B.C. Archaeology

Study Tours of the Ancient World



'A golden mystery upheaved itself on the horizon - a beautiful winking wonder that blazed in the
sun, of a shape that was neither Muslim dome nor Hindu temple spire. "There's the old Shwedagon"
said my companion. The golden dome said: "This is Burma, and it will be quite unlike any land you know about" '.

Rudyard Kipling, Letters from the East, 1898


This 3-week tour of Burma explores the rich archaeology and culture of Burma. We fly to Yangon, previously known as Rangoon, the Capital of Burma (also called Myanmar). In Yangon we visit the impressive Chaukhtagyi Pagoda with its massive reclining Buddha and spend time exploring the astonishing Shwedagon complex. The main pagoda is encased in gold foil and decorated with gems including a 76 carat diamond. In Yangon we also visit the Sule Pagoda, take a walk in Mahabandoola Park and explore the 200 shops of Bogyoke market.

We then fly to Sittwe, the port city of Rakhine State, and formerly capital of the impendent kingdom of Arakan. The Mrauk-U Dynasty which was based in the area, lasted 352 years. We explore the town of Sittwe and then take a riverboat cruise along the Kaladan River to Mrauk-U, stopping to visit Ponnagyun Island. We explore the pagodas, temples and other sacred buildings of old Mrauk-U.

From Mrauk-U we head inland to the village of Vesali which we explore on foot and then continue 22 km to the site of the ancient capital Dhanyawadi. Here we see the Mahamuni temple with its magnificent sculpture. We also see the old royal palace and the small local museum, the Luckkauk Zee Monastery, the Bandoola Monastery, the old city gate and the Ko Thaung Temple. Our tour next includes a free day for further exploration of Mrauk-U. We then head back downstream to Sittwe, enjoying the local scenes of life beside the river. We fly back to Yangon and check into our hotel.

The following day we fly to Mandalay, the last capital before Burma was taken over by the British Raj. Here we visit the superb Mahamuni Pagoda, visit a traditional silk weaving workshop, explore the Shwenandaw Monastery and see the Kuthodaw Pagoda. We climb Mandalay Hill for a superb panorama of the city and a spectacular view of the sunset.

Our program next takes us to Amarapura, 12 km south of Mandalay where we visit the Bagaya monastery before proceeding to Lake Taugthaman and make a visit to some textile factories and workshops.

In Mandalay we board our private river boat for a cruise on the Ayeyerwady River to Nyaung U where we transfer to Bagan. This spectacular ruined capital of the 12th Century has 5000 stupas and temples strewn across a dusty plain and is Burma’s premier archaeological site. We visit a number of pagodas and stupas including the Ananda Temple with its restored standing Buddhas. We also visit Mt Popa a spectacular hill which is the site of a range of picturesque monasteries.

We next fly from Bagan to Heho where we are transferred to Nyaungshwe, the main town on Inle Lake. High hills surround this beautiful 22 km long waterway. We enjoy the lake environment and see the floating gardens, the fishermen and the stilt houses. We take a boat excursion on Inle Lake to the ruins of Indein, an important centre of the Pa-o people. The site includes over 1000 decaying temples. We also explore Nga Phe Kyaung Monastery plus a variety of lakeside workshops dealing with silver, gold, cotton and silk.

The tour concludes with a flight back to Yangon (Rangoon). Here we visit the colonial Strand Hotel for an evening drink.

The tour will be led by Dr Bob Hudson who has been involved in archaeological research in Burma for over 15 years and has been leading tours to the country for over 10 years. He is an associate of the Archaeology Department of the University of Sydney and a visiting Professor at the Field School of Archaeology in Burma.

Shwedagon Pagoda


Day 1: Fly to Yangon (Rangoon)
Our Thai Airways flight departs Sydney mid morning and arrives in Bangkok early afternoon. Here we connect with our onward flight which arrives in Yangon (Rangoon) in the early evening. We are met and transferred to our hotel.

Day 2: Yangon - free morning - afternoon Chaukhtatgyi Pagoda - Shwedagon Pagoda
After a morning set aside for rest (or exploration of the area near our hotel), we proceed in the early afternoon to Chaukhtatgyi Pagoda housing a massive reclining Buddha. Following this we visit the Shwedagon Pagoda where we admire the dazzling golden spires, enigmatic Buddha images and numerous temples of imaginative design. Dominating the spectacle is the magnificent golden pagoda soaring over 100 metres into the blue sky.

Day 3: Yangon
Today we explore more of Yangon's highlights. We start with the serene Sule Pagoda, then we head to Mahabandoola Park, containing the Independence Monument, and explore Bogyoke Market which has over 2000 shops containing the largest selection of Burmese handicrafts in the country. Along the way we lunch at a local restaurant and enjoy the many colonial buildings of Yangon.

Andaw Thein Temple

Day 4: Fly from Yangon to Sittwe - explore the city
In the morning we fly to Sittwe in western Myanmar, the port city of Rakhine State. Until its capture by the Burmese in the late 1700s, Rakhine (formerly called Arakan) was an independent kingdom with a distinctive language and culture. The Mrauk-U dynasty, which lasted 352 years succeeded two earlier kingdoms, and was potent and powerful. After lunch at a local restaurant we check into the Shwe Thazin Hotel.  In the afternoon we explore the town of Sittwe.

Day 5: Sittwe - cruise on the Kaladan River to Mrauk-U
We embark on a riverboat cruise on the mighty Kaladan River and then narrow tributaries to Mrauk-U. En route we visit Ponnagyun Island, the site of a great 17th century naval battle between the Arakanese and the Portuguese. On arrival we check into our hotel.

