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Along the Legendary “Old Burma Road”. 17 days

From the Tibetan Highlands to the Golden Land

 

 

the burma road

The Burma Road 

  

triptich

      Bagan                      The Stone Village in Lijian           Green Lake Park, Kunming

 

 

 

 

Kunming - Zhongdian (Shangri-La) - Lijiang - Dali - Baoshan - Tengchong - Ruili + Muse – Lashio – Hsipaw - Pyin-Oo-Lwin – Mandalay – Bagan - Yangon

 


This fascinating journey gets under way in the Tibetan Highlands of a place called Shangri-La, maybe the Shangri-La that James Hilton describes in his novel "The Lost Horizon" as a hidden paradise at the foot of the Himalayan Mountains.

 

We travel along the ancient "Tea and Horse Road”, one of the oldest trading routes in the world for tea from southern Yunnan to Tibet.

 

We come across the mystical Dongba culture of the Naxi people in Lijiang and get to know the friendly Bai people around Dali.

 

We travel in the footsteps of legendary American General Stillwell along the infamous “Old Burma Road” towards Myanmar. The 1500km long Burma Road was built under enormous hardship during WW2 by the Allied Troops from Ledo in India across northern Burma to Kunming.

 

We explore the night market of Ruili before heading across the border into Myanmar. This border has only recently been opened for international travelers and we are proud to be one of the pioneers in being able to arrange such a tour!



In short: A unique tour that will fascinate the most experienced globe-trotter!



Highlights

 

  • Travel in the footsteps of legendary General Stillwell along the Old Burma Road
  • The most spectacular landscape of South-West China
  • Stroll through the UNESCO protected Old Town of Lijiang
  • Visit Heshun village and the Museum about the history of the Old Burma Road
  • Drive along the original part of the Old Burma Road into the Nujiang (Salween) River valley
  • Visit the famous Stone Forest of Lunan

 

 

 

Day 1. KUNMING ARRIVAL

 

Arrival in Kunming and transfer to your hotel.

Depending on the arrival time, we make a stroll through the bird and flower market and visit the East and West Pagodas from the 9th century and dating back to a time when Kunming was part of the once powerful Nanzhao Kingdom.

 

Dinner at a local restaurant.

 

 


Day 2. KUNMING - GREEN LAKE PARK - WESTERN MOUNTAINS - STONE FOREST

 


After breakfast, take a stroll through the idyllic Green Lake Park, a popular gathering point for the local population, to see the locals engaged in their morning workouts, practice Tai Chi, show off their birds and enjoy social dancing.

 

Continue to the Western Mountains from where one has spectacular views over the "Spring City" of Kunming and Dian Chi Lake. Visit the Dragon Gate and the Huating Temple from the 11th century.

 

After Lunch drive to the Stone Forest of Lunan, the most popular tourist attraction in Yunnan which is located about 80km east of Kunming. Years of rain and erosion left behind a bizarre and impressive landscape of limestone pillars which, with a little imagination, indeed resembles a forest. We have a walk through the maze of paths and walkways leading through this natural wonderland and learn more about the Sani people, an ethnic minority populating the area.

 

 

 


Day 3. KUNMING - ZHONGDIAN

 


Early morning flight to Zhongdian, which recently changed its name and is now called "Shangri-La". Zhongdian is situated amongst a stunning landscape on the eastern Tibetan plateau at about 3200 meters above sea level.

 

Upon arrival you drive to a view point from where you enjoy a breathtaking view over the scenic Napa Lake and the surroundings.

 

Continue to the idyllic "Dabao" Monastery which is located about 12km outside of Zhongdian. Dabao Si is the oldest remaining Gelugpa (Yellow Hat) monastery in the area.

 

In the afternoon visit Ganden Sumtseling Gompa, a 300 year old impressive Tibetan Monastery. From a historical point of view the Ganden Sumtseling Gompa is very significant to the region because it was inaugurated personally in the 17th century by the 5th Dalai Lama.

 

After that, visit the picturesque old town of Zhongdian. Time at leisure to explore on your own.

 

 


Day 4. ZHONGDIAN - TIGER LEAPING GORGE - LIJIANG

 

 

Drive through impressive landscape towards Lijiang.

