From the Ground: 2 Days in Mandalay

By Nicole Long and Jay Austin

If you find yourself visiting Mandalay with time for more than a typical city tour, we have a new two day itinerary that we love.  This area is known for the coffee plantations and dairy products, and this tour will take you away from the major tourist hubs and to higher altitudes with cooler temperatures.  And, who wouldn’t love taking a vintage train through the Shan Mountains?!

What you can expect from this tour:

Day 1 – Mandalay to Pyin Oo Lwin: Markets, Botanical Gardens, Thiri Myaing and Peik Chin Myaung Cave

After breakfast, leave the bustling city of Mandalay and set off on a 1 ½-hr drive through the countryside to Pyin Oo Lwin, formerly known as Maymyo. Located a good 1000m above sea level, this former British hill station is home to a range of red-brick heritage colonial buildings and provides a much-needed break from the city heat in Mandalay. Explore the town’s markets and quaint cafes, as it is known for fresh produce and delicious coffee. Head to the Botanical Gardens, founded in 1915 by a British botanist, which covers an area of more than 170 acres of land and 70 acres of water. Take your time strolling through the well-manicured gardens and learning about the indigenous plants and flora of the region. In the late afternoon, take a horse-drawn cart to the Thiri Myaing, formerly known as the Candacraig, a beautiful colonial mansion which was built in 1904 by the British Bombay Burma Timber Company. Continue on by car to the Peik Chin Myaung Cave, located about 10 miles from the city, where you can spend some time exploring. Return back to Pyin Oo Lwin for dinner before settling in for the evening.

Day 2 – Pyin Oo Lwin to Mandalay: Gokteik Train Ride

After an early breakfast, you will be transferred to the train station for your 7am train departure. This morning you will be able to sit back and enjoy the scenery as you take this local train through the countryside for approximately 2 hours. The vintage train and worn wooden benches add to the experience of riding through the beautiful Shan mountains in what feels like a bygone era. One of the major highlights of the train ride will be passing over the 1000ft river gorge on the famous Gokteik viaduct. The bridge was built in 1903 and described as an engineering marvel. You will depart the train at Naungpein where your van awaits. Have lunch at a local restaurant before heading back to Mandalay in the afternoon.

From the Ground: New Two-day Lamine Village Trek Near Inle Lake

By Nicole Long and Jay Austin

We wanted to introduce our new Kalaw to Lamine Village Trek, near Inle Lake in Myanmar.  This two day trip to Kalaw allows guests to get outside of the main tourist areas, but doesn’t require a lot of time commitment. The trekking portion of this tour is light in activity (only about 3 hours long) and allows access to nature and the picturesque countryside. Kalaw is at a higher elevation so the temperatures will be cooler and comfortable for trekking. This tour provides opportunities to connect with locals and witness traditional, simple lifestyles. This is a great option for families as it includes a train ride and elephants!

Note: For guests who want more, this itinerary can be extended a day with an additional day of trekking and another night in a village homestay.

Itinerary:

Kalaw: Trek to Lamine Village – Day 1

After breakfast, you will be transferred by van to the starting point of your trek. From here you will walk about three hours to Lamine, a Pa O Village, located about 10 miles from Kalaw. Explore this village where you will meet friendly locals and observe their traditional lifestyles. You will see the farmers hard at work as they plant or harvest wheat, ginger and a variety of other crops. Lunch and dinner will be prepared by your local trekking team and you will overnight in a village homestay.

Kalaw: Lamine Village to Inle Lake – Day 2

After a enjoying simple breakfast prepared by our team, stroll about the village to observe the local morning activities, before you will meet up with the car for your to transfer to Inle Lake. On the way, stop by at the villages for plantation of regional products. The drive takes approximately 3 hours to Inle Lake and once you arrive, check in to your hotel and enjoy a free afternoon.

Photos by Andrea Ross

Yoma Yangon Marathon recap

JW team
The JW Team all together

The Journeys Within Myanmar office was happy to share a few photos from the annual Yoma Yangon International Marathon, which was held on Jan. 17, 2016 in Yangon, Myanmar. Thousands of runners participated in this year’s event – which is designed to inspire athletes and connect communities, both local and international, through a mutual love for running – including a team from Journeys Within’s Myanmar office.

Charity funds raised will go to both the Su Taung Pyae Youth Development Centre and Aung Za Bu Youth Development Centre. Aligned with the charity theme of “Run for Children,” the organizations provide educational and residential support to more than 2,500 children, many of whom are orphans and come from areas affected by ethnic conflicts.

At the finish
Journeys Within Myanmar Country Director Dar Le at the Yoma Yangon International Marathon.

The Journeys Within team ran the 10K race and had a great time. More information can be found at http://www.yomayangonmarathon.com/

Dar Le with medal
Journeys Within Myanmar Country Director Dar Le with her finisher’s medal.

Myanmar Election – On The Ground Impressions

Myanmar held general elections on November 8, the first national vote since a civilian government was introduced in 2011, ending 50 years of military rule. Aung San Suu Kyi’s National League for Democracy won in a landslide victory.

We asked Journeys Within Myanmar Country Director, Dar Le Khin what it was like – the feeling, the experience and the hopes going forward.

myanmar election

What was the feeling like in Myanmar during and after the election?
Before the election, I felt tension with the situation as the two major parties, USDP (standing government) and NLD (opposition party) started campaigns, and it was clear that the NLD would win. This lead to growing concerns for unforeseen events which might be created by military junta.
After the election, we were glad to see the commitments made by the commander in chief, Min Aung Hlaing, and the current President, U Thein Stein, willing to hand over authority peacefully to the winning government.

