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Myanmar Explorer: Burma & the Irrawaddy River - 2017

Yangon • Prome • 9-night Irrawaddy River Cruise • Bagan • Mingun • Mandalay

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Golden temple spires emerging from the mist ... markets filled with flowers, silk, and carved teak ... gentle river waters meandering past deep jungles, tiny villages, and emerald rice paddies. These are just some of the hidden treasures of daily life along the Irrawaddy that you’ll experience in a Vantage Adventures small group — in the deluxe comfort of a new, all-suite ship. Our Burma & the Irrawaddy River journey is a rare opportunity to explore one of the world’s least-traveled destinations during an exotic Irrawaddy River cruise, combined with exciting explorations of Yangon (old Rangoon) by land. Ancient Myanmar (also known as Burma) remains unspoiled by tourism. Yet within its borders, thousands of astonishing antiquities await: a fascinating mix of Buddhist and colonial cultures; acres of temples topped with gilded stupas; and riverside villages that time has forgotten.

If you’ve been unsure about visiting Burma as it opens its doors to the world, our 10-day river cruise aboard the luxurious, all-suite RV Irrawaddy Explorer – the newest ship on the Irrawaddy River and among the first to be chartered by an American company – should spring you into action. And our deluxe river cruise only tells part of the story. The rest unfolds with leisurely stays in Bangkok, featuring two nights to open your adventure and one to close … on the plains of Bagan, where a forest of thousands of temples mesmerizes all who witness it … and in the bustling capital of Yangon, a rich repository of Burma’s incredible culture and long history. For Burma travel at its finest, join us on this enriching adventure in a fascinating land forgotten by time, all while enjoying the best value in small group travel!

Mandalay to Yangon
  • DAY 1-2:

    Overnight flight / Mandalay / Embark RV Irrawaddy Explorer

    Today we arrive in Mandalay, a royal city built by the last of the Burmese kings. Upon arrival, we visit Mahamuni Pagoda, a major pilgrimage site where it is believed that only one of five likenesses of Buddha presides. We also visit the temple-strewn Mandalay Hill, upon which the city was founded. Cultural Discoveries
    We also experience Amarapura, the last Burmese royal capital, where we embark a small sampan on the lake just in time to catch the sunset as it washes over the famous U-Bein bridge. We also take time to see some local artisan workshops to learn about gold leaf and tapestry making, wood and marble carving, and bronze casting. We’ll watch the craftsmen and women at work and have a chance to talk with them about their skill.

    Later, we head to the banks of the mystical Irrawaddy River, where the all-suite RV Irrawaddy Explorer waits. Once onboard, we set sail for nine nights of cruising on as the fascinating tempo of river life keeps time on its shores. Enjoy our first meal on board this evening.

  • DAY 3:

    Mingun / Sagaing

    We begin today in Mingun, where we walk through the village to witness daily life. We’ll stop at the large, unfinished pagoda and see the world's largest working bell. In the afternoon, set off for Sagaing to visit the impressive Soon U Ponya Shin Pagoda, followed by a visit to local nunnery. This evening, enjoy a Burmese dance performance on board.

  • DAY 4:

    Ava

    This morning, you'll explore the ancient capitals of Ava, including visiting the 200-year-old teak Bagaya Kyaung monastery, the 19th-century brick Me Nu Ok Kyaung monastery, and the Nanmyin watchtower. 

  • DAY 5:

    Myinmu / Yandabo

    Cultural Discoveries: All day today, we delve deeply into the culture and daily lives of the people along the Irrawaddy, beginning with a visit to the lively village of Yandabo. Though it is known as the site of the 1826 Treaty of Yandabo that began a long British occupation, this picturesque village today is famous for its pottery. We stroll around and watch some artisans at work. Then, visit a local school (if in session) and meet the children as they go about their daily lessons. After lunch, we transfer to the ancient village of Shwe Pyi Thar for a walking tour, getting an intimate glimpse of daily living along the river. in the evening, Burmese puppet show, a long tradition kept alive by talented artists.

  • DAY 6:

    Tan Kyi - Bagan

    Cultural Discoveries: You’ll dock in Bagan today, where you will spend the day exploring. In this city, currently vying for UNESCO World Heritage Site status, you'll see the spires of more than 3,000 Buddhist temples pierce the sky over an awe-inspiring plain along the Irrawaddy. This could well be the most incredible vista we’ll see during our adventure. A guided tour introduces us to this fascinating area. Later today, ride in an oxcart to the top of a temple for a magical sunset view of the monument-dotted plains.

