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Myanmar in Style: Ancient Realm, Tropical Seaside
   
Tour Code: STS-UB-001 Price per person from: From RMB12,480
Departure Date: Daily Click for Price Details
   
 
Summary:

Yangon- Inle- Mandalay- Bagan- Ngapali Beach- Yangon

 In little-known Myanmar, the wonders of a rich and ancient culture and its glorious tropical landscapes await its visitors. All who go there testify to the fascinating diversity and the warm-heartedness of the local people, who welcome tourists with unparalleled graciousness. The myriad of mystical pagodas in the huge plain around Bagan, the spectacular scenery of Inle Lake and picturesque rural landscapes are just some of the impressive and unforgettable experiences of those who choose this sublimely unusual destination. Spend some relaxing days on Ngapali's pristine, uncluttered beach, a perfect holiday gift to yourself!

 

 

Summary Itinetary Prices Features Notes Customize This Trip

Sunset in Bagan

Mandalay Palace

Shwedagon Pagoda

Golden Steps

Mandalay

Inle

View 2

Bagan Roadway

Tour Dates Destinations Today's Activities Meals Include


October Holiday ! Myanmar in Style, Ancient Realm, Tropical Seaside
13 Days/ 12 Nights Private Tour
Departure date: October Holiday, Daily


Flight schedule (fly with Air China)
Date  Flight No.  Dep. City/ Time   Arrival City / Time                Duration    
Day01  CA905   Beijing / 0835     Yangon / 1345      6 hr 40 mins
Day12  CA906   Yangon / 1445     Beijing / 2225      6 hr 40 mins

Tour Itinerary:
Day01 Arrive Yangon
Upon arrival, you will be greeted by your tour guide who will accompany you as you transfer to the hotel.
Yangon, formerly known as Rangoon, is a relatively quiet and charming city. Its impressive colonial and spiritual heritage makes it one of the most fascinating cities in Southeast Asia.

This afternoon, your journey begins with a visit around the city and its highlights. Stop at the National Museum where a tour of the priceless ancient artifacts, works of art and historic memorabilia will help you gain insight in to the country’s history. Of particular note are the three halls on the ground floor, which hold exhibits on the evolution the Myanmar alphabet, the Lion Throne Room, and artifacts from the Yatanabon Period. Continue to Kyaukhtatgyi Pagoda, which houses a 70-meter reclining Buddha.
Late this afternoon, visit Shwedagon Pagoda, the most revered Buddhist temple in Myanmar. The central stupa is 90 meters tall and gilded with gold leaf. As the sun begins to set enjoy the breathtaking views of the Pagoda and surrounding skyline before transferring back to your hotel.                                    Overnight in Yangon

Day02 Yangon- Heho- Inle ( B)
Breakfast at the hotel. Then we take sightseeing features the Botataung Pagoda, which is hollow and through which you can walk and see many ancient relics and artifacts and Yangon downtown area and from there we walk along the Pansodan street which has many large colonial buildings which are still in use. We will also visit Sule Pagoda near there.
Then we will go to the famous Scott Market (closed on Monday), a sprawling complex built in 1926 and noted for its variety of handicrafts and other items which provides an excellent opportunity for a shopping spree.
Then, we take the afternoon flight depart for Inle, upon arrival, you will be met at the airport, and transfer to the hotel.
Inle Lake, located in Shan State, is serenely beautiful, with very calm waters dotted with patches of floating vegetation and fishing canoes. High hills rim the lake on all sides. The lake's shore and islands bear 17 villages on stilts, mostly inhabited by the Intha people.
From Heho a 1-hour scenic drive leads to Nyaung Shwe, the gateway village to Inle Lake. Board a private motorboat to head out to Inle Lake, one of Myanmar’s most spectacular sights. We 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.
Your hotel is situated upon the lake, with sweeping views of the tranquil waters. The remainder of the afternoon is at your leisure to relax and soak in the views.
Overnight in Inle.

Day03 Inle ( B )
Today a private boat and guide will take you on a sightseeing tour of Inle Lake. Start with a visit to the Nga Hpe Chaung Monastery, which houses dozens of Shan Buddha Images, but is more famous for its unique ‘jumping cats’ who 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 weaving village of Inpawkhone and a cheroot factory, where the typical Burmese cigars are made by hand.
Explore the local crafts of Inle Lake with a stop at the weaving village of Inpawkhone and a cheroot factory, where the typical Burmese cigars are made by hand.
If time permits, there may be time to enjoy a short walk through one of the lakeside villages.
Overnight in Inle.

