...................AMAZING MYANMAR, September, 2008....................................

Rudyard Kipling once described Burma (Myanmar) as: “quite unlike any land you know about.” Join us as we discover this Golden land, perhaps the least discovered country in Southeast Asia. Our itinerary includes Yangon's Schwedegon Pagoda, the ancient city of Bagan where the landscape is dotted with more than one thousand temples, Inle Lake, where we will photograph local fishermen, bustling local markets and lakeside life seemingly unchanged for centuries. In Mandalay we will photograph monks crossing U Bien's bridge, a 1.2 Km teak footbridge. Limited to 9 participants. Click here for Price & more details

.............Trip leader Humanitarian Photojournalist, Karl Grobl ...................

The major points of interest on this trip include Yangon, Bagan, Mandalay, and Inle lake. Each location affords us a wide variety of photographic opportunities including street photography, landscape photography, environmental portraiture and still life. Burma is truly one of the few "authentic" destinations remaining in this modern, ever-homoginizing world.

Yangon or Rangoon as is was once called, is the largest city in Burma and contains the amazing Shwedagon Pagoda.The origin of the Shwedagon Pagoda dates back to over 2500 years. Gautama Buddha presented eight strands of sacred hairs to two merchants, who offered it to King Okkalapa on their return. The king built a pagoda on a hilltop overlooking the port city of Okkalapa, in which the sacred hairs were enshrined. Successive monarchs enlarged the pagoda by building outer structures over the original. The present stupa reaching a height of 326 feet was completed in the mid 1450s by Queen Shin-sawpu. The last renovation of the Shwehtidaw (literally meaning the "Golden Umbrella" and comprising of the Diamond Bud, the vane and the shaft) was successfully undertaken by King Mindon in 1871.

Mandalay is the modern centre of Buddhism and Myanmar arts, but was once the old royal city. Mandalay, 670km north of Yangon, is now the home of traditional artisans - including wood and stone carvers, silversmiths, weavers and those producing gold leaf. The former capital, prior to British rule, and the second largest city in the country, Mandalay it takes its name from the nearby 240-metre Mandalay Hill, and is rich in monasteries and pagodas.

Bagan is one of the richest archaeological sites in Asia, it is located on the eastern bank of the Ayeyarwaddy River. Once the capitol of the Myanmar Empire, Bagan covers an area of 42 sq. km containing over 2000 well-preserved pagodas and temples of the 11th - 13th century. At its height, in the early 11th century, Bagan was the world centre of Theravada Buddhism, with more than 13,000 pagodas covering the plains bordered by two sides of the Ayeyarwady River. But the city fell to the invasion of Kublai Kahn's hordes in 1287 and was abandoned, leaving to this day, thousands of pagodas remaining in the midst of the Mongol destruction.

Inle Lake: at 875 metres above sea level, Inle Lake is surrounded by high hills that help to keep the waters calm and the lake area misty. The huge and beautiful lake not only contains a marvelous microcosm of aquatic life and activity, but is also home to a harmonious blend of national races. Including the Bamar, Danaw, Danu, Intha, Kayah, Pa-O, Shan, and Taung-yo peoples. Inle Lake also supports a thriving farming community that produces a wide range of vegetables and flowers. Rice is cultivated at the northern end of the lake on extremely fertile, man-made floating islands. The local men also produce silver and brassware, pottery and lacquerware, while the lake's women are highly skilled silk weavers. The area is the second largest producer of silk products in the country.

Please Note: This is the inaugural trip, expect some minor changes to hotels, restaurants, and activities. We are running this trip on what is called the "shoulder season", meaning that it's not the height of the tourist season. By doing this, we avoid the crowds, however, be advised that it might rain on us a bit. I did this trip in August (September usually sees less rain) and the rain that occurred did not hinder my shooting, in fact it provided visual drama in the form of clearing clouds in my landscape pictures, and in the form of "glossy" streets and saturated fruits and vegetables in the marker places. I experienced rain during the day 3 times, two times in Mandalay with showers lasting less than 2 hours, and one time in Yangon lasting a bit longer. When it rained, most tourists at the sights I was visiting vanished, leaving me with great photo opportunities as the weather cleared.

Additionally, if you expect five star hotels and you are finicky about your food, you should probably select a different tour. However, if you are truly adventurous, flexible and enthusiastic about traveling to off-the-beaten-track places, and are more interested in photography than whether or not you get complimentary herbal shampoo or a mint on your pillow back at the hotel, then you will find this Burma tour extremely rewarding, enlightening and photographically rich. The most enjoyable photo tour groups that you can take part in are made up of adventurous, upbeat, like-minded, flexible people who enjoy each others company.