Day 6: Mrauk-U
Today we begin our exploration of the spectacular pagodas, temples and sacred buildings of the old city of Mrauk-U. Visits during our stay include Sakyamanaung Paya, Ratanamanaung Paya (a mid-17th century stupa), Laungbanpyauk Paya, Andaw Paya, Shittaung Temple (the best known temple containing over 80,000 Buddha images and sculptures), Lemyathna (a four-faced temple) and Htaukkan Thein Temple with its vaulted passages lined with Buddhas.

Day 7: Vesali Village - Dhanyawadi
In the morning we travel 10 kilometres to Vesali, where we take a walk through the village. We then proceed a further 22 kilometres to the site of the ancient capital, Dhanyawadi. Here in the old city we find the Mahamuni temple, the original location of Mandalay's famous Mahamuni Buddha (which we visit later in our program), with its magnificent collection of First Millennium AD sculpture. In the afternoon we visit the old royal palace site, the nearby museum, Luckkauk Zee Monastery, Bandoola monastery, the old city gate and the Ko Thaung Temple (currently being excavated).

Day 8: Mrauk-U free day
This is a free day to explore more of Mrauk-U. Options include a walk across rice paddies or seeing more of the architecture in the medieval city.

Day 9: Mrauk-U - river voyage to Sittwe - Yangon
We re-board the riverboat for our return downstream to Sittwe, watching fascinating local scenes on and beside the Kaladan River. After lunch we transfer to the airport for an early afternoon flight back to Yangon.

Mandalay Hill
Kuthow Daw Pagoda

Day 10: Yangon - fly to Mandalay
After breakfast we transfer to the airport for an early flight to Mandalay. In Mandalay we visit the superb Mahamuni Pagoda which contains the venerated Mahamuni image, taken from the Mahamuni Temple in Dhanyawadi to Mandalay in 1784. After check-in at our hotel we see the traditional silk-weaving industry, visit the Shwenandaw Monastery (noted for its exquisite wood construction and carvings) and explore the Kuthodaw Pagoda, known as the 'World’s Biggest Book' for its massive stone slabs of Buddhist scriptures situated around a central stupa. We proceed to Mandalay Hill (the natural focus and vantage point) for a panorama of the city and a spectacular sunset view.

Day 11: Mandalay
After breakfast we visit Amarapura, 12 kilometres south of Mandalay. Here we explore various monasteries such as the Bagaya Monastery before proceeding to Lake Taungthaman, a seasonal body of water that dries up in winter leaving fertile land for cultivation. After lunch we visit some of Amarapura’s noted textile factories and some workshops.

Day 12: Mandalay - Bagan
In the morning we take a day cruise in our private riverboat on the mighty Ayeyarwady River from Mandalay to Nyaung U, the riverbank landing near Bagan. The scenery and river life is fascinating. We arrive at Nyaung U in the evening and transfer to our hotel.

Mt Popa

Day 13: Bagan
Today we visit the magnificent ruins of this 12th Century capital with 5000 stupas and temples. During our stay in Bagan we will see: the Shwezigon Pagoda, a prototype of later Myanmar stupas; Wetkyi-in Gubyaukkyi Temple with fine mural paintings of Jataka scenes; Manuha Temple with its gigantic Buddha images; Nanpaya, an earlier shrine with fine stone carvings; and Ananda Temple, superbly restored with four 9.5 metre standing Buddhas facing outward from its centre. After lunch our exploration includes a visit to a lacquerware factory.

Day 14: Bagan
Before breakfast we have an early morning walk around some nearby temples. Afterwards our exploration of Bagan's unique environment continues. There is a cultural show this evening at a nearby open air restaurant.

Day 15: Bagan
After breakfast, we drive 50 km to Mount Popa, the Mount Olympus of Myanmar and the spectacular abode of nats (spirits). On top of a volcanic core at the edge of the mountain is a picturesque assembly of monasteries, stupas and shrines. Following lunch at the Mount Popa Resort, we return to Bagan in the afternoon and explore as many temples en route as time permits.

Day 16: Bagan - Inle Lake
In the morning we fly from Bagan to Heho near Inle Lake. We are transferred by coach (about 45 minutes) to the small town of Nyaungshwe where we check into our hotel. Lunch is at a local restaurant. High hills surround this beautiful 22km long, 11km wide waterway. This afternoon we explore the lake environment, experiencing floating gardens, markets, iconic leg-rowers, fishermen, Phuang Daw U Paya, stilt house villages and wonderful monasteries.

Inle Lake markets
Exploring Inle Lake

Day 17: Inle Lake
This morning we take a boat excursion to the Inle Lake village of Indein, an important centre for the Pa-o people, one of Shan State's main tribal groups. Over 1000 decaying temples make this one of the most picturesque ruins in Burma. After lunch at a local restaurant we continue our lake exploration with visits to Nga Phe Kyaung Monastery plus a variety of lakeside workshops - silver, gold, cheroot, cotton and silk.

Day 18: Fly to Yangon - free afternoon
In the morning we transfer to Heho airport for our flight to Yangon. On arrival we transfer to our hotel and have lunch at a local restaurant. The afternoon is free to perhaps enjoy a drink at the glorious colonial Strand Hotel, the Raffles of Yangon.

Day 19: Fly to Bangkok
We depart Yangon Mingaladon airport on our Thai Airways flight to Bangkok. Our onward flight to Sydney departs early evening.

Day 20: Arrive Sydney
We arrive in Sydney in the early morning.

* Please note that the Company reserves the right to make alterations to the itinerary in the period up to 60 days prior to a tour departure. The itinerary may also be subject to minor re-arrangement due to the scheduling of the operators and availability of access. If this occurs, the Company will endeavour to provide a comparable alternative.


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