Take this "Journey Bhutan Myanmar" with us in two Buddhist lands of Asia, Bhutan and Myanmar (Burma). Bhutan represents Mahayana Buddhism which introduces the demi-gods, Bodhisatvas, who are already qualified for nirvana but would return to the earth again and again seeking complete enlightenment for the benefit of all sentient beings. Meanwhile, Myanmar practices Theravada, which is an ancient Buddhist school with the foundation in Four Noble Truths and the Eightfold Path.
In Bhutan, we visit the impressive Dzongs (fortresses) that have unique Bhutanese style of architecture, hike the sacred ridge top monasteries, and explore the local villages. We will also visit the local arts and craft workshops and attend the weekend market and festivals, if they are open.
In Myanmar, we have chance to visit a vast myriad of golden temples, floating markets, traditional arts and craft shops, local markets and visit a private home in Inle Lake to learn Burmese Innthar traditional cooking recipe.
Arrive in Bangkok. Bangkok has so much to offer those with time to explore, so perhaps arrive a day or so early and take a riverboat to Chinatown and explore the crowded streets, uncover the magnificent Grand Palace and the Temple of the Emerald Buddha, pay a visit to Wat Pho (home to the country's largest reclining Buddha), wander down the tourist mecca of Khao San Road, or indulge in some Thai massage.
Indulge Bangkok’s eating experiences with lunch at a Thai restaurant, or if feeling adventurous some delicious street food. Once refueled, get refreshed with an afternoon shopping for designer labels and discount bargains in air-conditioned Shopping Malls like Siam Paragon, Central World or MBK.
At night culture vultures take in an enriching spectacle like Siam Niramit, which packs all the history and grandeur of Siam into a spectacular stage show. If these sound too civilized, go discover why ‘one night in Bangkok makes a hard man humble’: peep through the curtains of Patpong market’s go-go bars while shopping for counterfeits, meet flamboyant boy-meets-girl creations at a Ladyboy Show, or check out just how a Thai Boxing match can be!
Grand Palace, Temple of the Emerald Buddha, Wat Pho
- Shanghai Mansion Bangkok
- Dream Bangkok
Your second day in Bangkok (or Krung Thep as local speak) is fulfilled with another bout of city sightseeing. Firstly we visit the Jim Thompson’s House, then gain insight into Thailand’s artistic and cultural heritage, one of many fascinating museums. Float on the canals route or Khlongs Tour, you will understand why Bangkok used to be known as the ‘Venice of the East’.
In the afternoon, we go for high-tea at one of the riverside’s five-star hotels, Mandarin Oriental. Radiating colonial charm, the hotel’s author lounge is the place to nibble cucumber sandwiches while admiring the Chao Phraya Rivers beautiful bustle. Maintain the river theme by ending your day with a sunset dinner cruises past Wat Arun, one of the many exquisite religious and royal sights strewn along the ‘River of Kings’. Relax at your hotel.
Jim Thompson's House, Khlongs Tour, Sunset dinner cruises past Wat Arun
Board an very early flight to Bhutan. After clearing immigration and customs, follow the exit sign to meet your Bhutan Senses Travel guide and driver outside. Then we’ll drive to Thimphu, about a scenic hour away. After lunch at the hotel, we’ll have a walking tour of Thimphu town, the only capital in the world without any traffic lights. You will visit the Memorial Chorten (shrine) of the 3rd King of Bhutan Jigme Dorje Wangchuk.
National Memorial Chorten
- Hotel Thimphu Towers
- Namgay Heritage Hotel
Today we truly begin our tour of the Himalayan capital. If it’s the weekend, we can visit the colorful weekend market. Here is where the farmers from the villages come to sell their fresh produce, as well as dried fish, herbs, yak butter, fermented cheese, and such arts and crafts as fabrics and wooden bowls. Usually, archery matches will be underway in the neighboring grounds, and we won’t want to miss that. Archery is the national sport of Bhutan and is played by the Bhutanese men with pride and glory.
After that, we visit the Jungshi Handmade Paper Factory to see the traditional paper making methods; and the Gagyel Lhundrup Weaving Center, which produces traditional hand-woven textiles and has a selection of cloth and ready-made garments for sale. During the week days, we can visit the National Institute for Zorig Chusum, which provides a six-year course on Bhutan's 13 traditional arts and crafts of painting, wood carving, embroidery, and statue making.
