About

Founded as a family business in 1994, Tour Mandalay is one of the longest established and most experienced destination management companies in Myanmar. With annual tourist numbers set to increase to 7.5 million by the end of 2020, we are delighted that interest in our Golden Land is finally picking up. However, the country still faces many challenges in ensuring that these visitors travel responsibly. Through mutual cooperation with yourself, our partners and the local community, we are confident we can make this happen, whilst continuing to provide exceptional service and unique experiences for our guests.

 

Tour Mandalay’s staff celebrate 20-years

 

Tour Mandalay proactively source and contract our own local guides, thus ensuring you are taken care of by a representative whom is experienced, knowledgeable and extremely passionate about the area in question. On top of this, we have access to our own fleet of sedans, mini-vans, mini-buses and deluxe coaches, enabling us to cater for the majority of client’s transportation needs. With over 150 employees across four regional offices, and a small number of local representatives present in more remote locations, we can also ensure you will always have someone nearby.

 

On behalf of the people of Myanmar, we look forward to greeting you with a smile.

 

Contact

If you are looking to tour Myanmar with the help of Tour Mandalay, please get in touch using either of the contact details below – we would love to hear from you!

 

Email: info@tourmandalay.travel
Telephone (Yangon Head Office): +95 (0) 1 545 850

 

U Khin Zaw (Tour Mandalay’s owner and founder)

 

Please be aware that communication in Myanmar can be at times problematic, especially when it comes to using the internet. If you haven’t heard from us after a couple of days, please try again as we would hate you to think that we were intentionally ignoring you.

 

We would also like to stress that we deal with inbound travel only, and do not operate tour programmes to any other part of the world.

 

Royal Kalaw

 

Rating: Medium

 

Originally built in 1928, Royal Kalaw has recently undergone substantial renovation work, helping to further accentuate its period features. Surrounded by well-maintained gardens, with views over Kalaw’s mature green landscape, Royal Kalaw’s real strength is it’s location. Being only a short walk from the centre of town, you’ll also be within easy reach of some exceptional, low-key local restaurants.

 

The most sought-after rooms are in the original building, but the Deluxe rooms in the new wing will perfectly suit most; they’re bright, clean, spacious and tastefully furnished.

 

Facilities:

  • Hotel library
  • Spa
  • Restaurant

 

Keen to know what people on TripAdvisor are saying about this property? Please click here to find out.

 

Back to Kalaw accommodation guide

 

Amara Kalaw

 

Rating: Deluxe

 

Hidden down what could easily be mistaken as an English country lane, Amara Kalaw is a strong contender for the grandest and best preserved heritage property in the country. Surrounded by mature trees and a manicured garden, a stay here provides an idyllic getaway and sense of what it would it have felt like in Kalaw during the early 20th century (the main building was built back in 1909). Renovation work has been carried out since then, but thankfully this was done in keeping with the original style so it doesn’t feel as blingy as some of the other colonial options in town.

 

Guest rooms are large with their own fire place; these are necessary to fight off the evening chill of winter (December to February). In keeping with the original design, the interior is plain and simply furnished, with small splashes of red colour providing a warm contrast.

 

We occasionally receive comments that the restaurant is expensive, which is true when compared with other options available in the local area. Amara Kalaw does however source a lot of produce from it’s own garden, so it’s really in a league of its own when it comes to this.

 

Facilities:

  • Restaurant
  • Spa

 

Keen to know what people on TripAdvisor are saying about this property? Please click here to find out.

 

Back to Kalaw accommodation guide

 

Shwedagon Pagoda

 

Explore what Rudyard Kipling described as, “A golden mystery that upheaved itself on the horizon – a beautiful winking wonder that blazed in the sun”. The 99-metre tall Swedagon Padoga is the country’s most famous landmark; one that we believe looks extra impressive at sunset. The current hti (a golden umbrella that adorns the top of pagodas) is decorated with approximately 85,000 jewels, with the centerpiece being a 76-carat diamond. History and opulence aside, the highlight for most is brushing shoulders with the people as they go about paying their respects to Shwedagon itself and the 150 smaller pagodas and shrines that surround.

 

Oriental Ballooning Ngapali

 

When people think of hot air ballooning in Myanmar, it’s more than likely the Bagan experience springs to mind. Although this is still one of the best classic experiences available, due to the large number of tourists it attracts, it may not appeal to those looking for something that’s personal and slightly more exclusive in nature.

 

In late 2015, Oriental Ballooning expanded their operation to include flights over Ngapali, a destination perhaps more famous for its long stretch of white sand beach and emerald blue waters. In our opinion however, it’s not possible to say that you’ve truly experienced Ngapali until you’ve done so from above. Thought it was just about sun, sea and sand? Think again.

