Days 1 - 2
Set in beautiful Myanmar, Mandalay is the stuff of literature, lyrics and legend – with good reason: the city’s combination of crumbling colonial charm, elegant Buddhist temples, and lush hilly surrounds have rendered many a traveller hopelessly intoxicated with it. Visiting here is like stepping back 50 years in time: beat-up buses trundle along wide avenues, men in longyis cycle serenely around the moat, and monks pad silently through dusty temple courtyards. Add to that Mandalay’s warm, dignified locals and many nearby sightseeing gems, and you have a recipe for an amazing travel experience. Don’t miss a trip up Mandalay Hill to take in panoramic city views; sunset at Ubein Bridge– the longest teakwood bridge in the world; a visit to the Buddhist Mecca of Sagaing, encompassing scores of temples and the Buddhist University; and a mellow boat trip down the Irrawaddy River to see the colossal stupa base at Mingun.
Days 4 - 6
Bagan is to Myanmar, what Angkor Wat is to Cambodia, in terms of both culture and tourism. This ancient, sacred zone stretches across over 100 square kilometres of bush and grassy plains, with over 2200 towering temples, pagodas and monasteries sprinkled across this vast expanse. Crafted mainly from reddish-pink bricks, the complex is what remains of the powerful ‘Pagan’ culture, which was at its peak during the 11th to 13th centuries. It is an architectural and archaeological wonder and an awe-inspiring spectacle to behold, particularly on misty mornings bathed in sunrise light.
Days 6 - 8
One of Myanmar’s most alluring destinations, beautiful Inle Lake is a world unto itself. The local people have integrated their lives fully with their watery surrounds, building entire villages on stilts, buoying up their crop fields with floating devices and even learning an ingenious method of fishing from their long-tail boats – balancing on one leg and using the other to clasp the paddle and row, which leaves their hands free to cast a net. Here visitors can stay in one of the lake-top hotels, enjoy delicious Myanmar cuisine and exquisite sunsets from al fresco decks, or take a boat trip to the floating markets and the handicrafts centres, where you can see silver makers, silk-weavers and lacquer artists at work, and purchase exquisitely made gifts and souvenirs.
Days 8 - 9
With a population of over 5 million, Yangon, also known as Rangoon, was the capital of Myanmar up until the end of 2005. It remains the largest city, and is still the pivotal commercial hub of the country today. A visit to this magnificent city will allow you to take in the interesting mix of British, Burmese, Chinese and Indian cultures that mingle there. The skyline is an interesting contrast of decaying colonial architecture and modern high-rises, dominated by the golden glow of the Shwedagon Pagoda, an exquisite Buddhist temple that draws pilgrims from across the globe. Your time here would be well spent visiting the impressive array of temples, museums and markets that the city has to offer.