Burma is still the undiscovered 'Pearl of Southeast Asia'. This is because the predominantly Buddhist country was isolated for years and shunned by many travelers. You can still taste the atmosphere of yesteryear! The population is affectionate; curious monks and other Burmese will enjoy the chance to exercise their English with you. Visit ancient royal cities around Mandalay, and Bagan with its magnificent ancient temples and palaces. Stroll through hills and rice fields, visit markets, witness minorities in national costumes and go sailing on the rustic Inle Lake. Come to Myanmar now before the country is discovered by mass tourism!
Travelling with the correct travel documentation is your own responsibility. Please ensure your passport is valid for a minimum of 6 months beyond the finish date of your trip.
For Myanmar, a visa is required for many nationalities in order to gain entry. This can often be obtained upon arrival but we would recommend to arrange it before you go. Please check this information in good time before your trip commences as this information is always subject to change. You can check this information through a site such as this one
. To arrange your visa, you should either contact your nearest embassy of Myanmar or use an agency such as CIBT
Accommodation and transport
On this tour you will use various forms of transport. For the majority of transfers you have access to a private air-conditioned (mini) bus. Having our own transport makes it possible to stop to take pictures, take a smoking break or to try a local snack.
Some routes you will travel by good public buses. We purposely choose buses for these routes since there are no real places of interest along the way. This applies to routes from Yangon to Mandalay and Mandalay to Bagan.
An overnight bus trip takes you from Yangon to Mandalay. The roads on these routes (by Burmese standards) are pretty decent. You will travel by plane between Inle Lake and Yangon. We provide a transfer from the hotel to the airport at Heho from Nyaungshwe (where your hotel is located), the short flight from Heho to Yangon and transfer from the airport to the hotel in Yangon.
Other forms of transportation on this trip? For the optional excursions we rent a bus or a pick-up truck on the spot. You may also make use of a bicycle rickshaw (trishaw), bicycle, taxi or horse and carriage, for short sightseeing visits.
In Kalaw you make a day hike accompanied by a local guide. Good walking shoes with adequate profile is a requirement. During the rainy season the trails are muddy and slippery. Those electing not to walk, can of course remain in Kalaw.
Yangon Airport to Yangon Hotel: 18 km / 30-40 minutes
Yangon to Mandalay: 695 km / 15 hours (night bus)
Mandalay to Bagan: 295 km / 8 hours
Bagan via Mount Popa to Kalaw: 290 km / 8 to 9 hours
Kalaw to Pindaya: 40 km / 1 ½ hours
Pindaya to Inle Lake (Nyaung Shwe): 97 km / 2 ½ hours
Inle Lake (Nyaung Shwe) to Heho airport: 30 km / 1hour
Note: the above distances and times are subject to change, as weather and road conditions will dictate.
During our trips to Myanmar, you'll stay in hotels in double rooms with shower and toilet. The rooms have a fan or air conditioning. A triple room is available on request (often a double room with an extra bed added). In the selection of our hotels we especially consider the location, cleanliness and atmosphere. Most hotels are located in the center of the place where we stay.
You stay in the hotels on a bed and breakfast basis. During the night bus routes, breakfast is not included.
Travellers booking alone will share a room with another traveller (taking gender into account). It is possible, where available, to add a single supplement to your booking to ensure your own room.
HOT AIR BALLOON FESTIVAL- SHAN STATE/INLE LAKE
Shan State, of which Taunggyi is the capital, is home to the Hot Air Balloon Festival (Lu Ping). The festival is mainly associated with the Pa-O ethnic minority. It is a very animated and intense atmosphere, the festival is in fact part of the more comprehensive Tazaungdaing Festival, traditionally held six days before the full moon of Tazaungmone. Tazaungdaing comprises three parts, the most spectacular is better known as the Hot Air Balloon Festival. It contains ubiquitous percussion music, streets filled with gambling booths (somewhat contradictory for devout Buddhists) and numerous tempting food stalls- all recurring features of this special event.
As often is the case, this festival also has a religious background. It is indeed held to commemorate the sacrifice of light at the Sula Mani Pagoda in Tavatisma (heaven of the 33 gods). In the 'jatakas (birth stories around the Buddha) it is written that a certain prince Thaydatta made a sacrifice, in which he distanced himself from the materialistic. He stripped off his hair and this threw it to the sky. The king of the 33 gods (Tagyarmin) took the hair of the prince and put it in the Sula Mani Pagoda. In honour of this pagoda they release 'traditional' hot air balloons.
The local version of the hot air balloon is usually made of traditional Shan paper and cloth. The fabrics are soaked in oil and wax for a few days and are then draped around a metal (usually iron) frame. The literally hundreds of balloons take weeks to prepare and many people lend a hand in doing so.