Day04 In Dein- Heho- Mandalay ( B )
After breakfast, a 1-hour boat ride leads to the Pa-Oh village of Indein, one of the small villages situated on the western bank of Inle Lake. Take a slow stroll around the village and the local school before ascending the covered stairway to the top of the hill. At the summit, a Buddha image sits enshrined amid hundreds of ancient stupa ruins and overgrown bushes. You will also be rewarded with mesmerizing views of the surroundings from the peak.
Then, embark on a 1-hour trek to “Se Ma” village. Along the way, enjoy the natural beauty and panoramic vistas of the area while walking under the shade of bamboo grooves. Upon arrival at the village, observe the daily lifestyles of the rural inhabitants before enjoying a picnic lunch in the village. After lunch, transfer back to Tharlay village on a canoe boat ride (1 hour) which provides views of the picturesque Inle Lake and up-close interaction opportunities with the Intha people to learn about their traditional one-legged rowing techniques.
After today’s tour, drive to the Heho Airport for the flight to Mandalay and upon arrival, transfer to the hotel.

Day05 Mandalay ( B )
begin your sightseeing tour of Mandalay with a visit to Mahamuni Pagoda. This pagoda is home to one of the country’s most revered Buddha images which, over the years, has been covered with gold leaf giving it an almost ‘lumpy’ texture. Mandalay is well known for its skilled craftsmen and as you tour traditional workshops, you will learn more about the city’s cottage industries. Observe the production of wood carvings, kalaga tapestries, and gold-leaf where the techniques remained unchanged from those used centuries ago to craft items for the Royal Court.
This afternoon, continue your tour of Mandalay with a visit to Kuthodaw Pagoda, whose 729 marble stone slabs of Buddhist scriptures have earned it the title ‘World’s Biggest Book’. Continue to Shwenandaw Monastery, the only remaining building from the 19th century Royal Palace. This grand teak building is known for its exquisite woodcarving.
Head to the top of Mandalay Hill as the sun begins to set to enjoy magnificent views of the the city and Irrawaddy River.
Overnight in Mandalay.

Day06 Mandalay-Amarapura- Ava- Sagaing- Mandalay ( B )
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, where you will attend a special ceremony. Witness the alms collection 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.
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.
Overnight in Mandalay.

Day07 Mandalay- Bagan ( B )
This morning, transfer to the airport for the flight to Bagan. Transfer to the hotel and have a chance to freshen up before beginning your day of sight-seeing.
From the 11th to 13th centuries, when Bagan was the capital of Myanmar, the rulers of constructed thousands of huge stupas and temples many of which are still standing today on the banks of the Irrawaddy River.
Start with a trip to the colorful Nyaung Oo Market, where every day the locals come to buy and sell fresh produce and other goods, before visiting some of the temples of Bagan. Stops include the Shwezigon Pagoda with its magnificent golden stupa, Wetkyi-In Gubyaukgyi cave temple with exquisite murals paintings, and the elegant Htilominlo Temple noted for its fine plaster carvings and glazed sandstone decorations.
This afternoon visit Ananda Temple, an architectural masterpiece of the early-style temple containing four impressive standing Buddha images. Continue to the nearby Ananda Okkyaung, one of the few surviving brick monastery from the early Bagan period. Visit the highest temple (61metres) in Bagan, before embarking on a horse carriage ride! The ride will take you past dozens of temples, including Sulamani and Dhammayangyi, and pass through the traditional village of Taungbi. As the sun begins to set, climb to one of the upper terraces for views over the plains of Bagan.
Overnight in Bagan

Day08 Bagan ( B )
OPTION: Start your morning with a hot-air balloon flight over the plains of Bagan. Enjoy the fabulous views as the sun rises over the stupas and Irrawaddy River. This is truly an unforgettable and unique experience! (Note: available only from October to March)
We will travel to Myinkaba village and take a short walking tour to explore Gubyaukgyi, a cave temple with exquisite jataka murals paintings. And then continue our visit to Manuha Temples and Nan Paya close behind the Manuha. Also visit a workshop where you can observe the detailed production of lacquer ware, one of Myanmar’s best known and most traditional handicrafts. Lunch time break
PM: This afternoon, continue to the rural village of Minnanthu, one of Bagan’s least visited areas. Here you will explore temples such as Payathonzu, Lemyentha and Nandamannya as well as observing the farmer’s way of life. Late afternoon enjoy spectacular views from the top of Tayoke Pyay temple as the sun sets over the plains.
Overnight in Bagan.

