Burma and Cambodia

This trip will take us to two absolutely amazing countries. First to Cambodia then to Burma ( Myanmar) Both are exotic but they are quite different. Cambodia is small with many remnants of the Great Khmer civilization to be seen. The people despite their intense suffering under the 70's Khmer Rouge regime, are friendly polite and humble. It is not a large country, but has sites way out of proportion to its size.

Burma (Myanmar) is much larger, with a quite varied ethnic mix. It is the land of innumerable Buddhas, and its inhabitants have been called 'The Smiling People'. You will see sites here that exceed anything you could possible imagine. We will visit the cities, cruise on the Irawaddy River for a week, visit the incredible Bagan (Pagan), and gorgeous Inle Lake. The variety of scenery in this country is impressive.

April 3 to April 23, 2016
(Click photos to enlarge)

  • Day 1 - April 3, Sunday-Phnom Penh, CambodiaCambodia

    We meet today at our hotel , The Villa Paradiso, in Phnom Penh. Phnom Penh is the bustling commercial and administrative capital of Cambodia. It is pleasant and fronts the very wide Tonle Sap River. It has an old French Colonial centre, and the Cambodians have been trying to rebuild since the extremely traumatic experience of the Khmer Rouge regime when so many people were killed and city-dwellers were forced to leave the city for manual labour in the fields of the countryside. Phnom Penh has recovered dramatically and there is an enthusiasm and optimism on the part of the people.

    We set out an hour or so before sunset on a cruise of the waterfront and the Mekong River for approximately 2 hours. Then we have dinner together (INCLUDED). Our last activity today will be a visit to the night market (which takes place only Friday, Saturday and Sunday, thus this is our only chance to visit). The night market takes place on the waterfront not far from our hotel.

    Overnight: The Villa Paradiso, Phnom Penh

  • Day 2 - April 4, Monday-Phnom Penh

    TCambodiaoday we start the day with a several-hour tour of Phnom Penh, visiting the Royal Palace, the Silver Pagoda, the Wat Penh (the main Buddhist temple),the old French quarter, and the recently restored and reopened Central Market.

    Later in the afternoon, we will take an emotional journey to visit two important reminders of the horrendous reign of Pol Pot, and the Khmer Rouge. This will be a hard visit and you can opt out if you want. Our first stop will be the Toul Sleng prison, actually a school converted for the purpose of interrogation of Cambodians suspected by the regime of being opponents. As the Nazis did, the Khmer Rouge documented in great detail the people who they retained here. It is a frightening experience but necessary in the understanding of the traumas that these people went through and the scars this has left on the national psyche. We then drive to the Killing Fields, immortalized in the film of the same name. On the way back from these 2 sites, we will stop at the colourful Russian Market to lighten the heaviness of this excursion.

    DINNER ON OWN (NOT INCLUDED) (There are many restaurants in the area near the hotel)

    Overnight: Villa Paradiso, Phnom Penh

  • Day 3 - April 5, Tuesday-Phnom Penh, on to Siem Reap

    AM- We will visit the National Museum this morning which houses the best of Khmer arts. It has some of the very best of the relics from the Angkor Archaeological complex and therefore it is worth a slow visit, because any site we see is even more impressive when one can visualize the details of statuary and friezes which have been removed.

    12:00- We will leave by minivan for Siem Reap at noon today. The drive is approximately 5 hours. The road used to be impossibly rough but it has been upgraded at least in comparison to how it used to be. I toyed with the idea of taking the “fast” boat on the Tonle Sap . However, this boat takes just as long as the drive, is becoming increasingly unreliable time-wise, and there are serious concerns over its safety. By travelling by van you will be able to appreciate the Cambodian countryside and the small villages that we pass through and get a feel for rural life and the topography of the country.

    We will check into our hotel, which has large and beautiful rooms. It is located about 10 minutes by tuk-tuk from the centre of town. This makes for a muchCambodia better sleep than downtown. The hotel provides free tuk-tuk service to and from the centre.

    We will spend the evening at the Apsara Theatre. Here we have dinner together (INCLUDED) with traditional Khmer dancing, originally seen only by the royal families. During the Khmer rouge period, 90% of all the traditionally-trained dancers in the country were killed, their art being considered too bourgeois. There has been a revival of traditional dance with young girls being trained in the intricacies of the dance movements. There are some 1500 gestures of hands , feet and facial expression to master.

