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Thailand & Burma Discovery

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Journey to the rarely visited southern states of Burma including the striking mountainous Kayin Stat.
Includes return economy airfares

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Escorted Journey
From the majestic Grand Palace of Bangkok to the 4000 temples of Bagan this trip captures the history and beauty of two distinctly different countries.

Highlights

Capitalising on a recently opened border crossing we will explore the rarely visited southern states of Burma as well as visiting Thailand’s key cultural highlights.

Some of the highlights included are:

  • Explore vibrant Bangkok by boat along its network of canals and waterway.
  • Journey to the rarely visited southern states of Burma including the striking mountainous Kayin Stat.
  • Cycle among the thousands of pagodas in Bagan and the lawns, lakes and trees of Sukhothai Historical Park
  • Visit the bustling street markets of Rangoon and admire the faded colonial architecture

Holiday Type

Culture
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  • Y
  • Y
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  • N
Off the Beaten Track
  • Y
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  • N

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What's included
  • International and internal flights
  • All accommodation
  • All transport and listed activities
  • Tour leader throughout
  • Arrival transfers in Bangkok
Need to know
  • Visa requirements: British passport holders require a tourist visa; please ask your travel consultant for more information
Your route

Itinerary

Day 1
Bangkok

Bangkok

Arrive Bangkok. There will be a briefing with the leader followed by an optional group meal in a local restaurant.

Day 2
Bangkok City Tour including Grand Palace

Bangkok City Tour including Grand Palace

This morning we take a short walk to the Chao Praya River where we board a long tail boat for a tour of the local canals. Bangkok was once known as the Venice of the East because of its intricate canal network. We get a glimpse of daily life as we pass locals selling their wares by the river. We will visit what to this day remains the home of the Thai Royal family at the Royal Palace complex followed by Wat Phra Kaew, home to the Emerald Buddha, one of Thailand's most venerated images. Another highlight is Wat Po, the largest temple in Bangkok, housing a 46m long, 15m high gold-plated reclining Buddha. This afternoon is free to explore this fascinating city further.

Day 3
Kanchanaburi

Kanchanaburi

Today we transfer to the small riverside town of Kanchanaburi. We will take a ride on the infamous Death Railway but first we visit the Hellfire Pass so called because POW's were forced to chisel through solid rock, working by firelight on a particularly difficult section of the line resulting in a heavy loss of life. The film 'Bridge on the River Kwai' is fictional but uses the construction of the Burma Railway in 1942/43 for its historical setting. The Japanese used Allied POW's to build a railway from Thailand to Burma so they could supply their army without the dangers of sending supplies by sea. Thousands of POW's died under appalling conditions during its construction and the line became known as the 'death railway'. Our train ride will finish at the bridge itself which was reconstructed after the war and is used today to take trains over the river.

Day 4
Kanchanaburi – Ayutthaya

Kanchanaburi – Ayutthaya

Day 5
Pitsanuloke – Sukhothai

Pitsanuloke – Sukhothai

Continuing to wind our way through north-west Thailand we transfer to the town of Pitsanuloke. Once named Song Khwae, meaning two rivers, Phitsanulok is situated between the Nan and Khwae Noi Rivers, and provides a great break for lunch. There will be time to visit Wat Phra Sri Rattana Mahathat (Wat Yai), the most important temple in Phitsanulok and home of the famous Phra Buddha Chinnarat, one of the most revered Buddha figures in Thailand. We can also visit a Buddha workshop that provides an intriguing insight into how the Buddha statues are made. We end our day in Sukhothai, the first ancient capital of Siam.