Day09 Bagan- Ngapali Beach
Transfer to the airport by private car, depart for Ngapali Beach, upon arrival, you will be met at the airport, and transfer to the hotel.
Overnight in Ngapali Beach.


Day10 Ngapali Beach
Full day at leisure to enjoy the unspoilt beauty of Ngapali's natural tropical beach.
Overnight in Ngapali

Day11 Ngapali Beach
Full day at leisure to enjoy the unspoilt beauty of Ngapali's natural tropical beach.
Overnight in Ngapali

Day12 Ngapali Beach
Full day at leisure to enjoy the unspoilt beauty of Ngapali's natural tropical beach.
Overnight in Ngapali

Day13 Ngapali Beach- Yangon- Beijing
After breakfast at the hotel ,free at leisure, till transfer to the airport, take flight depart for Yangon, connect with the international flight back to Beijing.

 

Package Rates

Category

Adult Share Twin

Adult Extra Bed

Child Share Existing Bed With Adult

 Child Extra Bed

Standard

12480

10580

8780

9180

First

13150

11020

9230

9670

Superior

14390

12550

9500

9860

Deluxe

17260

15280

11020

11550

Luxury

20580

16780

11880

12480

 


Hotel List- 

City Name

Standard

First Class

Superior

Deluxe

Luxury

Yangon

Yuzana Garden
Deluxe room

Summit Park View
Superior room

Kandawgyi Palace
Superior room

Savoy Hotel
Deluxe room

The Governor's Residence
Deluxe Garden room

Inle

Paradise Nyaung Shwe
Standard room

Paradise Inle
Superior room

Inle Princess Resort
Mountain View Cottage

Inle Princess Resort
Lake Front View Cottage

Inle Princess Resort
Princess Lake View Cottage

Mandalay

Emerald Land
Standard room

Mandalay City
Superior room

Hotel by the Red Canal
Rakhine Suite

Hotel by the Red Canal
Shan Suite

Mandalay Hill Resort
Junior Suite

Bagan

Arthawka Hotel
Deluxe room

Bagan Golf Resort
Superior room

Thiripyitsaya Sanctuary Resort
Superior room

Aureum Palace
Jasmine Villa

Aureum Palace
Lotus Villa

Ngapali Beach

Pleasant View Resort
Superior room

Silver Beach Resort
Standard room

Amata Beach Resort & Spa
Superior room

Sandoway Resort
Village Cottage

Sandoway Resort
Beachfront Cottage

  Price Inclusions and Exclusions

Included features-
· Round trip economy class air ticket
· 12 nights hotel accommodation in Myanmar, based twin sharing one double / twin room / room type mentioned above
· English-speaking guide throughout the trip (from Yangon to Yangon) except for 1 pax (station guides – different guide at each place)

· Domestic flights Yangon-Inle- Mandalay-Bagan-Ngapali Beach- Yangon on Air Mandalay, Yangon Airways or Air Bagan including insurance surcharge & current fuel surcharge

· Porter fees at airport

· All transfers and excursions with private air-conditioned vehicles with drivers

· Private boat in Inle Lake
· Entrance fees for the visits mentioned in the program


 

 

 

Exclusions-
· International air tax ( RMB780 per adult, RMB890 per child)
· Meals other than mentioned ( L = Lunch, D = Dinner)
· Visa arrangements for Myanmar
· Visits not mentioned in the program
· Drinks and personal expenses
· Tips and porters at the hotels
· International departure Airport Tax Yangon (USD 10/pax at present)
· Any other items not mentioned

Inle Princess Resort
Official Website: none.....
         