Both day and evening there are balloons released. During the day, they tend to be bigger, more impressive (balloons with a height of 6.7 meters and a diameter of 5-6 meters are no exception), and they are usually made in the form of a pagoda or an animal (such as there are a elephant, a dragon). In the evening they are less impressive in size, but they are much more elaborately decorated, including with small colourful paper lanterns (often in the form of a religious figure) and floral patterns. Usually the name of the group or "club" that made the balloon is displayed in a discernible way. This plays an important role as simultaneously there is also a contest going on. The balloons will be evaluated based on criteria such as altitude reached, duration in the air and the beauty of it.
Also noteworthy is that the balloons are often filled with fireworks, intended to be triggered once they have reached a certain height, with colourful explosions. Some caution is certainly needed, but it does produce enchanting scenes.
PAUNG DAW OO FESTIVAL
Four Buddha statues are transported in a gilded boat from the Paung Daw Oo pagoda to villages and shrines around the Inle Lake. This royal boat is pulled by dozens of smaller vessels with their famous single-leg rowers. The various villages around the lake stage boat racing competitions which are most exciting to watch. Many of the people taking part are from the plains, some from the mountains, while others are from small remote villages but everybody is here to do their best and enjoy the very festive atmosphere of the event. It is very crowded on the water as you can imagine, but a real spectacle!
Our tours are led by trained, local English speaking tour leaders. We know that our travellers appreciate being accompanied by these local tour leaders who, compared to their counterparts (living outside of the destination) have more detailed knowledge of their country. He/she knows the area well, can provide background information and ensure that the trip goes smoothly. He/she knows what to do if something were to go wrong, but is not a "walking encyclopedia". Therefore we would like to refer you to study a good travel guide (book) in advance of travel.
Your tour leader understandably expects a tip at the end, if she/he has completed the job well. Shoestring pay the tour guides a wage which is higher than that of most adventurous travel companies. Our guideline for tipping is between € 1, - and € 2, - per passenger per day (the equivalent thereof).
This tour is classified as Category B
The difficulty of our trips varies greatly. Added to this is the fact that travel difficulty is a very personal perception. To give an impression of the difficulty of a particular journey, we have developed a classification system.
Category A: Light travel for everyone to do. Short distances, good hotels, travel at a slow pace.
Category B: For everyone to do as well. Sometimes long distances. Good hotels and camping facilities, sometimes an adventurous overnight experience, travel at a normal pace.
Category C: Good to do for anyone who prepares themself well and is flexible. There are tougher parts of the journey, such as longer distances or walking tours. Several nights can be spent in basic accommodation.
Category D: A relatively difficult journey, travelling long distances, often primitive accommodation or tents, and challenging walking tours.
The 2 week trip through Myanmar falls into category B. This trip is doable for anyone who prepares properly and is flexible. Please remember that you are travelling in a developing country with much lower living standards than you are used to at home. Hotel rooms can be less comfortable, the electricity can sometimes fail and it could be that you suddenly have a shortage of hot water whilst taking a shower. Also, roads may be temporarily blocked because of the weather or owing to their state of repair, in which case a detour is unavoidable. A flexible and positive attitude is just as important as a good physical condition.
We know that travelling to remote corners of this planet has its effects. At Shoestring we really try to make an effort to keep our impact to a minimum. We try to avoid the use of plastic water bottles on our treks through Nepal and we do not dump our litter during our trips through Africa. All of our staff have been trained to take special care to ensure we make as little impact on the environment as possible.
Furthermore we support a lot of local projects which are mostly related to clean drinking water or making sure that children get vaccinated against illnesses such as tuberculosis. On most tours you will be able to visit some of the projects we support through our local agents. Find out more about the different projects Shoestring are involved with, how you can make a difference and our environmental policies here
Travel insurance, including medical repatriation insurance, is mandatory. It is not included with our packages and it is your responsibility to purchase suitable travel insurance. Make sure that it covers all the activities that you are likely to undertake, such as rafting and trekking. Many ‘free’ insurances that come with banking packages, credit cards etc, are quite often inadequate to cover you on our tours, so make sure you check the policy before you travel. You should enter your travel insurance details via your my.shoestring account and you are required to give a copy of your insurance policy to your tour leader upon arrival. Without proper insurance like this, you will not be allowed to join the tour as we will not be able to respond adequately in case of an emergency if you do not have the right insurance.
1114 AA Amsterdam-Duivendrecht, The Netherlands.
You can call us on number +31 20 6850203 or +44 (0)1306 744797 and email us at [email protected]
Opening hours Monday to Saturday 10 AM to 5 PM (Local times in Netherlands).
More country information about Burma
More country information about Myanmar
Frequently Asked Questions
Frequently asked questions about Burma
Frequently asked questions about Myanmar