Myanmar (Burma) has only recently been opened to international travellers and offers an authentic Asian experience. We will visit the local farmers and take in some of the fantastic sights of the country. The tour then proceeds to Vietnam which is one of the fastest growing economies in Asia and a major market for our exports of cotton and grain in particular.
We depart Australian ports, via Singapore for Myanmar – but anyone over 25 would remember this destination as Burma. We’re “on the road to Mandalay” replete with silk farms, leg rowers, floating markets and new agricultural developments. Our tour will introduce us to the cultural depth and beauty of this ancient country. We travel to Bagan in central Myanmar, spectacularly located on the Irrawaddy River – the farming lifeblood for the local population. We also visit the beautiful Inle Lake before continuing onto the capital, Yangon (formerly known as Rangoon).
A short flight east to Hanoi, the cultural and political heart of Vietnam. This is a unique city with tree-lined boulevards, French colonial architecture, peaceful lakes and it’s full of friendly people. We travel through the farms of the Red River Delta and onto spectacular Halong Bay for overnight on-board a traditional Vietnamese junk. Then it's south to agricultural developments amid more beautiful coastal and mountain scenery around Hoi An and Dalat. A tour of farms and villages of the Mekong Delta, a visit to the amazing Cu Chi tunnels and some relaxing time in Saigon round out a wonderful journey through two intriguing/emerging countries.
Flights depart Australian ports on Friday (Sept 1) for Singapore. Overnight Singapore.
At 11 am on Sept 2 we board our direct flight in Singapore bound for Mandalay, Mynamar's second biggest city and the nation's last royal capital. Located on the mighty Irrawady (Ayeyarwady) River, the city has a population of around 1.3 million. Mandalay is the economic centre of Upper Burma and considered the centre of Burmese culture.
We will meet up with our local guide and transfer to our hotel for lunch and a chance to freshen up. We will than have a guided visit to Mya Nan San Kyaw Palace as well as Kuthodaw Pagoda, often called the world’s largest book. We finish a long day with a visit to Mandalay Hill to watch sunset over the city.
Today we have a chartered boat trip on the Irrawady River. Our first port of call is Mingun about 11 km upriver from Mandalay. Here, one of our visits includes the Mingun Bell. Weighing 90 tonnes, it is the largest un-cracked bell in the world.
The river is the lifeblood of the country and one of the best ways to appreciate the local farming systems – as well as the challenging logistics – is to spend some time on it. We visit a local farming village before our return to Mandalay.
This morning we board our coach and travel southwest from Mandalay, through the rich agricultural heartland of Myanmar, towards Bagan.
As we track the course of the Irrawady, we will visit traditional farms and Australian agricultural aid projects. We will also visit Amarapura, the ancient capital of Myanmar and famous for its traditional silk and cotton weaving.
We continue onto Bagan, home to the famed Bagan Archeological Zone where thousands of temples are spread across the plains of Bagan – an impressive testament to the religious devotion of Myanmar’s people over the centuries. The temples combine to form one of the richest archaeological sites in Asia and provide scenes quite unlike anywhere else on Earth.
This morning we check out the busy local markets before entering the Archeological Zone with guided visits to three of the most important pagodas and temples – Shwezigon Pagoda built by King Anawrahta in the early 11th century; Khay Min Ga Temple noted for its spectacular panoramic view of the area’s many monuments; and, Ananda Temple with four huge standing Buddha images and numerous seated figures in niches around the galleried interior.
This afternoon, we will visit the “hidden village” of Set-Set-Yo. In this village we will see the almost lost tradition of topknot hairstyles being worn proudly by the local children. Coconut oil is used to care for the long locks.
This topknot style, with circular fringe, is believed to have developed during the Bagan dynasty. Royals and wealthy families would also adopt the style for important occasions. We will also visit a local farm before returning to Bagan for dinner and overnight.
After an early breakfast we leave Bagan and the river and travel southeast towards Mount Popa. This is an extinct volcano with a shrine dedicated to animist spirits, known as "Nats". We enjoy morning tea at the beautiful Popa Mountain Resort.
We then continue towards Kalaw, with a farm visit along the way, before arriving at our overnight destination, Amara Mountain Resort.
Back on the coach this morning for our short journey to Inle Lake, one of the great attractions of Myanmar and a UNESCO World Biosphere Reserve. During today's excursion by boat we see the famous leg rowers, floating gardens and local methods of fishing and village life. We also visit the weaving village of Inpawkhon and an agricultural development near the lake. Sunset and dinner over the Lake rounds out a fantastic day.