 

Half way we take a left turn into the impressive "Tiger Leaping Gorge" (Hu Tiao Xia), where the Yangtze waters are squeezed through a narrow, at some places only 15 meter wide gorge. The Tiger Leaping Gorge is the most impressive during the summer months, when water levels of the Yangtze River are the highest.

 

Continue to Shigu village, to see the famous "First Bend", where the Yangtze River is making an abrupt 180 degree turn and flows for several kilometers, parallel to itself towards the north again.

 

Continue to Lijiang

 

 

 

Day 5. LIJIANG  

 


In the morning take a stroll through the apparently countless and, on first sight, confusing narrow lanes and canals crisscrossing the picturesque old town.

 

We also learn more about the secrets of the mystic Naxi culture.

 

Lijiang was listed by the UNESCO as a World Heritage site in 1992.

 

In the afternoon visit of the wonderful "Black Dragon Pool" Park, from where, weather permitting, one has a spectacular view of the 5596m "Jade Dragon Mountain".

 

Visit the Dongba Museum and drive to Baisha. The Baisha village used to be the capital of the once powerful Naxi Kingdom. We visit the Liuli temple with beautiful wall paintings from the late Ming Dynasty, which, miraculously, survived the turmoil of the Cultural Revolution.

 

Time at leisure to explore the old town of Lijiang on your own.

 

In the evening visit a traditional Dongba-Music concert. (optional)

 

 

 

Day 6. LIJIANG - DALI (175km / 4 hrs)

  

 

In the morning drive to Dali. Dali is situated on the eastern shores of the stunning Erhai Lake on the foot of the 4000m high Cang Shan mountain range.

 

During the 9th century Dali served as capital of the once powerful Nanzhao and later the Dali Kingdoms, before the town was overrun by the Mongols about 400 years later.

 

Along the way we stop at Xizhou which is famous for its well preserved Bai architecture. We visit the recently renovated 3 Pagodas of the San Ta Si Monastery from the 9th century.

 

The rest of the afternoon is at your own disposal for the exploration of the picturesque old town of Dali.

 

 

 

Day 7. DALI - BAOSHAN (210km /4.5 hrs)

 

 

We leave Dali and follow the infamous "Burma Road" through a stunning countryside towards Baoshan.

 

When advancing Japanese troops cut off the American supply lines in southern Myanmar (Burma) during WW 2, the American, General Joseph Stillwell, took on the enormous task to build a road from Ledo in India via northern Burma into China to Kunming.

 

We cross the Mekong River and drive along the original remaining parts of this legendary road.

 

Before arriving in Baoshan we visit an idyllic, rarely visited temple with a magnificent reclining Jade-Buddha. The Buddha was a gift from the Burmese Foreign Minister U Nu who visited the area in the 1960s.

 

Later in the afternoon we continue to Baoshan.

 

 


Day 8. BAOSHAN - TENGCHONG (210km /4.5 hrs)

 

 

Today we follow in the footsteps of General Stillwell and "his" Burma Road.

 

The road leads through stunning landscape into the Nujiang Valley before winding its way through the impressive Gaolingong Mountain Range towards Tengchong.

 

Located on the Fault lines of the Indian Subcontinent and Asian Continent at an altitude of 1'650 meters, Tengchong's surroundings are dotted with countless ancient volcanoes and numerous natural hot springs.

 

Tengchong played an important role in the defense against the Japanese invaders by the allied forces during WW2. Overnight accommodation in Tengchong.

 

 


Day 9. TENCHONG - MANGSHI - RUILI (180km / 5hrs)

 

 

In the morning we visit the historic village of Heshun with its picturesque Qing-Style houses .

 

We visit the interesting Museum about the history of the Old Burma Road and take a stroll through the rustic old town.

 

Continue via Mangshi to Wanding where the old Burma Road once crossed the border into Burma.

 

We visit the historically important Wanding-Bridge. Every day thousands of tons of essential war supplies for China crossed that bridge in 1944.

 

After that, continue to Ruili. On the way we make a brief stop at the small park with the poetic name "The tree that creates a forest".

 

 


Day 10. RUILI BORDER CROSSING - Muse - Lashio - Hsipaw

 

 

Transfer to the border, located about 12km from Ruili ( Shwe Li) .

