we will cruise among the islands, stopping at a couple that have interesting cave features (some involve stairs). We enjoy sunset and then dinner on board.

Overnight Junk cruise.

Meal plan:

Day 11 Halong Bay - Hanoi
Fishermen at Halong mount fan-shaped Chinese junk sails on their boats, the same sort of sails once deployed by pirates in these waters. Junks have been used for centuries by the Chinese, Japanese and Javanese for fishing and transportation, and often as living quarters; a junk commonly includes a deck, high masts, and several cotton sails.

Halong is one of the last places where junk sails are still handmade by families of sail makers. Coarse cotton panels are sewn together with silk thread -- every seam sewn by hand. To discourage rot and mildew, the completed sail is dipped in a liquid that comes from a beetroot-like member of the yam family. The sail is dipped and dried three or four times; a process that gives its dark red-tan colour.

Early this morning, after breakfast on board, we cruise to visit Hang Luon Cave by small bamboo boat. We check out at around 10 am, enjoy brunch on board before disembarking and departing for Hanoi at around noon. Upon arrival we'll visit Hanoi's Old Quarter, also known as the 'Quarter of 36 Streets', where we enjoy a leisurely walking tour.

Overnight in Hanoi.

Meal plan:

Day 12 Hanoi - Dien Bien Phu
Today we fly from Hanoi to Dien Bien Phu, in the heart-shaped Muong Thanh Valley near the Lao border, one of the remotest parts of Vietnam. The valley is surrounded by steep, heavily-forested hills inhabited by Hill Tribes. Though it is difficult to plan in a formalized way, we hope to have some face-to-face encounters with the numerous ethnic groups in the area and learn about their distinctive cultures.

Dien Bien Phu was the site of that rarest of military events, a battle that can be called truly decisive. Here, in 1954, Viet Minh forces overran the beleaguered French garrison after a 57-day siege, forcing the French government to finally abandon its attempts to re-establish colonial control of Indochina.

Our area sightseeing includes the DBP battle area and a visit to the DBP Army Museum and A1 Hill. Dien Bien Phu now bears few scars of its past except for the occasional rusty tank.

Overnight in Dien Bien Phu.

Meal plan: dinner

Day 13 Dien Bien Phu - Da Nang - Hoi An
While in Dien Bien Phu, we will explore the surrounding area with plenty of beautiful landscapes, waterfalls, terraced rice fields, and indigenous villages. The Hill Tribes living around the area of Dien Bien Phu make up 70% of the region's population, and the ethnic minority groups include the Black Thai, Nung, Meo, Hmong, and others. We will have an opportunity to meet the local people and, hopefully, visit a village to witness the way of life in this rapidly changing part of Vietnam.

Later today we fly to Da Nang via Hanoi and continue by road to Hoi An. Da Nang is situated on a peninsula at the point where the Han River flows into the South China Sea. We pass through the nearby Marble Mountains; five limestone peaks with marble outcrops known for their beauty and their caves. At the foot of Marble Mountain, an important religious site for the Chams, you can see many artisans crafting fine marble objects. Our destination is one of the most charming towns in Vietnam -- Hoi An. The ancient town of Hoi An (formerly Faifo) lies 32 km (20 miles) south of Da Nang on the banks of the Thu Bon River.

Overnight in Hoi An.

Meal plan:

Day 14 Hoi An: Walking Tour
Today we will be able to soak in the atmosphere of this small town (a World Heritage Site) on a walking tour. The unique architecture, the temples, the market will make Hoi An one of the highlights of your trip.

The Japanese Covered Bridge was built in the 16th century, perhaps even earlier. On its north side there is a pagoda, Japanese in style, which protects sailors. Its popular name reflects a long-standing belief that is was built by the Japanese, although no documentary evidence exists to support this. At the Tran Family Temple we will see the fusion between both the Chinese and Japanese styles. This temple has survived for 15 generations.

While in Hoi An, we'll also enjoy a boat trip on the river.

Overnight in Hoi An.

Meal plan: breakfast,dinner

Day 15 Hoi An - My Son - Hoi An
This morning we visit the World Heritage Site of My Son ("mee-sohn"), a large complex of religious relics that comprises more than 70 architectural works from the obscure Cham Dynasty (2nd-15th century). The Chams were "Indianised" during commercial trading relations and adopted Hinduism (which can clearly be seen in the Temple designs). My Son served as a intellectual and religious centre and is a must visit as one of Vietnam's most important Cham Sites. The forested, mountain setting and general peacefulness of this little visited site make this an excellent excursion.