    O/N Model Angkor Resort, Siem Reap

  • Day 4 - April 6, Wednesday-Siem Reap

    We will be spending all day visiting the most important sites in the Angkor Archaeological Park. This was the capital of the Khmer Empire from the 9th to the 13th centuries. There are 2 options here.

    Option 1: For those who are less active we will visit the sites of the famed Angkor Wat ( the largest religious structure in the world), the Angkor Thom (the old city) with the Bayon Temple and the recently-restored Baphuon. There will be lunch included today. Then a visit to Ta Prohm, a huge monastery complex still partially overgrown with jungle vegetation , which is both highly photogenic and evocative. The day will end with the sunset view over the Angkor Thom , a wonderful, if touristy experience. If anyone wants you can get to the lookout on elephant-back. (An extra fee for those who would like to do this)

    Option 2: I am going to contract for those who would like to tour the same sites by bicycle. This excursion is not difficult, and the bicycles are good. A guide will accompany us. We start with sunrise over the Angkor Watt, followed by breakfast. We continue on to the same sites as in Option 1 with a lunch break. As well, this will give you the opportunity to get off the beaten path, on roads through the jungle and to small villages. Although not too difficult, it is approximately 30 km of cycling and it will be VERY HOT. This should be taken into consideration, but I think it will be a once-in-a-lifetime experience.

    Return to hotel

    Evening free: DINNER ON OWN (NOT INCLUDED) - There are many restaurants and bars in Siem Reap, or you can just eat at the hotel.

    Overnight: Model Angkor Resort, Siem Reap

  • Day 5 - April 7, Thursday-Siem Reap

    CambodiaAM-This morning we will visit the perfect little temple of Banteay Serai farther afield than yesterday’s sites. It is considered to represent the high-point of Khmer traditional decoration. As well, we will stop at a couple of other less-visited archaeological sites in the Park.

    PM-This afternoon we will take part in a non-traditional style cooking class. We will first visit a host family who will show us how they source ingredients, then go to the specially-constructed cooking facility in the village where we will have our class, and then eat the meal.

    Evening-Visit to lively Siem Reap town


    Overnight: Model Angkor Resort, Siem Reap

  • Day 6 - April 8, Friday-Siem Reap-fly to Yangon.

    This morning we will visit the Cambodian Cultural Village, which showcases the different regional cultures of Cambodia, and the workshops of the “Artisans d’Angkor”, where the traditional Cambodian arts are being taught. Again, most of the country’s artisans were killed by the Khmer Rouge, and the country needs these artisans to restore classical artifacts and produce new works in traditional style.

    We will fly to Yangon, Burma today. We need to fly on Bangkok Air first to Bangkok, and then on to Yangon (Rangoon) There is no direct flight. Bangkok Air flies at 12:20 and arrives in Yangon at 17:35.

    Transfer to our hotel near the airport.Cambodia

    DINNER TOGETHER (INCLUDED) We will have dinner in Yangon at Monsoon Restaurant this evening.

    Overnight: Grand Palace Hotel, near Yangon airport (not quite as grand as it sounds)

  • Day 7- April 9, Saturday, Yangon, fly to Bagan, Board our small cruise ship

    Very early this morning we fly to Bagan (Pagan). Leaving from Yangon at 06:20. Arriving Bagan at 07:40 (as this is the only flight). I will work out an excursion for us to Mount Popa, an hour away from the airport. This is an unusual monument on top of a high hill, dedicated to the “nats”. These are animist spirits which are very important to Burmese religion and mythology. To walk to the special monuments here is not difficult although there are 777 steps. Anyone who would prefer not to do this can just take in the scenes at the lower area and the village adjoining.

    We board our ship the “ Kindat Pandaw” for lunch, which we will take on our boat. We will spend the next 7 nights on the boat and explore sites and small villages along the Irawaddy River. This is a pleasant and stress-less way to travel, saving great amounts of road time. These boats are fashioned in the style of the Irawaddy Flotilla Company’s cruise boats which plied these waters in colonial times. All meals are included on the boat. For anyone who wants, they will supply us with mountain bikes and the excursions the others are doing can be done by bicycle. A guide will be supplied where necessary. (You need to let me know if you are going to want a mountain bike for the week, as I have to let them know and I will cover the small additional cost for this).

    We then explore Bagan, one of the most amazing sites of South East Asia. Between the 11th and 13th century several thousand temples were built here by the Kings of Bagan. There are about 2000 of them that remain, and several that are especially interesting.

