Encounter booming cities and magical rural villages on this China, Burma and Thailand tour.

Observe the evolution of these three rapidly evolving nations - each of which have brought their distinct cultural identities with them as they forge ahead into the modern era. Contrast day-to-day life in the emerging superpowers of China and Thailand with the rustic charm of Burma - a country that has only recently opened its doors to travellers once again. Beginning in the thriving metropolis of Kunming, head out into rural China and discover timeless countryside that is studded with temples and quiet villages. Cross into Burma and be amazed by the gleaming vistas of Bagan, dazzled by the ‘Golden City’ of Mandalay and curious toward the nation’s former capital - Yangon. End the trip in Thailand, where the neon lights and buzzing streets of electric Bangkok provide a fascinating glimpse into Thailand’s progression from backpacker haven into a true South-East Asian heavyweight.

Start
Kunming, China
Finish
Bangkok, Thailand
Countries
China,
Burma (Myanmar),
Thailand
Themes
Explorer, Overland
Code
CDVA
Physical rating
Cultural rating
Ages
Min 18
Group size
Min 4 Max 21
Carbon offset
0kg pp per trip


Highlights

  • Discover Kunming, the modern capital of China's Yunnan
  • Relax in Dali's cobbled Old Town
  • Hike through the rural heart of Burma's Shan state
  • Wander around Burma's last royal city, Mandalay
  • Cruise along the Irrawaddy River on a boat
  • Explore the archaeological wonders of Bagan
  • Visit tiny tribal villages and enjoy the tranquility of Lake Inle
  • Marvel at golden-gilded Buddhas in Yangon
  • Admire the sunset from Mount Kyaiktiyo
  • Travel overland through Burma's southern Mon state
  • Be bowled over by the buzzing hive of activity that is Bangkok

Itinerary

Today will be a free day to explore the city of Kunming until the evening. There will be a group meeting today at 6:00pm - your leader will leave a note at reception telling you where this important meeting will take place. In Kunming we will stay in a comfortable hotel.

Activity
Visit the historic Yuantong and Tanhua Buddhist temples in Kunming CNY 6
Visit the Yunnan University Wu Mayao Museum of Anthropology in Kunming, and learn all about the history of the province
Learn all about the area's minorities at the Yunnan Provincial Museum, and visit the nearby markets

About Kunming:
Kunming, the capital of Yunnan province is known in China as "the city of eternal spring" due to its temperate climate. It's a thoroughly modern city, home to a population of about 6 million - but despite its size it's actually pretty laid-back and is an enjoyable place to while away an afternoon. The Yuantong temple is definitely worth a visit, at over 1000 years old it is the largest Buddhist temple complex in Kunming, or treat yourself to a hair cut from one of the outdoor barbers who offer their services around the Tang Pagodas.
This morning we start out journey with a drive to the beautiful lakeside town of Dali. We will have a free afternoon to explore on arrival. Drive time - 5-6 hours (please note that all drive times given here are approximate estimates only and are given with the best intentions - however please be aware that the drive times are heavily dependent on traffic, road conditions, weather, police roadblocks, and many other factors - flexibility is essential on any overland trip!). On the following day we will have a free day in Dali to enjoy the many optional activities available in the area, including taking a boat ride out on Lake Er Hai or taking the cable car up Cangtang Mountain. In Dali we will stay in an excellent hostel in private or shared rooms
Today we wil travel throuh Baoshan Country and reach the border town of Ruili. In Ruili we aim to stay in a local guesthouse. Drive time - 8-9 hours.

Activity

Hike on the scenic mountain of Cangshan and explore the walkways, forests and temples in the area CNY 40
Learn how to make dumplings and traditional Yunnanese cuisine at one of Dali's fantastic cooking classes CNY 150
Discover the ornate 9th-century Three Pagodas of Chongsheng, some of the tallest pagodas in China's
history and the symbol of Dali CNY 120
Head out by bicycle to explore the region in depth and visit various Bai villages and Qing Dynasty bridges en route CNY 50
Experience the incredible ancient art of cormorant fishing with the fishermen of Xizhou on Lake Erhai
CNY 100

About Dali:
Everybody loves Dali. Aside from the beautiful setting with its stunning mountain backdrop, the town is home to the minority Bai people, which makes for some colourful history and culture, not to mention its traveller friendly western style beer gardens and restaurants. With its temperate climate and beauitful natural setting it's the perfect place for some rest and relaxation - be it Cormorant fishing on lake Erhai Hu or enjoying a tradtional Chinese massage.
Border information: exit China at Ruili, enter Myanmar at Muse. Today we will cross the border into Myanmar and make our way to the laid-back Shan village of Hsipaw. Drive time - 6-7 hours.
On the following day we will have a free day for exploration of the area, and will hopefully have the opportunity to take a boat trip on the lake or head out on a day trek to the hill-tribes of the area.
In Hsipaw we will stay in a hotel.