 

Cross the Sino-Burmese border from Shwe Li (Yunnan) into Muse, a small provincial town of no significance other than that it conveniently sits on the Yunnan / Myanmar trade artery, and as such has grown into one of Myanmar's biggest and most successful border trade points. Muse is located about 190 km north of Lashio, on the banks of the Shwe Li river.


Important remark! The Myanmar Immigration checkpoint at Muse is open as of 07.00 local time. Note that Mainland China is 01.30 hours ahead of Myanmar time! The time effectively available to very shortly visit Muse and Lashio will depend on how early and how fast formalities on the Myanmar side can be processed. Usually we assume that clients can enter Myanmar and start their tour programme from Muse around 10.00 local time.



Once immigration & customs formalities completed very briefly visit Lwe Thein Khan Hill whence we get a nice panoramic view of the Sino-Burmese border area and the Shwe Li river.


Then, drive south toward Lashio via two checkpoints on the way. Transfer time for this part is about 4 hrs.

 

Near Kuk Kai, a small roadside town, there will be a stop with option to use toilets and where there is a chance to have a simple lunch.

 

En route, and time permitting, a brief stop at a Shan or Palaung village.

 

Arrive in Lashio early afternoon.

 

Lashio is the head place of Northern Shan State. It has a large Chinese community, though it had more significance under the Shan Sawbwa (prince), and was of vital importance during WW II as part of The Burma Road, enabling the supply line between Chiang Kai Shek's armies and the Allies.

 

Visit first Lashio's central market in Lashio Lay. Then, Quan Yin San Temple, the main Buddhist place of worship for the large Chinese community of Lashio. Finally, visit Pyi Lon Chantha Pagoda which sits on Mya Kantha Hill in the northern part of the city, and offers great views of Lashio.

 

Continue for approx. 2 hrs. in a southwesterly direction to Hsipaw (Thibaw).

 

Hsipaw is a small country town set in a scenic landscape. The atmosphere is one of tranquility, charm and daily life proceeds at a laid-back pace.

 

 

Day 11. Hsipaw

 

 

After breakfast take a boat and sail up the Dutthtawaddy river for about one hour. Enjoy the beautiful scenery along the river. Then stop at the bank and walk through pineapple, lemon, orange and teak plantations. Visit an old monastery built over 150 yrs ago. Then back to the boat and continue sailing upstream until we reach a confluence with a small stream. Brief photo stop. Sail back to Hsipaw. On the way back stop and visit a beautiful Shan village called Sune Lon near the river bank. Arrive back at Hsipaw shortly afternoon. (The whole boat excursion takes about 5 hrs.)



In the afternoon, continue sightseeing in Hsipaw and surroundings. Visit some local workshops of cheroot making, pop corn making and a noodle factory. Visit Hnee Pagoda and a guardian nat shrine near the north entrance to Hsipaw.

 

To conclude the day, watch the sun set from Thein Taung Hill (sun sets around 17:30 in winter!).

 

 

 

Day 12. Hsipaw - Kyaukme / Naung Cho (by train) - Pyin-Oo-Lwin
(102 km by train; 54 km by road - 6-7 hrs)

 

 

For very early risers there is a chance of experiencing something unique: visit the local market near the bank of the Dutthtawaddy river, especially selling vegetables. This market starts quite early, about 02:00 and wraps up around 05:00, and most of the selling is done with the help of candle light.

 

After breakfast transfer to Hsipaw railway station for departure to Naung Cho via Kyauk Me. The train departs at 0930 and arrives Naung Cho at around 1400.



Traveling by train in Myanmar is quite a different experience as compared with developed countries. However, despite the apparent lack of modern comfort and convenience, it is enjoyable to mingle with the local travelers. Also, a long train ride is a chance to observe how locals travel around, and the many vendors hawking and peddling their wares give some real "couleur locale' to it all.



After hardly 90 min. there is a brief transit stop at Kyauk Me. Then, continue direction Naung Cho.

 

Around 13:00 the line starts to plunge and snake its way down the Gokteik gorge, rising up again on the other side leading to Naung Cho.

 

The train suddenly slows down, and crosses over the famous Gokteik Bridge at a snail's pace. The bridge is over 700 metres long and its construction was finalized by the American Pennsylvania Steel Co. in 1901. The bridge spans an abyss nearly 300 metres deep.

