Before your travel in Thailand and Vietnam, experience Burma, currently known as Myanmar, a forest-clad country of mountain ranges and river systems, with an abundance of golden pagodas. After a period of isolation, it has again opened itself to visitors, while remaining one of the least Western-influenced countries in Southeast Asia. Burma has magical sights, friendly people, and its own distinctive culture.
- It's Included:
- Roundtrip airfare from Bangkok, plus 3 internal flights
- Accommodations for 2 nights in Rangoon, 2 nights in Bagan, 2 nights in Mandalay, and 1 night in Bangkok
- 13 meals—7 breakfasts, 4 lunches, and 2 dinners
- 19 small group activities
- Services of our own resident OAT Trip Leader, who speaks English and the native language
- All transfers
You fly overnight from the U.S. to Bangkok, losing one day en route as you cross the International Date Line over the Pacific.
You arrive in Bangkok late in the evening. You are met at the airport by your Trip Leader and escorted to your hotel.
Today we depart for the airport for our flight to Rangoon, Burma (Myanmar). When we arrive, we transfer to our Rangoon hotel and check in.
After a briefing at the hotel, we proceed to Chaukhtatgyi Pagoda, which houses a 225-foot reclining Buddha. Next, we enjoy an included lunch and take time to browse the craft stalls of Scott Market. Following some free time, we gather for a Welcome Dinner at a restaurant in town.
After breakfast, we will set out to explore the city in a private coach with our local guide. We'll start at Shwedagon Pagoda, often called the Golden Pagoda for its glittering spire that dominates the city's skyline. Shwedagon is the most sacred pagoda in Burma, housing relics of the past four Buddhas: namely the staff of Kakusandha, the water filter of Konagamana, a piece of the robe of Kassapa, and eight hairs of Gautama.
We'll continue by coach to the city center, where we'll disembark to enjoy a walking tour around the area of Sule Pagoda, the City Hall, and the Independence Monument in Mahabandoola Park. We'll walk along Strand Road where we'll find remnants of colonial-era buildings, as well as modern architecture. Then we'll proceed to the Kalaywa Tawya Monastery, where the Buddhist Scripture is still studied and taught today.
After lunch on your own, you have free time at leisure, or you can join the optional Rangoon: Past & Present tour. We'll visit the National Museum, a five-story building that displays Burma's history, culture, literature, and people. We'll witness the splendid Lion Throne of Burma's last monarch, King Thibaw, on the ground floor. Please note: The National Museum is closed on Mondays—on this day travelers will visit the art gallery in the famous Strand Hotel, a colonial historical landmark built in 1896.
Then we'll depart for Rangoon's busy waterfront, walk along the jetty, and see the local people going about their daily lives. We'll continue to Chinatown, browsing aisles in its bustling market and exploring side alleyways. Your optional tour also includes dinner at a local restaurant.
Following an early breakfast this morning, we transfer to the airport for a brief flight to Bagan, known as Burma’s “City of Four Million Pagodas.”
Although Bagan’s are not actually numbered in the millions, there are literally thousands of them scattered over this remote plain—making this one of the most important archaeological areas in Asia. Please note that you must remove your shoes and socks to enter Bagan’s ancient temples, and it is respectful to wear modest dress.
First we'll visit Shwe Sandaw Pagoda, and then we explore Nyang-U market, where locals sell their home-grown produce and crops. We'll make a brief stop to take photographs at the beautiful gold-domed Shwe Zi Gon pagoda on our way to Ananda, the largest and most significant temple. It stands out from the other pagodas, having more ornate trappings and graceful spires recently coated with gold leaf. Inside its whitewashed walls are four large statues of Buddha, each with a different facial expression.
We pause for lunch at a local restaurant and some down time at our hotel, and then visit a lacquerware workshop to learn about the production of this traditional craft.
In the late afternoon, board a boat at a local jetty to view the locale from another vantage—the waters of the Irrawaddy River (also called the Ayeyarwady River). The people and the country’s economy depend on this natural resource, as you will undoubtedly observe by the countless number of barges, bamboo rafts, and fishing boats that ply the waters around us. From on board, we will be able to observe how everyday life plays out along the riverbanks.
We dine as a group at a local restaurant this evening.
You may wish to rise early this morning for an optional hot-air balloon ride, a memorable opportunity to enjoy a bird's-eye view of the sun rising over the ancient temples of Bagan. Afterwards, enjoy a Champagne toast and return to the hotel for breakfast.
Then we gain another unique perspective of Bagan by traveling by horse-drawn carriage ride through the archaeological zone. Witnessing the morning sun illuminating the ancient temples of Bagan is an unforgettable experience. We’ll see Damayangyi Temple, watch locals making palm sugar, and visit Khayminga Temple for a panoramic view of our surroundings. Then we’ll return to the hotel for lunch on our own.
After a busy morning, enjoy time at leisure this afternoon and dinner on your own. Or perhaps you’ll join our optional tour to discover Ancient Bagan. Travel to the Bagan Archaeological Museum for a tour of the relics here, including dolomite plaques and bronze lotus flowers. Then continue to the Nanmyint Viewing Tower for a breathtaking view of Bagan plains, studded with ancient pagodas. Afterwards, we’ll visit a nearby village to learn more about local life. Then enjoy dinner and classical Burmese performance at a nearby restaurant, all included with the tour. Please note: On Mondays and public holidays, the Bagan Archaeological Museum visit will be replaced with a guided tour of temples in the Bagan plains.
We have an early breakfast this morning and transfer to the airport for a half-hour flight to Mandalay. When we land, we’ll visit a gold-leaf workshop, where sheets of gold are beaten into gossamer-thin pieces. Placing gold leaf on a Buddha image brings great merit to the faithful, so there is a steady growth of gold layers on Buddha images throughout Burma. We’ll have a chance to witness the results of this practice as we stop at by the Mahamuni Buddha, the most sacred shrine in upper Burma, covered with so much gold leaf that its body has lost all proportion.
We return to Mandalay to eat lunch at a local restaurant. After settling in at our hotel, we explore more of Mandalay, including Shwenandaw Monastery and Kuthodaw Pagoda. Time permitting, we’ll also visit Mandalay Hill for a panoramic sunset view.
We return to our hotel, and dinner this evening is on your own.
This morning after breakfast, we board a boat for a ride upriver to the village of Mingun. Here we get a glimpse of the local culture and stop to see one of the world’s largest ringing bells, still uncracked and weighing in at 90 tons. Bells are a common feature used in many of Burma’s religious rituals. It is said that people ring this bell after performing a good deed so they can share with others the merit they earned. Burmese Buddhists consider it one of the world’s sweetest sounds.
After lunch at a local restaurant, we’ll visit the longest wooden bridge in Burma. The U Bein footbridge stretches almost three-quarters of a mile over the shallow Thaung Thaman Lake. It is constructed of teak planks and has withstood the elements for more than two centuries.
We return to our hotel, and dinner is on your own again this evening.
Today, we enjoy free time in the morning before our flight to Bangkok. After checking in to our hotel, we join our fellow travelers on our From Siam to Saigon: Thailand & Vietnam Revealed adventure. Dinner tonight is on your own.