Thread Your Way Through Myanmar

Prices from £3,595


15 Nov 2018 - 28 Nov 2018
Duration: 13 nights
Ref: 18011
With: Karin Hellaby


Prices from £3,595
Single Supplement: £640
Deposit: £400

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...previously known as Burma

We are delighted to offer you this unique opportunity to join Karin Hellaby on our first textile holiday to magical Burma (now known as Myanmar).

This special tour will introduce you to an array of textures, rich colours and the cultural treasures of this quite remarkable country. Wondrous sights include glittering pagodas, vast plains, ancient Buddhas and the beauty of Inle Lake. Along the way we’ll meet weavers and local artisans and engage with these skilled craftspeople in their workshops. There will be plenty of opportunities to browse in the vibrant markets and purchase traditional fabrics and other local handicrafts too.


We’ll visit cotton and cane weaving villages on the banks of the Irrawaddy River and traditional tapestry and puppet making workshops in Mandalay. We’ll also enjoy a visit to a silk weaving shop, renowned for some of the finest “longyi”, a sarong like garment which is integral to the Burmese national dress and worn by women and men. On Lake Inle we’ll discover rural workshops that specialise in traditional paper and unique umbrellas. We’ll also discover the delicate art of lotus flower weaving and visit silversmiths and traditional canoe makers. There will also be the opportunity to engage with young students studying textiles and the fashion industry in Yangon.

Also included are two workshops led by Karin, giving you the opportunity to get creative after being inspired by the many wonderful sights you have seen.


Our Burmese textile adventure begins with a visit to the incredible Shwedagon Pagoda which dominates the skyline of Yangon. Other highlights of the capital, formerly known as Rangoon include the Royal Lake, Kandawgyi Park and the 72 metre reclining Buddah. No visit to the city would be complete without a visit to Scott Market with its bustling atmosphere and tempting wares.


Known as the "city of four thousand pagodas” nothing prepares you for the splendid sight of the Bagan plains and the sheer number of temples that dot the vast landscape. There will be plenty of time to explore and experience this wondrous sight and we’ll also get a taste of river and rural life too with a cruise on the Irawaddy River and visits to local communities, farms and villages.


Immortalised by Rudyard Kipling in his famous poem ‘The Road to Mandalay’ this iconic city is a showcase of architecture and art and also the location for many monasteries and convents. We’ll join nuns for lunch and spend time amidst the serene surroundings of the Shwenandaw Monastery. After climbing Mandalay Hill we will be rewarded with fine views of the city and a stroll across the historic teakwood U Bein Bridge at sunset will be the perfect conclusion to a wonderful day.


Stilt-house villages and glittering Buddhist temples rise above the marsh fringed waters of 13.5 mile long and 7 mile wide Inle Lake. This is where we will encounter the Intha fishermen who propel their boats with their unique technique of leg-rowing. Surrounding the lake are the Shan Hills, home to the minorities who travel from their villages to the markets that take place around the region on a five-day cycle. During our stay we will explore many aspects of life on the lake and learn more about this unique water world and the magical floating gardens.


Arena Travel's directors, Declan & Maurice, visited Myanmar earlier this year and Declan has written a fantastic blog about his trip. This blog wonderfully highlights what this spectacular country has to offer, as well as giving you a good taste of what to expect on our trip.

Click here to read Declan's blog >>


Today you will board your flight from London Heathrow to Yangon.

DAY 2 - YANGON (L, D):

Your flight will arrive in Yangon this morning and you will transfer to the Rose Garden Hotel for a two night stay. This afternoon we’ll enjoy an unforgettable visit to the legendary Shwedagon Pagoda considered to be the most important religious site for the Burmese. We’ll witness the colours transform on the 100-meter chedi which is literally enclosed in over 40 tons of gold leaf and learn about the rituals of the Buddhist people and the meaning behind the offerings that are made. At sunset, an Oil Lamp ceremony is included where we will see the sombre and distinguished event of offering Oil lamps upon Shwedagons platform.

