Dreaming about a trip to The Golden Land?
After more than 15 trips to Myanmar since 2011 while working on the documentary project "This Myanmar Life," adventurer and photographer Dustin Main leads small group tours to Myanmar for those interested in the story and the culture of this fascinating country at this pivotal time.
There is a famous quote from Rudyard Kipling about the country from 1898.
"This is Burma and it is unlike any land you know about."
And somehow, more than 100 years later, it's as true today as it has ever been.
For the past 5 years, I've made more than a dozen trips to Myanmar, often bringing my family or friends along to share this magical place I keep coming back to, over and over again. A place with warm people, amazing views, and a million little stories just waiting to be heard... and told. It's a place with a complicated history, and an optimistic future. A place of such rapid change that it will be different if you wait another year to experience it.
In these years, I've been witness to many changes in the country... changes that I've been documenting as part of my project "This Myanmar Life." One of the things that has brought this about is a change in politics. A military government kept the country shrouded from much of the rest of the world for decades until just recently with the election of Nobel Peace Prize winner Aung San Su Kyi's NLD (National League of Democracy) party. And soon, they will be welcoming the world to this rarely-visited land.
We are at a very unique time in the history of Myanmar, and now is the time to see it for yourself.
Here are what My past guests have said From the First two sold-out tours:
A wonderful adventure. If you want to see Myanmar, Dustin is the guy to get you there. - John G, Australia
Do it! You'll have an amazing experience! A trip for the ages! - Sandy S, Australia
We really got to know people, and get different perspectives on where Burma has been and where it's going. It gives context for so many of the places we went. This trip has been full of surprises and far exceeded anything I could have imagined! - Denise D, USA
If you are looking for a deep and rewarding experience of Myanmar then the Un-tour is sure to deliver. The extra effort into research and providing local guides shone through. Ditto Dustin's love and passion for Myanmar and its people. I feel extremely lucky to have found Dustin's Un-tour. - Kathleen W, Australia
Un-Tour To Myanmar - 14 days, 13 nights
Thousands of ancient temples dotting the landscape as far as the eye can see as the sun peeks up over the horizon. Quietly paddling through floating villages and vegetable farms on shallow Inle Lake. Watching Yangon come to life on the local train around this bustling city.
That's a small taste of what you're in for.
This isn't your typical tour. We won't be crowding onto a bus after being provided 18 1/2 minutes to peruse an ancient temple and take a photo for proof you were there, just to be shuffled to another one, and another. Instead, we'll be mating the best of a small group tour (we have a maximum of 8), with the spirit and excitement of independent travel.
We'll be wrapping ourselves in the culture, with guides and contacts who will take us to those secret places unknown to most tourists and groups. If an amazing opportunity comes up, we'll have the freedom to take it. And we won't be rushed because we're not following a checklist, because you can't plan when opportunity will come our way. Instead you'll be able to really get a feel for country both with our guidance, and with the time and freedom to go exploring on your own.
We'll still be hitting a few of the "main attractions" that this country is known for, and don't get me wrong, they are spectacular. But it's the hidden photography spots, special events we come across, and the people that we meet along the way that will make this trip the one to remember
So, join my local team of guides and I as we take you on an unforgettable journey to The Golden Land...
Why Take a Tour With Me?
Traveling independently in Myanmar can be great if you have the time and the patience, but decoding the beautiful puzzle of this country takes time... time that most just don't have to unlock the secrets.
Years... that's the time I've put in to get under the skin of this place to find out just how it ticks. It's my passion.
I want you to experience the Myanmar that I know and love. The one where we don't just watch from afar, but we learn and participate (if you like) to deepen your understanding of this land. We'll do that by picking up a bit of the local language, maybe throwing on a traditional longyi to wear around town while we wander (seriously comfortable), and hearing the stories of the country from the Myanmar people themselves.
The tour is purposefully small, with a maximum of 8 people. In addition to myself, we'll have my team of Myanmar guides and contacts at our disposal. Yes, 2-3 guides for 8 people (!!) means that questions get answered, different perspectives given, and we can split off into even smaller groups instead of crowding around like most tours. (And as it should be, half of our guides are women.)
Totally photogenic. I've been photographing around the world for the past 8 years, and the past 6 in Myanmar. My work in Myanmar has been displayed in print, galleries, and licensed commercially around the world. I know the great spots (I'm literally writing a book on it), so don't forget your camera. This isn't a typical "photo tour," but photographer or not, I'm confident that you'll come home with some of the best photos from a trip you have ever had.
Local, local, local. We'll be staying in nice accommodation that is locally owned by families, and not the government. We'll be eating in local restaurants that make fresh, delicious food, and supporting social enterprises to help leave a lasting impact. And we'll be meeting the local people, so when you leave the country, you won't have just "seen" but you will understand what makes this place so amazing.