Day 6
Sukhothai

Sukhothai

Located in a beautiful setting of lawns, lakes and trees Sukhothai Historical Park was established in the 13th century and is famed for its World Heritage listed park that captures the Golden Age of Thai civilisation; its name literally translates to Dawn of Happiness. We will explore the temple complex by bicycles this morning admiring the temples that punctuate the skyline in many shapes and forms. As the main sites are fairly spread out travelling by bicycle allows us to see so much more and to interact with the friendly locals along the way. We will stop for a home-cooked picnic lunch en-route before cycling back into town. For those not wanting to cycle there will be the option to take a tuk tuk around the sights instead which your tour leader can arrange for you. The evening is free to explore the town, a visit to the night market is highly recommended where local delicacies such as sticky rice with deep fried pork, sweet deep fried beef or spicy pork salad wrapped in a banana leaf are all served.

Day 7
Mae Sot

Mae Sot

Today is our final day in Thailand as we make our way to the Mae Sot border town. En route we will stop at a traditional Lahu hilltribe fruit and vegetable market where we can try some SE Asian specialities – don’t miss the delicious mangosteens and rambutans. The so called ‘King Fruit’, Durian, is an acquired taste for most as it can be difficult to get past smell while eating it – it’s so pungent the fruit is banned from many hotels in the region! After lunch we arrive at Mae Sot. Despite its remote location and relatively small size, it is among the most culturally diverse cities in Thailand and a melting pot of people and cultures. Walking down the streets of the town, we'll see a fascinating ethnic mixture of Burmese men in their longyi (sarongs), Hmong and Karen women in traditional hill-tribe dress, bearded Muslims and Thai army rangers. Burmese and tribal Karen are spoken as much as Thai, shop signs along the streets are in Thai, Burmese and Chinese, and most of the temple architecture is Burmese.

Day 8
Mae Sot to Hpa An

Mae Sot to Hpa An

We set off early this morning to cross the Friendship Bridge and pass through immigration. Today is a long day of driving (approx. 9 hours) due to the mountainous terrain and lack of good quality roads. We will gain a real insight into rural Burma as we pass through villages and towns rarely visited by tourists. Our destination is Hpa An, the small but bustling capital of the Kayin State. Surrounded by striking limestome mountains and carpeted with lush paddy fields this small town provides a peaceful setting for our overnight stop. Although tourism is rapidly increasing in Burma these few days beside the border and in the mountains remind us what life was like all over until the recent invitation to return to Burma was issued by eminent politician Aung Aan Suu Kyi.

Day 9
Mawlamyine

Mawlamyine

After breakfast we depart for Thanbyuzayat. This small town was the western terminus for the Thailand/Burma ‘Death’ Railway as it linked the coastal railway between countries. It was also the site of a Japanese POW camp and over 3000 Allied soldiers are buried in the War Memorial that we visit. We continue our journey to Mawlamyine, our overnight stop. With the sea on one side, stupa-capped hills on the other and a centre filled with crumbling colonial-era buildings and mosques, Mawlamyine is a unique combination of landscape and beauty. It is often cited as the setting that inspired George Orwell and Rudyard Kipling in their classics about Burma. Orwell lived here for some years (his famous 1936 essay ‘Shooting an Elephant’ is about an experience he had as a police officer in Mawlamyine), and generations of his family were born and bred here. Relatively little has changed since those days, and if you've ever wondered what life was like during the Raj, Mawlamyine is about as close as it comes to a living time capsule. We will end the day watching a glowing sun sink behind the magnificent Kyaikthalan pagoda

