Community Based Tourism
Myaing is a small town nearby Pakkoku and Bagan. It is about 2 hour drive either from Pakkoku or Bagan. The CBT site is 15 minute drive from Myaing. It is closely located by Yin Taing Taung Dam which is the start of the Myaing CBT project. The project was implemented by ActionAid Myanmar for the four communities called Kan Gyi Taw Village 1 & 2, Su Lea Pan Village and Inn Yaung Village in collaboration with the local government authorities since 2011. In these villages, there are about 200 households and over 1000 household population.
Yin Taing Taung Dam further changes the landscape and the ecological system in the area, where was once dry but is now surrounded by green forest, birds and lively fishes. Taking this advantage, ActionAid Myanmar initiated the Community Based Tourism (CBT) at the same area in mid-2015 with the aim to stimulating employment opportunities, increasing investment in human capital and better access to quality services for people in need, and ultimately the creation of small and medium enterprises in rural areas will reduce poverty and benefit the majority of rural poor in Myanmar.
This trip will take you to experience a deeper side to Myanmar and enjoy the hospitality of local communities, in a mutual respectful way, and witness true rural life in the Dry Zone of Magwe.
This trip will take you to discover not only the challenges that the communities face on a daily basis but also the strength of community life. You will be invited to learn more about the history, present and future of the community through the work they have been doing.
Start your first day in Yangon by heading over to the downtown and the ancient octagonal-shaped Sule Paya located in the very centre of Yangon. It is surrounded by the busy streets and colonial buildings such as the Supreme Court and Yangon City Hall.
Continue to the Botahtaung Pagoda close to the Yangon Jetty. There is a sort of mirrored maze inside the stupa, with glass showcases containing many of the ancient relics.
Stop by a street café to take a taste of the delicious local Shan noodle dish accompanied with some spring rolls and Shan tofu for filling lunch.
Afternoon visit is the vibrant Bogyoke (Scott) Market which has the largest selection of Burmese handicrafts.
In the evening, visit the Shwedagon Pagoda, the 'heart' of Buddhists in Myanmar. The Pagoda is believed to be 2,600 years old and it is always crowded with many people praying and making offerings at Shwedagon especially on Full Moon days and religious days.
Start your first day in Bagan by exploring and mingling with the local people at Nyaung U local market which has the wet market section selling the local produce from meat, fish to vegetables and another section selling the items such as rattan products, handicrafts and cotton clothing.
Then see the golden stupa of Shwezigon Pagoda, where the 37 pre-Buddhist 'Nats' were first officially endorsed by the Barmar monarchy. Although the entrances of the pagoda is packed with the gift shops which will spring the intense experience, the inner platform is undisturbed and filled with the colourful structures and statues. The size of the pagoda and overall scale of the complex is not large and more intimate.
Stop by one of the local eateries as they offer plenty of great food in different cuisines including local food and fusions.
Next stop is Htilominlo Paya situated close to the road between Nyaung U and Bagan, built by king Nantaungmya in 1218 and traces of old murals are also still visible. Continue to Ananda Temple, a whitewashed masterpiece of Mon architecture with four standing Buddhas, and the adjacent brick monastery with beautiful, well-preserved 18th century murals.
In the afternoon, visit Dhammayangyi, a massive-looking temple dating from 1170, which is famous for its interlocking mortar-less brickwork.
Then board a private boat to experience the sun setting up past the brink of the river, to capture the most picturesque scene; and to observe the local life along the river bank, the habitat of birds and surrounding nature.
Today drive to Popa. In the middle of the scorched plain 50 kilometres away from Bagan rises Mt. Popa, which looks like an oasis in a desert is an extinct volcano set in a national reserve whose slopes are covered in lush greenery. Also, it is home to Myanmar's intriguing 37 'Nats' and a major pilgrimage destination. With over 700 steps the dramatic ascent to the cliff top shrine is best done slowly but the views from the summit over the surrounding plains and Mt. Popa itself are spectacular. The infamous Popa’s monkeys can be seen along the line of the stairwell as ascending and descending. However, they are mostly kept to themselves around the areas with the stalls serving food. As long as they are not attracted by food, they will not trouble.
Stop by Popa Mountain Resort which has an incredible view of the Mt. Popa and amazing surroundings. The infinity pool of the resort and the food there are also worth the visit and fresh rest from the heat are rewarding.
In the afternoon, visit one of the villages around Bagan. Most of the villagers live in the bamboo houses and make wooden slippers, famous Bagan Pone Yay Gyi which is black bean curd paste and pottery traditionally for a living. Different aspects of the traditional Myanmar country life will be shown by the village visit.
Toddy palm tree is also a very important aspect of rural life in Myanmar. Visit one of the toddy fields to see the making of jaggery (palm sugar) and taste the toddy wine or “Sky Beer” which is extremely sweet and potent.