I LOVE food. For years, guidebooks and authors have been complaining about Myanmar cuisine. Obviously, they didn't know where to look. I absolutely love Myanmar food, and I'm sure you will too... and we'll dive deep into traditional cuisine from a host of different ethnic groups including Shan, Intha, Palong, Bamar and Mon. I've been told over and over again by our guests to market this as a food tour, and I'm sure you'll agree that it is indeed that good.
We've know how to plan Myanmar right. Travel in Myanmar can be exhausting, and I'm a big fan of spending more time in less places. So instead of trying to hitting every city or town, we'll be spending more time in a few really remarkable places instead. This will allow us to go deeper into each location, not spending all of our time sitting in a bus or a plane going place to place.
We'll start our journey in the former capitol of Yangon, formerly known as Rangoon. Here will dive into the heart of the city by taking the Circle Train around, watching the neighborhoods slowly pass by, and the locals jump on to go about their day. After, we'll meet an activist and former political prisoner to hear about the sacrifices many have made to secure the route to democracy for the Myanmar people.
As the sun begins to fall, we'll head out to the docks on the Yangon river to watch the sun drop below the horizon.
Bagan / Nyaung U
Our base for exploring the temples of Bagan will be the bustling village of Nyaung U. We'll take advantage of an excellent opportunity to visit this extraordinary place before the crowds really arrive when Bagan becomes a UNESCO World Heritage Site in the next couple of years. Together we'll watch the sun come up over 1000 year old temples, discovering paintings preserved on walls for centuries, and discover the ruins by e-bike (which could be the most fun you have all year).
We'll visit and support social enterprises and see what they are doing to help push Myanmar forward, especially for those most at need.
Oh, and you can bet we'll be eating plenty of my favorite Myanmar dessert Ma Gi Bi Lay (Tamarind Flakes) that are extra special in the region.
Nestled in the cool Shan hills, the hill station of Kalaw will be a nice change of pace after our time in Yangon. We'll check out the local market, take a wander in the nearby hills, and get our first taste of Shan cuisine.
This place has been so popular with our groups, we've extended it another day from previous tours.
Inle Lake / Nyaungshwe
After taking in the cool mountain air in Kalaw, we'll move to the natural beauty of Inle Lake. This shallow lake is home to dozens of villages along its shores and on its waters, and more than a handful of different ethnic peoples for whom the lake provides. With mountains on either side to frame our journey, we'll experience the lake in a multitude of ways; from the special 5-day market which moves everyday from village to village, to a canoe ride with the famed Intha people who paddle standing on one leg (you have to see it to believe it). We'll partake in farm-fresh eats and delicious local meals. Yum.
Arriving back to Yangon later in the afternoon, we'll head out for a final dinner together and reminisce about the good times and memories from the past 2 weeks, while seeing who bought the most tamarind flakes and longyi to take home. Finally, we'll visit Shwedagon Pagoda, one of the most famous sites in Myanmar.
Depart From Yangon
You'll have the day to do what you like, be it last-minute shopping at the famous Bogyoke Market, enjoying a wander around Inya Lake, or hitting up the teashop one last time for a sweet "laphet yeh" (sweet tea). We'll help organize a ride to the airport for you once we've all exchanged e-mails and hugs.
Un-Tour to Myanmar
Length: 14 days, 13 nights
Max Group Size: 8
Trip Cost: $2775 USD
(Secure payment via all major credit cards, Paypal or Interac e-transfer (CAD))
Time to tell your boss you'll be off on a journey to The Golden Land...
The dates for the 6th Un-Tour To Myanmar departing in late 2018 will be announced in March 2018. Sign up below to be the first to know.
Is Myanmar Safe?
You'll see the sign "Warmly Welcome and Take Care of Tourists" just like I did the first time I arrived to Myanmar. At the time, I thought it was hilarious. But now I know it's true! There are few places in the world I feel more comfortable walking around at night with my camera at my side than this country. The citizens of Myanmar are wonderful people who you'll find are are keen to share an afternoon tea and chat with you on the streets. Tourists are treated with respect by the citizens and the authorities.
When it comes to the local customs, we'll assist you all the way. Essentially, it means that we have covered shoulders and knees, particularly when visiting religious sites. No biggie.
One thing that hasn't caught on in Myanmar is bike helmets, and we will be doing some travel on e-bikes.
Is this an adventure tour, or a photography tour?
I am all about adventure, and this trip will be one to remember. Everyday will be exciting, but there won't be any mountains to climb or cliffs to jump off of. This is adventure that everyone can take part in. My wonderful mother joined on a trip very similar to this for her 60th birthday, and it was no problem for her. Everyday we'll do some walking, riding e-bikes, maybe jumping on a horse cart or two. It's adventure for everyone.
That said, you should be able to walk for a few hours and up stairs without problem. The e-bikes we'll ride in Bagan are like electric scooters, but if you would rather not ride one, we'll sort you out with a car.