Return to Hoi An with the balance of the day at leisure.

Overnight in Hoi An.

Meal plan:

Day 16 Hoi An - Da Nang - Hue
Today we travel to Hue via Da Nang where we visit the Cham Museum* which houses the largest display of Cham art anywhere in the world. Shortly after departure from Da Nang we will pass through the Truong Son Mountains, the former border between North Vietnam and South Vietnam. Hai Van Pass, or literally "Pass of the Ocean Clouds," offers spectacular scenery.

Hue was the capital of the old Nguyen dynasty and traditionally one of Vietnam's cultural, religious and educational centers. Here there are splendid tombs of the emperors, several stunning pagodas and the citadel that houses the forbidden Purple City, situated on the banks of the Perfume River.

While in Hue, we will enjoy a "cyclo" ride through the old city and market.

Overnight in Hue.

Meal plan:

Day 17 Hue: Area Tour
We begin our day by motorised boat down the Perfume River to visit the delightful Thien Mu Pagoda, considered to be the finest pagoda in Hue. It was built in 1601 after an old woman appeared to Nguyen Hoang, the governor of Hue, and said that the site had supernatural significance.

This afternoon we tour the Citadel, a fortress surrounded by a moat that has a six-mile perimeter. At the Forbidden Purple City we can see the remains of the former home of the emperors. The Imperial City is built on the same principles as the Forbidden City in Beijing. It is enclosed by thick outer walls (Kinh Thanh) of 23-33 feet, along with moats, canals and towers. There are ten gates, which pierce the four walls of the citadel, although many are in poor condition. The city has not only been damaged by war, but also by natural disasters such as floods, which inundated the city in the mid-nineteenth century to a depth of several feet. The complex has undergone partial restoration with the aid of UNESCO.

This evening we will enjoy a special, private dinner in a beautiful, restored royal home in Hue. The home is now owned by descendants of the Hue royal family.

Overnight in Hue.

Meal plan:

Day 18 Hue - Saigon (Ho Chi Minh City)
Today we fly from Hue to Saigon (Ho Chi Minh City), the business and tourist centre of Vietnam.

This afternoon we visit some of the city's highlights, including the Reunification Hall, formerly the site of Norodom Palace, the residence of the French governor-general of Indochina. On 30 April 1975, NVA tanks smashed down the first gates and took control of Saigon. We then proceed to Cholon, or Chinatown, an area inhabited by Vietnamese of Chinese origin. This area is one of the most vibrant in the city.

Overnight in Saigon.

Meal plan:

Day 19 Saigon: Cu Chi Tunnels & War Remnants Museum
Today we travel outside of Saigon to the Cu Chi Tunnels. The tunnels were dug with simple tools and bare hands during the French occupation in the 1940s, and further expanded during the Vietnam War in the 1960s to provide refuge and a defensive advantage over the American soldiers. Despite all the bombings in their town, the Cu Chi people were able to continue their lives beneath the soil, where they slept, ate, planned attacks, healed their sick, and taught their young. Some even wed and gave birth underground, but over 10,000 lost their lives here.

A well-defined walking track loops around the area, with things to see spaced at regular intervals, including examples of how people lived and what they ate. There are sample sections of tunnel which visitors can crawl through (not recommended for the claustrophobic), examples of traps used during the war, and the remnants of bomb craters.

From here we will continue on to the War Remnants Museum (formerly the Exhibition House for Crimes of War and Aggression). The exhibits may be one-sided with many exhibits containing a heavy dose of anti-American propaganda, but they do graphically portray the horrors of the war.

Overnight in Saigon.

Meal plan:

Day 20 Saigon - Cao Dai - Mekong Delta
On our way to the Delta, we will stop at one of the many Cao Dai temples.* This hybrid religion took root in southern Vietnam during the 1920's after Ngo Van Chieu, a civil servant, was visited by 'Cao Dai' or the 'Supreme Being'. The Cao Dai later told Ngo in a seance that he was to be symbolized by a giant eye. Being a humanist religion, it quickly gained support of a large following of dispossessed peasants. Today there is thought to be about 2,000,000 adherents and 1,000 Cao Dai temples.

A four-hour drive south takes us to the fertile delta of the meandering Mekong River, the southernmost region of Vietnam. Often referred to as the rice bowl of Vietnam, producing three crops of rice per year, the fertile Mekong Delta is also famous for its tropical fruits and flowers. The Delta area is the end of a 4500 km / 2,812 mi journey the Mekong River makes after travelling through six countries. Traditional transportation in the Delta is by boat, via a vast network of canals and channels. Boating along these canals and visiting the floating markets is a fascinating experience.