Drive to Myaing in the afternoon, and arrive at the community lodge and take a rest. Have dinner prepared by the local community.
Breakfast at the lodge. Explore Myaing Market with bicycles (Mountain bikes) or Thuk Thuk can be arranged. Ride on the bicycle to discover the ways of lifestyle in the nearby villages. At one of the villages, a local community member will present about the CBT project briefly. Spend time with the local families or learn cooking with them. After lunch, visit some more local family’s homes and farming places which might be including a Thanaka farm where the authentic beauty products that Burmese girls use as natural sunscreen on their faces will be displayed for the visitors to try out. At the other farms, you will have an opportunity to learn how the local farmers grow and produce crops traditionally.
Return back to the lodge and rest. Have dinner and enjoy the cultural dance performed by the local community.
This morning check out the lodge and load the luggage into the van and then take a walk to a village across the hill for breakfast there. Drive to Mandalay.
Start your first day in Mandalay by a visit to the Mahamuni Pagoda, built by King Bodawpaya in 1784, the centrepiece of the shrine is the highly venerated Mahamuni Buddha image, which was transported to Mandalay from Mrauk-U (Rakhine) in 1784. There is an early morning face wash of the Payagyi by a chief monk every morning at 4 AM. It is astonishing to see the body of the statue covered with the gold leaves and men are still offering gold every day.
Continue a visit to Marble Carving workshops to see the expert craftsmen creating the delicate Buddha images from sculpting out of the white marble stones with the traditional tools. Proceed to watch making the wooden puppets, Wood Carving at the workshops. Then visit Gold Leaf workshops to see the traditional process of Gold Leaf creation. Workers spend up to eight hours beating a pure gold down to the very thin sheet. Labours are seen sitting, cutting and packing the gold leaf in the work room.
Walk around the surroundings of Zay Cho Market which means sweet price. Enjoy the fantastic photo opportunity of a scene full of life as the local produce and goods spilling on the open-air bustling street market.
Stop by one of the local tea shops in Mandalay which is famous even for Burmese people from other parts of the country and enjoy the culinary experience. Mont Di, Mee Shae and Shan noodles are the most popular ones from the Mandalay street food. Burmese style noodle salads are thick with the chicken pea powder and the red chili paste and garlic infused oil makes the rice noodle the yellow colour. It will usually be mixed with the crunchy pea fritters, fish balls, beansprouts and lots of onions to give fresh flovour. Shan noodles are lighter and sweeter in flovour and mixed with peanuts powder, meat, soy sauce, sliced spring onions and pickled mustard.
In the afternoon, visit Shwenandaw Monastery (Golden Palace Monastery) which is a museum as well as an ancient wooden monastery. The building is covered inside and out with carved teak panels of the stories of Buddha’s life times. It once was also part of the royal apartment of King Mindon. The inside of the small monastery is greatly gilt with gold and decorated with glass mosaic work which offers an impression of what the real old palace would have made or seemed originally.
Then continue to Kuthodaw Pagoda (also known as the Maha Lawka Marazein Pagoda), located at the foot of the Mandalay Hill is the pagoda complex which has been dubbed 'the world's biggest book', for standing around the central stupa are 729 marble slabs on which are inscribed the entire Tripitaka. Each slab is housed in its own individual small stupa. The long white rows of the stupas are a sight to be worth photographed and walking around the aisle and being immersed in the beauty of the whole place is a great delight. At the pagoda, there is an opportunity to experience applying Thanakha, a natural sunblock traditionally wore by Burmese women.
Visit nearby Sandamuni Pagada, which is famous for the large golden stupa, the forest of over one thousands small white stupas (1774 to be exact) housing engraved marble slap each, and the largest iron Buddha image in Myanmar namely Sandamuni. There are little gap between the rows of the stupas and they are placed in a mass and higher density compared to the field of Kuthodaw Pagoda. Sandamuni Pagoda was constructed as a monument in memory of Crown Prince Kanaung.
Proceed to Kyauktawgyi Pagoda, which is essentially interesting for the huge seated Buddha image carved from a single block of pale green marble. The pagoda was started constructed dating back from 1853 but not until 1878 when it was completed. The marble stone block was said to be transported by ten thousand people, and it took two weeks to have the stone block rearranged from the Ayeyarwaddy River to the present location.
The last but not least is to view the superb sunset at Mandalay Hill and enjoy the spectacular panoramic view of the city ornamented with the colour of twilight and dusk after sunset.
Sagaing located at the foot of Sagaing Hill, was once the capital of Shan Kingdom in the 14th century and today a peaceful religious centre of Buddhism and a popular place for meditation dotted with monasteries and nunneries quarters. Myasetkyar Monastery in Sagaing monastic quarter is a place where the monks' lunchtime parade and rituals can be observed. Visit Soon Oo Ponya Shin Pagoda, whose position on the areas highest hill offers fantastic views across the valley and the Ayeyarwady River. Afterwards visit U Min Thonze (Hall of thirty Buddhas), which is home to 43 seated Buddha images. There is an optional visit to a silver smith workshop.