Other attractions of Thimphu are: The National Institute of Traditional Medicine, which prepares and dispenses traditional herbal and other medicines; the Folk Heritage Museum, a three-storied rammed mud and timber building, which is a replica of a century old traditional farmhouse; The National Memorial Chorten, a memorial to the third king of Bhutan, Jigme Dorji Wangchuk; The Zilukha Nunnery in Drubthob Goemba, a residence of 40-65 nuns; The Textile Museum, where you can learn a bit more about Bhutan's living and national art of weaving; The National Library, which houses a large collection of Bhutan's traditional books and manuscripts; and The Motithang Takin Preserve, where Takin, the national animals are kept. Depending on your interest and available time, we can visit all or some of those sites.
For the hiking enthusiasts, Thimphu has a number of short hiking destinations. The one we would like to recommend is a hike to Tango Goemba Monastery, which is an easy hike of about a 45 minutes or an hour. The Monastery functions as the college for some 280 monks and is the residence of Gyalse Rinpoche, an important reincarnated Lama. At the monastery, you will have a hot cup of tea with the monks, a chance to learn about their monastic life and the Buddhist religion. We can teach them some English, and maybe even learn some Bhutanese phrases. On the way back, we can stop to visit the impressive Tashichho Dzong. It is the fortress of the Glorious Religion, and is the administrative and religious center of Bhutan. The fortress houses the Royal Throne and Bhutan's National Assembly. We will only have access to the religious section. This is also the venue for Thimphu's Tsechu festivals in September or October.
National Library, Folk and Heritage Museum, Tashichho Dzong...
Set off to Punakha, the Bhutan’s former winter capital. We will drive through some picturesque villages and terraced fields and later, the road winds up through the pine forests and passes by chortens (stupas) and prayer flags before heading up to the Dochula Pass at 10,000 feet. The pass offers panoramic views of snow-capped mountains and valleys on a clear weather day.
We’ll settle into the resort and, after lunch, we take a gentle 25-minute hike through paddy fields and the villages to Chimi Lakhang Temple, known as the Fertility Temple, or visit the Nalanda Buddhist College, locally known as Dalayna. Overnight in Punakha.
Chimi Lhakhang, Nalanda Buddhist College
- Meri Puensum Resort
- Lobesa Hotel Punakha
Start the day with a pleasant hike to the Khamsum Yulley Namgyel Chorten, which is about 30 or 45 minutes from the road, atop a beautiful hillock overlooking the valley. Built by the Queen Mother, the temple is dedicated for the well-being of the kingdom and the benefit of all sentient beings.
For the return trip, we can descend a different way to the Punakha Dzong Fortress, which is among the most impressive fort architectures of Bhutan. After lunch, check out of the hotel and retrace the drive to Paro via Dhochula pass and Thimphu.
Khamsum Yulley Namgyel Chorten, Punakha Dzong
- Metta Resort & Spa
- Bhutan Mandala Resort
Begin to visit your most highlight of the trip, a trek to Takstang (Tiger’s Nest) monastery, Bhutan’s most famous sight. A proper trekking boot or good walking shoes is necessary for this hike. Your guide can arrange pony/horse for ride uphill till the cafeteria, but one must be able to walk after that. Those who choose not to hike can stay back with the driver and tour around Paro.
Venerated and famous Taktshang or ‘Tiger’s Nest’ as it is often referred to for Taktshang Pelphung monastery, is located on the face of a 900m sheer cliff, accessible only by walk or to ride mules/pony. Taktshang was rebuilt by population of village of Tsento. Again in April of 1998, a major fire destroyed the main structure of the building and its contents (some believe it to be arson). Reconstruction began in 2000 and was completed and consecrated after extensive efforts and financial support of Governments as well as donors.
Tonight you may experience Bhutan's traditional Hot Stone Bath (Cost $25-30) that is believed to cure skin ailments, joint pains, hypertension, stomach disorder, arthritis, and many other minor diseases. Overnight in Paro.