  • DAY 7:

    Bagan 

    Today, we head out to visit the local markets selling wood carvings, fabrics, longyis and rattan products, stopping at a workshop to also learn about ancient Burmese lacquerware techniques. Afternoon ascent Tan Kyi mountain for spectacular sunset view over Bagan.

  • DAY 8:

    Salay / Tan Kyi Taung Mountain

    We’ll also witness the British influence here as we explore an area of charming colonial-style houses. Back on board, we enjoy a lecture: "Burma-from Early Innovators to Closed Society."

  • DAY 9:

    Magwe

    From our port of Magwe, we head up to hilltop pagoda of Myat Lun Paya, built in 1929. Here, the luster of gold that is central to so many Buddhist monuments takes center stage as this incredible temple was built from solid gold bricks. Our view of the surrounding countryside from here is also priceless. You'll also attend an informative lecture -- "Myanmar Today" -- and enjoy a cooking demonstration. 

  • DAY 10:

    Thayetmyo

    This morning, we explore the colonial town of Thayetmyo, which once guarded the border between Royal Myanmar and British Myanmar. While here, we can browse its colorful market and see the stately colonial houses built during the British occupation. For another taste of Old Britannia, we visit the country's oldest golf course and learn about its fascinating history. We'll also visit the 5th- to 9th-century archaeological site of Thiri-ya-kittiya, the former center of the Pyu civilization.
    This evening, we gather for a special Farewell Dinner on board to commemorate the end of our Irrawaddy cruise.

  • DAY 11:

    Prome, Myanmar / Disembark ship / Yangon, Myanmar

    This morning, we set off on an excursion into Prome, an important trading post that clings to its history as part of the prosperous Irrawaddy Flotilla Company in the 1890s. Later, we depart our ship for a final time and transfer to Yangon, Burma's bustling cultural and economic capital, where we enjoy three nights in a lush garden hotel overlooking Royal Lake in the heart of the city, the perfect base for exploring.

  • DAY 12:

    Yangon

    Welcome to Yangon! We begin our exploration of this historic capital with a panoramic excursion that takes in the Sule Pagoda, City Hall, and the High Court. We next stop at the city's dazzling centerpiece – the Shwedagon Pagoda, a soaring golden Buddhist stupa that soars above all, attesting to the close connection between the spiritual and the everyday.

    Later, we stop at the waterfront area; the colonial-style Scott Market brimming with antiques, jewelry and handicrafts; and the National Museum of art, history and culture. After lunch at a local restaurant, the afternoon is free. Enjoy the evening at leisure with dinner on your own.

  • DAY 13:

    Yangon

    We have today to delve more deeply, walking past markets and along streets buzzing with bicycles and rickshaws. Some of Asia’s finest British-colonial architecture is here. If you like, you may join an optional excursion to the ancient capital city of Bago, stopping at the Taukkyan War Cemetery and pausing to admire revered Buddha figures, a small village and the Khat Wain Monastery. We gather with fellow travelers this evening for a Farewell Dinner at the hotel.

    Optional Tour: Bago Day Trip

    Bago Day Trip

    • Approximate Cost: $79 USD per person
    • Approximate Time: 9 hours
    • Location: Bago, Myanmar
    • When: Full day tour, lunch included

    Join us for a day discovering the wonders of Bago, the 15th-century capital of the Mon Kingdom. You’ll learn the history and myths of the city while visiting the reclining Shwethalyaung Buddha, the four seated Buddhas at Kyaikpun, and the old palace of Kambozathadi. You’ll also see the stunning Mon-style Shwemawdaw Pagoda, the most outstanding religious monument in Bago. This golden temple stands at 375 feet tall, higher than Yangon’s Shwedagon Pagoda, and can be seen from around 6 miles outside of the city. You’ll stop at Kha Khat Wain Monastery during lunchtime to view locals offering food to the Monks and learn about their daily life in the monastery. A venture to a local weaving village is also included in your tour. On the way back to Yangon, you’ll visit the Allied War Cemetery — the peaceful, beautifully landscaped final resting place of more than 27,000 allied soldiers who perished during World War II.


  • DAY 14:

    Bangkok / Return home

    Following breakfast at your hotel, transfer to the airport and fly home.

    • Included Meals:

      Breakfast

Important Notice: The above day-by-day itineraries are preliminary and therefore subject to change. If changes occur while on tour, you will be notified by your Vantage Adventure Leader or regional expert.

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