Temples, Treasures and Tribes

October, including the Royal Barge Procession


“This is Burma, and it will be quite unlike any land you know about...” Rudyard Kipling

Myanmar is remote, exquisite, and a revelation to visit.  Experience and enjoy the exotic heritage, inspiring treasures, and delightful culture of Myanmar, Thailand, and Laos , including the unusual and spectacular experience of the Royal Barge procession around Inle Lake during the annual October Water Festival.

Arrive in Bangkok from International Flights

Day 01 Arrive Yangon

Transfer to the hotel and start a guided sightseeing in Yangon.  Your sightseeing will give you a great introduction to Yangon’s culture, history and beauty, starting with a visit to Kyauktagyi Pagoda, home to a 70-metre reclining Buddha.  Continue with a visit to Kandawagyi Park, one of central Yangon’s greenest spots. Here you will see the glittering Karaweik barge, a replica of the royal barge, and the vast lake with views of Shwedagon in the background.  Continue to Shwedagon Pagoda the most revered Buddhist temple in Myanmar.
Although the origins of the pagoda are unclear, it is believed that the original structure was built in the 11th century then renovated several times until taking its current shape in the 15th century. The 8-sided central stupa is 90 meters tall and gilded with gold leaf and is surrounded by 64 smaller stupas and your guide will show you around the massive complex, explaining why this temple is so revered. Enjoy breathtaking views of the golden stupa and the city skyline from this vantage point. 

For a colorful dinner, drive to 19th Street in the heart of China Town where locals gather every night to socialize and enjoy draft beer and barbeque. Then we will take a local trishaw on a short ride down the vibrant streets of Chinatown to Sule Paya. This gold stupa in the city center is beautifully illuminated at night.  Overnight at your hotel. 

Day 02 Yangon City (B,L,D)

Today is a tour of Yangon with a focus on cuisine, starting with a walking tour of the markets, food stalls and teashops of Yangon. You’ll get to sample some of the favorite local snacks (sweet donuts, palatas, tea leaf salad, etc.) and visit a teashop where the tea server puts on a real show while preparing your drink. We also take you to lunch at a curry shop beloved by Yangon residents or at Thiripyitsaya Sky Bistro with a panoramic view of Yangon followed by a walk over to old Scott’s Market with dozens of stalls for silk, jewelry and local art.  After some initial fun shopping, visit the local’s lacquer ware shop on old 13th Street. 

If time and traffic permit, visit the Gem Museum to appreciate the wealth of natural resources that exist in Myanmar.  Enjoy a welcome dinner at the celebrated Monsoon Restaurant and overnight at the hotel. 

Day 03 Yangon to Bagan (B,L)

After an early breakfast, transfer to the airport for your flight to Bagan.  From the 11th to 13th centuries, when Bagan was the capital of Myanmar, the rulers constructed thousands of huge stupas and temples, many of which are still standing today on the banks of the Irrawaddy River.

Upon arrival, transfer to the hotel and begin your visit to the golden stupa of Shwezigon Pagoda for an introduction in to Bagan’s rich history.  Continue with visits to nearby temples to appreciate the architecture and sculpture of ancient Bagan.  After lunch at a riverside restaurant, this afternoon begin with a visit to a traditional lacquer ware workshop where you can observe the production of one of Myanmar’s best-known handicrafts. Continue to Ananda Temple, an architectural masterpiece and one of Bagan’s most beautiful temples.  Built in the early Mon-style, Ananda contains two unique Buddha images whose expressions seem to change depending on the distance from which the statue is viewed. 

In late afternoon, travel by horse cart for a tour passing Thatbyinnyu, the highest temple in Bagan, massive Dhammayangyi Temple, noted for its remarkable brickwork, and Sulamani Temple. Enjoy an unforgettable sunset over the plains from the upper terrace of one of the temples.  Dinner on your own and overnight at the hotel. 