Activity

Trek out to remote hill tribe villages around Hsipaw in Burma's Shan State
Included in Kitty Take a boat trip from Hsipaw to explore the nearby Shan villages MMK 10000
Visit the Sawbwa Palace, once the seat of local authority in the Shan State Hsipaw sits in the valley surrounded by hills which makes it a popular place for trekking. It was once the centre of a small, Shan state of its own but is probably one of the most well known, wealthy and powerful 'saopha' states. The
Saophas were important in regional and national politics from the 11th century until the 1960's. The old Shan palace where the princes of Hsipaw once lived is in the north of town, although it is closed to the public you may be able to view it from the road or river.
About Hsipaw:
Today we will continue to the scenic hill town of Pyin U Lwin in the Shan highlands above Mandalay, where we will have a chance to explore the town and the beautiful botanical gardens. In Pyin U Lwin we will camp overnight near the town. Drive time - 4 hours.

Activity
Explore the old hill station town and the botanical gardens at Pyin U Lwin MMK 5000
Take a train along the famous railway between Hsipaw and Pyin U Lwin, a remarkable piece of engineering that brought trade and control to the region during the colonial era USD 2
Trek out to the nearby Anisakan waterfalls (if time allows) MMK 10000

About Pyin U Lwin:
The scenic town of Pyin U Lwin is located about an hour from Mandalay and began as a British military outpost. Later, because of its cool and temperate climate it became a hill station and was the summer capital of Burma, where many people (particularly wives and children) would go to escape the summer heat. There are many attractive colonial buildings and an impressive botanical gardens
Today we will have a free morning to further explore Pyin U Lwin, before our short drive to the enchanting and evocative former royal capital of Mandalay. Drive time -2 hours. On our first full day here we will have a guided tour that includes a morning visit to Mandalay Hill, the world's largest book, the Golden Palace and the Mahamuni Pagoda, before finishing the day at the beautiful U Bin bridge in time for sunset. On the following day we will have a second full day in Mandalay to freely
explore the incredible city. In Mandalay we will stay in a comfortable hotel.
This morning we will continue our journey to the town of Monywa, stopping en route to visit the Thanboddhay Pagoda and the Hpo Win Daung cave temples.

Activity
Take a boat trip to see the colossal uncompleted stupa at the Mingun archaeological site near andalay MMK 5000
Head out on a day trip to some of the main sights of Mandalay, including Mandalay Hill, the Kuthodaw
and Mahamuni Pagodas, the Shwenandaw Kyaung Golden Monastery and U Bein bridge Included in Kitty
See the famous anti-government comedy show from the Moustache Brothers MMK 8000
Freely explore the area surrounding Mandalay, particularly the beautiful monasteries and temples in the villages of Sagaing and Old Ava MMK 16000
Visit the Gold Pounders' district and the famous Jade Market in Mandalay to shop for local handicrafts and learn about their manufacturing techniques
Freely explore the huge complex of the Mandalay Royal Palace, and visit the many fascinating buildings within
Head out for an colourful evening performance of traditional Burmese music and dance at Mandalay's Mitha Theatre MMK 800

About Mandalay:
In 1857 King Mindo founded a new royal capital at the foot of Mandalay Hill, from where the city took its name. On the death of the King the monastery in which he died was dismantled and removed from the Royal Palace as it was thought it would bring bad fortune. It was rebuilt outside the palace walls, so
when The Royal Palace was destroyed by fire at the end of the 2nd World War the Monastery with its intricate wooden carvings were saved. The city itself is relatively modern, a hub of economic trading as well as being considered the cultural and religious centre of Burma. Mandalay is famous for its hill with its abundance of monasteries and pagodas and is a major site for Buddhist pilgrimages. For those that wish to climb be prepared for the 1,729 steps to the top. The climb up takes you past many
historic stupas and Buddhas of great significance to the pilgrims. There are many stalls that line the route to the top of the hill and the views from the top are incredible, with far reaching views across the plains of Mandalay and the Irawaddy River. At the foot of Mandalay Hill is found the world's largest book; 729 white stupas house the text of the Tripitaka, Theravada Buddhism's most sacred text. The
world's largest iron Buddha is also found here. In Monywa we will stay in a local hotel. Drive time - 6-7 hours (depending on the length of our visit to the pagoda and temples).
Activity
Visit the incredible Hpo Win Daung cave temples and explore their Buddha staues and painted murals Included in Kitty
Visit the stunning 14th-century Thanboddhya Pagoda and see its colossal golden stupa and incredible 580,000 Buddha statues Included in Kitty
See the Laykyun Sekkya Buddha statue near Monywa, which at 116m is the second tallest statue in the world (if time allows)

