Get a look at two of Asia’s most complex but beloved countries. In Cambodia and Myanmar explore sites that echo of glorious former kingdoms and of tragic recent events. Experience pristine swaths of nature and meet resilient locals whose captivating smiles and beautiful culture belie the dark past.
Learn about the prosperous ancient Khmer empire and get a glimpse into the tragic recent atrocities of the Khmer Rouge.
Travel overland in Cambodia and Myanmar to discover villages away from the normal tourist path and see local lifestyles.
Explore ancient pagodas in Bagan and Mandalay, see pristine Inle Lake and the Irrawaddy River and delve into rich traditions.
Cambodia & Myanmar in Depth - 16 Days / 15 Nights
Upon your arrival at Siem Reap Airport this morning, you will be welcomed by your local English speaking guide and transferred to your hotel for check in. Siem Reap is the base for exploring the fabled temples of Angkor, the ancient capital of the Khmer empire.
In the afternoon visit the ancient city of Angkor Thom by local ‘remork’ (similar to the Thai tuk tuk), the last capital of the Great Khmer Empire under the reign of Jayavarman VII. This city is surrounded by an 8m high wall, drawing a perfect square. Enter the city through the ancient South Gate, an impressive stone gate carved with Elephants and four giant faces. On each side of the entrance path a row of 54 gods or demons is holding the sacred Naga snake.
From here, continue to Bayon Temple in the exact center of the city. This 12th century masterpiece is a study in grandeur and is well-known for its dozens of towers featuring the enigmatic faces of the Buddha looking out over the vast provinces of the Great Khmer Empire. The nearby Terrace of the Elephants and the Terrace of the Leper King are also must-visits as they are both known for their intricate relief carvings.
Then continue to one Angkor’s most illustrious temples, Ta Prohm which was built between the mid 12th to early 13th centuries. Ta Prohm is unique in that it has been left largely overgrown by jungle trees and vines, with many parts of the temple crumbling to the ground.
This evening you will enjoy a welcome dinner at the Embassy Restaurant, an exclusive fine dining experience unparalleled in Siem Reap and headed by executive chefs Pol & Sok; the “Kimsan Twins”. Their experience has taken them to different continents and under the mentoring of Michelin starred chefs they have created one of the most unique five-star quality cuisines that can be experienced in Siem Reap. With a constantly changing menu based around seasonality, guests can savour skilfully prepared masterpieces from multiple-course set menus, paired with a selection of fine wines.
Overnight in Siem Reap.
This morning travel to the countryside to see the “gem” of the Angkor area, the pretty temple of Banteay Srey. The so-called “Citadel of the Women” remains the best preserved temple in Cambodia. It displays some of the finest examples of classical Khmer art as this small temple is noted for its truly remarkable fine bas-reliefs. Banteay Srey is unique in that it is constructed of pink sandstone, which is seen nowhere else in Angkor.
Continue north to Kbal Spean, one of the earliest Hindu pilgrimage sites in Cambodia. A moderate 3 km trek up the hill through dense jungle will reward you with excellent views over the plains and the Kulen hills. At the top, be surprised about the “River of 1,000 Lingas” with its remarkable stone carvings of Hindu gods, animals and other symbols in the river bed. During the rainy season, enjoy a refreshing bath in the waterfall, which is extremely popular with local families. After the descent, enjoy a packed lunch at a picnic site. Please note the trek is fairly easy going but as the walk is uphill and on uneven ground it is really only suitable for clients with a good level of fitness and not suitable for clients with mobility problems.
This afternoon visit Angkor Wat by car. Built during the reign of King Suryavarman II in the early 12th century, Angkor Wat is constructed following the model of the temple mountain symbolizing Mount Meru, the home of the gods. Inside the temple, the walls are covered with stone carvings and bas-reliefs depicting Hindu mythology and the wars Suryavarman II fought during his reign. Angkor Wat is well known for the more than 2,000 Apsara dancers decorating the temple. Construction is thought to have taken around thirty years of intensive labor. Today, Angkor Wat is figured on Cambodia's national flag as the temple symbolizes the soul of the Khmer people.
You will be there just before sunset, when Angkor Wat is less visited and the Apsaras will shine in the most beautiful light.
Overnight in Siem Reap.
Transfer overland to Phnom Penh about 6hrs: stop en route for a visit at the interesting market in Skuon where deep-fried spiders are on sale – a Khmer delicacy!
Phnom Penh was once considered one of the most beautiful cities in the Orient, and despite its turbulent history and recent development it still retains much colonial charm. Cambodia’s capital is a bustling city, majestically located at the confluence of the mighty rivers of the Mekong and Tonlé Sap. Wide tree-lined boulevards and many colonial-era buildings reflect the glorious days and add to the allure of the city, where Asian and Western traditions meet in a fascinating way.