What was it like voting?
It was very exciting and I was very glad to see that the people of Myanmar were actively involved in voting. We even lined up at 5:30 a.m. for the pooling station to open at 6 a.m. A lot of people were worried that they wouldn’t be able to get done in time, so everyone lined up early.

How do you think this election will affect day-to-day life going forward?
Well, no immediate effect on day-to-day life. But many have anticipated that Myanmar’s economy will get better.

Any other thoughts or impressions?
I am really happy with these changes. Our future will be better. I am concerned with the current education system and I trust that Daw ASSK will do everything she can to upgrade the education sector.

How to help victims of Myanmar flooding

Journeys Within Myanmar Country Director Dar Le Khin helping organize relief supplies for flooding victims in Myanmar.
Journeys Within Myanmar Country Director Dar Le Khin helping organize relief supplies for flooding victims in Myanmar.

While monsoon rains flood portions of Myanmar every year, this year’s heavy monsoon season paired with the added rain caused by Cyclone Komen has been particularly devastating to vast tracts of the country. The areas around the state of Rakhine and Myanmar’s Irrawaddy River Delta are especially hard hit, and leaders of the country are calling for massive relocations and international aid to help victims of the flooding.

Here at Journeys Within, we’ve been monitoring the floods through our Country Director Dar Le Khin, who has been helping organize relief efforts in conjunction with Flood Aids Organization – a relief group comprised of travel industry professionals in the country.

We are also setting up a way for Journeys Within travelers and alumni to donate through Journeys Within Our Community, which will then funnel the dollars to organizations within Myanmar that are providing direct aid to flood victims.

Click here for JWOC’s Donate Now campaign to raise dollars for flooding victims.

 Media coverage:

Update from Dar Le (from Aug. 11, 2015):

Dear friends,

Our volunteer group, “Extend Your Helping Hands For The Flood Victims,” (composed of volunteer public-spirited members of our tourism community) is currently helping the victims of the recent catastrophic floods and associated landslides in various areas of our motherland. This unprecedented catastrophe had destroyed the lives and livelihoods of millions of Burmese people, especially rural folks and disadvantaged people. Extend Your Helping Hands is requesting our friends, both overseas and in-country, provide donations to continue the assistance to these unfortunate victims as they rebuild their lives.

With Metta,

Dar Le

The group named “Extend Your Helping Hands for The Flood Victims” was founded on 29th July, 2015 by a group of tourism professionals in order to provide help to the flooding victims of Myanmar. A three-day campaign collected donations at some crowded areas in Yangon, and has since captured the public’s awareness on the need to provide a hand to the victims along with respect for the group’s activities. This enabled the group to have sufficient funds to perform the emergency relief in the flooded areas of three different states which were all declared as being in a “state of emergency.”

The 1st relief team set off on 3rd August to Sidoktaya village as a base in Magwe division where the villages were flooded by the Mon Creek which passes through Natmataung (Mt. Victoria) National park of Chin State. The overflowing water of Mon creek has receded, but not before swallowing the thousands of acres of crops and filling houses with mud. The relief team, lead by Min Than Htut (MD of Pro Niti Travel), has traveled as far as to the Pan-Chet Village (about 2 hours boat ride from Sidoktaya). Along the way, they witnessed the full scale of the disaster as all they could see was only the tip of palm trees poking out of the water. The team brought hope for the villagers and helped a total of 418 households with about 2,000 peoples at 5 villages along the side of Mon Dyke.

The 2nd relief team headed to Kale on the 5th August led by Bo Bo Kyaw (GM of Uniteam Travel) making their first night stop at Kale collecting data to be effective with their emergency relief efforts. With the help of volunteers, the team has reached the Aung-Myin-Thar village with emergency relief such as rice, kitchen wares, candles, lighters and detergents. It’s hard to express in words the sorrow in the eyes of villagers as their livelihoods have been destroyed and they’ve been physiologically stressed. Thanks to Bo Bo’s experiences with disaster management, he has brought letters to them and read to them of the care and love by the whole nations for the victims. In sum, the Kale team has helped a total of 653 households (about 2,500 people).

While the rescues teams were distributing emergency relief supplies to the victims, the volunteer team in Yangon has put more efforts in raising funds for the second phase of the recovery process focusing mainly on health and education.

Update from Dar Le (from August 6, 2015):

I am involved as a committee member in a group comprised of travel industry professionals which is collecting donations for flooding victims. So far we have been able to collect about 140,000,000 Kyats (about $166,666 USD). Two-thirds of the funds have been used in supplying aid to three locations (1) Minpyar at Arkan state (flooding caused by Cyclone Komen), (2) Pwin Pyu township in Magwe (flood caused by overflow of a few dams) and (3) Kalay in northern Sagaing (flood caused by Chindwin River).

Aid teams already left this morning in Yangon and we are waiting for updates on the situation. We are now discussing for aftermath focusing on: (a) Rebuilding toilet facilities in those flooded areas. (b) Clean water access, such as drilling tube well/ water ponds. (c) Cleaning/sanitizing public school/clinic facilities and reinforcing them with amenities (children should be able to go to school after all).

So, if there is something you can help us on those issues, we would be very appreciative. As we have seen that people in Myanmar are very active with providing supplies and aid now, but are not as aware of how important the aftermath and rebuilding efforts will be as well.

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