Inle Princess Resort The Inle Princess Resort is one of the most beautiful hotels on Inle Lake. The traditional style hotel is well designed and constructed, this fine wooden structure is perched on stilts above the lake and enjoys impressive views of fields, mountains and Inle Lake itself. Surrounded by a well attended garden the spacious wooden chalets have balconies with postcard views.
Hotel by the Red Canal
Official Website: http://www.hotelredcanal.com/
         
Hotel by the Red Canal This boutique hotel, uses its small size as a plus to preserve the local culture in its architecture and decor. The hotel is just a few minutes away from the Mandalay Palace as well as a couple of pagodas and the Zegyo Market. Guests will be intrigued by the numbering system of the suites, all of which use zartar, the ancient Myanmar method of using a stylus to etch inscriptions on a toddy palm leaf. More cultural elements can be found in the use of mother-of-pearl, rattan, and Myanmar marble throughout the hotel. Claimed to be the only restaurant serving dishes from Myanmar and India, the food at the Bistro is equivalent to a feast. The Spa provides Ayurvedic holistic and other natural treatments that guarantee to relax and rejuvenate.
Aureum Palace Bagan
Official Website: http://www.aureumpalacehotel.com/
         
Aureum Palace Bagan Escape to the Aureum Palace Hotel & Resort, a tranquil paradise in Bagan. This incomparable Resort and Spa set amid 27 acres of tropical landscaped gardens offers the ultimate in luxury for guests seeking a superlative vacation experience.
Sandoway Resort
Official Website: http://www.sandowayresort.com/
         
Sandoway Resort The luxurious resort consists of 55 Villas and Cottages, scattered throughout the 6 acres of 450 meters long beach frontage and tropical gardens, most with ocean views. The resort is designed in traditional South East Asian elegance and is constructed in local materials of various kinds of hard wood, stone carving and marble...
Mandalay Hill Resort
Official Website: http://www.mandalayhillresorthotel.com/
         
Mandalay Hill Resort Mandalay Hill Resort, conveniently located at the base of Mandalay Hill, provides its guests an amazing view of the surrounding pagodas. The architecture of this hotel combines some of the designs of traditional pagodas as well as ultra-modern and elegant aspects as well. All rooms, ranging from Superior and Deluxe, all the way through the Mandalar Villa, are lavishly decorated, accentuated by the use of rich amber tones and shades of gold. The decor reflects traditional Myanmar culture in the furniture and rugs. Be sure to take advantage of the Dinner and Show set at the Kinsana Garden Theatre, which provides insight into Myanmar history. When you're ready to book a room at Mandalay Hill Resort, please enter your travel dates into the secure online booking form and click.

Yangon Inle Mandalay

Get around

By taxi

The easiest way to get around is by taxi. Plenty of old white Toyota Corolla taxis ply the streets and will pull over if you stick your hand out. Be warned that almost all taxis are in an appaling condition, they're old, dirty and run down. Don't expect aircon or seat belts that work. Genuine taxis have red license plates, carry a laminated green slip and a large-print taxi driver identification card on the dashboard of the car but all taxis are reliable. Be warned though that around lunch time and late at night it may be hard to hail one. Taxis are always available outside the bigger hotels, on Sule Pagoda Road outside Cafe Aroma, and, during the day, outside the Southern entrance to the Shwedagon Pagoda. Away from the city center, for example near the budget hotels in Pazundaung Township, you may have to wait a bit before a taxi shows up and it may be easier to ask your hotel to call one for you. If you're traveling in the wee hours (for example, to catch a 4AM train or flight), arrange one with your hotel the previous evening. You will always, at all hours, find a taxi outside the Central Hotel on Bogoyoke Aung San Road.

It is customary to negotiate prices prior to the trip but, other than tacking on an informal tourist surcharge, you'll rarely be cheated. Approximate fares (expect a 20% increase after the recent fuel price hikes) are: downtown to airport 4000 kyat to 6000 kyat; downtown to Shwedagon Pagoda 1500-2000 kyat; downtown to Pazundaung Township 1000 kyat; downtown to Kandawgyi Lake area 2000 kyat; downtown to Aung Mingalar Bus Terminal 5000-6000 kyat; downtown to Hlaing Thar Yar Bus Terminal 4000 kyat. Expect to pay more, sometimes twice as much, when it rains and late at nights.

Most taxis will be only to happy to negotiate an hourly (3000 kyat) or daily (US$20-30) or longer rate. Taxis will take you anywhere and you can, in theory, hail a cab and negotiate a trip to Pathein or Bago or other destinations at a much lower price than through a travel agency. See the Get out section below for sample fares.