About Monywa:Monywa is found on the banks of the River Chidwin and is home to the Buddhist
temple of Mohnyin Thambuddhei Paya, an incredible site thought to contain over 500,000 images of Buddha. The area is also a hub of agricultural production with the surrounding valley producing a wide range of crops, particularly beans and palm sugar. It is also a centre for the production of cotton and the local patterned longyi/sarongs are reknowned for the strength and quality of their material – 80% of Burma's cotton production is from Monywa. Today we make our way to the ancient town of Pakhan Gyi and the attractive town of Pakokku , where we board a boat to take us on a journey down the Ayeyarwaddy River to Bagan. In Bagan we will stay in a local hotel Drive time - 4 hours to Pakokku.

Activity
Take a boat trip down the mighty Ayeyarwady River to arrive in Bagan Included in Kitty

About Bagan
Bagan is one of Asia's greatest attractions, easily rivalling the Great Wall of China or Angkor Wat, yet it is very little known. The site consists of a huge plain that is covered with literally thousands of temples that stretch as far as the eye can see, set amidst an attractive landscape of fields, small villages and
sandy tracks. The temples were built from the 9th - 13th century and are ornately covered in beautiful carvings whilst the interiors are decorated with extensive frescoes.
Bagan is situated on the banks of the Ayeyarwady (Irrawaddy) River and is home to the largest cluster of pagodas, Buddhist temples, stupas and ruins in the world - a place that has to be seen to be believed. We will have 2 full days in Bagan, in which time we have a guided tour of the temple complexes and visit the 10th century old town of Bagan, including a visit to a local handicraft workshop. There will also be plenty of time for free exploration of the area.

Activity
Take a day tour around the multitude of historical sites in and around the ancient capital of Bagan Included in Kitty
See the sunrise over Bagan from an unforgettable morning balloon flight (weather-dependent) USD 330
Take a day trip out of Bagan to see the phenomenal Taung Kalat monastery, constructed on the summit of the near-vertical Mount Popa MMK 40000
Further explore the ancient city of Bagan independently by bicycle or horse-drawn cart MMK 8000
Today we will drive to the hill station town of Kalaw, where we will hopefully catch the lively market and explore the town. In Kalaw we will camp outside the village. Drive time - 6-7 hours.

Activity
Head out for a day of hiking in the stunning hills surrounding Kalaw MMK 5
Visit the fascinating Pindaya Caves near Kalaw and marvel at the array of statues within MMK 10000

About Kalaw:
As a former British hill station, Kalaw provides much needed relief from the heat of the lower lying areas while the surrounding hills are the home to various ethnic minority groups, including the Palaung, Danu and Pa-O. The town is situated up in the hills, surrounded by pine forest, and has many attractive colonial buildings. There is also a lively market which is well worth a visit.
Today we have the opportunity for a day walk in the hills surrounding Kalaw, before returning in the afternoon for the short drive to the beautiful Inle Lake, a real highlight of a visit to Myanmar. The area is full of amazing floating gardens and can be explored by bike or on a long-tail boat. Drive time - 2 hours. On the following day we will have a full day tour around Inle Lake by long-tail boat to the floating farms and markets. On the following day we will have a free day to explore the area by bike, hike in the surrounding hills, or visit the local wineries and hot springs. In Inle Lake we will stay in a local guesthouse.

