Newsletter December 2015: Off the Beaten Path in South East Asia

A personal note from Ales!

My son Isaac and I just got back from an exciting trip to Asia a couple of weeks ago. Most of our time was spend on the island of Bali as well as Singapore and a few days in Japan on our way to and from South East Asia.

This part of the world is definitely one of my favorites and it’s always inspiring to come back.

While Bali and Singapore are rather popular destinations in South East Asia, I’d like to share an itinerary which I’ve recentely had the pleasure of working on for one of our clients. It is to a country in this region which has just opened it’s borders to travelers not to many years ago – MYANMAR.

Isaac & Ales SIN - KIX 500 x 400

Compared to its neighbor Thailand it has a more limited supply of hotels and resorts though there are wonderful options available, however there is no shortage of amazing sites and unforgettable experiences.

I hope you’ll enjoy this itinerary which also includes a luxurious Strand Cruise on the Ayeyarwady River, which is operated by the Iconic and legendary Strand Hotel.

– Ales


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Day 1 Arrival in Yangon

Upon arrival, you will receive a warm welcome from your guide and transfer to your hotel. The rest of your day is at leisure.

Pagoda landscape in the plain of Bagan, Myanmar (Burma)

Day 2 Yangon

Today we will visit the Chaukhtat Gyi Pagoda, an impressive 216ft-long reclining Buddha image, Karaweik Royal Barge. Continue to Sule Pagoda, located in the heart of Yangon and dates back to over 2,500 years ago.

Take a walk to Yangon Colonial city center where we will stop at the Bogyoke Market (Scotts market) with hundreds of food options, clothes , handicrafts and gems stores.

In the afternoon, we continue to visit one of the world’s most spectacular monuments, the Shwedagon Pagoda, its golden stupa is the ‘heart’ of Myanmar. The pagoda is believed to be 2,500 years old and the central stupa is surrounded by dozens of intricately decorated buildings and statues. There are always many people praying and making their offerings here.

Enjoy a beautiful sunset at the Pagoda before you are taken to have a special welcome dinner at a famous restaurant in town which we’ve arranged for you.

Meals: Breakfast, Dinner

Strand cruise 2

Day 3 Yangon – Mandalay – Embarkation Ayeyarwady River Cruise

Early this morning, transfer to the Yangon airport for a flight to Mandalay. Arrive in Mandalay and transfer to the jetty to embark The Strand Cruise.

Our day in Mandalay begins with a welcome breakfast in a private area overlooking the illustrious U-Bein Bridge, a crossing that spans the Taungthaman Lake near Amarapura. It is also believed to be the oldest and longest teakwood bridge in the world.

After breakfast, we have a private tour of the U-Bein Bridge and continue from there to discover the Mahamuni Pagoda and the Shwe In Bin monastery, a beautifully carved teak monastery known as the perfect spot for meditation in the heart of Mandalay.

Back at the ship, the crew will be waiting to greet you on board, and welcome you with a generous buffet lunch of international and Asian cuisine. After lunch, cruise stop in Mingun, one of the country’s former capitals, at the foot of the unfinished pagoda, one of the largest pagodas ever constructed in the history of Myanmar.

Strand cruise 1

We will visit the pagoda by popular local transportation, the Tuk Tuk. The pagoda is home to the magnificent Mingun Bell, claimed to be the largest un-cracked hanging bell in the world. We will also visit Paya Hsinbyume, an impressive pagoda that rises in seven curved whitewashed terraces representing the seven mountain ranges around Mt Meru, the mountain at the center of the Buddhist universe.

As the sun sets, admire the magnificent sights over the Ayeyarwady river from the ship’s sundeck, sipping one of the Strand Hotel’s signature cocktails, before joining your fellow travelers at the tables of our fine dining restaurant for a dinner of sharing tapas, followed by a menu of gourmet cuisine and fine wines.

Meals: Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner

Day 4 : Sagaing – Ava

Today we begin with a visit to Sagaing, the most important religious center in Myanmar, famous for its many hundreds of white, silver and gold pagodas and monasteries.

A traditional local truck will transport passengers from the ship to the top terrace of the Soon U Ponya Shin pagoda to enjoy a stunning vista of Mandalay surrounded by its ancient royal capitals linked by the golden thread of the Ayeyarwady River.

Once back on board, relax as the ship cruises from Sagaing to Ava, the ancient imperial capital of successive Burmese kingdoms from the 14th to 19th centuries.

Horse carts await to transport guests for a delightful ride through the naturally preserved Ava landscape and key landmarks – a once upon a time prominent city. Today, all that is left are the ruins and remains of an abandoned kingdom forever imprinted in history.

irrawaddy_river_cruise_1_1

Once back on board, a buffet lunch of international and Asian cuisine is served either in the indoor restaurant or Al Fresco at the more informal sundeck lounge while enjoying the beautiful landscape passing by as the ship cruises to the ancient city of Bagan.

Throughout the afternoon, relax, meditate, or just lie by the pool, enjoy activities and workshops arranged by the crew as well as a number of performances by talented local artists and entertainers before enjoying a traditional Strand afternoon tea.

As night falls, our ship will moor on a remote section of the river. Surrounded only by the soft whispering of nature, our Captain invites you to a cocktail and dinner, followed by a traditional cultural performance on board. Night owls can linger in the bar over a glass of fine wine or single malt whiskey and recreate the golden age of the Strand as a meeting place for explorers and raconteurs.

Meals: Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner

Day 5: Bagan

This morning we arrive in Bagan and the start of the much-anticipated Bagan Heritage Trail.