* Please pack an overnight for the trip to the Mekong Delta. Large baggage will be securely stored in Saigon.

Overnight in hotel in Cantho region (Mekong Delta).

Meal plan:

Day 21 Mekong Delta - Saigon
Early this morning we will have a covered boat ride on the delta where we can have a candid glimpse into the lives of the local people selling, buying, and exchanging goods from their boats.

We meet our bus (at a different point from where we left it) for our drive back to Saigon. This afternoon we may accomplished Saigon area sightseeing not accomplished earlier due to flight times. At some point during out tour we will drive past the Notre Dame Cathedral and adjacent Post Office. Both of these buildings were constructed by the French in the 1880s and display architectural characteristics typical of that time period.

Overnight in Saigon.

Meal plan:

Day 22 Saigon, Vietnam - Phnom Penh, Cambodia
Today we fly from Saigon to Phnom Penh, the capital and largest city in Cambodia.

Engineered by the French, Phnom Penh was once filled with beautiful tree-lined streets and colonial mansions. Today many of the old buildings exist, although they are in a severe state of disrepair.

Depending on the time of our arrival, we may accomplish some of the sightseeing as described tomorrow, today upon arrival.

Overnight in Phnom Penh.

Meal plan:

Day 23 Phnom Penh: Tuol Sleng Prison & City Tour
Today we tour Phnom Penh and its surrounds.

We begin with a visit to the infamous Tuol Sleng Prison, now a museum illustrating the atrocities committed by Pol Pot during the 1970s, and the nearby Choeung Ek, aka the "Killing Fields." The buildings at Tuol Sleng are preserved as they were left when the Khmer Rouge were driven out in 1979. The regime kept extensive records, including thousands of photographs. Several rooms of the museum are now lined, floor to ceiling, with black and white photographs of some of the estimated 20,000 prisoners who passed through the prison.

Back in town, we visit the National Museum, which houses one of the world's largest collections of Khmer art, including sculpture, ceramics, bronzes, and ethnographic objects. The museum's collection includes over 14,000 items, from prehistoric times to periods before, during, and after the Khmer Empire, which at its height stretched from Thailand, across present-day Cambodia, to southern Vietnam. The Museum buildings, inspired by Khmer temple architecture, were constructed between 1917 and 1924.

We then walk the short distance to the Royal Palace and Silver Pagoda. We also stop in at Wat Phnom, a magnificent temple overlooking the town, said to be the spot whereupon the city was originally founded.

Overnight in Phnom Penh.

Meal plan: breakfast,dinner

Day 24 Phnom Penh - Siem Reap & Angkor Wat
Today we fly to Siem Reap, gateway for Angkor Wat / Angkor Thom.

Later we wander the magnificent grounds of the splendidly preserved 12th Century temple of Angkor Wat.* Considered the best example of ancient Khmer architecture, it is the largest and most impressive of all Cambodian monuments and generally regarded as one of the finest religious structures in the world. We will also be visiting the South Gate of Angkor Thom, Bayon Temple, Baphuon, the Elephant Terrace and the Terrace of the Leper King.

* NOTE: The order of Siem Reap sightseeing may vary at the discretion of your Tour Leader.

Ovgernight in Siem Reap.

Meal plan: breakfast,dinner

Day 25 Siem Reap: Angkor Thom
Today is dedicated to seeing the remaining highlights of the Petit Circuit -- Angkor Thom (Bayon), with its haunting images of the God-like Avalokitesvara and its magnificent murals, and Sras Srang (Pool of Ablutions), Ta Keo (the first Khmer temple built entirely of sandstone), and Ta Prohm, in its natural overgrown setting.

We will also see much of the Grand Circuit, including the great temple of Preah Khan and the brick sanctuaries of Pre Rup. It is not hard to imagine how this vast complex, covering several square kilometers, with carefully engineered canals and reservoirs to control flood waters and survive droughts, was once (by some estimates), the largest city in the world, housing as many as one million inhabitants.

Overnight in Siem Reap.

Meal plan: breakfast,dinner

Day 26 Siem Reap: Banteay Srei
Today we visit some temples a little farther afield, including the exquisitely carved Banteay Srei.

Banteay Srei is something of an anomaly. It wasn't built by a king, but rather a spiritual teacher, Yajnavaraha, the Brahman of King Jayavarman V, in AD 967. At that time it was called Tribhuvana Mahesvara, and stood in a town called Isvarapura. The name Banteay Srei means the "Citadel of Women", and is one of the first temples to be restored by the French.