    Overnight: On the boat, Bagan

  • Day 8 - April 10, Sunday-Boat-Bagan

    We continue our visit to Bagan. For those who would like to explore on bicycle, this might be an ideal day to do so, as you will already be oriented to the extensive site. The cruise company has organized a visit to a lacquer workshop.

    Overnight: On the boat, Bagan

  • Day 9 - April 11, Monday-Cruise to Pakokku.

    BurmaWe cruise to Pakokku and visit the town centre , and the local market by tuk-tuk. Pakokku became famous when the local monks protested against rapidly rising fuel costs, sparking what turned into the Saffron Revolution. This leafy town will give us the opportunity to glimpse traditional life, little affected by tourism and rampant modernization. There are three interesting temples here as well.

    Overnight: On the Boat

  • Day 10 - April 12, Tuesday- Cruise to Yandabo

    This morning we will walk around Yandabo village, known for its terracotta pottery. Here we also visit the Pandaw School, funded by donations from clients of the cruise company that we are using. In the afternoon we cruise towards Mandalay.

    Overnight: On the Boat

  • Day 11 - April 13, Wednesday-Ava and Sagaing-Mandalay

    We sail to Ava (also known as Inwa), one of the old capitals of the Burmese Kings (1300 to 1837). It lies in atmospheric ruins, as most of it was built of wood, making our visit by horse-drawn transport. We will visit the 200 year old Bagaya Kyaung monastery, built in teak and with extensive and elaborate carvings.

    Later we walk through the beautiful Sagaing hills with their many monasteries and spectacular views over the Irawaddy River.

    Overnight: On the Boat

  • Day 12 - April 14, Thursday-Mingun and cruise upriverBurma

    This morning we will cruise to the village of Mingun. In addition to having time here to appreciate the local village life, we will walk to the “sights”. There is one of the very largest working bells in the world. (if not the largest) We will visit the Mingun Pagoda, although one can no longer climb to the top. Despite never being completed, it is the largest solid brick structure in the world, and one can only imagine what it would have been if it had been completed. There are a couple of other interesting structures as well. We will visit the Mingun Old Peoples’ Home, initially established by the predecessor of our cruise ship company, the Irawaddy Flotilla Company.

    In the afternoon we cruise upriver to the First Defile, to the sleepy village of Kyauk Myaung, another pottery village, especially famous for its very large pots.


  • Day 13 - April 15, Friday- Mandalay

    Mandalay is a relatively new city, exotic in reputation, but not nearly as exotic in reality. The beautiful royal palace and its many attendant temples and other buildings established in the very centre of the city was mostly destroyed by bombing during the war. Some of these buildings are being reconstructed, but mostly in concrete so that there is not such a risk of fire. (they were originally almost all wooden structures) There are several very interesting sites surrounding.

    Today we visit the city centre, including the palace enclosure, Mandalay Hill with some of its monuments and views, and the famous Mahamuni Hpaya Gyi, the city’s most important shrine. There is a Buddha here reputed to have a true representation of the face of the Buddha. Male devotees apply gold leaf to the figure. It is one of the most holy sites in Burma. The figure is reputed to weigh a full 6 tons, but is covered in an additional 2 tons of gold leaf.

    The cruise organizers program time for the visit of workshops and shopping.


  • Day 14 - April 16, Saturday-Mandalay, Leave the Boat, Monywa

    Disembarkation from our boat is at 9:00 A.M. in Mandalay.

    BurmaWe drive today to Monywa, about 2 and ½ hours away. Monywa itself is not of much interest, but there is a collection of monuments near Monywa that are quite extraordinary. One temple complex (Thanbuddhai) with well over a half a million buddhas is over-the-top architecturally, not only in terms of its number of buddhas. There is a huge reclining Buddha on a hill, and a standing Buddha 25 stories high with a description of Buddhist cosmology inside (the structure is hollow). This standing Buddha is the second tallest statue in the world. Nearby is a garden of thousands of buddhas each with its own bodhi tree. Buddha achieved enlightenment under a bodhi tree, thus the symbolism.


    Overnight: Win Unity Resort Hotel, Monywa (it must be said that there are no very nice hotels in Monywa. We stay at the better of the hotels here, but do not expect anything spectacular)

    Day 15 - April 17, Sunday-Monywa to Pyin Oo Lwin

    We leave early today to drive to Pyin Oo Lwin, just less than a 4-hour drive. Pyin Oo Lwin was a British hill town of the sort favoured by the British in India, for its cooler climate. It became a pleasant place to escape from the tropical heat of Burma. There are still quite a few colonial-era buildings, very much something out of Britain itself in design. The Kandawgyi (Royal) Gardens, in a pleasant and huge colonial park have been restored and developed to their former splendour. They form not just a beautiful site, but a botanical collection as well. We will also visit the town, and make a visit to the gorgeous Anisakan Waterfalls. For those who want to hike to the falls there will be time to do that . One advantage to taking this hike is that one can swim in the plunge pools in the river. For those who do not want to do this hike, the town itself is quite interesting. There is a Shan market in the town.