Then take a local public ferry at the jetty and continue onto a horse-drawn cart for the ride to Innwa (Ava), the ancient capital of Myanmar on the other side of the Ayeyarwaddy River. First visit Maha Aungmye Bonzn Monastery (Also known as the Ok Kyaung), brick-and-stucco monastery built by Meh Nu, the chief queen of Bagyidaw, for her royal abbot U Po (Nyaunggan Sayadaw) in 1818. Proceed to Nanmyint Watch Tower, 27m high masonry watchtower and climb to the top to enjoy views over the river. Then continue to Bagaya Kyaung, which dates from 1834 and built of teak and supported by 267 teak posts.
On the way back to Mandalay, during your stop at Amarapura, nearby U-Bein Bridge, a 1.2km long leak bridge over the Taung Thaman Lake, is one of the most famous and unique attractions. Watching or mingling with the local commuters and monks making their way back and forth across it is fascinating. The sun dropping behind the uneven pillars of the bridge is worth photographed. Board a small boat to drift on the lake and watch sunset is another superb way to spend time at U-Bein.
Drive to Mingun Village and first stop is Mingun Bell, the world’s largest operational bell weighing in at a whopping 90 tons and 12 feet high. Some enthusiastic people can step inside the huge and heavy looking bell. It is well-shaped and also fascinating to see the bell’s hanging mechanism. The outside of the massive bell can be rung but it has no internal ringing tool.
Next visit is Mingun Pagoda, a huge, unfinished pagoda to this day, which if completed would have stood at over 150 metres and been the largest monument in the world. The King Bodawpaya commissioned to start building it in 1790 but the construction ceased when the king died. Measuring 450 feet by 450 feet and 172 feet high, the large mound still dwarfs the area around. There are two enormous prominent ruined statues of lions near the bank of the river.
Then continue on to Hsinbyume Pagoda also known as Myatheindan Pagoda, a white pagoda built by King Bodawpaya’s grandson, King Bagyidaw in memory of one of his wives. This all-white masterpiece is largely known for its unique architectural style. The pagoda includes seven concentric terraces which contain the small status of mythical creatures. The sight of the whole pagoda is always worth photographed as well as the view from the top of pagoda is breathtaking.
Enjoy Burmese cuisine at one of the local restaurants. A plate of white rice; small dishes of fried vegetables; pork, fish, beef, mutton, shrimp oil curry based dishes; salads; a small bowl of lentil and vegetable soup; and a large tray of fresh, and parboiled vegetables and herbs to be eaten with various dips are a common meal in Myanmar.
The sort of dips in Myanmar range from ngapi yay, a watery, fishy sauce, or simply ngapi fish paste to balachaung, a dry, spicy mixture of chilies, garlic and dried shrimp fried in oil.
Salads are served as side dishes and usually made of beans, onions and tomatoes dressed in oil and salt. Any vegetables can be mixed with the dressing more or less to create yummy salads. Myanmar is one of only a few countries in the world that eats tea leaves. Pickled tea leaf salad, pickled ginger mixed salads and lemon salad which is made from lemon pulp are the ones local eat very often. The texture of the salads are unique for the westerners and mixed of soft, crunchy, crispy, and saucy.
This morning, start your visit to Dala located across the river from Yangon. Take a 10-minute ferry ride at the Pansodan Pier in downtown Yangon which is very close to Sule Paya. Local commuters on the ferry are interesting sights to be seen. In Dala, take trishaw ride to explore the markets, teashops, local houses, farms and pagodas. It is one of the best trips around Yangon to experience the local ways of lives.
Say goodbye to your guide to depart Yangon. Take sweet memories of travelling in Myanmar back home. En Route will always make the unforgettable travel experience that lasts a life time.
Central Myanmar is called Ahnyar in Myanmar language and it is a captivating place. Other than the amazing sights of ancient religious monuments in Bagan and the charming environs of Mandalay, there are many additional scenic and cultural attractions in and around the Bagan and Mandalay that can be done as short trips, if one wishes. Myanmar’s Dry Zone covers just about 13% of the country, more than 54,000km, encompassing 58 townships which span from lower Sagaing region, to the western and central parts of Mandalay region and most of Magway region. It is estimated that approximately one-quarter of the country’s population live in this area. Most are engaged in marginally profitable agriculture-based livelihoods. From this CBT project, Myaing communities will benefit from generating supplemental livelihoods income through wage earnings or small business ventures, promoting cultural sharing, reducing their dependence on aid from other sources and small-scale tourism initiatives will add significant value to the vision espoused in the Myanmar Tourism Sector-wide Impact Assessment.
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