 

Note: Officially it is not allowed to photograph / video bridges in Myanmar. Practically, however, this regulation is often only loosely enforced.

 

After crossing the Gokteik bridge, get off the train at Naung Cho station.

 

Board into the waiting vehicle, and continue the rest of the journey by road.

 

Arrive at Pyin-Oo-Lwin around 1600, and transfer to your hotel for check-in.

 

The remainder of the afternoon is at leisure.

 

 


Day 13. Pyin-Oo-Lwin - Mandalay
(70 km by road; 90 min.)

 



Take a short time to explore some of the main attractions of Pyin-Oo-Lwin, formerly known as Maymyo (the city of May, a British colonel in colonial times). It is one of several British hill stations, which were popular with the British back then, and are still quite popular with the local people because of its mostly cool climate, its scenic beauty, and fresh air.

 

Apart from the Bamar (Burmese) ethnic group, there are also many Nepalis and Indians living in Pyin-Oo-Lwin, as many of them chose to stay on there after the end of WW II.

 

Visit the local fresh market. Then, continue to the Church of the Immaculate Conception a 100-year-old church south of the central area which features a large brick sanctuary with a bell tower and cruciform floor plan. The vaulted wooden ceilings and well appointed interior are impressive.

 

From there, proceed to the Japanese War Cemetery, numbering about 50 graves. Every year during the months of December and January, families, friends & relatives of the fallen ones come from Japan to pay their respects.



Also, visit Purcell Tower, a clock tower in the heart of the town's centre, which was given as a present by Queen Victoria.

 

Ride through town on a horse drawn "stage coach", giving you the chance to admire the brick and timber houses, complete with English-style gables, turrets and chimneys.

 

Arrive at the Botanical Gardens with lots of flower beds, trees, and stretches of manicured lawns. Originally the botanical gardens were laid out by Sir Harcourt Butler, a former governor of Burma, but shortly after the turn of this century the layout was partly redrawn by Japanese garden designers.

 

Late morning depart Pyin-Oo-Lwin by road to Mandalay. At first, the road is winding down with many a turn. When the area becomes flat, more roadside villages appear and rice paddies become a more dominating feature of the landscape. The drive takes approx. 90 min.

 

Upon arrival, transfer to your hotel for check-in.  In the afternoon, visit Mandalay's highlights.


Drive past part of the Mandalay Palace's walls and moat, and continue to visit Shwenandaw Monastery, an ancient wooden building with intricate carvings, which was once King Mindon's home. Nearby is Kuthodaw Pagoda, the "world's largest book", being the Buddhist Scriptures inscribed on marble slabs. Visit Kyauktawgyi Pagoda to see a large Buddha statue carved out of a single block of local marble.

 

Finally, enjoy spectacular views around sunset time from Mandalay Hill, covered with glass-studded temples. Return to your hotel early evening.

 

 


Day 14. Mandalay - Amarapura - Sagaing - Amarapura - Bagan
(40 km by road, 5-6 hrs for Mandalay area)

 


First, visit Mahamuni Pagoda, home to Mandalay's most revered Buddha image.

 

Take a short time to stop and see some local handicraft works such as stone & wood carving, and bronze casting. Then, continue to the ancient capital of Amarapura, "City of Immortality", 11 km. south of Mandalay.



First, visit Mahagandayon Monastery, residence to approx. 1,000 monks. Around 10.15 - 10.30 they have their last meal of the day, as after 12 noon monks fast till the next morning.

 

En route to Sagaing, as Amarapura is famous for its fine textiles, visit a silk weaving shop.

 

Then, continue and drive across the recently built Sagaing bridge which runs parallel with Ava Bridge, built by British engineers, and which was partly destroyed in WW II.

 

Visit picturesque Sagaing Hill, still the beating heart of Buddhist faith in Myanmar today. Numerous monasteries and pagodas dot the hillsides. Visit Soon U Ponya Shin Paya, which offers magnificent sweeping views of its surroundings, and U Min Thounzeh Pagoda, containing 45 Buddha images lined up in a half-moon shape.

 

Re-cross Sagaing bridge and make a photo stop at U-Bein bridge, over one km. long and almost entirely made of teak, and spanning the Taungthaman Lake, at Amarapura. From there, direct transfer to Mandalay airport for departure to Bagan. 