    Overnight: Hotel Pyin Oo Lwin, Pyin Oo Lwin

  • Day 16 - April 18, Monday- Pindaya, Inle LakeBurma

    This morning we will drive the hour and a half from Pyin Oo Lwin to Mandalay airport to catch a flight from Mandalay to Heho, the airport for the area around Inle Lake. We will drive first to Pindaya, through very beautiful countryside to visit the Shwe Oo Min Cave, with thousands of Buddha statues, dating way back in history and added to progressively over the centuries.

    We then head on to Nyaungshwe, on Inle Lake. Inle Lake is one of the very most fascinating places I have ever been to. The people of this area are famed for being self-reliant. They live in stilt houses, fish in the lake, trade with the hill tribes that live around the lake and in the surrounding mountain areas, and produce large amounts of vegetables in giant floating gardens. The silting soil that accumulates around the lake edge is cut into long and relatively narrow sections, which are then floated out into the lake where they are anchored with bamboo stakes, then cultivated and seeded. The vegetables can be harvested by small boats which run up and down between “rows” of the floating gardens. Each weekday there is a local market on a rotating basis, attracting people from different areas around the lake, in a great variety of traditional dress.

    Our hotel is the Inle Resort. It is directly on the lake , south of Nyaungshwe.


    Overnight: Inle Resort Hotel

  • Day 17 - April 19, Tuesday-Inle Lake

    Today we spend a full day going by boat to various sites around the lake. We will visit stilt villages, the local daily market, and the floating gardens. We will go by boat up a canal to a very picturesque collection of stupas overgrown with vegetation, and walk from here up a covered walkway to Shwe Inthein Paya, another ancient collection of stupas which are slowly being restored. We will stop at a Buddhist temple built on stilts. It was famous in the past for its trained “jumping” cats. It still has many cats, but they are no longer being trained by the monks. This, with lunch, will make a full day excursion. Return to hotel.


    Overnight: Hotel Inle Resort

  • Day 18 - April 20, Wednesday-Inle Lake, fly to Yangon

    BurmaAM-There will be three activities today:

    Activity 1, OPTION 1: One group can head out early in the morning to walk (bicycling is also an option) for about 1 hour to Thit Tha Kyaung (the Forest Monastery)There is a steep hill to climb and then a wonderful view from the monastery over the lake. It is a working monastery so that as long as one is not intrusive, there are very interesting photographs to be taken. The walk down is fast and easy. (Note, if anyone wants to cycle, they will have to lug the bicycles up and down the hill)

    Activity 1, OPTION 2: Anyone who does not want to do this walk can just stay behind to enjoy the hotel and the village nearby.

    Activity 2: If there is a daily market not too far away today, we will go there first.

    Activity 3: We will all visit the fantastic Khaung Daing Hot springs. They have opened a stylish new wing, and one can enjoy their beautiful bathing pools, a fun experience after a lot of travel.

    Drive to Heho to the airport. Air Bagan flight at 16:55 to Yangon, arrives Yangon 17:35. Transfer to Hotel.


    Overnight: Hotel Esperado, Yangon

  • Day 19 - April 21, Thursday-Yangon

    This morning we will explore the centre of the old city of Yangon. We will visit the waterfront, the Sule Pagoda, the Maha Bandoola Garden, the old colonial architecture, the Botataung Pagoda.

    After lunch we will visit the incredibly dynamic markets of the city: Bogyoke Market, the Open Air Market, the Indian Market and Chinatown.Burma

    In the late afternoon we will visit the Shwedagon , so that we can experience sunset and the evening visit of the faithful. The Shwedagon is one of the wonders of the world. In my opinion there are few places as awe-inspiring. It sits on a low rising hill, with long monumental covered staircases approaching from the 4 cardinal directions. The central stupa is the most revered Buddhist temple in Burma. It is said to house eight hairs of the Buddha. It is covered in gold (said to have needed almost 22,000 gold bars to complete the task). Its spire , crowned with a ceremonial umbrella is said to be adorned with 5448 diamonds, 2317 rubies, 1065 golden bells, sapphires and other gems, all topped with a 76 carat diamond to catch the rays of the sun at dawn and dusk. The terrace surrounding the Shwedagon has approximately 100 pagodas and other structures. It takes 2 to 3 hours to visit, and although crowded, there is a wonderful calm here.