Overnight in Siem Reap.

Meal plan: breakfast,dinner

Day 27 Siem Reap, Cambodia - Yangon, Myanmar (Burma)
Today we fly to Yangon (Rangoon), possibly via Bangkok. Yangon is Myanmar's former capital and main port. Founded in 1755 by King Alaungpaya, it grew into a trading port after the British annexed lower Burma in 1826 and became the capital after the whole of Burma fell to the British in 1890.

Later we visit the Shwedagon Pagoda. This golden stupa dominates Yangon, and it is the spiritual rallying point for much of the population. Somerset Maugham said it was "like a sudden hope in the dark night of the soul". The Pagoda is said to date back 2,500 years, and was built to house eight sacred hairs of the Buddha. Its bell-shaped structure is covered in almost 60 metric tonnes of gold-leaf, and on top of the Pagoda there are gold and silver bells studded with rubies, sapphires and topaz. The diamond orb is encrusted with 4,350 diamonds and crowned with a 76 carat diamond. Legend has it that two Burmese merchants travelled to India and met the Buddha under the sacred bodhi tree.

Overnight in Yangon.

Meal plan: breakfast,dinner

Day 28 Yangon - Bagan: Site Tour
Today we fly north to Bagan, where across 40 sq km stand thousands of pagodas and temples. Bagan was once the largest and most splendid city ever built in Burma and it was a rival to Angkor Wat in Cambodia. Its pure Hinayana Buddhism had no rituals, no sacrifices and no priests; only monks, vowed to poverty and meditation.

Upon arrival we'll begin our sightseeing program,* which will include several temples that are unique or important in some way. Many of the monuments are undergoing restoration, and may be either closed or obscured on a rotating basis, but there are plenty to choose from! Our program usually includes Sulamani Temple, restored after the 1975 earthquake, utilising brick and stone, with frescoes in the interior; and Ananda, as important as it is huge. Considered to be the best surviving masterpiece of Mon architecture, Ananda is the finest, largest, best-preserved and most revered of the Bagan temples. We'll aim to be at Shwesandaw Paya at the end of our day -- an excellent place from which to view the sunset.

* The exact order and content of our Bagan area sightseeing will likely vary depending on restorations, weather, group interest, and Tour Leader preference.

Overnight in Bagan.

Meal plan: breakfast,dinner

Day 29 Bagan Area Tour
Today we have a full day in the Bagan area, visiting some of the more important and picturesque monuments therein.

We will visit the Manuka temple, with its reclining Buddha image, which records a captive king's impression of life in prison; the fine stone carvings of Nanpaya Temple; Thatbyinnyu Temple, the tallest in Bagan; and Bupaya Pagoda (to name a few). We may also have time to travel to a viewpoint overlooking the Irrawaddy River.

Note: This morning is the best time to participate in an optional excursion that has grown VERY popular amongst the arriving foreign tourists -- ballooning over the temples of Bagan at sunrise. The excursion begins very early in the morning and is run by Balloons Over Bagan, a British-owned operator that has been operating in Bagan for years. Please note that due to its popularity, you MUST book in advance. For more information and to book, visit www.easternsafaris.com. Please double check the date - our published tour start date is always Day 1 of this itinerary.

Overnight in Bagan.

Meal plan: breakfast,dinner

Day 30 Bagan - Mt Popa
Today we travel by bus to the monastery at the summit of Mt Popa. On the way, we stop at one of the roadside mills where you may watch docile buffalo slowly circumnavigating the central stone, grinding palm seed into oil. This is a good opportunity to taste some 'jaggery', the local candy made from palm sugar.

Mt Popa is an incongruous extinct volcano that dominates the area. However, Popa's attraction today lies not so much in its geological aspect, but more in its religious and mystical attributes that are still prevalent. Popa is popularly recognized as an abode of many "Nats," or spirits of ancient ancestors, who dwell in various parts of the mountain. In the days of old, it also used to be referred to as the "Mountain of Spirits". The evidence of these beliefs is abundant in the form of Nat shrines, ceremonial offerings, annual representative festivals, and a never-ending stream of pilgrims. We will have time to ascend the hill on foot before continuing to our nearby hotel (Mt Popa Resort), which features spectacular views.

Overnight near Mt Popa.

