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Tracks to Mandalay

21 days from £4260 per person

Thailand and Burma are similar in many ways – both exotic, friendly countries that combine exquisite ancient sites with breathtaking natural beauty. Using the region’s rail networks, this journey begins in Bangkok ending in peaceful Hsipaw high in Shan State. In-between, there is a train ride to Kanchanaburi – location of the Bridge over the River Kwai – before heading to southern Burma with stays in Dawei, colonial Mawlamyaing and Kyaiktiyo. After time in Yangon, take the rustic overnight train to Mandalay, then to Maymyo ending with a rail crossing over the spectacular Goteik Viaduct.

Route: Bangkok – Kanchanaburi – Dawei – Mawlamyaing – Hpa-An – Kyaiktiyo – Yangon – Mandalay – Maymyo – Hsipaw – Mandalay

Itinerary Highlights

Kanchanaburi is the location of the Bridge over the River Kwai and ‘Hell Fire Pass’. Built by prisoners of war during the Second World War, it was one of the most notorious episodes of the conflict.

Mawlamyaing, capital of Mon State and first capital of British Burma, is the main trading centre and seaport in Southern Burma and renowned for its tropical fruits and delicious cuisine.

Shwedagon Pagoda in Yangon is unmissable, 99 metres tall and a dome gilded with gold plate. This is the most sacred Buddhist pagoda in Burma, built between 6th and 10th centuries.