DAY 3 - YANGON (B, L, D):

Today we will start the day at the Pansodan Jetty, where we will hop on a local ferry to cross the Yangon River to Dhala, a low-lying township which contrasts with booming Yangon. On arrival, we will be met by a trishaw driver and we will ride away from the chaos of the jetty into the peaceful countryside to the colorful village with its quaint narrow streets, wooden houses, small temples and monasteries which contrast with Yangon by the general simplicity of the living standards. We will stop at Pann Nann Ein workshop, a local foundation dedicated to helping people with disabilities to have a full life through engaging in creative textile lively hoods. We will return to Yangon for lunch and this afternoon we will visit the Kyaukhtatgyi Pagoda, home to a 72 meter long reclining Buddha statue that features detailed carvings on his feet. We’ll continue through the city to the Royal Lake, catch a glimpse of Karaweik Hall, a reproduction of a splendid royal barge and enjoy a spectacular view of the Golden Shwedagon Pagoda before returning to the hotel.


This morning we’ll take an early morning flight to Bagan for a three night stay at the Myanmar Treasure Resort. Known to be one of the greatest architectural sites in Asia, Bagan was at the centre of Burma from the 11th to 13th centuries. The ruling kings built multitudes of massive stupas and pagodas here, scores of which are still present on the shores of the Irrawaddy River. We will visit this magnificent sight this afternoon, taking in the panoramic views from an elevated location and visiting the Ananda Temple and other key structures to experience a variety of architectural styles and the artistic wonder of the period. Enjoy a taste of rural life in this “living museum” where farmers still work amongst these historic monuments. Later board a river boat for a cruise on the Irrawaddy. We will be treated to unforgettable scenes of daily waterside life, riverside villages and more views of the Bagan temples. A stop at a village will provide the opportunity to meet and interact with the locals. Our cruise also includes a visit to Kyauk Gu U Min, a cave temple where recessed alcoves are used for meditation.

DAY 5 - BAGAN (B, L, D):

Before breakfast, you will have the opportunity to take an optional Hot Air Balloon Ride to observe one-of-a-kind views when the sun begins to rise over the Irrawaddy River and various stupas in the region. After breakfast we will meet with Myanmar SEEDS, an association of volunteers who work in rural areas of education, sustainable development, environmental conservation and responsible tourism. This afternoon enjoy a hand quilting workshop with Karin at the hotel. Details of Karin’s project and the equipment to bring will be sent to you before you travel.


This morning we will take a morning flight to Mandalay for a three night stay at the Mandalay Hill Resort. The remainder of the day is at leisure to enjoy the surroundings of the hotel or explore the area independently.


Mandalay’s streets are crowded with craft workshops and today we will make our way through the city where there will be opportunities to stop and browse. Local crafts include traditional tapestries and puppet making and we will drop by to observe the skilful craftsmen and women using ancient techniques to give life to these beautiful items. We will also spend time and participate in a class with the students of Saunders Weaving Institute, a 100 year old vocational institute that promotes traditional skills and expand job opportunities for rural youth. After lunch, we will head to Amarapura where we will see families who produce longyis and other textiles and meet a family of dyers who have been using traditional techniques for generations. Our visit to Amarapura will conclude with a sunset visit to the legendary U Bein Bridge which was built in 1782 and said to be the longest teak bridge in the world.


Our day begins with a visit to Mahamuni Pagoda which houses one of the country’s most honoured Buddha images. We’ll then cross the Irrawaddy River in to Sagaing with its 600 ivory coloured pagodas and monasteries, Sagaing Hill is regarded as the spiritual hub of Myanmar and claims residence to around 3000 monks and nearly 100 meditation shrines. We will visit some of the most important pagodas and also enjoy time in the local village which is renowned for the production of traditional water pots. Lunch today will be in the unique setting of one of the convents. There will an opportunity to make your own donation before enjoying a selection of dishes prepared by the nuns. This afternoon, we will visit other important pagodas in the area before returning to the hotel late afternoon. This evening we’ll enjoy a performance of music and dance. Performers are trained by Inwa School of Arts, a community project based in Mandalay that endeavours to keep the traditional arts alive. The colourful costumes are all handmade by the students.