This afternoon you will be greeted by a driver who will take you on a tour to the most remarkable sights of Phnom Penh by Car. Continue along the lively riverfront to the Royal Palace. This palace dates back to 1866 and houses the Silver Pagoda, named for the over 5000 heavy silver tiles that cover its floors. Its original name is Wat Prakeo, meaning Temple of the Emerald Buddha. In this temple you will view a collection of Buddhas in gold, silver, crystal, and bronze.
Then visit the National Museum, which was built in traditional Khmer style. It houses the world's foremost collection of ancient Khmer artistic, archaeological, and religious artefacts from the 4th to the 13th centuries. Over 5,000 pieces are on display, constituting the repository of the Kingdom's cultural wealth. In addition, the roof space is home to a large bat colony!
This evening get inspired by Cambodian arts as you watch a traditional dance performance by Cambodian Living Arts (CLA). All the shows last one hour and are held in the atmospheric gardens of the National Museum. After many years of gaining recognition for preserving many Cambodian art forms the CLA are today striving towards providing the artists the tools required to make their skills sustainable and also so they can make a competitive income from their work. Note: Oct-Mar shows daily 7 days per week, Apr-Sep shows Monday-Saturday.
Overnight in Phnom Penh.
This morning, gain insight into Cambodia’s recent dark history on a visit to the remarkable Tuol Sleng Genocide Museum, housed in the former school that was taken over by the Khmer Rouge and used as its main detention and torture center named ‘S-21’. Further visit the Killing Fields of Choeung Ek. A grim, but important visit that will allow you to dig below the surface and understand Cambodia better. Note: All visitors to Toul Sleng Genocide Museum are required to wear modest clothing: no short pants or short skirts (knees must be covered) and no sleeveless shirts (shoulders must be covered). See-through clothing will also not be allowed.
After learning about some of Cambodia’s tragic past it is time to put a smile back on your face and experience modern Khmer life. Return to central Phnom Penh for lunch at Le Lotus Blanc, a training restaurant for the humanitarian organization Pour un Sourire d’Enfant (for the smile of a child) that provides education and job training to street children that used to be scavenging the municipal dump, and give them skills and hope for a brighter future. Your visit helps support the training of these kids by being their guest. (Note: Lotus Blanc closes on Sundays and public holidays)
Enjoy an atmospheric sunset river cruise and watch how Phnom Penh’s popular riverfront comes to life in the early evening.
This evening dine at Malis, a renowned place for Khmer food in Phnom Penh and provides for fine dining in chic surroundings. The Head Chef, Luu Meng is a Khmer celebrity and has worked with international chefs such as Gordon Ramsay and Luke Nguyen during filming for their cookery series in Cambodia.
Overnight in Phnom Penh.
After breakfast this morning, transfer to the airport for your onward flight to Myanmar.
Upon arrival from Cambodia, you will be greeted by your EXO Guide who will accompany you as you transfer to the hotel.
Yangon, formerly known as Rangoon, is a relatively quiet and charming city. Its impressive colonial and spiritual heritage makes it one of the most fascinating cities in Southeast Asia.
After check in at your hotel, continue to Shwedagon Pagoda the most revered Buddhist temple in Myanmar. Although the origins of the pagoda are unclear, the local legend states that the original structure was built 2500 years ago then renovated several times until taking its current shape in the 15th century. The 8-sided central stupa is 99 meters tall and gilded with gold leaf and is surrounded by 64 smaller stupas and your guide will show you around the massive complex, explaining why this temple is so revered. Enjoy breathtaking views of the golden stupa from this vantage point.
Overnight in Yangon.
After early breakfast at the hotel, transfer to the airport for the flight to Heho.
From Heho, a scenic one-hour drive leads to Nyaung Shwe, the gateway village to Inle Lake. Along the way, stop at the wooden Shwe Yan Pyay Monastery which features beautiful carvings and a collection of Buddha images.
Upon reaching the edges of Inle Lake, board a private motorboat to head out to Inle Lake, one of Myanmar’s most spectacular sights. Pass villages built on stilts over the lake, inhabited by the local Intha people. Observe the leg-rowing fishermen and see their floating gardens built up from strips of water hyacinth and mud and anchored to the bottom with bamboo poles. Continue to Phaung Daw Oo Pagoda, the lake’s main sanctuary, which contains five sacred Buddha images covered in gold leaf.
Explore the local crafts of Inle Lake with a stop at the weaving village of Inpawkhone and a cheroot factory, where the typical Burmese cigars are made by hand.
