Rudyard Kipling once described Burma (Myanmar) as: “Quite unlike any land you know about.” Join us as we explore this Golden Land, perhaps the least discovered country in Southeast Asia. Our itinerary includes Yangon’s Schwedagon Pagoda, the ancient city of Bagan where the landscape is dotted with more than one thousand temples and Inle Lake, where we will photograph local fishermen, bustling local markets and lakeside life seemingly unchanged for centuries. In Mandalay we will photograph monks crossing U Bien’s bridge, a 1.2 Km teak footbridge. The major points of interest on this trip include Yangon, Bagan, Mandalay, and the Inle Lake. Each location affords us a wide variety of photographic opportunities including street photography, landscape photography, environmental portraiture and still life. Burma is truly one of the few “authentic” destinations remaining in this modern, ever-homogenizing world.
Yangon, or Rangoon as it was once called, is the largest city in Burma and contains the amazing Shwedagon Pagoda. The origin of the Shwedagon Pagoda dates back over 2500 years. Gautama Buddha presented eight strands of sacred hairs to two merchants, who offered it to King Okkalapa on their return. The king built a pagoda on a hilltop overlooking the port city of Okkalapa, in which the sacred hairs were enshrined. Successive monarchs enlarged the pagoda by building outer structures over the original. The present stupa reaching a height of 326 feet was completed in the mid 1450s by Queen Shin-Sawpu. The last renovation of the Shwehtidaw (literally meaning the “Golden Umbrella” and comprising the Diamond Bud, the vane and the shaft) was successfully undertaken by King Mindon in 1871.
Mandalay is the modern center of Buddhism and Myanmar arts, but was once the old royal city. Mandalay, 670 km north of Yangon, is now the home of traditional artisans – including wood and stone carvers, silversmiths, weavers and those producing gold leaf. The former capitol, prior to British rule, and second largest city in the country, Mandalay takes its name from the nearby 240-meter Mandalay Hill, and is rich in monasteries and pagodas.
Bagan is one of the richest archaeological sites in Asia, it is located on the eastern bank of the Ayeyarwaddy River. Once the capitol of the Myanmar Empire, Bagan covers an area of 42 sq. km containing over 2000 well-preserved pagodas and temples of the 11th – 13th century. At its height, in the early 11th century, Bagan was the world center of Therevada Buddhism, with more than 13,000 pagodas covering the plains bordered by two sides of the Ayeyarwady River. But the city fell to the invasion of Kublai Kahn’s hordes in 1287 and was abandoned, leaving to this day thousands of pagodas remaining in the midst of the Mongol destruction.
At 875 meters above sea level, Inle Lake is surrounded by high hills that help to keep the waters calm and lake area misty. The huge and beautiful lake not only contains a marvelous microcosm of aquatic life and activity, but is also home to a harmonious blend of national races, including the Bamar, Danaw, Danu, Intha, Kayah, Pa-O, Shan, and Taung-Yo peoples. Inle Lake also supports a thriving farming community that produces a wide range of vegetables and flowers. Rice is cultivated at the northern end of the lake on extremely fertile, man-made floating islands. The local men also produce silver and brassware, pottery and lacquerware, and the women of Inle Lake are highly skilled weavers.
Day 1 (Feb 6): Guests will be picked up from the Yangon airport and transferred to the hotel. Free at leisure or self-organized visits in the downtown Yangon. The tour will officially begin early evening in the hotel lobby and Karl will provide detailed tour orientation. Then, have group dinner at the hotel. Stay overnight in Yangon.
Day 2 (Feb 7): We will leave the hotel at 5:00am for sunrise shoot at Shwedagon pagoda. The early morning shoot has a lot of advantages from experiencing the alms offering at dawn, the ritual chanting by the various religious groups to being yourself with almost no other tourists. After a couple hours shoot and visit, return to the hotel for breakfast. Then, drive to the northern part of the city to shoot at a large monastic school where hundreds of novices and nuns are studying. We’ll catch their alms receiving event around 11:00am. From the monastery, we will have a shoot at Thiri Mingalar Wholesale market where the fruits, vegetables, and flowers from different parts of the country are arriving and being distributed. Then, we will have a bit late lunch in the downtown before continuing to explore at the Yangon Central Railway Station and experience the short train ride. Sunset shoot at Yangon river port or Kandawgyi Parks and we might have chance to have a short walk in the Chinatown depending on the time availability. Stay overnight in Yangon.
Day 3 (Feb 8):Early checkout from the hotel and depart for Yangon airport at about 5:00am. Due to the early departure, there will be only takeaway breakfast. Fly to Mandalay, the second largest city and the cultural heartland of Myanmar at about 6:30am. From the airport to the Mandalay city, we will have a shoot at a typical Burmese village. Our major shoot in the morning will be at the Mahamuni temple, which is the major Buddhist religious site of all upper Myanmar. Then, lunch will be served at a local restaurant before check-in hotel and take brief rest. Later in the afternoon, drive to Amarapura for a shoot at the iconic U Bein footbridge until sunset. Return to the hotel and stay overnight in Mandalay.