Day 04 Bagan Excursion to Pagoda School (B,L)

Start the day after breakfast with a visit to Nyaung U market, a colorful set of stalls selling everything from fresh produce to seafood to pottery, including soccer balls and school supplies to take to the pagoda school.   Then continue to a nearby village making treats from
soybeans and plum jam. Follow with a transfer to Ngat Pyit Taung Monastery to observe local tradition and belief, including a visit the Monastic Primary School where you can visit with the local children who are studying their lessons.  Although friendly and welcoming, the children come from a very underprivileged area and a small contributions help ensure a brighter future for these students. 

After lunch at a riverside restaurant, transfer to the Bagan boat jetty to board a private river boat and set off upriver toward Kyauk Gu U Min with fabulous scenes of life on the water: fishermen, local ferry boats, riverside villages and views of the Bagan temples.  Stop at Sae Lan village and go ashore for a short walk. Sae Lan is typical of the riverside villages along the Irrawaddy. The friendly people work as farmers and fishermen, living a simple but happy life. 

Continue by boat to Kyauk Gu U Min on the eastern side of the river where a five to ten minute walk takes us to the temple. This beautiful temple has exquisite stone carvings depicting religious figures and flowers on the door. The temple itself is built against the side of cliff, so behind the main hall of the temple you can enter a cave. Inside the cave there are several small niches where individuals can practice meditation. Legend states that the cave was built during the 13th century for the locals to hide from the invading Mongols.  Return to the boat for a relaxing cruise back to Bagan.  Dinner on your own and overnight at the hotel. 

Day 05 Bagan to Mandalay (B)

After an early breakfast at your hotel, transfer to Nyaung U Airport for the flight to Mandalay.  Upon arrival, begin your sightseeing tour of Mandalay with a visit to Mahamuni Pagoda, home of the country’s most revered Buddha covered with gold leaf giving it a ‘lumpy’ texture.  Observe the production of woodcarvings, kalaga tapestries, silk, marble, and gold leaf where the techniques remained unchanged from those used centuries ago to craft items for the Royal Court. 

In the afternoon, continue with a visit to Kuthodaw Pagoda, whose 729 marble stone slabs of Buddhist scriptures have earned it the title ‘World’s Biggest Book’, and onto Shwenandaw Monastery, the only remaining building from the 19th century Royal Palace. This grand teak building is known for its exquisite woodcarving.  Finish the day with a trip to the top of Mandalay Hill as the sun begins to set to enjoy magnificent views of the city and Irrawaddy River.   Dinner on your own and overnight at the hotel. 

Day 06  Amarapura – Ava – Sagaing (B,L)

After breakfast at the hotel, depart for an excursion around Mandalay to explore the former capitals of Amarapura, Ava and Sagaing.  Begin your tour in Amarapura, to attend a special the alms collection ceremony at Mahagandayon monastery, when over one thousand monks gather to collect their daily meal from the local Buddhists.  After this beautiful spectacle, continue to U Bein Bridge for a walk along this 200 year-old teak bridge.  The bridge spans over 2 kilometers in length and offers fabulous views of the surrounding farms and streams.  Before leaving Amarapura, stop at a silk weaving workshop which produces exquisite handmade products. 

After lunch at a riverside café, continue to Ava, the capital from 14th to 18th centuries and travel by horse and carriage through the area stopping to visit the old wooden Bagaya Monastery and the remains of the Royal Palace and Fort.  This afternoon, cross a bridge over the Irrawaddy River to Sagaing. Covered with 600 white-painted pagodas and monasteries, Sagaing Hill is widely regarded as the religious center of Myanmar.  It is home to 3,000 monks and 100 meditation centers and you will visit pagodas such as Swan Oo Pon Nya Shin, U Min Thone Sae, and Shin Pin Nan Gyaing. 

In the evening, visit the evening market, selling clothes, books, and dry goods as well as food stalls with noodles and curries.  Board local trishaws to go to “Chapati Corner”, a street corner selling a range of Indian dishes, including chapatti and biriyani.  Stop for a cup of tea to watch the locals then continue by trishaw to dinner or back to the hotel.


