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Southeast Asia Photo Tour January 2013 -- Cambodia and Burma (Myanmar)
Dates:2013-01-09 11:00 - 2013-01-22 08:00
Cambodia and Burma (Myanmar) 14 days, 13 nights
This trip sold out. Don't worry though, we'll be returning to both Myanmar and Cambodia:
Learn more about our December Myanmar trip with Angkor Wat extension.
Southeast Asia is one of the world's most exotic destinations, and one of the most photogenic. The great monument sites of Southeast Asia are unique in their variety and scale. Taken together, sites in Siem Reap (the Angkor Wat temple complex and surrounding sites) in Cambodia, along with Yangon, Bagan, and Mandalay in Burma (Myanmar) offer the opportunity of a lifetime to discover the legacy of several of the important cultures which form the Southeast Asian mosaic and to capture stunning images of lasting interest.
Our first stop is Siem Reap, Cambodia, where we'll spend nearly five days photographing Angkor Wat and some of the dozens of nearby sites and villages. These temples, constructed between the ninth and twelfth centuries represent the apogee of one of the most powerful and influential cultures in Southeast Asian history. The number of worthwhile sites and the opportunity for getting great images are almost limitless. Even if you've been to Angkor before we guarantee to show you new places and new photo opportunities.
Put yourself behind the camera. Watch this slideshow of our 2011 trip. You can get images like this!
The latter part of our tour takes us to Burma (Myanmar), a location seldom visited by American photographers, but quickly becoming a "must see" as the government begins to embrace some of the elements of democracy. We begin in Burma's largest city and thriving cultural center, Yangon, home to the Shwedagon Paya (Pagoda), possibly the most impressive single pagoda in existence with a dome is covered with nearly 100 tons of gold! From Yangon we'll fly to Bagan, where we'll visit the fabulous temple plain dotted with thousands of individual temples and pagodas. After that, it's on to famous Mandalay. Although Mandalay is a fairly modern city, the outskirts offer some of Burma's most ancient sites, such as Mingun and Sagaing, the city of monasteries, Buddhist monks and nuns. There are many opportunities here to get excellent images, both of ancient and modern Burma
Planned Trip Itinerary:
Day 1 Arrive in Siem Reap, Cambodia (Angkor Wat andTemple Complex), 5 nights in Siem Reap:
Arrive in Siem Reap and proceed to hotel for check-in. Visit the famous South and North Gates of Angkor Thom, the famous mile-square city temple which forms the backbone of the overall Angkor temple complex. All travel is done in our own private air-conditioned vehicle with a dedicated English-speaking local guide and a driver. Sunset at Angkor Wat, the crown jewel of Khmer temples. Dinner in the town of Siem Reap along with a walk around the picturesque riverfront area with dozens of quaint shops, restaurants and bars and the local craft market.
Days 2-3, Siem Reap (Angkor Temple Complex)
Sunrise at Angkor Wat at the reflecting pools, followed by a tour of the temple complex including the unique carvings of the Ramayana and the Churning of the Milk Sea. Specific sites such as Angkor Thom, including the South Gate, the high-rising Bayon, Phimeannakas and the Royal Palace, Elephant Terrace, Terrace of the Leper King, Thommanon, and Chao Say Tevoda, as well as Ta Phrom. Dinner in Siem Reap.
Day 4, Siem Reap (Angkor Temple Complex):
Sunrise at the beautiful pink sandstone Banteay Srei temple. Return via the hidden gem of Banteay Samre. Lunch near the engineering marvel Preah Khan, and then a visit to the water temple Neak Pean and to the tree covered Ta Som. Sunset photographing the slanting light on the many faces of the Bayon. Dinner in Siem Reap.
Day 5, Siem Reap (Angkor Temple Complex):
Sunrise at the ancient Roulos Group, whose temples pre-date the Angkor complex and include the first "mountain temple" of the Khmer, Ba Kong, the inspiration for the later Angkor Wat. We'll see and photograph the seldom visited Roulos Market and the still overgrown and only recently opened Beng Melea. Drinks at the famous Grand Hotel and dinner along the river in Siem Reap.