Itinerary: Tracks to Mandalay

Today depart the UK on the Thai Airways flight to Bangkok. (N)
Arrive into Bangkok and stay for two nights in the city. Bustling and eccentric, intriguing and unforgettable, Bangkok is the gateway to the country and Thailand’s principle city. With a history stretching back a little over two-hundred years, Bangkok has always been a modern forward-thinking place yet much traditional Thai culture remains, as do beautiful monasteries, colourful markets and opulent palaces. (N)
Accommodation in Bangkok: The Sukhothai (or similar)
Upgrade option: Mandarin Oriental Hotel
Today explore Bangkok with your guide starting at the Grand Palace. Built by the early kings of the Chakri dynasty, this vast complex contains not only the King’s private residence, stables and ministries but also over fifty temples including Wat Phra Kaeo, Thailand’s oldest temple which houses the thousand year old Emerald Buddha. Afterwards visit the Reclining Buddha at Wat Po, then the atmospheric flower market before boarding a private long-tail boat to cruise the quiet canals of the Chao Phraya River. End the day at Wat Arun for a panoramic view of the Grand Palace and river. (B)
Accommodation in Bangkok: The Sukhothai (or similar)
Upgrade option: Mandarin Oriental Hotel
After breakfast catch the train to Kanchanaburi and the River Kwai Bridge Station – a charming journey through the best of rural Thailand. Kanchanaburi is set within a region of great natural beauty and is best known for being the location for the infamous Bridge over the River Kwai. Stay two nights at The Float House, where accommodation consists of 20 floating villas all with private balconies designed to maximise the uninterrupted river views. (B)
Accommodation in Kanchanaburi: The Float House
This morning visit ‘Hell Fire Pass’, one of the most infamous sections of the Death Railway constructed by POW’s during World War Two. After spending time at the museum here, return to the town and visit the Memorial Cemetery and instantly recognisable Bridge on the River Kwai. Time permitting it may also be possible to visit the Buddhist shrine in Tham Krasae cave which, during World War Two, was used by the Japanese for storage. (B)
Accommodation in Kanchanaburi: The Float House
Leaving Kanchanaburi, drive west towards the Thai-Burma border at Hti Khi and, after crossing into Burma, continue on to Dawei where you will stay for two nights. A sleepy port town, Dawei is a pretty place of wooden homes, quaint bungalows and a few interesting colonial buildings all in a lush tropical setting. (B)
Accommodation in Dawei: Zayar Htet San Hotel
Today explore the town with your guide. We suggest waking early to visit the bustling fish market but the colonial era Municipal Market in the centre of town is also a great place to pass the morning. Dawei is also known as a Buddhist centre and the Theinwa Kyaung monastery and Shwethalyaung Daw Mu – home to the largest reclining Buddha in the country – are impressive monuments. If there is time, a visit to the American Baptist School founded in 1930 is an interesting diversion. (B)
Accommodation in Dawei: Zayar Htet San Hotel
Leaving Dawei it is a long drive today north to Mawlamyaing – the original capital of British Burma during the early years of the 19th century. En-route stop and visit Thanbyuzayat, the western terminus of the Burma ‘Death Railway’, built by Allied prisoners during World War Two. End the afternoon at the Thanbyuzayat War Cemetery which contains the graves of nearly 4,000 POWs who died during the construction of the railway. Leaving Thanbyuzayat, continue to Mawlamyaing where you will stay for the next two nights. (B)
Accommodation in Mawlamyaing: Attran Hotel (or similar)
As a former capital, Mawlamyaing is a charming town of stupas, colonial era buildings and historic mosques – a legacy of what was once a cosmopolitan port and teak trading centre. This morning take a walk through the historic heart of the town then stop in at the New Market which is known for its pomelo and durian fruit. Following lunch, visit the Kha-Yon Caves then return to Mawlamyaing and enjoy sunset from Kyaikthanlan Pagoda. (B)
Accommodation in Mawlamyaing: Attran Hotel (or similar)
Early this morning board a local boat for the cruise north to Hpa-An where you will stay overnight. The journey today takes around five hours and the scenery is quintessential Burma – rural villages, smiling children and picture-perfect countryside. Once in Hpa-An visit the colourful city market, Shwe Yin Myaw Pagoda and Kyauk Kalat. (B)
Accommodation in Hpa-An: Zwekabin Hotel (or similar)
Leaving Hpa-An start the day with a visit to Kawgun Cave which is decorated with 7th century artwork, Buddha statues and carvings. From here drive on to Kyaiktiyo, ascend the mountain and stay overnight close to the summit. One of the most revered Buddhist sites in Burma, Kyaiktiyo’s Golden Rock is instantly recognisable – spectacularly located balancing high on a ledge. The remainder of the day is spent visiting the pagoda and enjoying the breathtaking views. (B)
Accommodation in Kyaiktiyo: Mountain Top Hotel (or similar)
After breakfast explore the area surrounding the Golden Rock and later return to the base camp and continue by car to Yangon where you will stay for the next two nights. En-route to Yangon stops can be made in historic Bago or at the World War Two Htaukkyant War Cemetery. In the afternoon visit the famous Scott Market – a sprawling 70 year old complex with roots in the colonial era – then travel into the city with your guide for a brief walk through the colonial centre ending with a welcome cup of tea from one of the many street cafes. (B)
