|Journey Departure||Duration||Availability||Price Twin/Double||Solo Traveller|
|January 27 2020||11 nights
|Yes||$6900 pp||add $1600|
The genesis of this journey was driven by our guests. They kept asking me to go to Burma, so I did. It was 2001 against a background of military government, sanctions and house arrest of Aung San Suu Kyi that I arrived at Yangon airport. I brought with me an open mind determined to see for myself, meet the people and make my own judgement. During the course of my two week visit I inspected hotels, buses, trains and internal airlines. I remember at Inle Lake I was the only guest at Inle Princess Resort. A few years later I was back there and shared a few beers with Mick Jagger!
This trip has matured and settled wonderfully over the years into a meandering discovery of a colonial past, an ancient kingdom in Bagan and the pristine beauty of Inle Lake. In the early days it was hard to get guests to join our trip as tourism faltered. I remember the staff at the Strand Hotel in Yangon being so grateful we were there 'thank you for coming' they would say, 'without you and your groups we would have no job'. Happily, we have seen stability in Burma over the last few years and finally the people are rewarded with the opportunity of prosperity.
Yangon immediately demands your attention. Bustling streets interplay with green space and lakes. Tenement housing with rain-stained walls adjoin fading colonial architecture. Street sellers are always busy with necklaces of jasmine flower and armfuls of the Myanmar Times, edging their way between traffic-jammed cars to ply their goods. Everywhere there are advertisements for Myanmar Beer and Grand Royal (the local whisky). This city is omnipresent.
We explore the highlights of Yangon, once named the ‘garden city of the East’, with visits to Kandawgyi (Royal) Lake, and the most revered religious monument in Myanmar, the Shwedagon Pagoda. In Scott’s market you are sure to get a bargain in gold, silver or jade, or if you are peckish grab a slice of green mango in chilli salt.
To the north-west we visit Bagan, the first capital city of Myanmar dating to the 10th century. It was here that the great King Anawrahta established his rule and commenced the construction of over 3,000 temples, pagodas and stupas to unite the country in the name of Buddhism. We explore our favourite monuments at a comfortable pace taking time to learn the history of Myanmar and to enjoy the breathtaking scenery.
Kipling immortalised Mandalay when he famously wrote ‘where the flying fishes play’. From Bagan we take our slow boat, the Pandaw II, to the former Royal capital. On board there are well-appointed cabins with private facilities, and a tempting sun deck. To remind us of Burmese history there is a shore excursion at Yandabo where the first Anglo-Burmese treaty was signed in 1826. Back on board, sip a rum sour at sunset to help keep you in the moment. Our cruise is for two nights and includes all meals.
The last king of Burma was exiled from Mandalay in 1885 ending the Royal lineage forever. His legacy is the Royal Palace. Inside the imposing two kilometre square wall there were once over 150 buildings of teak wood with layered rooves all gilded with gold and jewels. These buildings are gone, ravaged by war and time, except one. We will visit the Golden Palace Monastery, the only remaining example of the fine design and architecture of this period. A visit to Mandalay is never complete until you visit the top of Mandalay Hill. There are over 1760 steps to the summit. On this day we will take a short cut and drive.
The British occupied Mandalay in 1885, however, they found the climate disagreeable; Mandalay can be a furnace in the summer. Just two hours north at an altitude of 1,500 metres, they found the small village of Pyin Oo Lwin. The cool climate of Pyin Oo Lwin was ideal for the British to establish their colonial lifestyle, and they began the construction of a botanical garden and a diverse collection of colonial architecture. On our visit we will stroll through the gardens, visit the bustling local market and explore the colonial architecture.
We take the short flight to Inle Lake. Always a favourite for our guests, the lake has it all with a unique aqua culture of floating islands where farmers harvest their tomatoes by canoe and the fisherman use a conical net to snare the fish. Around the edge of the lake are stupas that date to the 15th century. The local people are of diverse ethnicity including Danu, Pa-o, Intha and Palaung (all sub groups of Shan). We explore the lake by our private long boat punting through villages built over water where the locals weave beautiful garments from lotus stems. Back at the hotel, relax in your well-appointed bungalow, and from the balcony watch the sun set over Inle Lake.
Our journey almost complete we fly back to Yangon.
On a Goddard & Howse small world journey our hotels are more than just a place to stay. We look for great locations as well as character, service and comfort.
Our partner hotels have been delivering expectation since we began our small world journeys in China and Southeast Asia 20 years ago. And most importantly, our hotels are an enticing place to come home to after a day of discovery.
On Inle Lake in Shan State (Myanmar) there are many new hotels that have sprung up to cater for the surge in tourist numbers over the last few years. Golden Island Cottages was the first hotel to open back in 1996. Owned and operated by the Po Oo indigenous group the hotel offers comfortable rooms on stilts over the calm waters of the lake. A main house in traditional Po Oo style houses a restaurant, reception and lounge with unrivalled views to the northern end of the lake.
The manager of the Golden Island Cottages is U Ngwe. A striking fellow with crooked teeth and a disarming smile. He is dressed in the costume of the Po Oo, hill tribe black baggy pants and black jacket, a clean white shirt the only compromise to his ethnic roots. We chat about the lake and I ask how the hotel came into existence.
As younger man he herded and smuggled cows, trading them with Thailand some 400 kilometres away from Inle Lake to the east. With the money made he would buy clothes; copies of polo shirts with brands like Lacoste and Tommy Hilfiger, trousers, hats and jackets and return to Burma to sell them at the local market. more
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