Mid-days in Siem Reap we'll have time to nap or relax around the pool at our air-conditioned hotel, the Prince d'Angkor. We'll take some time either in the afternoon or evening to review images and for some classroom instruction. Most of the one-on-one and small group photo instruction will be done in the field at the various sites.
Days 6-7, Siem Reap to Yangon, Burma (Myanmar), 2 nights in Yangon:
We'll enjoy one last sunrise shoot at Angkor Wat, this time from the under-visited East side, followed by a walk through and around the temple catching the early morning light. After hotel check-out, we'll depart for the nearby Siem Reap airport. We'll arrive in Yangon with plenty of time for a walking tour of the city and the opportunity to photograph the Shwedagon before and during sunset. The Shwedagon features a massive dome with nearly 100 tons of gold finish and a top of diamonds and precious stones. It is alive with hundreds of local Buddhists and monks celebrating, praying and visiting with friends. We've allowed an extra day in Yangon to make sure we have time to review photos from the first half of the trip, discuss important techniques and relax a little before launching into our exploration of Burma.
Downtown Yangon is lively all day and into the evening, and we'll be in the midst of it at the Trader's Hotel--run by the famous Shangri-La hotel group. From there we'll be able to see the historic steamships plying the Irrawaddy (also spelled Ayeyarwaddy) River and the docks where rice and produce are loaded, unloaded, graded and counted all by hand. As in Cambodia we will always have our own private air-conditioned vehicle, an English speaking local guide and a driver.
Days 8, 9, and 10: Bagan and the Plain of Temples, 3 nights in Bagan:
We will have almost two full days to explore and photograph in Bagan's Archaeological Zone, which contains nearly 3,000 recorded monuments in an area roughly 13 by 7 square kilometers. The capital of Burma starting in 1044 when King Anawrahta founded the Bagan Empire, Bagan's temples date back as far as 1500 years. Along with our experienced local guide, we've picked out the best spots to maximize our chances of getting memorable images, especially of sunrise and sunset. We'll also have the treat of a sunset boat ride on the Irrawddy River, enabling us to experience and photograph not just the sunset in its full glory but also life along the river including the seasonal fishing villages, local residents coming to the river to get their water and bathe and evening river traffic. We'll tour and photograph the world famous lacquerware makers in Bagan and of course get an opportunity to shop for lacquerware and other local crafts.
En route to our next stop, we'll visit a hillside village rarely seen by Westerners. It's a special opportunity to see rural life upclose. We'll continue on to the famous holy mountain and extinct volcano, Mt. Popa, and views of the nearby "table mountain" monastery of Popa Taungkalat and shrines to the local animist spirits called nats. We'll be staying at the luxury Bagan Thiripyitsaya Sanctuary Resort along the Irrawaddy River in deluxe river view rooms near their gorgeous pool by the water.
Day 11-12: Colorful Mandalay, 2 nights in Mandalay:
We'll visit and photograph Amarapura, the U Bein bridge, the Sagaing Hills, and the picturesque Mingun, reached by private chartered riverboat. There are hundreds of pagodas and monasteries, and about 6000 monks, enabling us to get great shots of Burma's people as well as its monuments. Sunsets at the bridge and on Mandalay Hill are indeed memorable. We'll visit and photograph the colorful silk-weaving shops and gold-leaf making facilities. Our visit to the Zayar Thein Gyi nunnery and school will give us an intimate look into the girls' daily activities, studying, cooking and visiting. It is through contributions from our groups and others that the nunnery has been able to add a new building for housing and meetings.
We'll be staying within walking distance of the ancient palace and many local restaurants and evening activities at the modern Mandalay Hill Resort, which features an excellent pool for those wanting to cool off mid-day. (Those continuing on to the Upper Irrawaddy River Trip Extension stay in Mandalay.)