Update: As of July 2010, most taxis seem to charge a minimum fare of 1500 Kyat even for short trips. It seems like meters are never used, even when present.

(Note: There is a plan in place to introduce meters in Yangon taxis in 2008. As of March 2010, these have been implemented into a large portion of Taxis but are rarely used.)

By train

While Yangon's circular train is not particularly useful for getting to tourist sights, it is a 'sight' by itself. US$1 (passport required).

By trishaw

Trishaws are scarce in the downtown area (and not permitted before 10AM) but more readily available in the surrounding townships. Negotiate fares in advance but 100-200 kyat for a short ten minute ride, while higher than what locals would pay, is appropriate.

By bus

As you would expect, Yangon has an extensive and chaotically crowded bus system. Most are privately run and will not move until enough people are falling off the sides of the bus. Buses are cheap, a long ride rarely costs more than 200 kyats and they go everywhere. Most routes originate and terminate on the eastern side of the Sule Pagoda so head there if looking for a bus to the airport or to the Shwedagon Pagoda.

By boat

A ferry crosses the river to Dallah (see the Get out section below) from the Pansodan Street Jetty.

On foot

Distances in the downtown tourist area are not large and, provided you take it easy, you can walk almost anywhere. The sidewalks can be very crowded though, particularly on Anwaratha Road, so expect to be constantly bumped into and to have to negotiate your way across vendors selling everything from hot samosas and curry to screwdrivers to jeans. Also be aware that alot of the footpaths and sidewalks have large holes, mismatched pavers, or missing/unstable covers over drains. Walking on the footpath after dark can be treacherous, so either carry a torch or, like most locals, walk on the edge of the roadway which normally in a (marginally) better state of repair.

Other means

Foreigners on tourist visas are not permitted to self-drive in Myanmar. Motorbikes and bicycles are not permitted within Yangon (although they are permitted elsewhere in the country).

See

Shwedagon Paya

Historical background

The Shwedagon Pagoda or Paya is the single most important religious site in all of Myanmar. The pagoda stands on the top of Singuttara Hill, and, according to legend, that spot has been sacred since the beginning of time, just before our present world was created. At that time, five lotus buds popped up on the hill, each bud signifying the five Buddhas who would appear in the world and guide it to Nirvana. Gautama, the Buddha as we know him, is the fourth of these five (Maitreya, the fifth, will announce the end of the world with his appearance) and, according to the legend, two brothers brought eight hairs of the Buddha to be enshrined in this sacred location, inaugurating the Shwedagon Pagoda. Whatever the truth of the legend, verifiable history records a pagoda at the site since the 6th Century AD. Built and rebuilt, guilded and reguilded, almost nothing in the pagoda is likely to be old, except whatever is hidden deep inside the stupa. An earthquake (18th century) destroyed the upper half of the pagoda spire and many buildings. The British used the platform and the temples to house their soldiers and armory and, allegedly, made off with anything of value. And Burmese Buddhists are inherently practical people who constantly build and rebuild pagodas for merit.

Today, the pagoda is a magical place that most visitors to Yangon come again and again. Unlike other religious sites, it has at once a spiritual as well as a secular feel about it. Children run up and down singing songs, monks sit on the steps chatting, young men cast amorous glances at women, women stand around gossiping, all while others are deep in prayer in front of whatever shrine has significance for them. A sort of religious version of Times Square, the Shwedagon captures the essence of both the informal nature as well as the strong ties that signify the relationship that the Burmese have with their Buddhism. There is no other pagoda like it in Burma and there is no other place like the Shwedagon Pagoda in the world and visitors to Burma end up spending a lot of their time there.

Practical information

*  Hours: 6:30AM to 10PM. The pagoda opens at 5AM but, technically, tourists are not allowed in till 6:30AM. It is unlikely, however, that an early arriving tourist will be turned away.