Morning transfer to the airport for the flight to Heho. On arrival we will travel by road to Nyaung Shwe, gateway village to Inle Lake. Along the way, there will be opportunities to visit rural workshops that specialise in traditional Shan paper and unique handcrafted umbrellas and we’ll also stop at the teak monastery of Shweyanpyay to witness the intricate wood carving artwork and craftsmanship of the monks. This charming Shan town, located adjacent to Inle Lake is at its busiest in the early morning and you’ll get a true taste for local lifestyle as we take a trishaw down to the bustling canal which is a hive of activity in the morning as boats from the lake come in to unload tomatoes and other vegetables for distribution to the markets around the country. We’ll make a stop at the ‘tomato house’, a warehouse-like structure where the tomatoes are sorted and priced for sale and then continue past some of the many monasteries and nunneries in the town, stopping for photos as we go. We will then board a private motorboat and head out onto Inle Lake and make our way to the lakeside Pristine Lotus Resort, our hotel for the next five nights. We will pass several villages that are built on stilts over the lake, which are inhabited by the local Intha people, observe the activities of the local leg-rowing fishermen in the late afternoon and see their ‘floating gardens’, which are built up from strips of water hyacinth, earth and anchored to the bottom of the lake with bamboo poles.

DAY 10 - INLE LAKE (B, L, D):

We’ll spend today exploring the calm waters of Inle Lake, one of Myanmar’s most spectacular and breath taking sights by wooden motorised boat. Its calm waters are dotted with floating vegetation and fishing canoes, to which scenic hills provide the perfect backdrop. We’ll visit one of the morning markets and mingle with the locals as they trade their wares, pass several villages which are built on stilts over the lake and observe the daily activities of the local fishermen. Lunch today will be with an Intha family in their home. Discover typical ingredients and culinary techniques as your hosts prepare traditional dishes for you to try. This afternoon we’ll visit Inn Phaw Kone, the weaving village of the lake. Here you will meet women from all around the lake and witness all stages of the delicate art of lotus silk weaving, from the spinning to the final creation of intricate longyis. We’ll also stop at a local silversmith and a traditional canoe workshop before returning to the hotel.

DAY 11 - INLE LAKE (B, L, D):

This morning we’ll discover more of the traditional agricultural methods of the Inle Lake area. Take a scenic walk through Thalae U, a typical lakeshore village where you will have the opportunity to observe traditional daily life. We’ll continue to Alae Myaung village where residents reply upon the fertile soil which produces an abundance of vegetables which are sold across the region. With the lake to the east and the hills to the west, the setting here is very special too. You’ll have the opportunity to join farmers in the fields and learn more about the day-to-day activities of these communities. This afternoon is free to relax and enjoy the facilities at the hotel. Distance and walking time today: 5km – Approximately 2 hours

DAY 12 - INLE LAKE (B, L, D):

This morning we will visit Phaung Daw Oo pagoda, famous to be the "Center" of the lake. It contains five sacred plastered with gold leaf images of the Buddha. You will discover an extensive fabric market at the back of the temple. It is not rare to meet the local ethnics who come from the surrounding mountains to sell their goods. No doubt you will recognize some Pa-Oh ladies wearing their dark dresses and their colorful scarves on their head. This afternoon Karin will lead a hand quilting workshop at the hotel. Details of the project and the equipment to bring will be sent to you before you travel.


Transfer by boat to Nyaung Shwe and continue by road to Heho for the flight to Yangon and a final overnight stay at the Rose Garden Hotel. On arrival we’ll visit the Radhar Fashion and Design School. This small school trains young men and women for a profession in the textile industry. We will visit their workshops, watch demonstrations and enjoy tea and snacks as you exchange views. This afternoon we will visit Bogyoke Market, better known under its colonial name "Scott Market". Stroll through the colourful stalls filled with handicrafts, paintings, jewellery and antiques and a whole department dedicated to textiles. Longyis are piled up along narrow alleys and seamstresses work in tiny rooms surrounded by all kinds of fabric rolls. We’ll also see the Independence Monument and Mahabandoola Garden. This evening there will be a farewell dinner and a “show and tell” bringing a close to our journey through this enchanting country.


Transfer to Yangon Airport for the return flight back to the UK. You will arrive back in the UK later today.

