Myanmar and Cambodia Snapshot

15 days / 14 nights

Our sixteen day snapshot tour of Myanmar and Cambodia begins in the city of Yangon, followed by the dramatic scenery and stupas of ancient Bagan. In Mandalay more ancient cities await, while the shimmering waters of Inle Lake provide a unique look at ethnic Burmese culture. We fly from Yangon to Cambodia’s Siem Reap, the gateway to the fabled temples of Angkor, where you’ll encounter the ruined Ta Prohm and the famed majesty of Angkor Wat in the first light of the day, as well as the intricate carvings of Banteay Srei and the mysterious faces of the Bayon. We also include a lifestyle visit to the floating villages of the Tonle Sap before a visit to the vibrant capital, Phnom Penh. Culture-vultures will enjoy the elegant Royal Palace and National Museum, as well as an insight into the hell under the Khmer Rouge regime at the moving Tuol Sleng and Choeung Ek killing fields. We then have a relaxing time on the south coast beaches of Sihanoukville before returning to Phnom Penh and heading for home.

In brief

  1. Day 1: Arrive Yangon. City tour.
  2. Day 2: Fly to Bagan. Ananda Temple and sunset.
  3. Day 3: Markets, school visit, village life and crafts.
  4. Day 4: Fly to Mandalay. City tour.
  5. Day 5: Ancient capitals of Amarapura, Ava and Sagaing.
  6. Day 6: Fly to Heho and onto Inle Lake. Phaung Daw U Pagoda.
  7. Day 7: Fly to Siem Reap.
  8. Day 8: Roluos group. Preah Khan.
  9. Day 9: Banteay Srei, Landmine Museum. Floating Village.
  10. Day 10: Ta Prohm. Angkor Thom.
  11. Day 11: Angkor Wat. Fly to Phnom Penh.
  12. Day 12: City tour.
  13. Day 13: To Sihanoukville.
  14. Day 14: Beach-time or island hopping.
  15. Day 15: To Phnom Penh. Departure.

In detail

Day 1: Arrive Yangon. City tour.

On arrival check into your hotel.

Our first stop will be at the Kyaukhtatgyi Pagoda to see a 70 meter long reclining Buddha statue before we head into Yangon’s city center and visit the Sule Pagoda and Bogyoke Market. Then it’s onto the legendary Shwedagon Pagoda. Witness the colors transform on the 100-meter chedi which is literally enclosed in over 40 tons of gold leaf. Shwedagon is largely considered to be the most important religious site for the Burmese.

Day 2: Fly to Bagan. Ananda Temple and sunset.

After breakfast we take a domestic flight to Bagan, the center of Myanmar from the 11th to 13th centuries and home to 4,000 evocative stupas and pagodas on the shores of the Irrawaddy River. We start at the golden stupa of Shwezigon Pagoda for a closer look at Bagan’s affluent past. Continue to Wetkyi-In, Gubyaukgyi, a cave temple with beautiful wall paintings and the stylish Htilominlo Temple.

This afternoon will begin with a visit to a traditional lacquer workshop followed by Ananda Temple, certainly one of Bagan’s most beautiful temples, housing two distinctive Buddha images. Their expressions transform, according to your viewing point. By horse cart we visit Thatbyinnyu, the tallest temple in Bagan, Dhammayangyi Temple noted for its remarkable brickwork, and Sulamani Temple. We watch the extraordinary sunset over the plains from the higher verandas of one of these 3 temples.

Day 3: Markets, school visit, village life and crafts.

We start the day at the Nyaung U market, followed by a drive to Ngat Pyit Taung Monastery and the chance to explore the temple’s caves, with a visit to the Monastic Primary School where you can observe the children in their classrooms. Note ( School visits are not possible on Saturdays and Sundays). An optional tour could be a memorable hot air balloon ride over Bagan (only available Oct-March).

This afternoon we begin with a walk through Myinkaba village where you’ll have the chance to see local craftsmen at their lacquer workshop. We carry on to Manuha Temple (constructed in 1059) and investigate the Nanbaya Temple, a distinctive sandstone shrine, which according to myth, was the bastion of King Manuha. Then it’s off to Bupaya Pagoda or Mingala Zedi Stupa to catch the sunset over the celebrated Ayeyarwaddy River.