Meal plan: breakfast,dinner

Day 31 Mt Popa - Mandalay
This morning we travel by bus to Mandalay, the "Golden City", founded in 1857 by King Mindon after a legend that told of the Lord Buddha's visit 2,400 years previously when he prophesied the founding of a holy city. It lies on the east bank of the Irrawaddy, about 805 km (500 miles) north of Yangon. It was Burma's last capital before it came under British rule. The magnificent Mandalay Palace was burned down during the Second World War and only a scale model remains in the palace grounds, which are surrounded by a moat. However, many pagodas and monasteries still stand.

Time permitting today (or tomorrow), we will stop at the U Bein Wooden Bridge (named after the former town mayor), constructed out of materials salvaged from the forsaken Ava Palace. The bridge, the longest made from teak in the world, is about three-quarters of a mile in length.

Overnight in Mandalay.

Meal plan: breakfast,dinner

Day 32 Mandalay: Amarapura
This morning we drive to the ancient capital of Amarapura, the "city of immortality," described in its heyday as a microcosm of Burmese civilization. As a capital it was founded by King Bodawpaya in 1783, the year after he came to the throne. Bodawpaya died in 1819 and his grandson Bagyidaw shifted the capital back again to Ava in 1823. That was not the end of Amarapura though, for in 1841, during the reign of Tharrawaddy (the brother of Bagyidaw), it became the capital once more. Sixteen years later, with King Mindon in power, Amarapura was finally displaced by Mandalay.

Back in Mandalay we visit Bagaya Monastery with its myriad Buddha images and vast collection of various antiques. During our time in Mandalay, we will also visit Shwenadaw Monastery, Mandalay Palace, and see how gold leaf is produced.

Overnight in Mandalay.

Meal plan: breakfast,dinner

Day 33 Mandalay: Mingun
Today we travel up the Irrawaddy River to Mingun and the Myatheindan Pagoda. The seven wavy terraces around the pagoda represent the seven mountain ranges around Mt Meru, while the five kinds of mythical monsters can be found in niches on each terrace level. Mingun has two remarkable objects which we see on our tour, both the brain-child of King Bodawpaya -- the Mingun Bell and the Pagoda.

In 1838 an earthquake struck and part of the building collapsed; today you can still see a huge fissure in the giant slab. Guarded by a pair of dilapidated brick chinthes, the Mingun Pagoda is truly a bizarre and incongruous sight. This may not have been the largest pagoda in the world, but it does have the world's largest uncracked bell, 14 times the size of that of St Paul's. It is possible to crawl inside, and pray that none of the entourage of giggling kids rings it while you're underneath! Not surprisingly, the bell fell off during the earthquake of 1838 and it lay on the ground until 1896 when it was re-mounted. It is now covered by a shelter open on all sides.

Overnight in Mandalay.

Meal plan: breakfast,dinner

Day 34 Mandalay - Heho - Inle Lake
Today we fly from Mandalay to Heho from where we continue by road to Inle Lake via a stop in Kalaw where we do a quick town tour and visit a local market.

Inle Lake actually has two meanings: "little lake" and "four lake" (because there are four big villages on the lake, though 200 in all). People began migrating to the lake area as early as the 14th Century, completing their resettlement during the 18th Century. To survive, they became fishermen and developed their unique style of leg-rowing and catching fish in conical traps. Since the land fronting the lake belonged to the Shans, they were forced to build their homes and villages on the water itself.

Depending on the timing of today's flight, we may be able to accomplish some of our sightseeing program today upon arrival.

Overnight at Inle Lake.

Meal plan: breakfast,dinner

Day 35 Inle Lake Area
This morning we have a boat excursion to Indein Village, located at the western side of the lake. Passing Nyaung Ohak Monastery and following a stair path lined with many hundreds of wooden columns, we reach the impressive Shwe Indein Pagoda complex. From the hillside we have great view over the lake area. On the way back to the boat, we walk through a romantic bamboo forest at the riverside.

We then return to Inle and have afternoon visist to Nga Phe Kyaung Monastery, a silver and goldsmith, observe cheroot making, as well as the blacksmith, cotton and silk weaving industries.

Overnight at Inle Lake.

Meal plan: breakfast,dinner

Day 36 Inle Lake & Kakku
Today's day trip from Inle takes us deep into the Shan Hills to the hidden 'forest of temples' at Kakku. Travelling from the flatlands around the lake, we drive higher and higher into the hills, criss-crossing the railway line and passing through small villages inhabited to the Pa-Oh people. At Kakku, we are rewarded with a spectacle: more than 5,000 stupas from the 11th century rising high above the plain. We are able to wander amid these mysterious stupas in an area closed to visitors for many years.