If time permits, there may be time to enjoy a short walk through one of the lakeside villages.
Overnight on Inle Lake.
After breakfast, visit the lake’s morning market. The market rotates its location around the lake’s villages in a 5 day rhythm and is visited by lake inhabitants and surrounding hill tribes who come to sell and trade their wares. (Note: market is daily except on dark moon day and full moon day).
OPTIONAL ACTIVITY: Inthar Cooking Class - After that, Reach the local Inthar home, located adjacent to Inle’s silk weaving factory, where you will meet your family host. In the traditional Inthar kitchen you will begin your interactive cooking class. You will learn to cook local favorites like stuffed carp/catfish (depending on catch) steamed in banana leaf, Inthar tomato salad, fried tofu cakes, stuffed potato rice balls, and many others.
From the middle of the lake, continue down a small canal leading to the Pa-oh village of In Dein. Explore the area on foot, strolling around the village and wander through the beautiful Alaung Sitthou area. Here you can climb the covered stairway to the top of a hill which is covered with picturesque ancient stupas and has magnificent views of the lake below.
After enjoying your visit to In Dein, return to your boat. Continue along the lake for additional sightseeing before returning to your hotel this afternoon.
Overnight Inle Lake.
Enjoy breakfast and a leisurely morning at your hotel.
OPTIONAL ACTIVITY: Biking and Wine Tasting- Bike from Nyaung Shwe to Red Mountain Estate, a winery tucked in the Shan Hills. The ride takes you along quiet, flat roads (around 5-10km depending on hotel location) past farms and villages. Reach the winery and enjoy a tour followed by an optional wine tasting. Return by bike to your hotel or meet your car for the airport transfer.
Around midday transfer to Heho Airport for the 1.5 hour flight to Mandalay. Your car will be waiting to transfer you to your hotel (approximately 1 hour drive).
After relaxing and freshening up at your hotel transfer to Mandalay Hill to watch the sun set over the town.
Overnight in Mandalay.
After breakfast at the hotel, depart for an excursion around Mandalay to explore the former capitals of Ava, Sagaing and Amarapura.
This morning, cross a bridge over the Irrawaddy River to Sagaing. Covered with 600 white-painted pagodas and monasteries, Sagaing Hill is widely regarded as the religious center of Myanmar. It is home to 3,000 monks and 100 meditation centers and you will visit pagodas such as Swan Oo Pon Nya Shin, U Min Thone Sae, and Shin Pin Nan Gyaing.
We’ll also visit Sagaing’s local market, a typical Burmese market that few tourists visit. Here you will find a range of items for sale including locally made pottery, silver and other handicrafts. We will also stop at a small pottery village to see the process of making the ubiquitous water pots found throughout Myanmar.
Then continue south of the city to Ava, the capital from 14th to 18th centuries, where a short ferry ride will take us across the river to where our horse and carriage are waiting. Visit the old wooden Bagaya Monastery and the remains of the Royal Palace and Fort. There are many small villages located amid Ava’s ruins and as you travel by horse and cart you’ll get a glimpse of local life in the Burmese countryside. We’ll stop for lunch in Ava before returning to our car.
Return toward the city and stop at Amarapura, a former capital whose name means ‘City of Immortality’. First visit a silk weaving workshop which produces exquisite handmade products . After touring this tranquil site, continue to U Bein Bridge for a walk along this 200 year-old teak bridge. The bridge was constructed of 984 teak posts that were once part of the deserted Inwa Palace and it is 1.2 kilometers in length making it the world’s longest teak span. Enjoy a stroll along the bridge and the fabulous views of the surrounding farms and streams.
Return to Mandalay late this afternoon.
Overnight in Mandalay.
After breakfast, transfer to the Mandalay jetty and board a private local boat for a 1-hr cruise on the Irrawaddy River to Mingun.
Visit the main sites of Mingun beginning with the famous Mingun Pahtodawqyi. This huge brick structure was left unfinished after an astrologer predicted the King’s would die should the temple be completed. In the 1800s, an earthquake left several large cracks in the structure. Continue your visit at the beautiful white Hsinbyume Pagoda whose distinctive style is meant to resemble the mythical Mount Meru. Then, see the Mingun Bell which weighs 90 tons and is considered the world’s largest uncracked ringing bell.
Return to Mandalay by boat and visit Mahamuni Pagoda. This pagoda is home to one of the country’s most revered Buddha images which, over the years, has been covered with gold leaf giving it an almost ‘lumpy’ texture. Mandalay is well known for its skilled craftsmen and as you tour traditional workshops, you will learn more about the city’s cottage industries.
Observe the production of wood carvings, kalaga tapestries, and gold-leaf where the techniques remained unchanged from those used centuries ago to craft items for the Royal Court.