    Overnight: Hotel Esperado, Yangon

  • Day 20 - April 22, Friday-Yangon

    BurmaToday we will visit the leafy suburbs, the Kandawgyi (Royal)Lake, Inya Lake, the Chauk Htat Gyi Pagoda, with its reclining Buddha, 66 metres long. It is a sight to be seen indeed.

    For those who want there is a Gem Museum, or the National Museum. Or, just relax or wander.

    The afternoon will be free until 5 P.M. when we take a sunset cruise on the Yangon River.

    DINNER TOGETHER (INCLUDED) for our last dinner of this trip

    Overnight: Hotel Esperado, Yangon

  • Saturday, April 23 - Leave for home


  1. Price of trip:

    $5740.00 CDN based on double occupancy.
    Deposit of $750.00 on booking.
    Balance due February 20, 2016.
    Single supplement $950.00 CDN (there will be a limited number of single spaces available)

  2. Cancellation Policy:
    If cancelled by March 1, 2016, charge of $250.00 CDN plus any flights booked by us in your name for flights within Cambodia and Burma (including the flight from Siem Reap to Yangon via Bangkok). If cancelled by March 15, 2016, 50% refund. If cancelled after March 15, 2016, No Refund.

  3. Includes:

    All hotel and cruise accommodations (cruise is 7 nights), breakfast daily, 3 meals a day on the cruise boat, all dinners except for 4,
    Cooking Class with meal in Siem Reap, lunch on the day of the Angkor Watt excursion, all entrance fees to sites, all ground transportation (except from the Phnom Penh airport on arrival and to Yangon airport for trip home), bicycle rentals for those who want to do cycling tours (All cycling is optional), guides to sites, flights from Siem Reap to Yangon (via Bangkok), Yangon to Bagan, Mandalay to Heho, Heho to Yangon.

  4. Excursions Included:Burma
    a) Waterfront Cruise Phnom Penh
    b) Excursion in Phnom Penh to the Killing Fields and Tuol Sleng Prison and the Russian Market
    c) Apsara Theatre outing with dinner in Siem Reap
    d) Excursion to Angkor main sites-one group by transport, a second group by bicycle
    e) Excursion by van to Banteay Serai , stopping at Roluos
    f) Cooking Class (afternoon), Siem Reap
    g) Excursion to Cambodian Cultural Village and Artisans d’Angkor, Siem Reap
    h) Excursion to Mount Popa (half day) from Bagan
    i) Daily excursions as organized from our small cruise ship (see Pandaw Cruises, 7 nights, Bagan to Mandalay)
    j) Transport Mandalay to Monywa (minivan) and visits to the 4 Buddhist sites
    k) Transport Monywa to Pyin Oo Lwin (minivan) with visits to the Royal Gardens, the town, and the Anisakan waterfalls.
    l) Transport Heho airport to visit Pindaya caves and on to Inle Lake to our hotel
    m) Full day excursion by boat to visit the sites of Inle Lake
    n) Excursion to Khaung Daing Hot Springs and to Heho airport with stops.
    o) Excursions to suburbs of Yangon visiting the sites.
    p) Sunset cruise on the Yangon River
    q) Walking tours of Phnom Penh and Yangon

    - Airfare to and from arrival/departure destinations from Canada/U.S.
    - Non-alcoholic beverages (except at breakfast)-They are, however, included on Cruise
    - Alcoholic beverages (except for national brands on the cruise only)
    - All lunches (except for 7 cruise lunches and one other lunch-therefore 8 Included)


    Activity level- moderately active. Hikes are all voluntary. Cycling is completely voluntary. Must be able to walk for 3 to 4 hours at a time, but no strenuous walking unless you want to.

    Weather-Very hot. We are going pre-Monsoon season. Although very hot, the difference in the couple of months before this is basically imperceptible. You will need to keep well-hydrated.

    Money- Local currencies. Small local bills can be helpful to give DISCRETELY to kids you meet along the way. American dollars in smaller denominations can be used in certain circumstances.
    (Do not take Canadian dollars)


    For itinerary details contact Donald Smith at : donalex.smith@gmail.com or travel-alchemy@tnt21.com

    For bookings contact Susan Hickling at : susan@hanovertravelplus.ca Tel:1-800-265-5515

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