Day 4: Fly to Mandalay. City tour.

We take a domestic flight to Mandalay, the second largest city of Myanmar, and begin with a visit to Mahamuni Pagoda. This pagoda houses one of the country’s most honored Buddha images, completely covered in gold leaves. We carry onto Kuthodaw Pagoda (where the 729 marble stone slabs of Buddhist scriptures are called the ‘World’s Biggest Book’). Then it’s off to Shwenandaw Monastery, before we reach summit of Mandalay Hill to catch the stunning sunset views.

Day 5: Ancient capitals of Amarapura, Ava and Sagaing.

We begin with an expedition to investigate the previous capitals of Amarapura, Ava and Sagaing, starting at Amarapura’s Mahagandayon, home to more than a thousand monks, and a busy alms collection. Then it’s on to Ava which was the standing capital from the 14th through the 18th centuries. By horse and carriage, we visit Bagaya Monastery renowned for its extraordinarily elaborate woodcarvings and the Nanmyint Watch Tower - also called “the leaning tower of Ava“ – the remnants of the ancient palace, and Maha Aungmye Bonzan Monastery.

After lunch we cross the Irrawaddy River to Sagaing, with Sagaing Hill known as the spiritual hub of Myanmar and which claims residence to around 3,000 monks and nearly 100 meditation shrines. We stroll along the legendary U Bein Bridge which at 1.2 kms is said to be the longest teakwood bridge worldwide, before we return to Mandalay.

Day 6: Fly to Heho and onto Inle Lake. Phaung Daw U Pagoda.

After breakfast we take a domestic flight to Heho. After an hour’s drive we reach Nyaung Shwe, gateway village to Inle Lake. En route, we’ll stop at the teak monastery of Shweyanpyay to witness the intricate wood carving artwork. We take a boat out onto Inle Lake, one of Myanmar’s most spectacular sights. We’ll pass several stilted Intha villages built over the lake, and observe the local leg-rowing fishermen and see their ‘floating gardens’.

We’ll check into the hotel and then visit Nga Hpe Chaung Monastery, which houses many early Shan Buddha Images. It’s also famous for its unique ‘jumping cats.’ We continue onto Phaung Daw U Pagoda, the lake’s main haven, which contains five sacred images of Buddha decorated in gold leaf. A stop at the weaving village of Inpawkhone and a cheroot factory, where traditional Burmese cigars are handmade, will close the day.
Day 7: Inle Lake and Indein Pagoda. Fly to Yangon.
After breakfast we visit the lake’s morning market, the location of which changes every day.A 1-hour boat ride will take you to the Pa-Oh village of Indein, on the western shore of Inle Lake. We ascend the moss-covered stairway to the top of a hill, and the Indein Pagoda complex with its iconic Buddha image which sits enshrined among hundreds of stupa ruins and overgrown shrubbery. We return to Heho Airport for a short flight back to Yangon, with the rest of the day at leisure. As an option you may take a ride on the Yangon circular train for an unusual view of the city.

Day 7: Fly to Siem Reap.

After breakfast, you will travel to the airport in time for your departure flight to Siem Reap, the gateway to the magnificent temples of Angkor. (Direct flights available Wednesday & Saturday). Spend the afternoon relaxing or pay a visit to the local market.

Day 8: Roluos group. Preah Khan.

We travel back in time to one of the earliest capitals in the Angkor area, Hariharilaya, now known as Roluos. We begin with a visit to the brick temple of Lolei, originally set on an island in the centre of the Indratataka baray (reservoir). This temple has some well preserved sandstone carvings and the vast stone doors are carved from a single piece of stone. We continue to Preah Ko and finally onto Bakong, the earliest of the temple mountains. In the afternoon, we travel to the mighty temple of Preah Khan or 'Sacred Sword'. This is one of the few temples originally dedicated to Buddhism and Hinduism. We then continue on to the elegant curves of Neak Poan. Our day ends with a sunset over the rice fields from the royal crematorium of Pre Rup, a classic view of the Cambodian countryside.

