« Cultural Immersion Myanmar
Keep in mind as you read through the sample itinerary, that you need not be self conscious about engaging and enjoying the Burmese, or any other of the many ethnic minorities you will meet. This is one of the most welcoming cultures anywhere on earth, and they LOVE to laugh and joke around. Foreigners are still a novelty to most Myanmar people, and you will find them most curious and even honored to be engaged by you, as long as you are genuine of course.
The more you engage the better and more rewarding a time you will have, and you don’t need to be an extrovert! It’s almost unheard of to find any person who has ever been to Myanmar who does not wax poetic about the great time they had.
You’ll be provided a Luminous Journeys gift bag that includes, among many items, an easy to read and pronounce phrasebook (Burmese written in English is notoriously difficult!) that will help you to become a smile getting wonder, and to receive that extra special “something” out of your experience.
Day 1: Yangon Arrival – Shwedagon Pagoda
You’ll be greeted warmly at the airport by Luminous Journeys special staff. The lovely ladies in traditional dress will assist you through the taxi hawkers to the currency exchange where you will get the going rate in Kyat, which is very useful for small purchases and tips. Off to the hotel for check-in & freshen up. The afternoon features a visit to the 325-foot magnificence of Shwedagon Pagoda, which is the spiritual heart of the nation.
Your guide will show you the pagoda and shrine area in depth, and explain not only the history, the 6o-tons of gold and thousands of precious stones adorning it, but the various forms of prayer and ceremony taking place. You are of course free to join in any form and share the 2,500 years of imbued & constantly energizing devotional ‘ether’ with the locals. This is the purest form of cultural experience one can have in Burma, and it matters not a whit if you are Buddhist or not.
Dinner and cultural show this evening at the golden Karaweik Palace on Royal Lake. Overnight Yangon.
Day 2: Yangon – Inlay Lake
A less than one hour flight to the Shan Plateau and a 45-minutes by car brings you to Nuangshwe and the shores of magical Inlay Lake.
On approach to your hotel by private boat, you will be welcomed in Shan ceremonial style, with full costume dress with gongs & drums announcing your arrival. Shan tea will be served by Padaung women, whose necks have been extended throughout their lives by adding gold extension rings every few years. Some elders ladies necks have been extended up to a foot! A much revered accomplishment among this offshoot tribe of the Karen people. And they make great tea!
A private boatman will take you on a half day excursion on the magical waters of Inlay Lake, through floating villages with floating gardens and pagodas. The lake is inhabited largely by the warm & friendly Intha people, whose fishermen are well known for their unique one-leg rowing style. You’ll visit the now famous Jumping Cat Monastery, the Phaung Daw Oo Pagoda, and anything else your boatman might have up his sleeve. The silver craftsmen at Inlay are true masters and they have myriad designs in all price ranges. In one price range only – expensive – are Lotus ‘Silk’ Shawls. Ask if interested, but be warned they are not always available.
In the evening a Shan party will be held by the lakeside in honor of special guests, followed by a fresh & fantastic traditional dinner. Overnight Inle Lake.
Day 3: Inle Lake – Indein – Ruins of Nyaung Oak
It’s a wonderful bucolic cruise up a natural canal leading to the Pa-oh village of Indein. The best of the 5-day markets is held here, where the many minorities coming down from their mountain villages to sell their produce. If you choose and for what is always great fun, we will set you up with a stall of your own and a few key phrases to spend an hour selling produce!
When you’ve had enough laughter and made enough Kyat, this is a great area to explore on foot away from the market throng and into the quietude of the mysterious ruins of Nyaung Oak. Here you will discover overgrown temples and 1054 ancient zedis. The old monastery up top of the hill commands magnificent views of Inle Lake. Overnight Inle Lake.
Day 4: Inle – Bagan
After breakfast it’s time to say goodbye to the staff you’ve already fallen in love with, and head back to the Heho airport for the short flight to Bagan.
On the once forested dry plain of central Shan by the banks of the Irrawaddy River stands one of the world’s most remarkable archaeological sites – Bagan. Dating back 1,000 years the site once contained over 13,000 temples, pagodas, stupas & zedis. In 1287, the year that marked the end of Bagan’s reign as the world center of Theravadan Buddhism, Kublai Khan and his Mongol hordes reduced that number to some 4,000. Some of the ruins lie in ruin today much as the they left them all those centuries ago.
On the docket today is lunch prepared for you by a local family at their home, as well as a temple tour by horse & carriage. You’ll see the major and most architecturally splendid of the temples, including Ananda and Shwezigon. At sunset, or sunrise tomorrow, you have the chance at one of the most surreal thrills of a lifetime – a ride in a hot air balloon over the vast temple-scape and Irrawaddy River. A casual cocktail party and dinner with traditional puppet show round out the day.Overnight Bagan.
Day 5: Bagan – Yangon Departure
Following a morning massage and breakfast, it’s back to Yangon in plenty of time for your scheduled departure. If there is time, we will drive you into town to take care of any last minute shopping, including to the exquisite antiques treasure trove called, in typically curious Burmese fashion, Augustine Gifts.