*  Entrance fee: US$5. Ticket booths are located at the Eastern and Southern Entrances. If you enter from another direction, the ticket agents will catch up with you sooner or later and collect the fee. It is easy to avoid handing the $5 fee to the government by simply asking for or buying a used sticker from another tourist as they leave the paya then going up one of the side entrances. If you get in at 5am and get out by 6am you'll probably escape paying the fee (but risk not being allowed in). Ticket agents will sometimes quote the price in US Dollars (as per the signage) or Kyat (either at the government rate, the black-market rate, or an inflated blackmarket rate). Best to have both available and pay whatever is cheapest - no point giving the government more than you need to. Tickets are valid for one day only (not a 24 hour period) and must be retained throughout your visit. Bring some sticky tape to help keep the sticker attached to your clothing (especially if it is a hot or wet day, like 2/3 of the days in Myanmar).

*  Guides: Guides, official and unofficial are available for US$5 (add a $1/1000kyat tip). The quality is variable but most guides are friendly and trying to make their way against the odds. The pagoda is vast and complex and, if you can afford the extra dollars, the company and practical information on what's going around you is well worth the expense.

*  Getting there: Taxi from downtown costs 1500 kyat to 2000 kyat (expect higher starting prices, especially if it has rained or is after dark - 3000 kyat or so, feel free to haggle). Taxis are available for the return trip at the bottom of the main entrance.

*  Food: The closest restaurant is at the intersection of the Shwedagon Pagoda Road and U Hlaung Bo Street (at the bottom of the Southern Walkway). There are some tea shops on a small roadway that describes a semicircle just below the top of the pagoda where you can get tea and biscuits. North of the pagoda, on Inya Road and outside the Savoy, are many places to eat, including a good fast food restaurant for pizza, coffee, and sandwiches. Bring water, the heat of the sun can get to you if you visit during the daytime. No food or water is available on the platform itself but water is available on the lower reaches of the walkway.

*  Disabled travelers: A road on the Southern side leads halfway up the Singuttara Hill and an elevator can take you the rest of the way. Alternatively, if not in a wheelchair, head for the Western entrance from where escalators are available all the way to the top. The escalators are free for foreigners (or rather, included in the price of the ticket).

*  Dress code: Dress reasonably and keep your legs covered (long skirts, halfway between knee and ankle, are fine; shorts, on men or women, are not). Longyi are available at the ticket booth if you arrive overly uncovered.

*  Shoes: As with nearly all Buddhist monuments, footwear is not permitted. With the Shwedagon Paya, almost all visitors (and all locals) remove their footwear at the gates before even setting foot inside the complex. There are places to leave your shoes at the bottom of every walkway for a nominal fee (5 kyat) but that can be a problem if, say, you enter using the Eastern walkway and wish to leave by the Northern. Carry a plastic shopping bag, pop your shoes into that bag, and carry it around with you while on the walkways and platforms. That is the Burmese way!

Things to see at the Shwedagon

*  Walkways to the pagoda Four covered walkways lead up to the pagoda from the plains surrounding the hills. The Eastern walkway is the most interesting, crowded as it is with vendors selling items for pilgrims (candles, flowers, gold leaf, stones and other paraphernalia of Burmese Buddhist worship) and souvenirs for domestic (and international) tourists (buddhas, lacquerware, and thanaka). Nothing tacky is for sale, so do stop and take a look. The other walkways are less interesting but the Western walkway has escalators and the Southern has an elevator. Walking up the Eastern walkway to the top and allowing the beauty of the pagoda itself emerge remains the best way to get up the hill!

*  The pagoda platform The pagoda itself exists as a religious place without pomp and circumstance and is one of the best places in the world to sit and people watch. Find a comfortable step, seat yourself, and look around. Children run up and down, perhaps singing and shouting with abandon. Women cluster in groups gossiping. Couples, young and old stroll up and down. Burgundy robed monks are everywhere. Here and there, at the many shrines that dot the platform and sit around the stupa, people pray, seriously and silently. Bells ring. There is no awe here, only life, religious and secular life. Sit there long enough and someone will stop to chat with you, to ask questions, to exchange information.

*  Day shrines There are eight shrines, one for each day of the week (in the Burmese calendar, Wednesday is divided into two parts), dotted around the eight corners of the stupa (the stupa is octagonal), and most Burmese pray at their day shrine when visiting a pagoda. If you can figure out the day of the week when you were born, light a candle, place some flowers, or pour water over the shrine corresponding to that day. Starting from the Southern entrance, and going clockwise, the eight planetary posts are: Mercury (Wednesday morning, before noon), Saturn (Saturday), Jupiter (Thursday), Rahu (no planet, Wednesday afternoon), Venus (Friday), Sun (Sunday), Moon (Monday), Mars (Tuesday). Each shrine also has a beast associated with it, the most interesting one being the Gahlon, a mythical half-bird half-beast said to guard Mount Meru (the shrine for Sunday).