In addition to visiting the temples, our local will introduce you to the customs and lives of the people as we pass thgrough nearby villages.

Return to Inle Lake.

Overnight at Inle Lake.

Meal plan: breakfast,dinner

Day 37 Inle Lake - Yangon
Today we fly back to Yangon.

Depending on flight schedules, we may accomplish any Yangon sightseeing missed during our first visit. Time-permitting we'll visit the National Museum and other sites, such as the Sule Pagoda and / or Reclining Buddha.

Overnight in Yangon.

Meal plan: breakfast,dinner

Day 38 Yangon - Mount Kyaiktiyo (Golden Rock)
Today we travel by road to Mount Kyaiktiyo, the third most important Buddhist pilgrimage site in Burma after the Shwedagon Pagoda and the Mahamuni Pagoda. A glimpse of the "gravity defying" Golden Rock is believed to be enough of an inspiration for any person to turn to Buddhism. Balancing on the cliff top at its peak, this huge boulder, covered in gold, is without doubt one of the most magical destinations in Myanmar.

The legend associated with the pagoda is that the Buddha, on one of his many visits, gave a strand of his hair to Taik Tha, a hermit. The Hermit, who had tucked it in the tuft of his hair safely, in turn gave the strand to the King, with the wish that the hair be enshrined in a boulder shaped like the hermit's head. Kyaiktiyo Pagoda has become a popular pilgrimage and attraction. At the peak of the pilgrimage season (November to March), an atmosphere of devotion is witnessed at Kyaikhtiyo pagoda.

The latter part of our journey involves a winding 11km ride (45-60 min) in an open truck with no top (be prepared for rain or sun!). Due to limited space, it is best to bring an overnight bag for this one night and leave large bags in Yangon. Once settled, we will be able to walk the short distance (10 min) from our hotel to the Golden Rock for our visit.

Overnight in the vicinity of Mount Kyaiktiyo.

Meal plan: breakfast,dinner

Day 39 Mount Kyaiktiyo - Yangon
Today we travel by road back to Yangon with the balance of the day at leisure.

Overnight in Yangon.

Meal plan:

Day 40 Departure
Departure from Yangon.

BON VOYAGE!

Meal plan: breakfast

Tour Map

To book this tour, please refer to the sidebar ►

*The red tour trail on the map does not represent the actual travel path.


Hotel List


The following is a list of sample hotels at some locations included on this tour. The hotels shown here are meant to provide a general sense of the standard of hotel we usually aim for; they are not necessarily confirmed for your chosen departure.


Miracle Suvarnabhumi Hotel

Rating: 3 Star Accommodation3 Star Accommodation3 Star Accommodation
Location: Bangkok
Country: Thailand

All rooms are spacious with minimalist decor, large bathroom which is nicely equipped. The hotel also has a variety of
... and services including all day dining at the coffee shop, sumptuous Chinese restaurant and traditional Japanese restaurant, fitness center & spa, out door rooftop swimming pool.


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Triple Two Silom Hotel

Rating: 3 Star Accommodation3 Star Accommodation3 Star Accommodation
Location: Bangkok
Country: Thailand

Triple Two Silom is an innovative and exclusive business class boutique hotel, providing high quality personalized service in a relaxed
... for both business and leisure travelers. Choose from our 75 luxury rooms in two sizes: Deluxe Room 45 sqm. Or Junior Suite Room 60 sqm.

Being only 25 kilometers from Bangkok International Airport, you can take the airport limousine, airport shuttle bus, or even a public metered taxi, while the Hotel’s taxi also provides 24 hour service for your convenience and security.

Hua Lumphong Railway Station is 3 kilometers away and can be reached within a few minutes.

A Skytrain Station is 1 kilometer away and can be reached within 10 minutes.

Expressway entrances are just 1 kilometer from the hotel.


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Mouang Luang Hotel

Rating: 3 Star Accommodation3 Star Accommodation3 Star Accommodation
Location: Luang Prabang
Country: Laos

A 10-minute walk from town on a quiet street, the Mouang Loung is adorned with traditional Lao temple-style roofs. The
... are clean, with parquet floors and marble-tiled bathrooms (all with tubs). Street-side rooms have balconies. There's an open-air Lao restaurant in the back, and just above it is an enormous balcony reserved for Baci ceremonies. Mouang Luang has the distinction of being one of the only hotels in town with a pool.