Day 10
Kyaikhtiyo Pagoda Golden Rock

Kyaikhtiyo Pagoda Golden Rock

We depart early today to transfer (approx. 4 hours) to Kyaikhtiyo, the site of the Kyaikhtiyo Pagoda, also known as the ‘Golden Rock’. This Buddhist pilgrimage site is a balancing golden rock that seems to defy gravity as it sits precariously on the top of Mt Kyaikhtiyo, a peak that is part of the Eastern Yoma mountains. Said to balance on a strand of the Buddha’s hair it is the third most important Buddhist pilgrimage site in Burma after the Shwedagon Pagoda and the Mahamuni Pagoda. A glimpse of the Golden Rock is believed to be enough of an inspiration for any person to turn to Buddhism and at peak pilgrimage season, November to March, an atmosphere of devotion is witnessed with the lightings of candles, meditation and offerings to the Buddha continuing throughout the night. We will follow the same route as the pilgrims as we hike through the twisting bamboo forest making our way along the 4km path to the top. It can be fairly steep however we will walk at a leisurely pace and the walk up is no longer than an hour. Visiting the Kyaikhtiyo Pagoda is one of Burma’s most spiritual experiences; combined with the incredible views from the top this will be a memorable day for all. We stay overnight right next to the rock in a hotel that has panoramic views of the mountain range, perfect for admiring the dramatic sunset.

Day 11
Rangoon

Rangoon

We have a little more time this morning to explore Kyaikhtiyo before returning to base camp to meet our bus for the transfer to Bago (approx. 3 hours). Bago was the Mon Kingdom capital in 13th century and here we visit the Shwethalyaung Buddha, the second largest Buddha in the world. The Buddha is believed to have been built in 994, during the reign of Mon King Migadepa. We continue with a brief transfer to Rangoon (officially Yangon), Burma’s largest city and site of much cultural importance.

Day 12
Rangoon

Rangoon

Rangoon sits under the shadow of the magnificent Shwedagon Pagoda. To the south we will explore dilapidated colonial edifices and busy side streets on our city tour. Downtown Rangoon with its unpaved streets lined with old wooden shuttered houses, medicine shops, temples and the more colorful markets offers plenty of photographic opportunities. Close by, we visit Shwe Bontha, perhaps the most photogenic of all streets in the city, with its leafy sidewalks, pavement tea-shops and magnificent colonial buildings. We will have a break for lunch and in the late afternoon we visit Bogyoke Market with food, clothing and handicrafts all on sale. Later we will head to Lake Kandawgyi to view the Karaweik replica of the Royal Barge, before ascending to Shwedagon Pagoda for impressive views over Rangoon. Overnight in Rangoon.

Day 13
Bagan

Bagan

This morning we leave early for our short flight to the ancient wonder of Bagan (Pagan), where we will do a short orientation walk on arrival. There are over 4000 temples and pagodas in many shapes and sizes to explore amongst the 25 square miles of brick that compare to the Angkor Kingdom of Cambodia, Chichen Itza and Machu Picchu as one of the world's most spectacular archaeological sites. This is where Buddhism, Hinduism and Nat worship come together in an array of different shrines. There is free time to explore the area by bike (optional) or on foot before this evening's visit to Shwezigon Paya one of Bagan's most famous temples. This is the only temple which is a Buddhist Temple as well as a Nat Shrine in the same compound, and reflects the local beliefs here which combine both religions. This evening we have the chance to enjoy an optional group dinner at a local restaurant with a traditional string puppet show performance. Overnight in Bagan.

Day 14
Bagan

Bagan

A full day spent exploring the temple complex spreading out as far as the horizon with its peaks of brick stupas that dot the skyline in many shapes and forms. We will spend half the day exploring by bicycle so that we can reach the outer parts of the park. After the former Kings of Bagan introduced Theravada Buddhism in the mid-11th century building commenced, a string of Kings followed building temples to worship their gods. Ananda Pahto with its bejeweled umbrella (hti), Dhammayangyi pahto and Shwesandaw Paya are the largest and most impressive sights we will visit along with the smaller hidden gems well away from the main tourist route which offer unique opportunities to climb and delve deeper into the history. We will finish the day with sunset at Shwe Sandaw Temple with its stunning 360 degree views, don't forget to look behind as the sun hits the many temples nearby, a truly magical experience and a photographer's paradise. Overnight in Bagan.

Day 15
Rangoon

Rangoon

We fly back to Rangoon, and transfer to hotel. Afternoon is free to explore on your own or last minute shopping or packing. Overnight in Rangoon.

Day 16
Rangoon

Rangoon

End Rangoon.

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