Day 9: Banteay Srei, Landmine Museum. Floating Village.

After breakfast, we head to Banteay Srei, Angkor’s ultimate art gallery. This petite pink temple is the jewel in the crown of Angkor-era sculpture. The elaborate carvings here are the finest found in Cambodia. We then visit the Cambodia Landmine Museum to learn more about the scourge of landmines and the shadow they cast over rural communities in Cambodia with a visit to this flagship museum promoting mine awareness and education. Later we visit the 12th century temple of Banteay Samre. Built by King Suryavarman II, the genius behind Angkor Wat. 

Taking a break from the temples, we travel out to the mighty Tonle Sap Lake to visit the floating village of Chong Kneas. Nestled under the hill of Phnom Krom, this floating community moves location with the waters of the lake. Everything floats on water in this living fishing community. If we have time, enjoy the sunset from the summit of Phnom Krom before returning to Siem Reap. 

Day 10: Ta Prohm. Angkor Thom.

We rise early to travel to Ta Prohm in the dawn light. Ta Prohm has been abandoned to the elements, left as it was ‘discovered’ by French explorer Henri Mouhot in 1860, the tentacle-like tree roots here are slowly strangling the surviving stones. After soaking up the unique atmosphere of Ta Prohm, we continue to the giant pyramid of Takeo, one of the highest temples in the Angkor area. Built at the end of the 10th century, it was never completed. There is also the option to visit the smaller temples of Chau Say Tevoda and Thommanon for avid temple enthusiasts.

In the afternoon, we visit the immense walled city of Angkor Thom that was the masterpiece of King Jayavarman VII. We begin our visit at the Terrace of the Leper King and continue to the Terrace of Elephants, originally used as a viewing gallery for the king to preside over parades, performances and traditional sports. Our climax is the enigmatic and enchanting temple of the Bayon. 

Day 11: Angkor Wat. Fly to Phnom Penh.

Rising at the crack of dawn, we journey out to the Mother of all temples, Angkor Wat. Believed this temple is the perfect fusion of symbolism and symmetry and a source of pride and strength to all Khmers. Built in the 12th century by King Suryavarman II, this is most famous temple at Angkor. 

Afternoon is free at leisure until we transfer to the airport for our departure flight.

Day 12: City tour.

After breakfast, we explore the stunning Royal Palace complex, home to the Cambodian royal family and a symbol of the nation. We continue to the Silver Pagoda, named after the 5000 silver tiles covering the floor, each weighing 1kg. Inside are some of the country's most cherished treasures, including a life-size gold Buddha studded with 9584 diamonds, the largest weighing 25 carats. We leave the Royal Palace and continue to the nearby National Museum, home to the world's finest collection of sculpture from the Angkor period. 

After lunch, we come face to face with the horrific crimes of the Khmer Rouge. Tuol Sleng was a former high school that the Khmer Rouge turned into a centre for interrogation, torture and death. Today it is a museum of torture and serves to remind visitors of the terrible atrocities that came to pass in Cambodia. 17,000 people passed through the gates of this prison and only seven lived to tell the tale. We then travel out of town to the Killing Fields of Choeung Ek. Prisoners from Tuol Sleng followed this same route to their fate. An old Chinese cemetery, Choeung Ek was turned into an extermination camp for political prisoners. The remains of 8985 people were exhumed from mass graves and are kept in a memorial stupa here.

Day 13: To Sihanoukville.

We leave Phnom Penh and head south to the popular resort of Sihanoukville, home to Cambodia's finest beaches. We check into our hotel and leave the rest of the day free to enjoy the beautiful beaches and warm waters.

Day 14: Beach-time or island hopping.

The day is free at your own leisure to enjoy the beaches of Sihanoukville. Or you can take the option of a boat ride out to one of the beautiful islands lying off the coast and try your hand at some snorkelling.

Day 15: To Phnom Penh. Departure.

We leave Sihanoukville and travel north on National Highway 4 towards the Cambodian capital, arriving in good time before our departure flight.