This morning we visit the colourful local market and then lunch before catching our early afternoon flight to the capital, Yangon. On arrival in Yangon we are transferred to our hotel for check-in before visiting Shwedagon Pagoda. At a height of 98 metres, and covered in tonnes of gold, this is one of the world's most spectacular religious monuments.
We enjoy a cultural show and dinner at our hotel this evening.
Today's sightseeing tour of the capital includes the gilded Sule Pagoda, dating back over 2000 years. We will also visit Scott's (Bogyoke) Market and other sights including the royal floating barge. We have a late check-out before transfer to the airport for our 7.10 pm flight to Hanoi. On arrival (9.30 pm) we are transferred to our hotel.
This morning we enjoy a short city tour of Hanoi, the cultural and political heart of Vietnam. Hanoi is a unique city with tree-lined boulevards, French colonial architecture, peaceful lakes and oriental temples. The food is divine, the people are friendly and the shopping is as good as it gets. We’ll visit President Ho Chi Minh’s Mausoleum, Ba Dinh Square and get back to the very heart of Hanoi for a walk around the Lake of the Restored Sword then explore (by rickshaw) the famous Old Quarter of 36 guild streets. We also visit the famous water Puppet theatre this afternoon.
Dinner tonight at one of Hanoi's best restaurants.
We board our deluxe coach this morning to travel through the rice fields of the Red River Delta with a visit to one of Vietnam's main ag research centres. We then continue to beautiful Halong Bay, an area of romantic, rugged islands, caves and beaches. We cruise the Bay and stay on board a luxury Vietnamese junk overnight. For the more energetic, there will be opportunities for sea kayaking, exploring the limestone caves or visiting fishing villages.
Wake-up to sunshine and morning coffee before taking a bamboo boat to visit Sung Cot Cave – one of the largest in Halong Bay. We then continue our Bay cruise enjoying a seafood lunch on-board before returning to Halong City. Our coach will take us back to Hanoi Airport for a short flight to Da Nang, site of the first US Marines' landing during the Vietnam War (known here as the American War). Da Nang (and nearby China Beach) saw a lot of US military activity during the conflict – they are now major tourism centres.
We continue south to the nearby and historic town of Hoi An.
Flight: VN179 Departs 04:00pm; Arrives 05.20 pm
Apart from a rich cultural history, Hoi An is also famous for its tailors – and although our time here is reasonbly short – the local artisans can produce some great shirts and suits in very quick time.
We'll tour the Old Town which was a major Asian trading port with influences from Europe, Japan and China going back hundreds of years.
After lunch, we will visit a typical farming village before returning to enjoy a wonderful dinner back in the Old Town.
Leisurely start to the day before visiting Marble Mountain and China Beach as we travel north to Danang. A visit to a flour mill – part-owned by Western Australia'a CBH group – is being arranged. Overnight Danang.
Early morning flight south to the hill city of Dalat, one of the jewells of Vietnam. We have a short tour of Dalat to get our bearings. There are irrigation developments in the region where some fruit, vegetable and flower farms take advantage of the cooler climate and fertile red soils to produce crops which can't be found elsewhere in the country.
Some free time to take in the refreshing mountain air and scenery. Dalat boasts one of the finest golf courses in Asia.
Flight: VN1955 Departs 07.00 am; Arrives 08.35 am
We transfer to the airport this morning for our short flight to Ho Chi Minh City (Saigon). On arrival, we transfer to the nearby town of Cu Chi and visit a rubber plantation and factory before lunch at a local riverside restaurant. We visit the famous Cu Chi tunnels – one of the most extensive tunnel systems during the War. The tunnels allowed the Viet Cong to operate almost under the noses of the Americans, and very close to Saigon. Later we travel back to Saigon and check in to our hotel.
Flight: Departs 09.40am; Arrives 10.30am
Today we will take a full day tour to the Mekong Delta. On arrival at Cai Be, we’ll board a boat to explore the floating market, typical of the Delta. Continue by boat to Binh Hoa Phuoc Island to visit orchards of tropical fruits and have lunch in the famous Bonsai garden of Mr Sau Giao. After lunch we proceed by boat to Vinh Long Town and transfer to a "speed boat" for a fascinating return on the Mekong and Saigon Rivers back to Ho Chi Minh City.
This morning we will visit some of the main city sights including the Central Post Office, the former Presidential Palace, the Saigon waterfront, and the excitement of the Cho Lon District (Saigon’s China-town). We also have the opportunity to get in some last minute shopping.
Time permitting, a visit to the War remnants Museum is also interesting.
An option today we hope to arrange is a (morning) visit to the nearby port city of Cai Mep where there is a grain facility and flour mill, again with Australian interests involved.
In the early afternoon, we will transfer to the airport for our flights home to Australia.