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Xiengthong Palace

Rating: 4 Star Accommodation4 Star Accommodation4 Star Accommodation4 Star Accommodation
Location: Luang Prabang
Country: Laos

Located in the heart of Luang Prabang, surrounded by the golden spires of the town’s famous Buddhist temples is Victoria
... Palace, the last residence of the Laos Royal Family. This beautiful boutique property has been lovingly restored to its former glory, and once more sits proudly on the banks of the Mekong River.

The 26 elegantly appointed rooms and suites capture the essence of Laos’ unique culture and style, with local materials and fabrics used throughout. Look out upon the majestic Wat Xiengthong – the town’s most famous temple, or simply sit back and soak up the ambience of this UNESCO protected palace, the perfect place to discover the wonder and charm of Luang Prabang – the Jewel of Indochina.

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Hotel Mercure La Gare

Rating: 3 Star Accommodation3 Star Accommodation3 Star Accommodation
Location: Ha Noi
Country: Vietnam

Located opposite Hanoi Central Railway Station, Mercure Hanoi La Gare is an inviting oasis in the heart of the bustling
... centre. Situated close to the Old Quarter, this hotel features modern design and facilities, a French brasserie, internal courtyard and gym.
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Glory Hotel

Rating: 3 Star Accommodation3 Star Accommodation3 Star Accommodation
Location: Hoi An
Country: Vietnam

Glory Hotel is ideally located about 500m from the heart of Hoi An, by one side the main road of
... Dai from the little town to the white sand beach.


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Hoi An Hotel

Rating: 4 Star Accommodation4 Star Accommodation4 Star Accommodation4 Star Accommodation
Location: Hoi An
Country: Vietnam

The Hoi An Hotel offers 160 international-standard rooms, restaurant, bar, garden café, outdoor swimming pool, fitness center, jacuzzi pool, sauna,
... bath, beauty salon, laundry service, mail services, money exchange, souvenir shop and art gallery. All rooms feature: telephone, air-conditioning, bathroom with bathtub and shower, mini bar, satellite TV, hair dryer, bathroom amenities, in room safety box.

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Festival Hue Hotel


Location: Hue
Country: Vietnam

Festival Hotel is rightly situated in the very heart of of Hue city, in close reach to to the relics
... the Old Charming citadel with easy access to the Royal Citadel, Antique museum, and other beautiful landscapes and tourist attractions.


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Duxton Hotel

Rating: 4 Star Accommodation4 Star Accommodation4 Star Accommodation4 Star Accommodation
Location: Saigon
Country: Vietnam

Located right in the heart of vibrant Ho Chi Minh City, the Duxton Saigon is a luxury 4* boutique hotel
... a refined and relaxing environment. As well as a range of deluxe rooms, executive rooms and suites, the hotel also has a restaurant, bar, gaming centre, gymnasium, swimming pool, spa and business centre.
Read More.

Can Tho Golf 4 Hotel

Rating: 4 Star Accommodation4 Star Accommodation4 Star Accommodation4 Star Accommodation
Location: Can Tho
Country: Vietnam

Located on the banks of one of the nine estuaries of the Mekong Delta, Golf Can Tho is a modern
... hotel set in the magnificent Can Tho city. The hotel features 101 rooms, each with electronic safe deposit boxes, air-conditioning, mini bar, tea and coffee making facilities, satellite television, telephone, wi-fi service, hairdryer.

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Holiday Villa Hotel

Rating: 3 Star Accommodation3 Star Accommodation3 Star Accommodation
Location: Phnom Penh
Country: Cambodia

Holiday Villa Hotel is a 3-star international hotel, built to reflect the best of French colonial design and style. The
... has 74 well-appointed guestrooms and suites. Holiday Villa is strategically located on the main business street, within the vicinity of shopping area and just minutes’ walk to famous Central Market (Psah Thmei). Phnom Penh International Airport can be reached within fifteen minutes drive.

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Somadevi Angkor Hotel

Rating: 4 Star Accommodation4 Star Accommodation4 Star Accommodation4 Star Accommodation
Location: Siem Reap
Country: Cambodia

This Siem Reap Hotel has 150 elegantly designed and well-furnished guest rooms, each with balcony, provide an atmosphere of tranquil
... You will enjoy the panoramic view of Siem Reap City.

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Aye Yar River View Resort

Rating: 4 Star Accommodation4 Star Accommodation4 Star Accommodation4 Star Accommodation
Location: Bagan
Country: Myanmar

Located in the heart of Old Bagan and on the eastern bank of Ayeyarwaddy River.10 minutes drives from Nyaung Oo
... The resort sits on a sprawling 10 acres of tropical gardens completed with a scenic 300-meters riverfront.
Read More.