Day 07 Mandalay – Heho – Inle Lake (B)

After an early breakfast, transfer to the Mandalay airport for the flight to Heho and a scenic drive to Nyaung Shwe, the gateway village to
Inle Lake. Along the way, stop at the wooden Shwe Yan Pyay Monastery which features beautiful carvings and a collection of Buddha images.  Upon reaching the edges of Inle Lake, board a private motorboat to head out to Inle Lake, one of Myanmar’s most spectacular sights. Pass villages built on stilts over the lake, inhabited by the local Intha people.  Observe the leg-rowing fishermen and see their floating gardens built up from strips of water hyacinth and mud and anchored to the bottom with bamboo poles. Visit Nga Hpe Chaung Monastery, which houses dozens of Shan Buddha Images, but is more famous for its history of unique ‘jumping cats’ that jump through hoops in the air!  Continue to Phaung Daw Oo Pagoda, the lake’s main sanctuary, which contains five sacred Buddha images covered in gold leaf. 

Explore the local crafts of Inle Lake with a stop at the silk and lotus fiber weaving village of Inpawkhone and a cheroot factory, where the typical Burmese cigars are made by hand.  Overnight at the hotel on Inle Lake.   Reboard the long boats and stop for coffee at Inthar Heritage House, a beautifully restored traditional house that exhibits traditional Inthar furniture.  This project is also re-introducing Burmese cats back to the country and there is an area outside where these beautiful cats live. 

Dinner on your own and overnight at the hotel. 

Day 08 Royal Barge Procession (B,L)

After breakfast at the hotel, board the flat skiff to watch the impressive procession of the Royal Barge between  villages and pagodas in Inle Lake.  Capture photos of this unique, annual festival, including the village boat races, music and traditional dancing.  During the Phaung Daw U festival each fall, a barge decorated as a mythical bird carries four golden Buddha images round the lake from village to village to bless the monasteries.  There are over 60 monasteries in the Inle Lake area and so the festival takes nearly an entire month to complete.  Have lunch at a lunch by the temple.  In the afternoon, cruise up a narrow creek to the Idyllic Pa-oh village of Indein with its 17th century ruins.  Climb the covered stairway to the top filled with picturesque ancient stupas and view of the lake below.  Return to Lake Inle and enjoy leisure at the serene atmosphere of the lakeside resort.  Overnight at the hotel. 

Day 09 Inle Heho - Taichileik - Chiang Rai (B)

After breakfast transfer to the Heho airport for the flight to the border town of Taichileik.  Pick up at the airport and transit through both Myanmar passport control across the bridge to Thailand passport control and a drive to Chiang Rai for dinner and overnight. 

Day 10 Chiang Rai Villages (B)

After breakfast at the hotel, explore the surrounding villages for colorful markets and handicraft industries.  Have lunch at a café overlooking the Mekong valley.  Return to Chiang Rai for some leisure time to shop or have a massage before dinner on your own and overnight at the hotel. 

Day 11 Chiang Rai to Mekong Boat (B,L,D)

After breakfast and a pretty drive from Chiang Rai to the Mekong River town of Chiang Khong, boat the elegant Luang Say boat, a 34-meter traditional-style riverboat, for a 3-day Laos tour will be punctuated by excursions to hill tribe villages and unusual caves with overnights in a serene town and nature lodge.  Begin the journey in Huay Xai, a small town tucked in the Thai-Lao border.  Stop en-route at a hill tribe village and enjoy a delicious buffet lunch onboard. Late this afternoon, you will reach the riverside town of Pakbeng where you will disembark for your overnight stay.  Overnight in Pakbeng. 

Day 12 Pakbeng – Luang Prabang (B)

For early risers visit the morning market to observe the bustling activities.  After breakfast at the hotel, resume your cruise downstream stopping at the Buddha Caves before arriving in Luang Prabang in time for lunch.  Enjoy a free afternoon to explore the town and the handicraft night market.   Dinner and overnight at the hotel.

