A lively riverside, cosmopolitan dining and compelling day trips make Cambodia's capital a fantastic spot to spend a few days. Article by Lara Dunston from The Guardian (UK) DAY ONE:...
PRIVATE TOUR – CODE: VIB08
Form connections with Burmese students as you lead English-language activities and run a day camp in a village along the Irrawaddy River. Admire the splendor of Bagan’s ancient temples as you bike through a dazzling landscape at sunset. Immerse yourself in Buddhist traditions and learn about Burma’s rich history from local monks. After a week of service in Bagan, head up to an old colonial town in the Shan Mountains where you will learn about the Burma’s history and how the country is changing today.
Travel route: Yangon – Bagan – Pyin Oo Lwin – Mandalay – Yangon – Departure
Community Service Component: Next Level
Community Service Focus: Education
Get to Know: The People, The Sights
Travel Component: Moderate Travel Inolved
- Day 1: Yangon Arrival (D)
- Day 2: Yangon (B,L)
- Day 3: Yangon – Bagan (B,L,D)
- Day 4: Bagan (B,L)
- Day 5 – 6: Bagan (B)
- Day 7: Bagan (B)
- Day 8 – 10: Bagan villages (B,D)
- Day 11: Bagan villages (B,D)
- Day 12: Bagan – Pyin Oo Lwin (B,D)
- Day 13: Pyin Oo Lwin (B,D)
- Day 14: Mandalay – Yangon (B)
- Day 15: Yangon – Departure (B)
Day 1: Yangon Arrival (D)
This morning you will connect from Singapore to Yangon, Burma’s biggest city and former capital, known as Rangoon. After meeting up with members of “Team Burma” and having a quick snack, you will board a short domestic flight up to Mandalay, the hometown of multiple Rustic Pathways staff. From the smiling faces to the beautifully worn Thanaka and Longyi, there’s no mistaking it—you’re in Burma! You’ll go straight to your hotel in Mandalay to freshen up before a traditional Burmese dinner. The group will head to bed early tonight to recover from the long flight and prepare for an exciting first full day in the Golden Land.
Day 2: Yangon (B,L)
After a wonderful breakfast at the hotel, we will give you a brief orientation on Burmese culture, our service programs, and this week’s schedule to get you well acquainted with your new home.
After having lunch at a traditional Shan restaurant, you will cross U Bein Bridge, believed to be the world’s oldest and longest teakwood bridge, to explore local village life. This village is the home of our Burma Country Manager, Myint Zaw, and will be your first opportunity to really begin to explore everyday life in Burma. Before leaving the village you will have tea and snacks with Myint Zaw’s family and a quick chat with the abbot of the local monastery.
Day 3: Yangon – Bagan (B,L,D)
Leave the city behind for the tranquil archaeological zone of Bagan. Marvel at how much the landscape changes as we drive across the dry zone en route to Bagan. Entering Bagan, you’ll begin to see the stunning peaks of thousand-year-old temples that will surround you on your stay in Bagan over the next several days.
The temples of Bagan are small and wide-open to visitors, and you may often find that the group has a temple to itself. As you wander the dusty plains exploring the hundreds of temples that dot the landscape, you will contemplate the ingenuity and skill of the ancient craftsmen who created these incredible structures.
Bagan will be our service base for the next several days. After arriving at our hotel, you will have an opportunity to take a quick dip in the pool before heading out to dinner at a local restaurant.
Day 4: Bagan (B,L)
After breakfast, you will set out to explore Bagan and get to know your new temporary home. Your first stop will be a lacquerware shop where local artisans are preserving the centuries-old practice of creating lacquered dishes and bowls. Some of the world’s finest lacquerware has been produced in Bagan and you’ll be amazed at how beautiful and complicated this ancient art is.
After some refreshing Shan green tea, you will set out on a bus ride to Mount Popa. Spiritually one of the most significant places in the country for the Burmese, Mount Popa is home to the Nats, guardian spirits who look over the people in their daily lives. At Mount Popa you will climb to the top of the peak and pay your respects to the Nats. As you gaze out over the Bagan plain you will reflect on Mt. Popa’s fascinating blend of Animism and Buddhism.
Before returning to the hotel, sample fresh sugar cane juice and palm sugar sweets at one of the many palm plantations that line the road to Bagan.
Day 5 – 6: Bagan (B)
Spend the next two days with our first service partners, two monasteries in Bagan. Sit down for a conversation with the head monk, learning about the basic teachings of Buddhism, the monastery’s past contributions and future goals. Depending on the year’s rainfall and village needs, you may contribute towards a construction project or help distribute potable water to remote villages with the company of the head monk and other local volunteers.
