Burma Art and Culture
For a magical tour of Burma’s hidden art and cultural treasures
This adventurous journey is an insider’s peak into the marvels of Burmese art, architecture and the gentle graciousness of its culture.
Highlights include Mandalay, a walled city built in the 19th century; craft centers; Buddhist monasteries and temples. There is also an option to partake in an adventurous excursion to Powindaung Caves, 17-19th century sculpture and painting.
Bagan, the country’s premier art site, referred to as ‘Burma’s Angkor Wat’ as it is a temple city of over two thousand brick temples and stupas, built between the 11-13th century. We stay at the Thande Hotel in the midst of the walled city overlooking the Irrawaddy River.
The tour includes a relaxing excursion to Mt. Poppa, a mountain sacred to Burma’s indigenous spirits called Nats. The journey culminates with two days exploring the tribal area of Inle Lake where people live in thatched cottages on stilts in the middle of the lake. We will enjoy a stay at a fabulous resort in individual cottages on the lake.
Day 1 Arrival Yangon
After check-in, drive to downtown for walking tour and orientation with Don, relax at hotel, and then to Shwedagon Pagoda at sunset, followed by dinner. As the sun sets, we’ll visit the Shwedagon Pagoda, most sacred site in the country, where the Buddha’s hair relics are interred inside the huge stupa.
Day 2 Rangoon Buddha
River boat excusrsion across the Rangoon River to newly excavated killn sites with Dr. Myo Than Tyn. We will also see modern traditional kilns in operation.
Day 3 Morning fly to Bagan
Bagan (Pagan) is the country’s Angkor Wat. Transfer to Thande Hotel (overlooking the Irrawaddy) in the old city.
Across 40 sq km of country, stretching back from the Ayerarawady (Irrawaddy) River, stand thousands of stupas (also called pagodas, zedis or payas, buddhist monuments that are solid interior) and pathos (temples, which one can enter). In every direction you will see ruins of all sizes–huge glorious temples such as Ananda Pahto and small graceful zedis (stupas) standing in the fields next to a residents thatched home. Some contain elegant mural paintings. Some Highlights to visit include: Shwezigon Pagoda; a solid cylindrical structure that forms the prototype of Myanmar Stupas, Kyansittha Umin; a tunnel with an interesting feature of mural paintings, Wetkyi-in Gubaukkyi Temple with fine mural paintins of Jataka scenes, Hitlominlo Temple; a double storied structure known for its frieze and pilaster molding and Archaeological Museum. Sunset at Mingalazedi Pagoda; the last stupa built before the Mongols invasion.
Day 4 Bagan
Full day touring inÊSouth Eastern part of Bagan featuring 13th century temples. Sulamani and Damayangyi; a massive temple with the finest brickwork, Nandamanya, Thambula and Laymyetnha; noted for their fine mural paintings, Payathonzu with mural paintings of Mahayanists character; visit East and West Petleik Pagodas; with interesting terra-cotta plaques and Lawkananda; a Pyu-style stupa on the bank of Ayeyarwaddy River, continue study lacquerware cottage industries. Afternoon sightseeing tour including Somingyi Okkyaung;a brick monastery, Abeyadana temple; famous for its fine mural paintings on Mahayana Buddhism, Nagayon; the early typed temple of the 11th century, Myingaba Gubyaukkyi; an early style temple with excellent mural paintings, Sunset at Bupaya Pagoda; standing on the bank of the Ayeyarwady River.
Day 5 Bagan
Visit to Ananda Temple which contains Gothic Arches and stone sculptures of exquisite workmanship, Ananda okkyaung; a brick monastery with 18th century mural paintings, Manuha Temple with gigantic Buddha images; a representation of phisical discomfort and mental distress of the captive King of Thaton, Nanpaya; an early style temple with the finest stone carvings.
Day 6 Excursion to Mt. Poppa
Morning visit nearby Mt. Popa about 60km southeast of Bagan; an extinct volcano and a lot of shrines dedicated to animistic spirits known as ‘Nats’. You can climb Mt. Popa by a covered walkway to reach the complex of pagodas at the summit. Drive back to Bagan.
Day 7 Fly to Mandalay
Mandalay was the first capital of Burma, before the British took over and remains an important cultural center. It is the most Burmese of the country’s large cities and its Buddhist monasteries are among the most important. Visit Mahamuni Pagoda; traditional handicraft workshops such as gold leaves hammering, marble-carvings and wood-carvings. Proceed to Shwenandaw Monastery; a fine specimen of Myanmar wood-carvings, Kuthodaw Pagoda;known as the World’s Biggest Book as well as the World’s heaviest Book for its marble slabs of Buddhist scriptures, Kyauktawgyi Pagoda; a large Buddha image carved out of a single block of marble. Sunset at Mandalay Hill. Overnight Sedona Hotel, across from Mandalay Palace.