Activity
Explore the famous floating markets of Inle Lake by longtail boat Included in Kitty
Explore the area by foot and head out on a day hike in the beautiful hills around Inle Lake MMK 10000
Hire a bike to explore the wineries and hot springs near Inle Lake MMK 4000
Learn how to prepare a variety of local Shan specialities at a cooking class near Inle Lake MMK 15000
Head out on a bird-watching tour along the lessfrequently visited areas on the shores of Inle Lake MMK 12000

About Inle Lake:
Inle Lake is stunning, surrounded by distant hills which make for a beautiful back drop to the hustle and bustle of lake life. The area is home to the Intha people, who live both in towns around the lake and on the lake itself. Many local houses and temples are built on stilts in the shallow waters of the lake
and floating islands are built from water hyacinth and water weeds. These gardens allow the farmers to grow fruit and vegetables – the sight of floating apple orchards are certainly something different!
The produce from the gardens, with rice from the paddy fields around the lake and lake fish means that the people are pretty self sufficient. The local food reflects this self sufficiency and a popular local dish is htamin gyin - rice kneaded with fish and/or potato into round balls, served with hnapyan gyaw -
twice fried - Shan tofu, fermented bean cakes, fried onions, tomato, chilli and tamarind. The local fishermen are renowned for their distinctive rowing style, where they stand at the stern of the boat on one leg whilst the other leg is wrapped around the oar. This style of rowing developed so the fishermen could get a better view and allow them to navigate through the shallow and plant-dense water – something that is far harder to do whilst more traditionally seated. This leg rowing style is however only practiced by the men; women are seated cross legged to row. Small boats provide the easiest way to get around the lake and lakeside settlements and it can get quite busy at times as people get on with their daily lives. Tourism has become an important part of the local economy and traditional crafts such as the weaving of Shan–bags, silk longyi (sarongs) as well as cheroot rolling, carvings and work from black and silver smiths are now produced for the tourist trade as well as local use.
Today we will drive to the unique, bizarre and half-empty Myanmar capital of Naypyidaw, a city constructed in secret during the early 2000s. Here we will have the opportunity to explore the city in the truck. In Naypyidaw we aim to stay in a local hotel. Drive time - 6 hours.

Activity
See the bizarre capital of Naypyidaw, suddenly built between 2002 and 2006 by Myanmar's military
government Included in Kitty
Border information: if joining in Yangon, you will most likely enter Myanmar at Yangon International Airport. Today will be a free day to explore the city of Yangon and the Scott Market until the evening. There will be a group meeting today at 6:00pm - please do not be alarmed if there is no welcome note from your leader when you arrive as this is often a travel day for the crew, and they are likely to arrive during the afternoon. In Yangon we will stay in a comfortable hotel.

Hotel for the night: Asia Plaza Hotel
No. 277 Bogyoke Aung San Road,
Kyauktada Township,
Yangon
Tel - +95 1 391071 or +95 1 391070
Email - hotelasiaplaza@gmail.com

About Yangon:
Although not the capital of Burma, Yangon is its largest and most important city, a bustling and lively place that throngs with people, temples and markets. Chief of its many attractions is the Shwedagon Paya, an exquisite temple that is covered in gold leaf and which is always full of pilgrims paying their respects. This is the perfect place for people watching and you can spend a wonderful afternoon hear, chatting to monks and local people as you watch the sun set over the city. There are also a number of beautiful colonial buildings, a lively Indiatown and Chinatown and a great market that is full of many stalls that sell just about anything you could wish for.
Today we will have a guided tour of old Yangon, the Kandawgyi Lake, the
Chaukhtatgyi Pagoda and the famous Shwedagon Pagoda.
This morning our journey from Yangon begins with a drive to one of Myanmar’s most important Buddhist pilgrimage shrines at the spectacular Mt Kyaiktiyo.

Activity
Enjoy a tour of Yangon, including the Kandawgyi Lake and the famous Shwedagon Paya temple Included in Kitty

Explore Yangon's famous Bogyoke (Scott's) Market We take a local pick-up truck up the first two-thirds of the mountain, and then continue the final part of the ascent on foot along a steep and winding path. We end up on the top, next to the Golden Rock. In Mt Kyaiktiyo we will stay in a local hotel. Drive time - 4 hours (please note that all drive times given here are approximate estimates only and are given with the best intentions - however please be aware that the drive times are heavily dependent on traffic, road conditions, weather, police roadblocks, and many other factors - flexibility is essential on any overland trip!).

Activity
Take a local passenger truck up to the incredible Golden Rock, one of Myanmar's holiest shrines Included in Kitty

About Mt Kyaiktiyo:
The Golden Rock and Pagoda are an inspiring Buddist Pilgrimage site. The Pagoda is perched on top of the huge granite boulder painted gold by the many pilgrims. The boulder is said to be held in place by a strand of the Buddha's hair that stops this huge boulder from tumbling down the sheer cliffs below.
Today we will aim to visit the mushroom-shaped temple rock at Kyauk Kalap and the beautiful Kawt Ka Taung caves near Hpa-an, before moving on to the city of Mawlamyine for the night.
In Mawlamyine we will stay in a local hotel. Drive time - 6-7 hours (depending on the length of our visits to the sites near Hpa-an).