------------------- Our Itinerary -------------------

Day 1 Guests arrive in Yangon are picked up at airport and transported to Kandawagyi Palace Hotel. Afternoon or evening orientation meeting at hotel, then dinner at Sandy's Myanmar Cusine. Spend the night at Kandawagyi Palace Hotel.
Day 2 Morning guided tour of Schwedegon Pagoda, then drive to Bago, guided tour of Bago then drive back to Yangon for evening photos at Schwedegon Pagoda, dinner at Kandawagyi Palace hotel. Spend the night at Kandawagyi Palace Hotel
Day 3 Morning flight Yangon to Mandalay, then transport to either the Sedona Hotel, Mandalay City Hotel or the Mandalay Hill Resort. After check in, spend the afternoon on a guided tour to visit to Mandalay Hill and City Palace. Dinner and Marionette Puppet Show.
Day 4 Mandalay all day: visit to Inwa, Sagaing, Amarapura and Ubien Bridge. Spend the night at either the Sedona Hotel, Mandalay City Hotel or the Mandalay Hill Resort

Day 5 Mandalay: breakfast at hotel then guided day tour to Pin Lo Uin, then back to Ubien Bridge at sunset. Spend the night at Sedona Hotel or Mandalay City Hotel or Mandalay Hill Resort

Day 6 Morning flight from Mandalay to Bagan then transport to the Bagan Hotel. Afternoon tour starting at 1:30 to visit Htilomindo Temple, Ananda Temple, Memalaungkyaung Temple, then arrive Shwesandaw Pagoda to photograph sunset (looking east). Dinner at Saraba Restaurant
Day 7 Sunrise shoot at temples near the Bagan Hotel, then day tour to see brown sugar, alcohol and plum juice production, on the way to Mt. Popa. At Mt. Popa visit Nats Shrine, climb to top, then back down and drive to (local village) Shwesiding village, then back to Bagan for sunset shoot at Phat That Gyi Temple (looking west) Dinner at Bagan Hotel and spend the night.
Day 8 Bagan, sunrise photos at Minyangone or Shwesandaw Pagoda using horse carts. Back to hotel for breakfast then guided tour of lacquer workshop, Kyaukpataung City market, Chauk City Market and weaving village Minnandhu village. Optional sunset shoot at a temple in Bagan. Spend the night at Bagan Hotel.
Day 9 Morning flight from Bagan to Heho, then transport to Inle Lake / Nyaungshwe, stopping to photograph the Heho market on the way. Upon arrival in Nuangshwe, immediately take boat to Shwe Inn Tha Floating Resort and relax. Arrange an afternoon boat ride to local fisherman houses on the lake. Dinner at Shwe Inn Tha Floating Resort.
Day 10 Guided tour with private boats from Shwe Inn Tha Floating Resort to visit Indein Market, Cheroot factory, long neck tribe, Umbrella factory and blacksmith shop, silk weaving and the jumping cat Monestary (with a break during the middle of the day for lunch and relaxation) In the evening return to Shwe Inn Tha Floating Resort for dinner.
Day 11 After a leisurely breakfast take boats from Shwe Inn Tha Floating Resort to Nuangshwe town and check into Amazing Nuangshwe Resort. Guests have the afternoon free to explore town. Dinner at Golden Kite Restaurant
Day 12 Guided walking tour of Nuangshwe town including the many monasteries, local market and lakeside activities.Spend the night at the Amazing Nuangshwe Resort. Dinner at the hotel
Day 13 Guests are transported back to Heho for flight to Yangon. Afternoon and evening return to Schwedegon Pagoda, followed by farewell dinner. Spend night at Kandawagyi Palace Hotel
Day 14 Today guests are transported to the airport for flights back home or to Siem Reap for those taking the Cambodia/Angkor Wat extension.
------------------- Optional Extension to Angkor Wat-------------------

Day 14 Guests on Cambodia/Angkor Wat extension fly to Siem Reap and visit Angkor wat for orientation and a sunset photo shoot. Upon our arrival in Siem Reap we are met by a local tour operator and transported to our hotel, the beautiful Pavillon Indochine. After checking in and grabbing a quick snack, we are transported to the entrance gate of the famous Angkor Wat where we purchase our 3 day entry passes and continue into the Angkor complex for an introductory, sunset shoot at the main temple

Day 15 Angor Temples: With the help of our english speaking Angkor guide, we spend all day exploring 3 or 4 major Angkor temples and several "secret ones" too. We even schedule an optional model shoot at Bayon, using one of the traditionally dressed Apsara dancers and visit a famous Buddhist monk who might be perfoming ritual cleansing baths for Cambodians who come from all over the country to seek his treatments.

Day 16 Tonle Sap village / boat tour & Beng Melea: First we drive to Kompong Khleang, one of the largest settlements on the Tonle sap lake. Over 20,000 people live in high stilt houses which tower up to 10 meters over the water. It is a spectacular place which only gets a small number of visitors. There is a small island at the centre of the village which has a bustling market. We take a boat tour to see the floating market, then return for a lunch of fresh fish prepared in Khmer style at our boatman's house. After lunch we drive to the remote and recently "de-mined" Angkor site of Beng Melea for some amazing, "Indiana Jones" type temple exploration. Beng Melea surpasses even the famous Ta Prohm for atmosphere. The whole site of Beng Melea is bathed with dappled light from the jungle canopy making it a fabulous temple for adventurous photographers.

Day 17 Sunrise shoot at Ta Prom: This morning we wake very early to explore and photograph sunrise at amazing Ta Phrom, where jungle tree roots still cover the ruined temples. After our morning photo shoot we return to the Pavillon Indochine for breakfast, then you are free to spend the remainder of the day re-visiting and re-photographing your favorite ancient temples and traditional villages around Angkor, or grab a guide and seek out your own new temples! In the evening we are treated to a gourmet dinner at the famous Café Indochine.

Day 18 After a lesiurely breakfast, you are transported to airport for flights from Siem Reap to Bangkok and home. (if you book late flight out of Siem Reap you can relax or explore Siem Reap more on your own.