Bagan is remarkable for the magnificent architecture of its buildings and the contribution they have made to Burmese temple designs. Marvel at Bagan’s wonders including the Ananda Temple, one of the most exquisite temples of the country, the Shwezigon Pagoda, and Gubyaukgyi Temple.

Temples In Bagan, Myanmar

After a delicious lunch on board, we visit the beautiful Sulamani Temple, followed by a journey back into Myanmar’s artistic past at the oldest lacquer warehouse in Bagan. Lacquer ware is a traditional art that began when the Pagodas of Bagan were first being built in the 11th century and is still practiced today.

Here you can see the artisan’s authentic process of production resulting in fascinating products such as the Bagan house umbrella, lampshades, coaster and bowls, all on show and available for purchase.

As twilight sets in, admire the sunset from the sundeck before a festive evening and farewell dinner on a sand bank (weather permitting) accompanied by extraordinary performances from local entertainers.

Meals: Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner

Day 6: Bagan – Disembarkation

Another exhilarating option at sunrise is a hot air balloon ride, where you can gently float above the 2,000 pagodas of Bagan.

This morning the monks of Bagan will join us for a very special farewell. After a last breakfast, guests disembark in Old Bagan.

We continue with a private tour visiting the Thatbinnyu Temple known as “temples of omniscience” and dating to 1144. From here your guide will take you to the Damayangyi Temple in Bagan. Along the way you will also visit some of the local villages around Bagan.

Afterwards transfer to hotel and check in. The rest of the day will be at your own leisure.

Meals: Breakfast

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Day 7: Bagan – Mt.Popa – Bagan

Your day will begin with a horse cart ride through some of the temple areas, for a final glimpse. Continue heading through the dry flatlands toward Mt. Popa.

Along the way we will stop at a small village where the locals make a variety of treats from the juice of the palm tree. Arrive in Popa having lunch at a Mountain Resort surrounded by forest. This is a great place to relax and enjoy the natural beauty of Myanmar.

After lunch climb up the 777 steps to the top of the monastery at Mount Popa. The monastery is built on the top of a volcanic plug, caused by the nearby volcano Mount Popa. It rises 737 metres above sea level and stands out awkwardly on the landscape, like a lone skyscraper in a city of shacks.

Along the staircase to the top, various temples and shrines provide a chance for rest and reflection. The monastery is a popular pilgrimage site for the Myanmar people.

At the end of this tour you will drive back to Bagan. Overnight in Bagan.

Meals: Breakfast, Lunch

Two little Buddhist monks running outdoors under shade of green

Day 8: Bagan – Heho – Nyaung Shwe – Inle Lake

This morning transfer to Nyaung Oo airport and depart for Heho. Upon arrival in Heho airport you will be met and driven to the Nyaung Shwe Jetty by passing through the Shan Plateau and green fields which are ringed by the cool green hills of the highlands of the Shan State.

At 1300 meters above sea level, Inle Lake is seemingly a world apart from the rest of Myanmar. Explore the lake by boat to see “one-legged rowing” fishermen, floating markets, and villages and temples which sit on floating islands.

Visit the “Ancient monastery – Ngaphachaung”, the cottage industries and the colorful hill tribes in the mountains for their special handwoven silk fabrics.

Afterwards transfer to your hotel and check in. The rest of the day is at your own leisure.

Meals: Breakfast

Myanmar Farmer Working In Ricefield.

Day 9: Inle Lake – Inthar Village Discovery

We begin our day with a tour visiting the morning market, which rotates locations on a 5-day basis (note: there are no markets on full moon or dark moon days).

This daily market attracts people from all over the lake’s shores who gather to buy and sell their wares. Wander amid the stalls where your guide will explain the local produce and goods for sale.

We will stop at Inthar Heritage House to learn more about the history and culture of the lake’s indigenous people. Lunch will be served at a local restaurant in the area. Proceed to the village of Inpawkhone to observe the traditional silk weaving techniques of Inthar people.

Inpawkhone is also known for its weaving from the stems of lotus flowers, a time consuming process that results in high quality materials famous throughout the country. We will also visit a cheroot factory where local Burmese cigars are rolled by hand. Also visit silversmiths and blacksmiths, using ancient techniques to create their wares.

In the afternoon transfer back to your hotel and spend the rest of the day at your own leisure.

Meals: Breakfast

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Day 10: Inle Lake – Indein

Breakfast at the Hotel. Travel to Indein, on the southwestern shores of the lake. The boat will travel down a small canal leading to the Pa-oh village of Indein. Explore the area on foot, strolling around the village, stopping to chat to the locals and observe their traditional lifestyles.

Then wander through the beautiful Alaung Sitthou area, filled with picturesque stupas and has magnificent views of the lake.

Transfer back to the hotel and the rest of evening is free at leisure.

Meals: Breakfast

Day 11: Inle Lake – Heho – Yangon Departure

Morning breakfast at hotel. Check out by noon and transfer to airport for your flight home via Yangon.

Meals: Breakfast

Please feel free to contact me if you have any questions or would like to receive a quote for your own customized itinerary to this amazing country.


About Ales

Ales website

I’ve been passionate about travel ever since I can remember. Having had the opportunity to travel all around the world for many years it’s my greatest desire to enrich peoples lives in a profound way by creating unforgettable journeys, and give each of my clients the amazing experiences I’ve had throughout my travels.

By allowing me to design your journeys, you can be assured that you will be taken care of from the moment we start planning your vacation until the moment you return. Contact me and let me know where you would like to go or let me help you find the destination that will give you the experience you are looking for.

May all your travels stir your soul and change your life forever – Ales.

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