Yangon and environs exclusively.
Lodgings at The Strand hotel
view tour one itinerary
When booking international flights for Tour 1, ensure your travel agent flies you into Mandalay (MDY), but out of Yangon. Tour 2 flies in and out of Yangon (RGN) solely.
B = Breakfast
L = Lunch
D = Dinner
S = Snack
Tours begins and ends
Tour 2: Day 1 Tuesday 11 July
Welcome to Yangon – Myanmar’s largest city and former administrative capital. Yangon, formerly Rangoon, is “one of the most exotic and striking cities in Southeast Asia” writes Lonely Planet. And we couldn’t agree more. The main gateway to Myanmar, this city of 5+ million chokes with crumbling colonnades, picturesque dishevelment, and old-growth teak. Outlying neighbourhoods are refreshingly overgrown, taking on a Secret Garden feel. Colonial Rangoon is an exquisite architectural time warp little touched in a half century.
For those arriving today you will be met personally at the airport, then whisked to your lodgings at The Strand, the country’s finest and oldest hostelry and the finest. The property has just undergone a year’s closure and total revamp. Depending on your arrival time, meet us this evening for optional dinner.
Tour 2: Day 2 Wednesday 12 July
- Rangoon sites & Shwedagon
This morning begin at Shwedagon pagoda, the city’s landmark and one of the true wonders of the religious world. The pagoda’s origins trace back some 2500 years, and today towers some 98 meters/326 feet above the green cityscape of Yangon. Testament of the faith of the Burmese, it is covered with hundreds of pure gold plates, while the pinnacle is encrusted with 4531 diamonds, the largest 76 carats. We’ll start with a brief walk through its surrounding picturesque park, past local craftsmen creating religious reliquary, then to the temple itself. If you are into wood carving, these local crafts are well worth purchasing.
Lunch is at one of Yangon’s best Myanmar assar-asa luncheon restaurant – with the local specialty a dried and pounded shrimp paste called Balachaung.
After lunch, visit the unassuming – but historically important – Bahadur Shah Zafar, final home to the last Mughal emperor of China – a lineage of some 300 years, abruptly ended by British colonialism. Ironically, Burma’s final emperor was exiled to die in India, while India’s dethroned leader deported to Rangoon.
Return to hotel to freshen up, then in the late afternoon visit Bototaung Paya, one of the major three temples in Yangon (the other two are Sule Pagoda and Shwedagon) and revered for containing hair relics of the Buddha. Said to date back 2000 years, Bototaung Paya was heavily damanged during the war, but resorted. Of note is the large gilded bronze cast during the reign of King Mindon Min, housed ito the west of the stupa. The bronze was shipped to England during the colonial period, but returned in 1951. Sunset river cruise along the Irrawaddy. Remaining evening free.
Tour 2: Day 3 Thursday 13 July
- Colonial Rangoon
After breakfast, gather for our walking tour of colonial Rangoon. Wear comfortable slip-ons without socks today, as we explore the downtown area, where the ghosts of regal British influence still reigns. (You will be required to remove both shoes and socks well before entering all religious sites.) We’ll pass splendidly unkempt Victorian and Edwardian architecture meshed with ancient pagodas, and used booksellers lining the sidewalks.
Begin at Sule Pagoda, one of the world’s most glorious traffic roundabouts, but more importantly, a pagoda with a 2000 year pedigree. Note the birds being sold just outside, as it is believed to give you good luck to purchase then set one loose.
Onto one of the city’s most historic tea houses, serving delicious semolina cake, before walking amongst the city’s architectural crown jewels. Lunch is at a trendy city-centre fixture set up by London-based Burmese expats in a gloriously restored Edwardian commercial building. Their Biriyani is superb. Then a downstairs glimpse of Sharky’s pansodan. Hopefully we will get to personally meet proprietor Ye Htut Win, who returned to Myanmar after a 20 year absence studying artisanal food production in Switzerland; his cheeses and deli fare are superb. While at Sharky’s, note the elaborate ropes and mammoth tassels adorning the facilities – designed and installed by Morrison himself! We end at the historic Armenian church, a remnant of colonial Rangoon’s once-thriving Armenian community. Today the congregation numbers less than a dozen.
Dinner is far Western Rakhine food, from the former Arakan kingdom bordering Bangla Desh. The cooking style is perfect for seafood, much less oil than ethnic Bamar, but decidedly spicy. The local noodle salad is delicious.
Tour 2: Day 4 Friday 14 July
- Thanlyin & Kyautktan
Our first stop is for Mohinga in Thaketa Township, well before leaving Yangon proper. This is a famed fish chowder of Myanmar, and arguably its national dish. The simmering bowls served today famous, and arguably Yangon’s best. (We also hope its filling, as we are skipping lunch today.)
Traverse the Irrawaddy river to Thanlyin & Kyautktan, Onto Kyautktan’s bustling regional market. We continue to Thanlyin and its picturesque Yele Paya island. While here, be sure to check out the local dried fish market surrounding this local tourist mecca. During the 16th and 17th centuries, Thanlyn was an important base for foreign explorers, and today home largely to ethnic-Chinese Burmese.
Enroute back, and time permitting, stop at Kyaikkhauk Paya, built during the country’s Mon kingdom (Mon were former overlords based in Bago/Pegu, prior to Bamar/Burmese rule). Return to hotel, and remaining evening free. Be sure to partake this evening at The Strand Bar’s half price Friday – it’s a city institution, and a main Friday activity for the city’s expat community.
Tour 2: Day 5 Saturday 15 July
- Yangon River
- Oh Bo pottery sheds
- Mon Paya
- Gala Dinner
For our last full tour day, cross the mighty Yangon River for a slice of Delta life, plus the experience of taking a public ferry to Dala with its vibrant hawker life on board, and the great views of the cityscape. (There is limited seating upstairs and less crowded than downstairs, so please go directly onboard and head up the steps.)
Twante is a small village known for its pottery (seen typically at market yogurt stands and as village water jugs), cotton weaving and its old Mon Paya complex. As for the town itself, it’s another wonderful time warp experience of Myanmar rural life. Stop briefly at Shwesandaw paya for photos, about 75 metres tall and built by Mon overlords and since reconstructed. We’ll also visit Oh Bo pottery sheds for a demonstration of local crafts, then a rustic and simple meal of Chinese-style stir fry along the canal. Return to hotel, then regroup tonight for our gala dinner.
Tour 2: Day 6 Sunday 16 July
- Tour ends