Taktsang Lhakhang, Kyichu Lhakhang
Being transferred to the Paro airport for the flight back to Bangkok. Our guide and driver will be awaiting to transfer you to the hotel and relax.
Catch a flight to Yangon, Myanmar. Upon arrival, you will be met by our local guide and driver and transferred to the hotel.
Take some time for refreshment then start to explore the wonders of Yangon, which is also known as Rangoon. Situated at the fertile delta of the Yangon River in Southern Myanmar, the city is filled with tree-shaded boulevards, and gleaming stupas that rise above the treetops. The capital was moved from Mandalay to Yangon in 1885 by the British. The first sight of the day is the shimmering octagonal Sule Pagoda that stands in the heart of the city. The pagoda is believed to be 2,000 years old and is said to contain a hair of Buddha.
Next, we will want to visit the National Museum. It is a repository of the ancient Burmese heritage of civilizations. Attractions include the 8-meter-high Sihasana Lion Throne, used by the last Burmese king, and many other fascinating artifacts from Burmese history. Enjoy a break at the Bogyoke (Scott Market), a vibrant covered market selling crafts, jewelry, vegetables, food, fabrics, and more. The market is vibrant, but closed on Mondays and public holidays. In the afternoon, we can explore more of the pagodas, including Botataung Pagoda, which commemorates the 1,000 military leaders who brought the relics of Buddha to Myanmar 2,000 years ago. Ngadatkyipaya, with a giant, seated Buddha image, is also compelling. The final stop of the day is Shwedagon Pagoda, which attracts more travelers than any other attraction in Myanmar. Towering over the city, this 2,500-year-old pagoda houses eight sacred hair relics of the Buddha; it is the most revered shrine in the country. The Shwedagon and surrounding shrines are most beautiful during the sunset hour, as the golden stupa reflects the changing colors of twilight.
Shwedagon, Ngadatkyipaya, Myanmar National Museum
After breakfast, we will head for the airport for our 80-minute flight to Bagan. It is on a spectacular plain stretching away from the Ayeyarwaddy River, dotted with thousands of 800-year-old temple ruins that are among the most astounding archeological wonders in the world. At the Nyaung U airport our local guide and driver will meet us, with all arrangements made.
After hotel check in, we can set out to explore the land of four million pagodas. Highlights of the day include a visit to Nyaing Oo Local Market, where you can take a stroll along the market stalls offering a variety of fresh farm produce and a range of unique local items and souvenirs to take home. The Shwezigon Pagoda was built by King Anawrahta in the early 11th century as the first Buddhist monument built in Myanmar style. The Ananda Patho (Temple) has four huge Buddha Images in standing position with reliefs depicting the Buddha from his birth to his Enlightenment. It is adjacent to the brick monastery and you can see the well-preserved murals from the early Bagan era. The Thatbyinnyu Temple is the highest white stucco building in Bagan. We’ll want to drive back to the hotel to avoid the intense noon heat.
Later this afternoon we'll set out again to see some spectacular and important sites, including the Manuha Temple built by the exiled King Manuha of Thaton dating back to 1059, in the Mon Style; and Nanapaya Temple, which is believed to stand at the site where King Manuha has his palace. We will also hope to stop at the Lacquerware Workshop to learn about the thorough process of lacquerware making and decoration. Toward the end of the day, we can climb on the perfectly situated Pyathetgyi Pagoda for its spectacular sunset view over the mountain ranges in the distance.
Nyaing Oo Local Market, Shwezigon Pagoda, Ananda Patho (Temple)...
Drive to visit Mount Popa, a cylindrical hill that rises sharply from the surrounding plain, and is considered to be the home of Myanmar's most important nats (spirits). Ascend the mountain via a winding covered staircase watched by the curious monkeys that populate the area. We can see at the top a monastery and temple complex with shrines to the 37 nats, along with spectacular views.
On the way back, we stop at a typical village, where villages demonstrate how they press palm juice and oils from the native plants, make jiggery from the sugars, and weave baskets from the palm leaves.