Activity
Visit the beautiful tiled temples inside the caves of Kawt Ka Taung Included in Kitty
Visit the seemingly impossible Kyauk Kalap rock near Hpa-an Included in Kitty
Today we will head south following the beautiful Andaman coast, to the southern city of Dawei. If we have time we will visit the Thanbyuzayat Allied War Cemetery en route. We will stay at a beachfront hotel on Maungmagan Beach (approx 12 Kms away from Dawei) Drive time - 8-9 hours.

Activity
Visit the Allied War Cemetery at Thanbyuzayat en route to Dawei Included in Kitty
Today we will have a free day at the the stunning Maungmagan beaches. Sencond night at a beachfront hotel.

Activity
Relax and explore the beautiful Maungmagan Beach on the Andaman coast of southern Buma Included in Kitty
See the amazing 75m-long reclining Buddha at the Lawka Tharaphu Pagoda in Dawei
Border Information: exit Myanmar at Htee Kee, enter Thailand at Ban Nam Pu Ron.
Today we will cross into Thailand via the brand new border at Htee Kee, and drive to the town of Kanchanaburi. In Kanchanaburi we will stay in a local guesthouse. Drive time - 6-10 hours (please note that this is a very new border to open up and we are likely to be one of the first foreign vehicles to use it, so there may be delays here hence the wide range for the estimated drive time).
We spend this morning exploring the Thailand-Burma Railway centre and the infamous Bridge over the River Kwai in Kanchanaburi. This afternoon we drive to Thailand's bustling capital of Bangkok, where we will have free time to explore and enjoy our final meal together! In Bangkok we will stay in a comfortable, centrally-located hotel. Drive time - 3-4 hours

Activity
Visit the notorious Bridge over the River Kwai and the Thailand-Burma Railway centre, and learn all about the history of the Japanese occupation during the Second World War Included in Kitty

About Bangkok:
The chaotic headlong pace of Bangkok doesn't match up with many people's idealised vision of the exotic capital of Siam. Scattered with high-rise buildings of concrete and glass, the city is a sprawling plain that's home to a population of at least nine million, and it often feels even bigger. But under the shadow of the skyscrapers you'll find a heady mix of frenetic markets, noisy traffic, hushed golden temples and early-morning alms-giving ceremonies. One way or another, the place will probably get under your skin - and if you don't enjoy the challenge of slogging through jams of buses and tuk-tuks, which fill the air with a chainsaw drone and clouds of pollution, you can spend time exploring the
impressive temples and museums or shopping 'til you drop.
Today is the final day of the trip and a free day to explore the fascinating city of Bangkok. Please note that if you are leaving the trip in Bangkok there is no accommodation included tonight.

Perhaps get a traditional Thai massage at Bangkok's oldiest massage school in the temple of Wat Pho THB 500
See Bangkok from a different perspective on a canal boat tour THB 1500
Explore the vast royal complex of the Grand Palace, including the Temple of the Emerald Buddha (the most sacred temple in Thailand) THB 250
Explore Bangkok's incredible Wat Arun temple, one of Thailand's most picturesque temples
Take a cycling tour of Bangkok or the surrounding countryside THB 1000
Discover the many interesting exhibits from all over Thailand at Jim Thompson's House, the museum at the former home of the famous American ex-pat THB 100
Learn all about Thai history and culture at the Bangkok National Museum, the largest and most comprehensive museum in South East Asia THB 40
Climb the steps of the Golden Mount to see the panoramic view of Bangkok from the Wat Saket temple
View trip notes to read full itinerary

Inclusions

Meals
n/a
Transport
Boat, Overland vehicle
Accommodation
Bush camp (no facilities) (2 nights), Camping (with basic facilities) (2 nights), Guesthouse (6 nights), Hostel (2 nights), Hotel (15 nights)

Dates

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Important notes

Please note that this trip requires minimum numbers to depart, and may be cancelled up until 56 days prior to departure. The places showing on the dates and availability page are an indication only so please contact Intrepid to check if your preferred date will depart before making any final arrangements, such as booking non-changeable flights.

Trip notes

Want an in-depth insight into this trip? Your trip notes provide a detailed itinerary, visa info, how to get to your hotel, what’s included - pretty much everything you need to know about this adventure and more.

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