Un-Tour to Myanmar
Nov 19th - Dec 2nd, 2018
November 19th - 21st Yangon
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. On November 21st, we'll fly to scenic Nyaungshwe on the edge of Inle Lake.
November 21st - 25th Inle Lake / Taunggyi
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. We'll also take in Tazaungdaing Pwey (Fire Balloon Festival) in nearby Taunggyi marking the end of the rainy season. This one-of-a-kind event one you won't want to miss. On November 25th, we'll take the train through the Shan Hills to the hill station village of Kalaw.
November 25th - 27th Kalaw
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 is so popular with our group, we've extended it another day from previous tours. On November 27th, we'll take a private bus west towards Nyaung U, our base for exploring the plains of Bagan.
November 27th - December 1st 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 arrive when Bagan becomes a UNESCO World Heritage Site in the next couple of years. Together we'll watch the sun come up from atop a 1000 year old temple, 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. On December 1st, we'll fly back to Yangon.
December 1st Yangon
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.
December 2nd 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 tea shop 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.
Book Your Spot
Un-Tour to Myanmar
Trip Cost: $2775 USD Special Early Bird Rate!
($3150 after April 15th, 2018)
All major credit cards accepted securely via Stripe or Paypal
Dates: November 19th - December 2nd, 2018
Length: 14 days, 13 nights
Min Group Size: 4
Max Group Size: 8
Own room for solo travelers: add $390
Time to tell your boss you'll be away in November...
Note: If you're a Canadian who would like to pay in Canadian funds via Interac e-mail money transfer, contact me below.
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.
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, and maybe throwing on a traditional longyi to wear around town while we wander (seriously comfortable).
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, and we can split off into even smaller groups instead of crowding around like most tours.
A photographer's dream. I've been photographing around the world for the past 7 years, and the past 5 in Myanmar. My work in Myanmar has been displayed in print, galleries, and licensed 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 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 or cronies. We'll be eating in local restaurants that make fresh, delicious food. 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.
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 spectacular places instead. This will allow us to go deeper into each location, instead of spending all of our time sitting in a bus or a plane going place to place.
Is Myanmar Safe?
You'll see the sign "Warmly Welcome and Take Care of Tourists" just like I did the first time I traveled 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 kind people who you'll find 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.
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. Everyday we'll do some walking, riding e-bikes, maybe a horse cart or two.
That said, you should be able to walk for a few hours, and up and down stairs without much issue. 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 typical 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 (I know the best spots and am happy to help you along and level-up your skills), but if you're looking for a straight-up "photography workshop tour" where the focus is 100% on photography, this isn't it.
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 better believe that there is no extra charge for solo travelers on the trip and we'll pair you up with another solo traveler in a twin room 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 $390USD we'll get you your own room for our entire trip together. 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-affiliated and cronny-owned accommodation to stay in family / privately owned hotels and guesthouses instead. These are places I've stayed at many times in the past and are well taken care of, and run and staffed by lovely people. That said, this is Myanmar, where power outages are still common, 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 speeds and reliability. 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 off 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
- 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).
- All tips. I believe in paying our local guides, drivers, and staff a fair wage, rather than them relying on tips for the bulk of their income.
- 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 7 years.
And what’s not included?
- Airfares to and from Yangon are not included, but we will be happy to assist you with booking your flight if you require assistance. You'll want to arrive the morning of the starting date at the latest, but a day or two before can help you shake the jetlag so you're ready to go for our little adventure.
- 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.
- Drinks. Be it freshly squeezed juice, Myanmar beer, or a glass of Myanmar vino... those are on you.
- Extra activities – Fancy a hot air balloon flight over Bagan or Inle? We'll help you make it happen.
- 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 early or depart late, you will be liable for all expenses.
- Your Myanmar tourist visa (typically $50 USD)
- 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).
- Did we mention, you need to have travel insurance? It's important.
- 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. Things may change. 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, because we all love good times.
- 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 60 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 60 and 90 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 90% 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.