 

At the crack of dawn, long before breakfast, Oriental Ballooning’s shuttle bus will pick you up from the hotel. Depending on the location of the take off point, you will be driven for approximately 30-45 minutes to a remote site close to Thandwe town (surprisingly, an area that very few tourists make their way to).

 

Once you’ve arrived at the takeoff site, a member of Oriental Ballooning’s mostly European crew will provide a friendly introduction before carrying out a compulsory health and safety briefing. They will then prepare the balloon for flight, leaving you to enjoy a hot drink and some light snacks. As soon as the balloon’s inflated to the pilot’s satisfaction, you’ll then be summoned into the basket to enjoy what is hopefully going to be one of the most memorable experiences of your life.

 

One of the best things about this experience is that landscape is ever changing and you won’t know which route the balloon’s going to fly until the day of the flight. You may fly towards the coast, adjacent to it, or perhaps further inland. Ideally you don’t want to fly toward the sea as that may lead to the experience finishing sooner than you’d ideally like, but you’ll still get the chance to take in awe-inspiring views of the surrounding mounting, tropical jungle and meandering Kissapanadi River.

 

More often than not, you’ll also be tracked down by an excited group of children, whom regularly chase the balloon from start to finish. You may also receive a few cheers and waves from mystified locals as you fly back over the market (remember, up until just recently, most had never seen a hot air balloon before).

 

The area is also home to a small number of hilltop stupas, which look particularly picturesque when surrounded by patches of mist. The symmetry of the design is much better appreciated when viewed from above too.

 

Birdwatchers will hopefully get the chance to spot some rare and exotic species; these are usually possible to spot as the balloon drifts low at tree top level. Some passengers have even reported hearing playful calls from wild macaque, although they’re typically found much deeper inside the Rakhine jungle. With this in mind, please don’t forget your binoculars or a good zoom lens.

 

As the pilot looks for a safe spot to land, the children who have been tracking you down for all this time will soon become apparent (assuming they weren’t cut off by the river). Due to the mostly rugged, obstacle-strewn terrain, it’s also now that you’ll start to appreciate the remarkable skill of the Oriental Ballooning’s pilot and his / her ability to read the speed and direction of the wind.

 

Once the balloon has landed safely, you’ll finish off the experience with the pilot popping open a bottle of bubbly. A transfer will then be arranged to ferry you back to the hotel in time for breakfast.

 

To book this experience, or to find out more information, please write to us now at info@tourmandalay.travel.

 

Full day trip to Salay

 

On a good day the drive from Bagan to Sa Lay will take approximately one hour and a half hours, and there are a couple of worthwhile destinations to stop off at along the way. The first, a 30-minute drive from Bagan would be Nyaung Hla village, which translates as ‘Beautiful Banyan’ in Myanmar language. The main attraction here is the thousands of fruit bats that emit high pitched squeaking sounds from the top of the tall 200-year old tamarind trees. A rare find indeed and the spectacle will surely delight any budding photo enthusiasts. At the bottom of the village, close to the picturesque riverbank, you will also find the shrine of the female nat (a sacred spirit), Shwe Pone Shin. The villagers are also incredibly friendly, so do not be surprised if you are invited inside their house for a chinwag.

 

The second worthwhile stop is Chauk, home to one of the largest markets in the region, and one of the best for providing an authentic local experience. People travel from miles around to source goods from here, and in some sections you could easily be tricked into believing you had travelled back 500-years. A longyi (Myanmar sarong) would go down particularly well here, as would greeting people with a confident, “Mingalarbar”.

 

On arrival into Sa Lay, we will first stop off at Yoke-Sone-Kyaung, a impressive teak monastery famous for the intricate wood carvings that adorn its exterior. Inside you can view a selection of rare Buddhist antiques, the likes of which are hard to find anywhere else in the country. Please note that the monastery is closed in Mondays. Equally as interesting is the 19th century building that neighbours the monastery, used by the present day monks as sleeping quarter. Interestingly, this was built by the daughter of an influential Burmese merchant / politician called U Pyo Gyi. U Pyo Gyi also made the formal request to King Thibaw to build Yoke-Sone-Kyaung, whom after accepting, famously donated the teak and other materials required for the monastery’s construction.

 

Across the road from Yoke-Sone-Kyaung is Man Paya Pagoda, home to the largest lacquerware Buddha in Myanmar. Dating back to the 13th century, this truly is an impressive piece of Buddhist art and it is one of the very few figures that allows visitors to take a peek inside. Five minutes here will be more than enough, but it is well worth the stop, even if it’s just to admire the size and craftsmanship of this sacred image.

 

Depending on time, we will then stop for lunch at Sa Lay House (cost of meal not included), a recently restored colonial mansion that now operates as a restaurant, museum and souvenir shop. They serve a decent range of Myanmar fare ranging from curries to salads.

