Those on the group flights usually arrive into Yangon in the morning (after an overnight flight), and will be transferred to the start hotel. Those not on the group flights can arrive at the hotel any time after check-in time today, as the adventure really begins with a welcome meeting in the hotel reception at 6pm. There are no activities planned until this group briefing; please ask the hotel reception where it will take place. Your leader will be collecting your insurance details and next of kin information at this meeting, so please ensure you have all these details. This evening you have the option to go for dinner with the others in your group.
Formerly named Rangoon, Yangon is the country's biggest city and was the capital from 1885, when the British conquered the north and the kingdom of Mandalay, until just a few years ago when the government moved the capital to Naypyidaw. This morning you will transfer to the boat pier and take a boat trip across the Yangon River. At the other side you take a tuk tuk ride to Twunte village, as you explore on foot your guide will tell you about the village. Then it's time to get your hands dirty as you have a go at making some local traditional pottery! Great fun for all the family. After lunch you return to the boat pier and travel back across the river to your hotel.
Today you'll head out early to catch your flight to the ancient wonder of Bagan. Here spread out across the horizon are the peaks of 4,500 brick and gilded ancient temples. Dotting the skyline in many shapes and forms some say they compare in splendour to the majestic Angkor kingdom. Theravada Buddhism was introduced by the former kings of Pagan (Bagan) in the mid 11th century, which spurred on the swift building of a swathe of temples to worship their gods, be they Buddhist, Hindu or Nat, over the ensuing 200 or so years This afternoon you will take a tour by horse and cart (2 people travel per cart) to visit some of the main temples and go shopping in the local markets. Hawkers often surround the most popular temples, selling lacquerware or handicrafts, and there are also stalls offering cool drinks and a welcome touch of shade.
Today you travel to Ngat Pyit Taung Monastery where you can explore the temple's caves and learn about local traditions and beliefs. Later you visit a monastic primary school, seeing the local children here as they go about their lessons will give your kids a totally different perspective on school life! There will certainly be many smiling faces to welcome you. Onwards to the town of Nyaung U where you will visit small neighbouring villages and learn about traditional life here. You will see the process of creating 'Poneyay' - pea powder paste and watch as local plum jam is made and packed, if you are lucky they will give you a taste of it too. On your second evening in Bagan you will see a colourful marionette performance and have a tasty dinner of traditional Bamar cuisine while you watch.
This morning you transfer to Bagan Airport (approx 20 mins) and fly to Heho. Then transfer on to Kalaw, stopping for lunch en route. As a former British hill station, Kalaw makes a welcome retreat from the heat of the lower lying areas. While the surrounding hills are the home to various ethnic minority groups, including the Palaung, Danu and Pa-O.
The following day you will spend the whole day at the Rural Development Company (RDC) orphange. You will take a walk to the local market to see local produce on sale and perhaps shop for some bargains yourself. Later you will join in a classroom activity with the local children, who are always delighted by our visit. Enjoy a game of badminton with the children and learn some local games. There is time for some group singing and you will eat lunch with the children. After lunch a traditional (and interactive) show will complete a lovely day here. We hope that you will have made many new little friends during the day and take home some great memories of the experience.
Setting off across the mountains today you cross the plateau (which is crammed with farms) and make a stop at the caves of Pindaya. As one of the 'Golden Caves' in Shan state, pilgrims flock to worship the 8000 or so Buddha images which adorn the caverns, tunnels and meditation chambers of this huge limestone cave. You'll venture into the labyrinth of tunnels with your guide to gain a better insight into its history. Pushing on towards Taungyi, you take the turnoff to the resort of Nyuangshwe, set at the northern end of Inle Lake, and your base for the next few days.
The calm waters of Inle Lake are the life-blood for many ethnic minority communities found in stilted houses in the lake's shallow fringes and surrounding areas. The following day you head out in motorised boats and spend the day taking in all the sights; from the distinctive leg rowing local fishermen casting their nets, to the Nga Hpe Kyaung Monastery with its jumping cats and collection of ancient Buddha images, to the floating tomato plantations and plethora of cottage industries such as silversmiths, weavers and cigar makers. You may even come across the floating market which circles the lake every 5 days, where locals sell traditional wares - you can take advantage of shopping opportunities which might come your way.
The final day at Inle is free for you to relax or choose your own activities. Perhaps visit the markets, take a wander around the nearby waterfront, cycle off into neighbouring villages, or see old 'payas' (temples) and the lovely teak monastery.
You bid farewell to the splendour of Shan state as you make your way to Heho Airport for your flight back to the hustle and bustle of Yangon. After checking in to your hotel and freshening up you will embark upon a walking tour of downtown Yangon. Here you will visit markets and perhaps have your fortune told at one of the street stalls. In the afternoon you will visit Shwedagon Pagoda and Karaweik. Then travel on to Kandawgi Lake. See the sunset at Shwedagon and visit its temple. You will be shown how to make a traditional prayer offering.
For those not on the group flights, your trip ends here, after breakfast. There are no activities planned for the final day and you are able to depart your accommodation at any time. Those on group flights will be transferred to the airport to catch your overnight flight back home.