OPTIONAL ACTIVITY: Make your own marionette- Join the local craftsmen at their workshop and create your own, unique puppet. A hands-on way to learn about the local culture and create a memorable, personalized souvenir!
Continue your tour of Mandalay with a visit to Kuthodaw Pagoda, whose 729 marble stone slabs of Buddhist scriptures have earned it the title ‘World’s Biggest Book’. Continue to Shwenandaw Monastery, the only remaining building from the 19th century Royal Palace. This grand teak building is known for its exquisite woodcarving.
Overnight in Mandalay.
This morning, depart Mandalay for a 3-hour drive to Monywa, a typical Burmese town on the banks of the Chindwin River. We will make a few stops along the way to stretch our legs and take photos.
We’ll reach Monywa at midday and check into the hotel. Take time to freshen up before starting your sightseeing around Monywa. (lunch will be at the hotel or in town at client’s account)
This afternoon begin with a visit to Thanboddhay Pagoda, a huge Buddhist temple covered with more than 500,000 Buddha images. Also stop at Boditahtaung Pagoda which houses the largest reclining Buddha image in Myanmar, at 100m long and 27m high. Nearby is the largest standing Buddha in the world, Laykyun Setkyar, at 423 feet in height.
Having explored the sites and sceneries of Monywa we then head to the banks of the river to watch the sun set.
Return to your hotel this evening.
Overnight in Monywa.
Depart Monywa after breakfast proceed to Po Win Taung (approximately 1 hour drive). This extraordinary complex consists of 947 sandstone caves dug out of the hills and contains what is considered by archaeologists to be the richest collection of mural paintings and Buddhist statues in Southeast Asia.
After visiting Po Win Taung, continue a few hundred meters away to Shwe Ba Taung. Spend time exploring this interesting site where monasteries and temples are carved out rocky narrow cliffs.
We then continue down the ‘road less traveled’ for another 90 minutes, passing traditional villages where you may see farmers climbing palm trees to extract juice from which they will produce palm tree sugar. Stop at village for an opportunity to learn more about the lifestyle and culture of the countryside residents.
Then, resume your journey to Pakokku (1 hour), arriving in time for lunch at a local restaurant (client’s account).
Proceed to the jetty and board a private local boat in Pakkoku for a leisurely, two hour cruise downriver to Bagan. Upon reaching the shores of Bagan, transfer to the hotel.
Overnight in Bagan.
Today’s excursion visits a range of sites, providing a great overview of Bagan’s history, culture and lifestyles.
The journey begins at an elevated temple with spectacular views over the surrounding plains. This is the perfect introduction to the grandeur and scope of Bagan’s architecture. Next continue to Ananda Temple, one of the most revered temples in Bagan and which is quiet in the morning, before all the tour buses arrive.
Afterwards we will go to Myinkaba Village and Gubyaukgyi Temple which is noted for its beautiful mural paintings on its inner walls and well-preserved plaster carvings on its exterior. Nearby is Manuha Temple and Nan Paya Temple, two smaller temples with nice Buddha statues and stone work.
Then get to learn more about the local culture with a visit to two workshops producing Bagan’s most famous products: lacquer ware and wood crafts. Watch as the skilled craftsmen use techniques passed down through generations to create beautiful items. Take a break with lunch (Client’s account) and a short rest at your hotel, escaping the extreme heat of the midday sun.
From here, travel by horse cart for a tour passing Thatbyinnyu, the highest temple in Bagan, massive Dhammayangyi Temple, noted for its remarkable brickwork, and Sulamani Temple.
Enjoy an unforgettable sunset over the plains from the view point.
Overnight in Bagan.
Today we offer three excursions from which to choose depending on your interest.
Overnight in Bagan.
This morning transfer to the Nyaung U Airport for your flight to Yangon. Upon arrival your guide and driver will greet you and transfer to your hotel for check in.
After freshening up, venture downtown to explore the city centre and its fabulous mix of architecture and sites. The streets are filled with historical buildings many of which have a faded colonial charm not seen elsewhere in Asia. You’ll start at the post office – a lovely historic building- and walk to Sule Paya in the middle of downtown, passing by Strand Hotel, Mahabandoola Garden and Independence Monument along the way. Then visit Little India and Chinatown, a colorful cacophony of restaurants, temples and markets. Reach Bogyoke Market, formerly known as Scott’s Market, where there is time to browse through the dozens of stalls and shops.
This is Yangon’s best market for handicrafts and other goods. (Note: Market is closed on Mondays and public holidays).
Overnight in Yangon.
Today is at your leisure until transferring to the airport for your onward flight. If you have time, we suggest joining one of our optional tours.
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