Also while I am a professional photographer, this isn't a photo tour where all we do is go and take photos. There will be plenty of opportunities to capture the magic of this country in photos (and I know the best spots to help you along), but if you're looking for a straight-up "photography tour," this isn't it. That said, I'm happy to assist and level up your photography game.
How do I get a Visa?
For most western countries, you can now apply right online, and in ~96 hours you'll be set. Just print that sheet of paper and bring it with you when you travel, and present it on arrival in Yangon. It's simple and we'll help you make it happen.
I'm travelling solo. Do I need to pay extra?
I travel solo much of the time so I know what you mean. You had better believe that there is no extra charge for solo travelers on the trip, unless...
What if I’m travelling solo and I would like my own room?
No problem! If you're solo and you'd prefer your own private space to wind down at the end of the day, don't sweat it. For a single-supplement charge of $390USD we'll get you your own room. Just let me know and we'll make it happen.
Speaking of rooms, where are we staying?
We'll be skipping out on the shady government-owned accommodation to stay in family / privately owned hotels and guesthouses. These are places I've stayed at many times in the past and are well taken care of, and run and staffed by wonderful people. That said, this is Myanmar, where power outages are still common, and water is heated by the sun on the roof, and that might mean your iPad doesn't get to charge fully everyday.
About those iPads (and all that technology): while we will have access to WiFi in most of the places we lay our heads at night, it's important to know that Myanmar is a decade (or two) behind in terms of internet access. So don't worry if you can't share that epic selfie right away.
Can I go off on my own? Will there be free time?
Yes! While we'll have activities planned for many of the days, I've baked plenty of "free time" right into our itinerary so you can explore on your own after you've gotten your feet wet. Go off on your own adventure, or ask for some ideas and we'll make sure to send you on the right path.
So, really, what’s included?
- All accommodation in Myanmar for the duration of the tour (13 nights).
- Airport pickup when you arrive in Yangon, and we'll get you back to the airport if you fly out on our final day.
- Most meals are included – every breakfast, and either lunch or dinner every day.
- Entrance fees to sites, museums, parks, and more.
- All forms of transport necessary to complete our itinerary.
- Personal assistance and travel guidance from myself and my team of Myanmar guides.
- Assistance for obtaining your Myanmar tourist visa (it's pretty easy).
- And of course, all of the unplanned magic you can expect visiting The Golden Land with an expert & photographer with more than a dozen trips to the country in the past 6 years.
And what’s not included?
- Airfares to and from Yangon are not included, but we will assist you with booking your flight if you require assistance. You will need to arrive on (or before) the starting date.
- Travel insurance is not included, and is mandatory. We require proof of insurance. We like World Nomads.
- Some meals – Generally you'll be on the hook for one / day.
- Extra activities – Fancy a hot air balloon flight over Bagan or Inle? We'll help you make it happen.
- Drinks. Be it freshly squeezed juice, Myanmar beer, or a glass of Myanmar vino... those are on you.
- Any fees or charges that you incur as a result of you canceling this trip once you have made a booking with us, we are not responsible for – including any charges your airline or transport provider charges you.
- If you arrive on a different day from the start of the tour, and you don't stay at our partner guesthouse, you'll need to get your way from the airport.
- If you arrive early or depart late, you will be liable for all expenses.
- You will need to sign a waiver releasing us from any self-imposed craziness that you get up to.
- You are responsible for obtaining any additional travel visas you may require – but of course, we will assist if you need (it's easy).
- For those who wish to arrive early or stay longer in Myanmar, we would be more than happy to assist with some ideas and plans.
- Travel can be unpredictable. I like to freestyle it a bit. So, some of the itinerary may be subject to change. In the unlikely event that any major changes are required, we will discuss and keep you in the loop at all times. Our goal is to make any changes for the best. In the unlikely event that the tour is cancelled by us, you will always receive a full 100% refund – unless the trip cancellation is due to a “force majeure” event – something beyond our control (such as a natural disaster). However – we will always strive to provide you a full refund – we will go to all lengths to protect my stellar reputation.
What if I have paid, and then I change my mind. Can I get a refund?
Sometimes the best-made plans need to be put on hold, or cancelled. Unfortunately, we will incur costs from the moment your seat is reserved. However, we don’t want to act all big and corporate, so this our promise to you:
- If you cancel, $500 USD ($600 CAD) of any ticket price is non-refundable.
- If you cancel within 75 days of the tour start date, you will lose 100% of your ticket price (this is due to the difficulties in finding a replacement for you at such short notice).
- If you cancel between 75 and 100 days before the tour start date you will lose 50% of your ticket price.
BUT – we will always do the right thing, so, if we fill your seat after you cancel, we will refund at least 80% of your full ticket price.
What if I still have some unanswered questions?
Get in touch! Contact me via email. Alternatively we can hop on the phone and chat (in fact, I encourage it). Drop me a line for my phone number or my skype.