Tharabar Gate Hotel

Rating: 4 Star Accommodation4 Star Accommodation4 Star Accommodation4 Star Accommodation
Location: Bagan
Country: Myanmar

Perfect for exploring the archaeological zone, this hotel is situated right in front of the stunning historic gates of Bagan.
... stylish hotel features beautifully designed spacious rooms furnished in local teak wood with spectacular views of surrounding temples. The open air restaurant around the large pool serves local and international cuisine.


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Mt Popa Resort

Rating: 4 Star Accommodation4 Star Accommodation4 Star Accommodation4 Star Accommodation
Location: Mandalay
Country: Myanmar

Rising up from the scorched plains situated on a steep sided volcanic peak is the lushness of Mount Popa –
... 1 hour from the ancient city of Bagan is Perched midway to the summit of this legendary mountain, this is a truly unique experience with magnificent scenery of Popa Mountain affording unparalleled views of plains, valleys and distant mountains.

The Popa Mountain Resort, comprising tastefully designed chalets perched on the hill with magnificent views across the ravine, traditionally furnished and fully equipped with modern facilities amidst the lush hillsides.

The acclaimed restaurant and extensive terracing provides a perfect place to relax and take in the breathtaking scenery, and remains deeply committed to eco-tourism with the kitchen supplied by the organic produce from the resorts organic farms.

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Myanmar Treasure Resort

Rating: 4 Star Accommodation4 Star Accommodation4 Star Accommodation4 Star Accommodation
Location: Inle Lake
Country: Myanmar

Myanmar Treasure Resorts, a beach front paradise of white sand and sea on the Bay of Bengal perfectly designed to
... the rigors and stresses of life.
Read More.


Trip Information

To book this tour, please refer to the sidebar ►

Inclusions

Breakfast and dinner (at local restaurants and some hotels) are included daily; all meals on junk cruise. All transport, accommodation, sightseeing and entrance fees for sites noted as 'visited' in the detailed itinerary. Gratuities for drivers, junk crew, restaurant staff, porters, local guides. Airport transfers for land & air customers arriving / departing on tour dates.

Exclusions

Tour Leader gratuities, most lunches, drinks, personal items (phone, laundry, etc), domestic and international (if applicable) air taxes, visa fees, and any excursions referenced as 'optional'. Airport transfers for Land Only customers. Optional trip cancellation insurance. Our post-reservation trip notes offer further guidance on shopping, not included meals, visas and locally paid departure taxes.

Seasonality and Weather

Our tours in SE Asia operate during the cooler, drier time of year, Nov-Apr. That said, however, the entire region experiences a warm-hot tropical climate with humidity and a chance of rain showers at any time. Inland regions can experience extreme heat, especially Feb-Apr, when it is also very dry and landscapes are brown. Overall you should prepare for warm, sticky weather with the possibility of rain and some chilly nights / mornings in a few locales.

Transport and Travel Conditions

Land transport throughout will be by private air-conditioned bus. Most of the driving days are not long, usually no more than four hours, though there are some full days of travel. Road conditions are generally not good and progress can be slow.

Flights within Myanmar provided by Yangon Airways or Air Mandalay, private airlines, who also fly ATR 72 aircraft. Other internal flights via scheduled regional carriers.

The tour is not strenuous though it is busy; you must be steady on your feet and be able to endure some heat and long days. We have numerous walking tours and visit several sites that are LARGE with steps and uneven surfaces. Porters are available at hotels but you must be able to manage with your baggage at airports.

Accommodation

Hotels used on tour are modern, comfortable, well-located, air-conditioned, 3-4 star properties with en suite bath / toilet (hotel at Dien BIen Phu may be of a simpler standard). Single rooms are limited and possibly smaller than twins. Laundry facilities are available at most hotels for a reasonable price. Safe deposit boxes are available in most hotels either free or for a nominal fee. Most hotel rooms are well equipped and likely include hairdryers and irons, minibar fridge, TV. All are air-conditioned. Most hotels provide complimentary purified drinking water. Some hotels have swimming pools. We try as best we can to use private hotels in Myanmar.

HUONG HAI JUNK: The Huong Hai junks are unique, 'antique' (replica) accommodations that are scrupulously clean, fully-crewed and comfortable. Our junk/s are large and luxurious boats with private bath, air conditioning and fan, and plenty of deck space.

Staff and Support

Tour Leader throughout, local drivers, local guides at various locations.

Group Size

10-21 (plus Tour Leader)

Gallery

Monks in Ta Prom, Siem Reap