 

Following lunch, we will visit U Pyo Gyi’s grand mansion, another unique colonial relic decorated with a variety of exquisite stucco designs. Now looked after by a caretaker and his family, a visit here provides a useful insight into the life of a man who was rich, often dabbled in political affairs, dangerously handsome and notorious for breaking the hearts of those he courted.

 

We hope a surprise highlight will be the little-known Sasanayaungyi monastery, inside of which you can find a dusty, cobweb-covered prayer chest, which currently stores hundreds of ancient Buddhist manuscripts. If one of the resident monks is not busy with his daily chores, perhaps you can ask if it is okay to take a peak inside?

 

Finish the day with a stop at an independently run shop selling ‘Sa Lay Zithi’, or sweet plum. The shop in question used to make and sell everything onsite, but due to the popularity of this eye-popping treat, the owner now produces everything in a factory on the outskirts of town. The plums are still packaged and coated in sugar here, so it’s still worth dropping by to sample this regional delicacy.

 

To book this experience, or to find out more information, please write to us now at info@tourmandalay.travel.

 

Ngwe Saung

Ngwe Saung, a great example of a real local beach

Locals riding motorbikes on the beach at sunset

 

Those seeking an even more remote beach experience may wish to consider Ngwe Saung, Ngapali’s slightly more rustic, laid-back younger sister. A six-hour drive away by car from Yangon, logistically speaking it can be a bit tricky to incorporate, but those that make it will be treated to a local beach experience like no other. More popular with local tourists and expats looking to escape the hustle and bustle, Ngwe Saung boasts a semi-deserted white sand beach, affordable accommodation and grilled seafood restaurants, most of which can be found in the sleepy village centre. On the way to Ngwe Saung, it is also worth stopping off at Patein, Myanmar’s fourth largest city and proud home of the iconic Burmese paper parasol.

 

Back to Tour Mandalay’s destination guide

 

Yangon

The Pegu Club, Yangon

The exterior of the Pegu Club, once the grandest gentleman’s club in South East Asia

 

Yangon (Rangoon), is the former capital of Myanmar with a population of just over five million people. Whilst it is currently undergoing rapid development, the city has managed to retain much of its long-established colonial charm and cosmopolitan feel – it is perfectly normal to find temples, churches, mosques and synagogues, all within close proximity to one another. Towering above all of this however at 99 metres, is the 2600 year old Shwedagon Pagoda, which if anything, pays remarkable testament to the nation’s fervent Buddhist belief.

 

People visiting Yangon for the first time are often surprised by the amount of greenery present – the predominantly warm and wet tropical climate, provides the perfect growing conditions for tree-lined avenues, shaded parks and, to those whom can afford it, perfectly manicured private gardens. Inya and Kandawgyi, the city’s two major lakes, provide locals with a perfect oasis to escape the hustle and bustle, whilst chatting to friends and family over a leisurely board game and picnic.

 

If you’re keen to really get under the skin of the city however, be sure to spend an evening in downtown. Made up of a series of leafy avenues, congested roads and narrow side streets, downtown Yangon is packed with colourful market stalls, local eateries and traditional teahouses. The area also boasts the highest concentration of colonial buildings anywhere in South East Asia, with well-preserved buildings such as the High Court, Secretariat and Custom House, all providing a fascinating glimpse into what the city would have looked like during its heyday.

 

Whilst most people view Yangon as a convenient hub from which to fly in and out of, it is also a great destination to start a road trip into Myanmar’s deep south. Within hours you can find yourself photographing rare species of wildlife at one of the country’s most impressive national parks, or standing shoulder to shoulder with devout Buddhist monks and locals alike as they pay respects to the iconic Golden Rock. If this sounds like something you would be interested in, we would recommend reading up on destinations such as Bago, Kyaiktiyo, Mawlamyine and Hpa-an.

 

Back to Tour Mandalay’s destination guide

 

Mawlamyine

A similar view to what Kipling would have seen when he first arrived to Moulmein

The sun sets over Myanmar’s fourth largest city

 

The fourth largest city in Myanmar, Mawlamyine, or Moulmein as it was once known, is located 300km southeast of Yangon. Not only was Mawlamyine the first British colonial capital (1826-1852), but it also features in the opening lines of Rudyard Kipling’s famous poem, Mandalay. It reads, “By the old Moulmein, pagoda lookin’ lazy at the sea, there’s a Burma girl a-settin’ and I know she thinks o’ me”. Colonial history aside, there is a wide variety of interesting spots in and about town such as the abandoned St Matthew’s Church, Pa Auk Tawya Monastery and Kyaik Tan Lan Pagoda. 30km away is the small town of Thanbuzayat, the terminus for the infamous Burma-Siam railway linking Thailand and Myanmar during the Japanese occupation. Dubbed the “Death Railway” by those who were forced to build it, many allied prisoners of war lost their lives here – whilst emotional, a trip to the 3,771 graves at Thanbyuzayat War Cemetery is well-worthwhile.

 

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