Day 13 Luang Prabang (B,L)

Rise early for the sunrise at the crossroads in town for the procession of saffron robed monks from Luang Prabang’s many temples seeking offerings left by the faithful.  After breakfast, tour this city founded on the bank of the Mekong, previously a religious capital, now a World Heritage site with more than 100 temples, among the most beautiful and most revered in Laos.  Discover Vat Xieng Thong, the Temple of the Royal City, Vat May, Vat Visoun, the oldest temple of the city that resembles no other with its wooden windows inspired by the Khmer Temple of Vat Phou, Vat Aham, and Vat Senna, the first monastery whose roof was to be covered with yellow and red tiles.  Enjoy lunch in town at a French/Lao café or on the riverside watching the ferry cross. Convene in the late afternoon to climb the 328 steps of Vat Phousi Hill for an outstanding overview of the city and a slow, lingering, spectacular sunset.  Walk through the Hmong Night Market before dinner on your own and overnight at the hotel. 

Day 14 Luang Prabang (B,L)

Rise Start the day with a visit to the National Museum and the small Ethnographic Museum.  Take a tuk-tuk to the Ock Pop Tok Weaving center outside of town for an afternoon of silk dying and weaving.  Return in time for a foot massage and a glass of wine along the Mekong. 
Stroll through the side streets to experience old, charming Luang Prabang on the way to dinner at a wonderful local Lao/French restaurant (optional).  Walk back for some final shopping at the night market.  Overnight at the hotel. 

Day 15 Luang Prabang to Bangkok (B)

Enjoy leisure for shopping in Luang Prabang before transfer to the airport for the flight to Bangkok.  Freshen up and take the sky train or river ferry to an elegant restaurant for dinner and a traditional dance performance.  Overnight at the hotel. 

Day 16 Bangkok Extension or Outbound (B)

Enjoy a leisurely breakfast before a day of Bangkok sightseeing—palaces, temples, klongs, and after lunch, the immense weekend market with thousands of stalls.  Recover from the experience with a Sky Train ride to the Peninsula Hotel for elegant high tea.  Dinner on your own and overnight at the hotel. 

Day 17 Bangkok Architecture (B)

Start the day at Dusit Park to see the largest teak palace In the world.  Tuk-tuk over to central Bangkok to see the Jim Thompson house for a look at exquisite Thai art, architecture and artifacts.  Finish the afternoon with shopping for antiques and silk at the River City complex, or the downtown Jim Thompson store.  Breakfast at the hotel and check out for transfer to the airport for outbound international flights.

Day 18 Departure (B)

Breakfast at the hotel and check out for transfer to the airport for outbound international flights.

Inclusive Services

- Accommodation with breakfast as indicated in the itinerary

- Private car for all transfers, transport and sightseeing

- Domestic flights on coach class as indicated in the itinerary

-  Horse cart ride in Bagan and in Inwa; Sunset boat ride in Bagan 

- Private motorboat for sightseeing and transport on Inle Lake

- Meals as specified (meals only, no drinks/water) (B = Breakfast, L = Lunch, D = Dinner)

- Local English speaking guide service

- Entrance Fees to the places of interest in each location

- All sightseeing and excursions indicated in the itinerary

Non-inclusive Services

- Myanmar and Laos visa

- Meals where not indicated in the program (B = Breakfast, L = Lunch, D = Dinner)

- Other flights and international airport tax (US$ 10 per person)

- Any late check out/early check in (NB: Before 0200pm and after 1200pm)

- Personal expenses, such as liquor, laundry, room service, phone calls etc.

- Travel insurance

- Any other services not specifically mentioned

Silk and Stones Travel tours are designed for very small groups, using suppliers and partnerships with local providers, and with sensitivity to the unique environmental, ecological, and cultural opportunities in each country. We bring the best of travel to unusual places with comfort, safety, and with cultural and environmental sensitivity.

What Makes This Trip Unique?

  1. Great value and quality

  2. Unique access to activities and sights in each location:  art in Yangon, special school visits in Bagan, wine tasting in Inle Lake,

  3. Unique events during festivals

For help designing a custom itinerary, please contact Silk and Stones Travel

For additional help planning your trip, please see Resources, Packing List, Application, and Terms and ConditionsFor additional suggestions on Myanmar, Laos, and Thailand shops, restaurants, and activities, check the Resources page.

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*Photos courtesy of Tarotastic on Flickr (Top) and Barbara T. Bauer, 2009


Royal Barge Procession on Inle Lake*