In the afternoon, serve as an English conversation partner for local students hoping to improve their English fluency, comprehension and pronunciation by practicing with native speakers.
Day 7: Bagan (B)
Kick off the day with a scavenger hunt through a local market! Work with a member to Team Burma to complete your list of photos, videos, tropical fruits, Burmese snacks, and questions from local vendors. Our group will also be shopping for some fresh ingredients for the night’s home-cooked meal!
After lunch you’ll visit a local monastic school which provides free education to students from across Burma. Many of the students at this school are here because they do not have access to education in their remote villages; others lost their families during the 2008 Cyclone Nargis that killed over 130,000 people in Southern Burma. Have a Q&A session with the head monk about the students’ daily lives as novice monks.
Tonight you’ll get a chance to meet our second service partner in Bagan, a remote village in the middle of the Irrawaddy River, affectionately known to students as “Soe Than and Htay Lin’s Island”. Their family will host our group in their home for a traditional Burmese dinner. It’s impossible not to notice the hospitality and warmth in this incredible Burmese home.
After dinner, board the chartered boat and cross the Irrawaddy back to Bagan. As you take in the splendor of the ancient Bagan temples illuminated by moonlight and reflect on the warmth of Burmese hospitality, you will soon find that Bagan is already making a lasting impression on you.
Day 8 – 10: Bagan villages (B,D)
After breakfast, take a chartered boat across the Irrawaddy River. Trek through farmland and crops as you make your way from the boat to the entrance of the Soe Than and Htay Lin’s village. As the river rises each rainy season, this village becomes an island. For years, visiting this village has been the highlight of many of our programs in Burma.
Over the next three days, you will spend your mornings working on a hands-on infrastructure project. Spend the afternoons running a day camp and English games with your ‘Burmese buddies’, elementary students in the village. The days will be long, so you will spend your evenings in Bagan relaxing by the pool and enjoying traditional Burmese food at tasty local restaurants.
Day 11: Bagan villages (B,D)
Today is your last day of service in Htay Lin and Soe Than’s village. After wrapping up our morning construction work, you’ll say your goodbyes to the local students and ‘Burmese buddies’.
Spend the afternoon exploring ancient temples by foot or on a beautiful bike ride and watch the sunset from the top of a thousand-year-old temple.
Day 12: Bagan – Pyin Oo Lwin (B,D)
After breakfast you will say goodbye to Bagan and make your way east towards the Shan State. Stopping briefly for lunch, you’ll begin to wind your way through the Shan mountains towards the old colonial mountain retreat of Pyin Oo Lwin, the perfect place to relax and unwind after a long week of service. During British colonial rule, the government would move their entire administrative center to Pyin Oo Lwin to escape the oppressive summer heat. Arriving into Pyin Oo Lwin, check into your peaceful, colonial-era hotel and freshen up before dinner.
Day 13: Pyin Oo Lwin (B,D)
After breakfast, you will head into town to explore Burma’s intriguing past. Pyin Oo Lwin is a place where you can see Burma’s past, present, and future all play out before your eyes. Today you will explore the hills on a beautiful trek and relax while swimming in a local waterfall frequented by Burmese living around Pyin Oo Lwin.
Day 14: Mandalay – Yangon (B)
After breakfast you will weave your way back through the foothills of the Shan mountains towards Mandalay. Before arriving into Mandalay, stop along the way to stock up on delicious traditional Burmese tea and snacks. Feeling refreshed, you will connect to your early afternoon flight from Mandalay back to Yangon.
Once you arrive in Yangon, you will go directly to the hotel so you can drop your bags and freshen up. Visit the breathtaking Shwedagon pagoda, Burma’s pride and joy and most famous monument. Have a final closing feast and reflect back on all the memories and connections you’ve made throughout your journey.
Day 15: Yangon – Departure (B)
After breakfast, the group will all head to the airport. End of services.
All costs (accommodation, meals, in-country transportation, and activities) are included in the program price.
Personal gifts, laundry, Internet, phone calls, and snacks are not included.
A school backpack is ideal as it will be used for day trips.
- Passport with Burmese Visa
- Rustic Pathways emergency contacts
- Wallet & money
- Photocopies of your passport
- Toothpaste (under 3 oz.)
- Journal and pens
- Reusable water bottle
- Additional community service forms