*  Statue of Wa Thon Da Ray The statue of Wa Thon Da Ray, the guardian angel of the earth, is to the left of the Southern Walkway. Wa Thon Da Ray is said to have saved the Buddha from burning by wrapping her wet hair around the earth. The long tresses are clearly visible in the stone statue that stands in her honor.

*  The Arakanese Prayer Pavilion, a little before the Western Walkway, was a gift of the Rakhaing people of Arakan. The prayer hall itself is ordinary, but the wood carvings on the roof are exquisite, probably the finest in the Pagoda complex.

*  Maha Ganda Bell Known locally as the Singu Min Bell (after King Singu, who donated it to Shwedagon), the Maha Ganda bell was cast between 1775 and 1779 and weighs 23 tons. Impressed by the size of the bell, the British attempted to take it as war booty after the First Burmese War (1825) but dropped it into the Yangon River instead. The story goes that the British tried everything to get the bell out of the water but all their technology was of no avail. Giving up, they told the Burmese that they could have it back if they could get it out of the water. The Burmese shoved some bamboo rafts and, lo behold, powered by rafts or by divine right, the bell floated to the surface and was returned to the pagoda! Pick up a mallet and bang on the bell for luck. Behind the bell, a small pavilion provides excellent views of the stupa (spectacular at night) and a panoramic view of the city.

*  Naungdawgyi pagoda and Sandawdwin Tazaung Left of the Northern walkway, the Naungdawgyi or Elder pagoda is supposed to mark the spot where the sacred strands of the Buddha's hair were placed and washed before being enshrined in the stupa. (Women are not allowed onto the Elder pagoda platform.) Close by is the Sandawdwin Tazaung (Hair Relics Well) which provided the water for the washing. The well is odd because it is fed by the Irrawaddy rather than by ground water and the level of water in this well rises and falls with the tides!

*  Dhammazedi inscription, A 1485 tablet that relates the story of the Shwedagon in Pali, Mon, and Burmese. One of the few verifiably antique objects in the pagoda complex.

Other religious sites

*  Sule Paya (Sule Pagoda), incongruously serving as a traffic island in the middle of the busiest intersection in downtown Yangon, Sule Paya is a 46 m octagonal-shaped stupa that, according to the local story, was built 2000 years ago to house a strand of the Buddha's hair. Whether or not it has a strand of the Buddha's hair, the galleries of the pagoda are an oasis of calm from the chaotic traffic that passes around it all day long. Admission used to be free but recent reports suggest that a US$3 admission charge is now required. Shoes can be left at counters at any entrance but carry a plastic bag.

*  Botataung Paya A few blocks East of The Strand Hotel along the Yangon River lies the Botataung Pagoda. The original pagoda was destroyed by allied bombing during the Second World War but the site has a legendary history as long as that of the Shwedagon or the Sule Paya, and it is supposed to house more strands of the Buddha's hair brought to the site by a thousand soldiers (hence the name which means '1000 officers'). The rebuilt stupa is hollow inside, and many relics (not the hair though) are on display. While not spectacular like the Shwedagon, the river-front setting and the hollow stupa make it worth visiting.

*  Saint Mary's Cathedral is a Catholic cathedral. The cathedral's exterior is run-down, but its interior is exquisite.

*  Holy Trinity Cathedral is the Anglican cathedral built by the British. It is one of two cathedrals in Yangon, and has a beautiful interior.

*  Musmeah Yeshua Synagogue, located at 85, 26th Street, is the only Jewish synagogue in Yangon. It is a colonial relic, built in 1893. Its interior is beautifully maintained.

*  Mailamu Paya, located in the outskirts of Yangon, is a large expanse of land on which larger-than-life and colourful statues depicting Buddha's lives are located. Mailamu Paya also showcases a pavilion on a man-made lake, and several zedis.

 Parks

*  Zoological Gardens, first opened by the British in 1906, contains Myanmar's most expansive collection of wild animals. During public holidays, the Snake Dance and Elephant Circus are performed for visitors. Open 08:00-18:00.