 

Upon arrival at Bagan airport, transfer to your hotel for check-in. If in luck, enjoy great panoramic views of the Bagan Ancient Temple Site around sunset.

 

 

Day 15. Bagan - Discover Bagan - Yangon
(50 km, 7 - 8 hrs for the Bagan part)

 

 

After breakfast, start your Bagan sightseeing tour with a visit of the local market of Nyaung-Oo, a sizeable and colourful market, quite busy at this time of day.

 

From there, proceed to the golden stupa of Shwezigon Pagoda, which is Bagan's most important reliquary shrine.

 

See 12th Century frescoes adorning the corridors of Kyansittha 'Cave' Temple.

 

Next stop is Htilominlo, the last Bamar-style temple built in Bagan, with old murals and friezes.

 

Pass through Tharaba Gateway into Old Bagan. Continue to Ananda Temple, a whitewashed masterpiece of Mon architecture with four standing Buddhas, and the adjacent brick monastery from the Early Bagan era with well-preserved murals. Make a photo stop at the tallest temple measuring 61 m. - Thatbyinnyu known as 'temple of omniscience' and dating from 1144.

 

In the afternoon, visit Mingalazedi, the last of the large pagodas built in the 13th Century, representing the pinnacle of Bamar pagoda architecture.

 

Continue to the Myinkaba area and Gubyaukgyi Temple with its fine stuccowork.



Visit Nanpaya Temple, built in the Mon style with intricate stone carvings, and said once to have been Manuha's residence. See the four Buddha images in Manuha Pagoda and then stop at Myazedi Stupa to see Myanmar's "Rosetta Stone", bearing inscriptions written in four languages.

 

Finally, stop at one of the local popular lacquer ware workshops to watch craftsmen skillfully making this most famous of Bagan handicrafts.

 

Late afternoon, direct transfer to Bagan airport for departure to Yangon.

 

Upon arrival at Yangon airport, transfer to your hotel for check-in.

 

 

 

Day 16. Yangon - Experience Yangon - Departure
(approx. 40 km; about 8 - 9 hrs.)

 

 

After breakfast, start your Yangon sightseeing with a visit of Chauk Htat Gyi Pagoda, a huge reclining Buddha image.

 

Next, drive along Kandawgyi (Royal) Lake and on the east side make a brief stop to take some great photos across the lake towards the magnificent Shwedagon Pagoda.

 

From here, continue into Thein Phyu street, pass the old "Secretariat" building where years ago ministerial meetings were held. View some of the best that colonial-style Yangon has to offer with places of interest such as High Court building and the Government Telegraph Office on Pansodan street; both were built in the 1920s & 1930s.

 

Visit Sule Pagoda, a famous landmark in downtown Yangon.

 

After that, start a walk of approx. 30 min. with views of City Hall, Maha Bandoola Garden, formerly Fytche Square, named after Albert Fytche, one of Britain's former commissioners. From there, descend toward Strand road with a number of exquisite colonial-style buildings facing Yangon's waterfront such as Law Court, Custom House, Myanmar Port Authority, and eventually the historic and landmark luxury property: The Strand Hotel.

 

Visit the National Museum (closed on Mondays and Public Holidays) to see the impressive Lion's Throne.



In the afternoon, visit Bogyoke Aung San (Scott) Market (closed on Mondays and public holidays) to discover Myanmar's wide range of handicrafts. No doubt you will find your preferred item to take back home as a remembrance of your trip to The Golden Land.

 

Finally, late afternoon and around sunset time, pay homage to the mighty Shwedagon Pagoda, world-famous, its golden stupa being the heart of Buddhist Myanmar. It is believed to be 2,500 years old and its central stupa is surrounded by dozens of intricately decorated buildings and statues. Especially at this time of day the Shwedagon pagoda is always crowded with scores of Myanmar people praying and making offerings. It is both relaxing and fascinating to spend some time watching the world go by.

 

 

 

Day 17   Transfer to Yangon International Airport for departure.

 

 

This suggested itinerary can be modified to suit your own requirements. It can also be combined with other arrangements in China, Myanmar or elsewhere in Southeast Asia.