Day 4 (Feb 9):Leave hotel at 5:00am by coach to Amarapura’s U Bein footbridge for a sunrise shoot at the shoreline, locals commuting on the bridge, and do an arranged shoot with a fisherman. Return to the hotel breakfast and then drive to the river jetty for a private boat journey to Mingun village, 11-km north of the city on the western bank of legendary Ayeyarwaddy River. We have shoots various locations including the unfinished pagoda, known as the world’s biggest pile of bricks; beautifully proportioned Mya Thein Dan pagoda; and visit to gigantic Mingun Bell that weights 90-tons. Return to Mandalay by boat for lunch and continue shoot at the Golden Palace Monastery, and the UNESCO site of Kuthodaw Pagoda. We will have sunset shoot / visit from either Mandalay Hilltop pagoda or at the river village. Stay overnight in Mandalay.
Day 5 (Feb 10):Early morning shoot at a train station market in the northern part of the city by leaving the hotel at 5:46am. The local market sets directly on the train tracks and move away briefly as the train rolls in at 6:30am and resettle again when the train departs at 7:15am. Return to hotel for breakfast and checkout. Leave hotel at 9:00am by coach to Sagaing Hills to visit a local monastery or a nunnery for alms receiving event at 10:15am. Afterwards, visit and shoot at one of Myanmar’s largest monastic schools at Sagaing during their lunch break. We will have lunch at a local restaurant in Sagaing before transferring to the airport for a late afternoon flight to Bagan. Transfer to the hotel in Bagan overnight.
Day 6 (Feb 11):Have breakfast at the hotel and the tour will begins at 8:00am by visiting to Nyaung-U local market. Then shoot and visit at various temple locations including Shwezigon pagoda, Shwegu orphanage monastery, Htilominlo temple. Have lunch and take a short break at the hotel. Later in the afternoon, visit and shoot at a typical Burmese village followed by the shoots at cattle herds and the herders at sunset. Return to hotel with dinner on the way. Stay overnight in Bagan.
Day 7 (Feb 12):Early morning sunrise shoot from one of the viewing mounds. Then, shoot at young novices collecting alms through the temples and the village. Then, have breakfast at the hotel before going out again to do model shoots with village elder(s) inside the temples and monastery. Have lunch and take a brief afternoon break. In the late afternoon, another arranged shoots at various locations around Bagan archaeological zone and guests will have option to shoot sunset from a viewing mound or active shoot with the goat herds/herder. Stay overnight in Bagan.
Day 8 (Feb 13):Early morning sunrise shoot from one of the viewing mounds and return to the hotel for breakfast. Today, we will have near-full day exploration to the remote parts of central Myanmar, to another ancient town by the name Salay. There will be arranged shoots at 800-years temple, shoot at typical villages, and one impressive local market with a lot of characters at the town named Chauk. Return to Bagan in the late afternoon for the final night there.
Day 9 (Feb 14): We’ll have breakfast at the hotel and leave hotel around 7:00am to Nyaung-U airport and fly to Heho at about 08:30am. Private coach transfer to Nyaungshwe town with 5-day market shoot at Heho town and visit to Shweyanpyay Monastery on the way. Then, have lunch at a local restaurant in the town before transferred to the hotel on the lake for a brief rest. In the afternoon, boat tour around the farmers’ village and activities on the main lake. Stay overnight Nyaungshwe.
Day 10 (Feb 15): We’ll enjoy an early breakfast at the hotel. The tour begins with a visit to 5-day market at Ywama village followed by visit to the one of the most beautiful places around the lake region, the impressive ruins of Shwe Inn Thein pagodas. Return to the main lake area and continue visit / shoot at floating villages on and around the lake. Return to the hotel and possible arranged shoots with local fishermen just before sunset. Stay overnight in Nyaungshwe.
Day 11 (Feb 16):Have your breakfast at the hotel. Enjoy your morning before checking out from the hotel and transferred to Heho airport for a flight to Thandwe (Ngapali Beach) in the late morning. Guests will be transferred to the hotel and enjoy leisure time and overnight in Thandwe.
Day 12 (Feb 17):Early morning shoot at the local fishing village when the fishing boats come ashore with their fresh catches. Return to the hotel for breakfast and take leisure time. In the afternoon, we’ll be visiting another fishing village where the locals working on the dry fishes. Return to our Thandwe hotel for leisure time and overnight.
Day 13 (Feb 18): Breakfast at the hotel and the rest of the day is completely free at leisure or self-organized activities. There are several activities one may choose to do and/or photograph: fishing, elephant camp visit, snorkeling, scuba diving or more. Final night in Thandwe.
Day 14 (Feb 19):Breakfast at the hotel, then transfer to Thandwe airport in the late morning and fly to Yangon, and check-in hotel. Then, we will have self-organized downtown visits, and Bo Gyoke Aung San (Scott) market for last minute shopping, before the grand tour of Shwedagon pagoda. Farewell dinner and stay overnight in Yangon.
Day 15 (Feb 20):Today guests will be transported to the airport for flights back home.