 

Get around

You can walk around town easily. Many bike rentals available for less than $1 per day, great for also touring the surroundings.

See

Do

The Lake - a boat trip on the lake is a must do. Day tours are available for only the top half of the lake (~9000kyat) or including the south of the lake (recommended!) (~15000 kyat). Note that in comparison to other boat trips, this is very cheap - this is because the boat drivers get good commissions for anything you buy at the many shops you visit. If you want to spend more time on the lake and less time shopping, be sure to tell the boat driver clearly. There is a $3 entry fee per person to the lake, charged by the government.

Bike Ride - take a day to ride through surrounding villages. Just check your rental bike carefully before leaving - I had to pump the tyre twice, replace a pedal and fix the brakes on my bike.

Hike - day hikes in the surrounding hills, or 3 day hikes to Kalaw are available, and are highly recommended. Seek out Than The, a local guide who knows the area very well and comes highly recommended. Ask for him at Win's Massage business.

Hot Springs - Rent a bike and cycle the bumpy road towards the mountains to visit the hot springs for a relaxing afternoon. (3000 kyat)

Buy

Eat

*  Golden Kite, Yone Gyi and Myawaddy Road, +9508129327. One of the best restaurant's in Inle (Yaungshwe), owner Mio personally makes the best hand- and homemade pasta and wood-oven pizza in Nyaungshwe. A great experience.  

Get around

Taxis are relatively inexpensive and are excellent for travelling around Mandalay.

Many sights are centred around Mandalay Hill, which makes foot-walking feasible in that area.

The best and cheapest way to see the city is by bicycle, as traffic isn't as heavy as in other Asian cities.

See

Religious sites

*  Maha Myat Muni Paya (Burmese: ma-ha myah mu-ni pei-ya) [2] is Myanmar's second holiest pilgrimage site. It is a 4-metre high Buddha statue, made of gold and decorated with precious jewels. The image was brought from Rakhine State, southeast of Mandalay.

*  Shwe Kyi Myin Paya (Burmese: shui ji myin pei-ya) was built in the 1st century, by Prince Min Shin Saw.

*  Sandamuni Paya (Burmese: san-da-mu-ni pei-ya), located at the foot of Mandalay Hill, is similar to Kuthodaw Paya, an adjacent site. Sandamuni contains the world's largest iron Buddha image.

*  Kuthodaw Paya (Burmese: ku-tho-dau pei-ya) is site of the world's largest book, located at the foot of Mandalay Hill. Built by King Mingdon in the 1800s, 729 white stupas within the complex contain the complete text of the Tripitaka, Theravada Buddhism's most sacred text.

*  Shwenandaw Monastery is a monastery made entire out of teak wood with beautiful intricate carvings. It was originally part of the royal palace built by King Mingdon and moved to its current location by his son, King Thibaw in the late 19th century. It is the only major building from the original wooden royal palace to have survived the bombing during World War II, and thus is the only authentic part of the royal palace which can still be seen today.

*  Mandalay Hill (Burmese: man-da-lei thaonh) is a 230-metre hill located near Mandalay. Along its path are several monasteries and temples. At its top are famous pagodas and temples.

Miscellaneous sites

*  Royal Palace (Burmese: man-da-lei nan-dau) is a walled city within Mandalay. It was built in 1861 by King Mindon, to fulfill a prophecy. The palace, although destroyed in World War II, was rebuilt, and was renovated recently. It was renovated using forced labour, and locals may advise you not to visit the place. In addition, while the design of the reconstruction was fairly faithful to the original, the materials used were not (metal was use instead of the original teak wood). The palace contains several pavilions and chambers. Those who enter from the "foreigners-only gate" should expect to fill out an extensive and probing form. However, to avoid such a form, use the "locals-only gate" (myao-pao) and pay bribes to the army officials there.

Do

Mandalay Hill In the old days you had to climb Mandalay Hill on foot, a long and grueling journey. Nowadays visitors can take a pick-up for a handfull of kyats and hang on to their dear lives (downhill is even scarier). The pick-ups leave every twenty minutes and bring you to the foot of the hill pagoda, where an entry fee of US$3 is collected and footwear is prohibited. The pagode offers nice views of Mandalay and the surrounding plains.

Buy

*  Zegyo Market (Burmese: zei-gyo) is a collection of bazaar street markets located near the city centre.