October is a special month on the Myanmar calendar. Known as ‘Thadingyut’, the month’s full moon day is celebrated with a festival of lights, where Buddhist devotees illuminate the streets with candles to symbolically welcome Buddha back to earth. This festival, from 12-14 October, is a public holiday and a great time to take a short trip. If you are bored with the usual getaways to Inle Lake, the beach or Bangkok, here is a list of a selection of alternative holiday getaways both inbound and outbound for intrepid travelers.
Go Glamping and Dolphin Spotting in Mandalay
October is one of the best months to spot the endangered Irrawaddy dolphins that live in the waters north of Mandalay. Arrive off the overnight bus in Mandalay and join Living Irrawaddy Dolphin Project on their private boat. Cruise north of Mandalay, and stop in the fishing villages along the way. Spend the night in a luxury tent on the banks of the Irrawaddy River and enjoy home cooked meals at the nearby village. The next morning, get up early and return to the water with fishermen to try and see the dolphins then travel down river, stop at more beautiful rural villages to get in touch with locals. You’ll arrive back in time to catch the overnight bus to Yangon but why not stay another day and treat yourself to an indulgent massage at Mandalay Hill Resort’s spa which has a 50% discount promotion though the end of the year! These 2 Day -1 Night trips start at 185 USD/person. Contact [email protected] for more information.
Discover Cambodia on Two Wheels
Hit the road on a guided motorbike adventure through the rugged countryside of Cambodia. The team at JustRide has designed a special ‘Wild Wild West’ adventure for the Thadingyut holiday. Fly in to Siem Reap on Friday afternoon, gathering for a trip briefing and dinner with the crew. Then ride out of town the next day, passing through Battambang and Pailin as well as miles of beautiful countryside before returning to Siem Reap on Monday. The four-day, 720 km ride comes in at 884 USD per person including tour leader, motorbike rental, 3 nights accommodation and all meals. Daily flights from Yangon to Siem Reap are available on Bangkok Airways, via Bangkok. For more information, email [email protected].
Beyond Bagan: Salay & Popa
Just an hour drive from Bagan, with fabulous accommodation options, Salay and Popa are great destinations for a weekend getaway. Arrive in Bagan in the morning and book a car and driver to head to Popa Mountain Resort, overlooking the famed nat shrine at Taung Kalat. Pop into Ma Paw Paw’s house nearby for a delicious home-cooked lunch (reservations required) then go for a trek up to the crater rim or relax by the spring-fed pool. After a relaxing evening at the resort, drive down to Salay, on the banks of the Irrawaddy River. Visit Yokesone Monastery and old colonial buildings, enjoy your lunch at the Instagram-worthy Salay House restaurant then check in to the Salay River View Inn for the evening. Make your way back to Bagan on the third day, perhaps stopping at Bagan House to pick up some beautiful lacquerware on the way, then catch the late afternoon flight to Yangon. Email [email protected] for details.
Tea, Trekking and Tranquility in Pindaya
If you want to relax and chill in the Shan highlands during Thadingyut, skip Kalaw and head to Pindaya instead. This small town is just a one hour drive from the Heho airport and has far fewer tourists despite the beautiful natural surroundings. Book a room at the tranquil Cottage House Pindaya for your stay and you won’t be disappointed — the hospitality provided by the owner, Mya, and her team is second to none! Drop your bags off and take a short walk to Aung, a small workshop making handmade paper and umbrellas, then climb the stairs to famous Pindaya Caves to marvel at the 8000+ Buddha statues placed in the limestone caverns.
For dinner, try fresh, healthy dishes at Cottage House or walk to the nearby Wah Te for local organic dishes. The next day, head to the hills on a trek – opt for a one day walk to explore Danu villages, tea plantations and more, or go for a two-day adventure with overnight in a village monastery. The views are stunning, the food prepared on the way is delicious and being away from the ‘modern world’ is always a great way to spend a day (although you will have mobile coverage most of the way!). Returning to Pindaya from the trek, have a well-deserved shower then head to the edges of Pone Taloke Lake for a cold beer to wrap up the day. To arrange a stay at trek in Pindaya, contact [email protected].