Day 8 Mandalay
Morning boat excursion to visit Mingun Pagoda, across the river from Mandalay. Mingun, located about 11 km upriver, is accessible only by river, giving you a short but pleasant insight into river life culture. The village is very friendly and worth exploring. Thousands of slaves labored to build the massive stupa beginning in 1790. An earthquake spilt the monument in 1838 and reduced it to partial rubble. The base of this projected stupa, badly cracked by the earthquake, stands 50m high overlooking the river. Each side of the enormous base measures 72m and the lowest terrace measures 140m. Had the stupa been completed it would have stood 150m high. Climb the zedi on the crumbled corner and from the top you have an incredible view of the Hsinbyume Pagoda, Mingun village and the river. In 1808, Bodawpaya had a gigantic bell constructed to go with his gigantic zedi. Weighing 90 tons, it is claimed to be the largest hung, uncracked bell in the world. The bell is 4 m high and 5m in diameter at the lip. You can scramble under and right inside it. The same earthquake that shook the stupa base, also destroyed the bell’s supports, so it is now hung in a new place close to the riverboat landing. Time permitting, visit craft centers in Mandalay in the afternoon.
Day 9 Full day excursion to Sagaing, Ava and Amarapura.
Sagaing, on the west bank, became the spiritual capital of Burma following the fall of the Pagan dynasty. It boasts hundreds of temples and monasteries, with spectacular views of the Irrawaddy River and Mandalay. Crossing the old British Raj Ava Bridge, Ava (locally called by its ancient name Inwa) is reached by a short boat ride and is an ancient walled-city, which was one of the Burmese capitals before Mandalay was established in l857. In Ava are old wooden monasteries, ornamented in intricate wooden carving. In Amarapura, a capital established in l783, we visit the famous Kyauktawgyi Pagoda, 1850, boasting the finest l9th century Buddhist mural painting, combining European and Burmese pictorial conventions.
Day 10 Inle lake
Morning flt Mandalay/Heho dep 745 am, arr 820am and drive 11/2 hr to Inle Lake where we board a motor boat for the one hour cruise to our hotel, a charming floating structure of individula cottages in the midst of the lake. Inle Lake is famous for its unique leg-rowers, diverse tribal groups, and scenic beauty. After check-in and lunch we visit wonderful floating gardens, a floating market, and Phaungdaw Oo Pagoda just before sunset.
Day 11 Inle lake
Full day touring in Inle Lake by boat. Visit crafts people, market place, weaving villages; observe unusual method of fishing and ways of life on the lake.
Day 12 Inle lake-Yangon
Morning visit Khaung Daing Market and Indian Market, return to hotel for lunch and depart for Heho airport.Fly Heho/Yangon, dep 1355, arr 1505. Those that wish, can end their tour here & depart for home. Thai Air dep 1930.
Day 13 Fly Yangon/Sittwe
6 hr boat trip to Myauk Oo. Overnight Nawarat.
Morning drive 10k north of Mrauk U to the remains of Wethali. Wethali was founded in 327 AD and archaeoligists believe the kingdom lasted until the 8th century. Here we see the great 5m Image of Hsu Taung Pre (Pye) a huge sitting Buddha, from 327 AD, made out of one piece of sandstone, swathed in red cloth and attended by monks and nuns. Pilgrims are gilding the images with gold-leaf squares. It is set in the remaining ruins of the palace site. Continue by car to Danyawaddy to see the Mahamuni Pagoda built during the period of the Dhanywaddy Dynasty. Afternoon visit to very simple village, Lay Mya Nar Temple, Shittauing Temple, a shrine of 80,000 Buddha images, the adjacent Andaw Thein ordination Hall, Syikya Manaung Pagoda and Htukkan Thein Archeological Museum and the palace site, dating to the 16th cent. Sunset at Shwe Gou Taung Temple.
Scenic 21/2 hr journey by car on a very bad and bumpy road. Visit tattoo villages of the Laytoo Chin minority. In the afternoon, you will explore a typical village of the Shakama (Thet) minority to see the rural way of life. Enjoy a short canoe trip on the river through the beautiful landscape followed by further explorations of temples.
Visit local market and transfer to jetty for the boat journey backÊto Sittwe. Sunset at view point. Sittwe is a port city at the mouth of the Kaladan River in Rakhaing State. Inhabitants of Rakhaing are said to have mixed Burmese-Indian blood.
Visit the main market of Sittwe, where fisherman, town and rural people come to buy and sell fish and general supplies. Time permitting visit the 100 years old Buddha with a golden face at the Payagyi Temple and the cultural Museum. Transfer to the airport for the flight back to Yangon, arr 1505.Ê Fly to Bangkok Thai Air dep 1930.
Our Escort Daw Khin Myo Lwin (we call her Rosie) has been escorting American and European groups for over 20 years including museum and expedition tours. She speaks fluent English and French as well as her native Burmese of course. She is currently co-owner her own tour company.