Accommodation in Yangon: Sule Shangri-La Hotel (or similar)
Upgrade option: Belmond Governor’s Residence Hotel
This morning visit Aung San Suu Kyi’s house then continue on to the Chaukhtatgyi Paya which houses a colossal reclining Buddha and is a popular haunt for local astrologers. From here board Yangon’s circular train which carries an estimated 20,000 people a day and is a fantastic way to meet people and experience local Yangon life. End the day at the magical Shwedagon Pagoda. This 2,500 year old Buddhist temple is resplendent in over 60 tonnes of gold leaf, is the most sacred of all Buddhist sites in Myanmar and was described by Kipling as ‘a golden mystery’. Stay for sunset and admire the view. (B)
Accommodation in Yangon: Sule Shangri-La Hotel (or similar)
Upgrade option: Belmond Governor’s Residence Hotel
Following breakfast make your way to Yangon Airport for the short flight north to Mandalay. On arrival you will be met and taken to your hotel for a three night stay. In the afternoon visit Sagaing, a former capital of the Shan Kingdom in the 14th century, which is located downriver from Mandalay. Sagaing is regarded by some as the religious centre of the country. Returning to Mandalay, climb Mandalay Hill to enjoy the sunset. (B)
Accommodation in Mandalay: Hotel by the Red Canal (or similar)
Upgrade option: Mandalay Hill Resort
After breakfast visit the 18th century capital of Amarapura located 11kms south of the city. Founded in 1783, Amarapura lost its status as capital city in 1857 to Mandalay, however, pagodas such as Pahtodawgyi Paya and Kyauktawgyi Paya still remain as do numerous palace ruins and U Bein’s Bridge - a 1.2km long footbridge made entirely of 984 teak posts. Later continue to Inwa, an ancient city which, for a long time, was capital of Northern Myanmar and subsequently the Burmese Kingdom from the 14th century to the 18th century. Return to Mandalay in the late afternoon. (B)
Accommodation in Mandalay: Hotel by the Red Canal (or similar)
Upgrade option: Mandalay Hill Resort
It is a very early start this morning head to the Mahamuni Pagoda to witness the washing and cleaning ceremony of the highly venerated Mahamuni Buddha image which starts at 0430 hours. Later take a short boat ride upriver to the village of Mingun – site of the world’s largest intact bronze bell and also take time to visit the ruin of Mingun Paya before retuning by boat back to Mandalay. (B)
Accommodation in Mandalay: Hotel by the Red Canal (or similar)
Upgrade option: Mandalay Hill Resort
Today leave Mandalay and drive to Pyin Oo Lwin where you will stay overnight. A former British hill station, Pyin Oo Lwin which was originally named Maymyo after British Colonel May who established the town’s beautiful botanical gardens in 1914. With its colonial and historic buildings the town has a lovely ambience and the 237 acre botanical gardens remain in excellent condition. (B)
Accommodation in Maymyo: Kandawgyi Hill Resort
This morning transfer to Maymyo Railway Station for the journey to village of Naung Pain. The ride today crosses the impressive Goteik Viaduct and the views are spectacular throughout. From Naung Pain continue by road to Hsipaw for an overnight stay. Later explore Hsipaw, visit Bawgyo Pagoda and end the day at Theintaung Hill for views over the town and surrounding countryside. (B)
Accommodation in Hsipaw: Mr Charles Hotel
After breakfast travel by boat upstream from Hsipaw through some beautiful mountain scenery. Upon leaving the river continue on foot through pineapple, papaya and orange plantations to an old Shan monastery before returning to the boat for the hour journey back to Hsipaw stopping on the way in a few local Shan villages. Once in Hsipaw return by road to Mandalay where you will stay overnight. (B)
Accommodation in Mandalay: Hotel by the Red Canal (or similar)
Upgrade option: Mandalay Hill Resort
Today you are at leisure. In the late afternoon transfer to Mandalay Airport in good time to catch the Thai Airways flight to Bangkok. On your arrival connect onto the onwards Thai Airways flight to the UK. (B)
Arrive into the UK in the morning. (N)
**KEY: N = No meals, B = Breakfast, L = Lunch, D = Dinner

What To Do Next?

We design unique, tailor-made holiday itineraries to suit you, by combining your ideas with our knowledge and experience. Once you have an idea of what you’re looking for, or if you require some advice, please call us or complete the enquiry form online for a quotation.

What's included

  • International flights from the UK
  • Domestic flights
  • Train travel as specified
  • Private car and driver
  • Sightseeing with local English speaking guides
  • Sightseeing with an accompanying English speaking guide
  • Hotel accommodation and taxes

What's not included

  • Cost of visas
  • Travel Insurance
  • Expenses of a personal nature

Guide to Price

The above price is based on two people travelling together and sharing accommodation in low season. The price is only a guide and can vary according to selected airlines, hotels and date of travel. If you wish to travel with your family, friends or on your own we will be very happy to assist you with your arrangements.

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For over 30 years, Pettitts Travel have led the way in creating authentic, tailor-made holidays. Our knowledgeable team have first-hand knowledge of our destinations and no two itineraries we prepare are the same.

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