Authentic, friendly and diverse is how most travellers to Myanmar, formerly known as Burma, describe one of the least known countries in Asia. The fact that the country has been inaccessible for so long has meant that Myanmar has been relatively untainted by the excesses of modern life and retains an aura of a bygone age.
Sleepy and backward as Laos and Myanmar may seem, they possess the most impressive spiritual heritages and archaeological sites in the world.
It is to these two most fascinating countries in South East Asia that Somerset Tours & Travel extend their invitation to you to join them on a fully escorted tour in February 2008.
The tour departs from South Africa on 07 February and travels via Bangkok to Vientiane where we will spend one night and explore the city before flying to temple-laden Luang Prabang. The following day we’ll travel by boat up the Mekong River to visit the mysterious Pak Ou caves where thousands of gold lacquered Buddha statues are crammed into the two caves carved out of a towering limestone cliff.
While in Luang Prabang there will be a very special dawn visit to witness the long lines of saffron robed monks leaving their pagodas to receive offerings of food from Luang Prabang residents.
A visit to Kuang Si Waterfall with stops en route to visit ethnic minority villages is also included.
From Luang Prabang, the tour returns Vientiane for one night before flying to Bangkok for the onward flight to Yangon (formerly Rangoon) in Myanmar. One night will be spent in Yangon before heading to Bagan for 2 nights.. Thousands of ancient stupas and temples in this area make Bagan one of the most remarkable archaeological sites in Asia. From the 11th to the 13the century, when Bagan was the capital of Myanmar, the rulers constructed huge stupas and temples, many of which are still standing today on the banks of the Irrawaddy River.
It’s a short flight from Bagan to Mandalay, known as a centre of skilled craftsmanship and which, in former times supplied the Royal Court. Visits to the former capitals of Amarapura, Ava and Sagaing are included and we will attend the daily meal of over a thousand monks at the country’s largest monastery.
The itinerary then proceeds to Inle Lake for two days to see the floating gardens, the leg-rowing fisherman, the Jumping Cat Monastery, a pagoda, ancient stupas and a cheroot factory where typical Burmese cigars are made by hand.
The group will then return to Yangon for the night with time to visit Myanmar’s holiest monument, the Shwedagon Pagoda, with its golden stupa covered with 60 tons of pure gold leaf. Yangon’s most famous sight, the Shwedagon Pagoda was originally built around 2500 years ago to house eight sacred hairs of the Buddha.
From Yangon, the tour continues to Sittwe for the night before transferring by boat up the Kaladan River to Mrauk U for 3 nights. Back in its 15th century heyday, Mrauk U was one of the richest cities in all of Asia, and there are many well-preserved temples, stupas, palaces and pagodas with exquisite carvings to visit in the ruins of this once great city.
Once again the group will return to Yangon for a night before flying back to South Africa via Bangkok on 26 February.
The tour will be escorted by Liz Cotton and local English speaking guides will accompany the group throughout.