Fly to Mandalay, the last capital town of royal Burma. Mandalay is still among the major cities of Myanmar and a cultural and spiritual center. After hotel checkin, we can set out to explore the area. Stop at the Mahamuni Paya with an image covered with six inches of gold leaf. The image is among the most venerated ones in Myanmar. Pious Burmese people swarm to the temple daily at 4 a.m. to observe the unique face-washing ceremony. On the way to the pagoda, you can stop to watch the backbreaking process of gold-leaf-beating. You may also choose to visit the craft workshops specializing on bronze-casting, marble-carving, wood-carving, and puppetry.
The afternoon tour begins from Shwenandaw Kyaung or the Golden Teak Monastery. Built entirely of golden teak, this intricately carved wooden monastery was once a part of the Mandalay Palace, used as private apartments by King Mindon and his Chief Queen. Next: Kyaukawgyi Paya, which is known for its massive image of seated Buddha, carved out of a single block of marble. Continue on to Sandamani Paya, a cluster of slender white-washed stupas. We can also visit Kuthodaw Paya, which contains the world's largest book. The central stupa is surrounded by picturesque miniature pavilions, each housing a slab of marble, inscribed with the entire Tripitkata, or Buddhist scriptures. In the evening, we can climb the Mandalay Hill to enjoy the view at sunset.
Golden Teak Monastery, Mandalay Palace, Kyaukawgyi Paya, Mandalay Hill...
Fly to Heho. Our guide and driver will met you and take you to Pindaya, about a 90-minute drive. There we’ll find unique caves where pilgrims placed thousands of Buddha images over the span of many centuries. The images are made from alabaster, teak, marble, brick, lacquer, and cement. They are arranged in such a way as to form a labyrinth throughout the various cave chambers. After that, pay a hike to visit the Shwe U Min Paya which is a cluster of low stupas just below the ridge near the caves. At the foot of the hill, are small workshops that make the paper parasols. Overnight in Inle Lake.
Pindaya Caves, Shwe U Min Paya
This day is a day of multi-activities. Firstly we travel by car to the Inle Lake, about two and a half hours away, and then board a boat to get to the hotel. Located in Shan State, Inle Lake has tranquil waters dotted with patches of floating vegetation and fishing canoes. The lake is surrounded by hills, with 17 villages on stilts in the islands and along the lakeshore.
Travel by boat to the western shore of the lake to a stairway and walk to the hidden Indein temple complex. Located on the shore of the lake, this site consists of hundreds of small stupas overgrown by moss and greens. Continue on foot past rice fields to the village of Sae Ma, stopping to explore the village. In the afternoon meet the village locals on the lake and travel to one of the monasteries to observe the monastic activities.
Visiting temples on Inle Lake
After breakfast, transfer to a local home of Inthar and meet with the family in Pauk Par Village. The local family will prepare for you to learn about traditional cuisines. But firstly, the local family will lead you to the one of rotational local markets around Inle Lake. Explore around the local market, where greenish vegetables, fresh meats, colorful fruits, local products and others. Buy some ingredients which are required for your cooking class and transfer back to the local Inthar home.
Now, it's about time to learn and cook like an Inthar, the local family will explain about the cuisines you are about to cook and show you how to cook step by step. Discover and enjoy how local Inthar people prepare their meals. After finish cooking, enjoy lunch with the traditional cuisines you've made. After lunch transfer back to hotel or continue sightseeing for half day in the lake.
Enjoy a boat ride on Inle Lake and discover its calm serenity, still waters and colourful brush strokes of floating vegetation and slow moving fishing canoes. Rolling high hills hug the lake on all sides, as the lake's shore and islands host 17 villages on stilts, mostly inhabited by the Intha people. Enjoy the awe inspiring scenery and meditate on the one of a kind skill of the local fishermen who make use of their legs in a unique rowing technique to glide themselves gracefully around the lake. Visit the enchanting floating gardens, a teeming market and an Intha village around the lake. The day also includes a visit to the Phaung Daw Oo Pagoda, Inn Paw Khon Village (Lotus and silk weaving villages) and the Nga Phe Kyaung Monastery.
Joining cooking class, Phaung Daw Oo Pagoda, Inn Paw Khon Village (Lotus and silk weaving villages), Nga Phe Kyaung Monastery
This morning we connect a flight back to Yangon then board the onward flight home.
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