B = Breakfast, L = Lunch, D = Dinner

Important Note: A tour in Burma is always an adventure. There is a need for a good level of mobility on this tour. You should have a good level of fitness, be able to walk up to 5km unaided, go barefoot in temples and be sufficiently sure footed when boarding and disembarking boats.


Twin/double share: £3505 per person
Single supplement: £640


  • Return flights to Yangon via Bangkok with Thai Airways
  • English-speaking local Tour Manager to accompany the tour from arrival in Yangon
  • The company of UK Textile Artist and quilt tutor Karin Hellaby who will accompany the tour throughout
  • 12 nights’ accommodation on a full board basis. Lunch and dinner will be arranged at local restaurants or at your hotel
  • All workshops and visits as detailed in the itinerary
  • All transfers by private air-conditioned vehicles
  • Internal flights from Yangon to Bagan, Bagan to Mandalay, Mandalay to Heho and Heho to Yangon
  • Porterage at hotels


Optional excursions, drinks, meals other than those specified, travel insurance and items of a personal nature, i.e. telephone calls, laundry etc.


A visa is required for tourists visiting Burma. For further details please see the Embassy of Myanmar website. There are many visa handling agencies which can be found online, such as The Travel Visa Company.


It is important to note that travellers cheques are generally not accepted. ATMs can be found in most towns and can be used to withdraw kyat, the local currency. Maximum amount per withdrawal is MMK 300,000 and daily maximum amount of withdrawal is MMK 1,000,000 subject to the limit set up by the issuing bank. The ATMs charge a small fee of MMK 5000 or equivalent for each transaction.

However ATMs are still not reliable and therefore we recommend that visitors bring sufficient cash (best in USD but € are also increasingly accepted). All notes must be in pristine condition (no creases, fold lines, blueprints, etc.). Make sure serial numbers do not begin with CB as this will possibly result in the bill’s rejection due to rumors these series are counterfeit. Money can be exchanged at the current market rate at the airport or at any licensed money changer on presentation of your passport. You can ask your local tour manager for assistance.


Why not bring a non-crafting partner with you?
If a non-crafting family member or friend wishes to accompany you on any of our holidays, and is sharing a room with you, then the following reductions will apply to the price the non-crafter pays:
Worldwide - £75


Stitchtopia Holidays are designed with all crafters in mind, wherever you live in the world! If you would like to make your own flight arrangements and meet us at our first hotel, please let us know - we would love to tell you more about our “meet us there” holiday discounts.


For single travellers who are interested in our trips, but don’t have a friend able to come with them why not join our "Stitch Together" programme to help with the costs of a single occupancy room? We have designed a way for you to find someone to share a room with on any of our Stitchtopia Holidays.

Find out more about our "Stitch Together" programme >>

Rose Garden Hotel, Yangon

Located close to the heart of downtown Yangon and within walking distance of the magnificent Shwedagon Pagoda the Rose Garden Hotel is ideally located for exploring Yangon.


  • En suite facilities
  • Air conditioning
  • Tea/coffee maker
  • TV
  • Minibar
  • Room safe


Facilities include restaurant, bar, outdoor pool, fitness centre and business centre.

Myanmar Treasure Resort, Bagan

Surrounded by swaying palms and landscaped gardens Myanmar Treasure Resort is located within the Bagan Archaeological Preservation zone and within easy reach of all the important sites.


  • En suite facilities
  • Air conditioning
  • Tea/coffee maker
  • TV
  • Minibar
  • Room safe


Facilities include restaurant, bar and outdoor pool.

Mandalay Hill Resort, Mandalay

The Mandalay Hill Resort is located at the foot of Mandalay Hill and just a short drive away from the Royal Palace and other city centre sights.


  • En suite facilities
  • Hair dryer
  • Air conditioning
  • Tea/coffee maker
  • TV
  • Minibar
  • Room safe


Facilities include restaurant, bar, business centre, outdoor pool, fitness centre and spa.

Pristine Lotus Spa Resort, Inle Lake

The Pristine Lotus Spa Resort is located on the shores of Inle Lake. We will be accommodated in the new duplex in guest rooms with views of the lake.


  • En suite facilities
  • Hair dryer
  • Air conditioning
  • Tea/coffee maker
  • TV


Facilities include restaurant, bar, outdoor swimming pool and spa.