Yangon – Golden Rock – Hpa An – Mawlamyaing
This journey takes you to the homeland of Kayin and Mon people. A scenic region adorned with natural caves, limestone mountains and spectacular scenery. This Culture and Nature extension can be combined with any Classic Myanmar Tour.
In the morning, pick-up at your hotel and drive (-4 hr) to Kyaikhtiyo and Kin Pun Base Camp where you take a typically crowded open-top truck (45 min) to the summit of the mountain. From there, short walk (about 10 minutes) takes you to the Golden Rock.
One of the most important religious sites in Myanmar, the Golden Rock is a huge boulder, perched on the edge of the 1,100 meter high mountain, all covered with gold leaf. A hair of the Buddha is enshrined inside the small pagoda on top of the Rock.
On the pagoda’s platform, see the crowd of pilgrims, monks and nuns who come to pay homage and pray. The sound of devotees chanting and the smell of burning incense sticks will make for long lasting memories. Witness how devotees apply gold leaves to the Holy Rock. Only men can do this part; unfortunately, women are not allowed to touch the rock.
From the esplanade of the pagoda, enjoy a spectacular sunset and panoramic views in all directions.
Overnight at the Golden Rock, on the mountain summit
Breakfast at the hotel before riding the open truck back to the base camp. If you get up early, we recommend you enjoy the magical sunrise at the Golden Rock. The mystic fervor of local pilgrims who spent the night there, on top of the mountain, is a spectacle to behold.
Then, proceed by car to Hpa An (120 km,-3 hr), the capital of Kayin State. On the way, enjoy the views of numerous small rocky karsts (limestone cliffs and soaring peaks) scattered among the rice-fields. Upon arrival, visit Saddan Cave, the longest cavern in Kayin State, filled with many Buddha statues and carvings in an enormous underground space. You will see lots of natural crystals and massive stalactites. After passing through 800 meters of galleries, a tunnel with a row of lights takes you outside to a splendid view of a hidden lake and verdant fields. Take a canoe ride through an underwater cave and into the open rice fields, back to the cave entrance.
Next to Kyaukkalat Pagoda, a natural limestone rock sculpture standing right on the middle of a manmade lake surrounded by paddy fields. The unbelievable 360 panoramic view from Kyaukkalat is incomparable with Mount Zwekabin (-700m) as a dramatic backdrop. From there, visit Lumbini Garden, a collection of 1020 Buddha Statues set in a grove of Banyan and Sal trees, at the base of the sacred mount Zwekabin.
Then, continue to Kawgon Cave, also known as the Limestone Cave of Ten Thousand Buddhas.. Here you will appreciate fine rare Buddhist artwork dating back to the 7th century.
In the late afternoon, take a boat ride on the Than Lwin river and enjoy peaceful vistas of the plain studded with small limestone mountains. Just before sunset, your boat will park in front of a small pagoda as thousands of bats fly out in search of their dinner. The hawks are there also looking for a quick meal. The show lasts about 20 minutes and return to Hpa An with a splendid sunset as background.
Overnight at hotel in Hpa An
After breakfast, drive to Mawlamyine (-57 km/1hr) the capital and largest city of Mon State and the main seaport and trading center in South Eastern Myanmar. As it once was the British administrative capital of Lower Burma, the city boasts old colonial buildings and many old churches.
On the way, stop at Kado and Kawhnat Mon village to visit U Nar Auk monastery, decorated with magnificent woodcarvings. Built a century ago by a villager named U Nar Auk, a famous entrepreneur and humanitarian in 19th century, this monastery is known for its ornate blending of traditional Burmese and foreign architectural craftsmanship. It comprises an ordination hall as well as three shrines and two pagodas.
Proceed to Mawlamyine and check-in at your hotel. Start the tour at the Kyaikthanlan pagoda, on a ridge above the town. It is thought to be the setting where Rudyard Kipling wrote his famous poem ‘The Road to Mandalay’. From up there, enjoy panoramic views of Mawlamyine and surroundings.
Next, visit Queen Sein Don Monastery known as Yadanarpon Myint Monastery for its royal fine carvings and motifs. This monastery was constructed under the guidance of Queen Sein Don to look like her former palace, as she was the wife of venerated ruler King Mindon who left Mandalay as the British were threatening and his son, King Thibaw took power.
The visit ends at the View Point to admire yet another fantastic sunset.
Overnight in Mawlamyine
After breakfast, cross the Than Lwin by car (~ 1 hr) to visit Bilu Island (Ogre Island) which is roughly the size of Singapore with over 60 villages and famous for its traditional cottage industries.
First, visit to a slate making home to observe the making of slates used by school children as exercise books in the olden days. Nowadays, old fashion slate boards are popular at some restaurants and hotels as a welcome board or menu card.
Then, continue to a rubber band making home where they use the leftover rubber from industry to produce very thin rubber bands used all over the country. Next, drive to a smoking pipes making home to observe the skilled artisans who produce the almost extinct “Smoking Wooden Pipes”, still a popular item in remote rural villages.
If you wish to contribute to the local economy, it is possible to have a home-cooked lunch at one of the villages.
Return to Mawlamyine. Visit Judson’s Church, the first Baptist Church in Mawlamyine. It was built in 1827 by Adoniram Judson, an American missionary who translated the Bible into Myanmar language and wrote the first Myanmar-English Dictionary followed by the Holy Family Cathedral, an ancient catholic cathedral, probably the most beautiful of all 7 churches in Mawlamyine.
Overnight in Mawlamyine
After breakfast, take a stroll around Mawlamyine downtown part, along the river before leaving for Yangon (330 km/-6hr) by private car.
On the way, you will visit Bago, an ancient capital of the Mon Kingdom. Highlights include: Shwe Thalyaung Pagoda, the 55 meter long reclining Budhha, the four seated Buddha Image “Kyaik Pun”. Then, continue the visit to Shwe Maw Daw Pagoda, a Mon-styled religious monument higher than Shwedagon Pagoda at 114 meters tall.
Arrive in Yangon in the late afternoon and transfer to your hotel.
End of the Tour!
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