The following tours have been designed to cover as many of Myanmar’s highlights as possible in the relatively short time available to most visitors to the country. First come a pair of two-day routes around the principal cities, Yangon (Rangoon) and Mandalay. Next is a two-week itinerary taking in the must-see sights of the whole country – from the two big cities to magical Inle Lake in the east and the chimeric ruins of medieval Bagan in the west – with suggestions for extending the trip to three or four weeks. The gen erally poor state of Myanmar’s roads means that to complete the itinerary in a fortnight requires travelers to take domestic flights between key points. In the case of the extension to the town of Kengtung in the far east of the country, flying is the only permitted means of travel for foreign visitors, while Sittwe in Rakhine State can also be accessed by ferry.
The Chin villages along the Lemro River make a worthwhile side trip for visitors to the ancient city of Mrauk U. Dis placed by an insur gency from their home near the Bangladesh border, the villagers now derive an income from fishing and farming. A visit offers a brief insight into their way of life.
Literally hundreds of gilded stupas, temples, and whitewashed monas- teries soar above the west bank of the Ayeyarwady River at Sagaing Hill, near Mandalay. A network of stepped paths connect the shrines, which afford expansive views over the spiritual heartland of Upper Burma.
Resting on stilts, the villages, temples, monasteries, and gardens of Inle Lake’s Intha people rise serenely from the water. This unique aquatic way of life is said to have evolved when, in the 18th century, a local king refused permis- sion for the Intha to build on dry land.
Morning The buildings inside the forbidding walls of the Mandalay Palace are mostly modern recon struc- tions, but they still give a sense of how extraor di nary the com- plex must have looked in the 19th century. From there, head across town for some typically Burmese sights and smells at Zegyo Market , followed by a retreat to the relative calm of the golden Eindawya Pagoda .
Afternoon After the heat of midday has subsided, stroll through the area below Mandalay Hill , winding through the temples and pagodas of the old north- east quarter of the city en route to the summit in time for the legendary sunset view.
Morning Shortly after dawn, join the ranks of monks and market gardeners filing across Amarapura’s U Bein’s Bridge , one of Myanmar’s most photographed landmarks, to reach the beautiful white and gold Kyauktawgyi Pagoda on the far side of the lake. The huge Pahtodawgyi Pagoda visible to the north- west, is the next stop – a for- gotten gem and an evocative remnant of a lost royal city. Take a 20minute drive back into town to the Mahamuni Temple , full of worshippers from daybreak to late evening and an altogether more intense site. After a glimpse of its famous goldencrusted Buddha, explore the marble carving and metalware workshops of the sur rounding streets, followed by a quick tour of the Jade Market . Then stroll down to the Shwe In Bin Kyaung . An enclave of serenity in the bustle of Mandalay, the richly carved teak monastery is a rare survivor of the 19thcentury capital, and one that sees amazingly few visitors.
Afternoon Head across town to see gold leaf being made in the traditional way in the gold pounders’ district , before a spot of souvenir shopping in the city’s mega malls along 78th and 79th Streets. In the evening, enjoy a music and dance recital, mari- onette perfor mance, or a-nyeint act at one of the several cultural shows staged across Mandalay.
Morning Catch the 9am boat up the Ayeyarwady to Mingun to see the massive unfinished stupa and its adja- cent monuments. Rather than return via the river, take a taxi along the pretty west bank to the township of Sagaing , where hundreds of temples, stupas, and monas- teries crown a ridge of tree- covered hills.
Afternoon From the Mandalay side of the river, hop on the ferry to Inwa (Ava) for a leisurely tour of the ancient ruins by horse cart. Scattered across paddy fields and banana groves, the monu ments of this former royal capital include spectacular stucco and teak monasteries, the latter still in use as a school for novices, along with dozens of impressive brick and gilded stupas.