Day 13: Return to Yangon for final shopping and sightseeing, overnight in Yangon:
We'll depart Mandalay for Yangon and a chance to do some final shopping at the famous Scott Market. We'll visit the colorful waterfront where boats are still being loaded by hand. We'll overnight at the Trader's Hotel before connecting to the airport for flights home or to other destinations.
For photos and an account of some of our early tours to Burma, please read my article on our December 2007 safari. See our January 2007 safari: Burma from Buddha to Orwell and my 2005 trip: Burma: The Land that Time Forgot for more insights.
For additional photos and an account of our early trips to the Angkor temples in Cambodia you can read DigitalPro Shooter 3-1: Photographing the Magic of Angkor Wat.
Pricing and Registration:
The inclusive safari fee for the main trip to Cambodia and Burma is $7695 per-person, double occupancy. The fee includes all airfare from the start of the trip in Siem Reap until we return to Yangon, all airfare and ground transportation during the trip (including the leg from Cambodia to Burma and all flights within Burma, on top of the line airlines), your hotel room and food, local wine or beer with meals, bottled water when we're out in the field, guide fees, park, temple and other entrance fees, and photo instruction. It does not include your international airfare to Asia, personal phone usage, additional drinks or laundry, tips for guides, departure taxes, visa fees or other incidentals. We currently also expect to have to pass along a $100 per person fuel surcharge from the local air carriers. If you need your own room, the single supplement is US$1200. Please feel free to email us with questions at: safaris [at] cardinalphoto.com.
Discounts: There is a $200 per person early bird discount if you book by April 15, 2012, as well as a $250 companion discount for those booking two or more individuals.
The fully inclusive fee for our very special Upper Irrawaddy River Trip Extension (8 days / 6 nights on the river in a chartered luxury teak ship, 1 night in Mandalay on the way back) is $4450 per person. This includes all meals, drinks, deluxe cabin accommodations (there are only 5 cabins on the Amara II which we will be using!), ground and air transport, our expert English-speaking guides, and of course the photo instruction. Single supplement quote available on request (we only have one cabin left).
If you'd like to focus on Burma, we're also offering, on a space-available basis, a Deluxe Myanmar option, where you'd join the trip on January 14, 2013 in Yangon for the main Burma sites and continue on with the Upper Irrawaddy River Trip Extension. The price for that option is $9550 per person.
You can reserve your place with a non-refundable US$1000 deposit per person for the main trip or US$1000 for the river trip extension, or $2000 for the main trip plus extension or for the Deluxe Myanmar itineraries. The balance of the fee is due 90 days before the trip. If you are worried about having issues which prevent you from going at the last minute please consider getting travel insurance.
Non-photographers are always welcome, especially as companions of photographers on the trip. This trip has proven quite popular for couples in particular. There are always alternative activities provided for times when we are working on images, and non-shooting companions are of course invited to be part of any of the talks or slide shows that are of interest to them.
The trip is limited to a maximum of 8 photographers and 6 other travelers, both to ensure plenty of personal instruction and to make sure we have lots of flexibility in our itinerary and schedule -- we have a plan for each day of the trip but some of the most fun is to take advantage of unique local opportunities such as weddings or other festivals and having a small group lets us do that. For portions of the trip where we have a group of both photographers and non-photographers we have a co-lead, and additional guides and vehicles as needed.
For more information or questions:
sign-up online or
E-mail: safaris [at] cardinalphoto.com
or Call +1.650.851.8350
Top of the line Pro Instruction!
Photo Instruction: All participants will have plenty of one-on-one personal instruction time while we're in the field. We'll also have focused sessions on taking great scenics and travel photographs, including panoramas. All by award-winning photographer David Cardinal.
Classroom Photo Instruction: As always, we will be providing optional photo instruction in digital workflow, image editing and image enhancement using Photoshop.
We'll be staying at wonderful hotels throughout the trip, rated from three to four stars on an international scale. We work with privately owned and where possible, locally owned properties that offer friendly service and full amenities. In most cities the hotels we use are the premium properties available with the best locations and high ratings.
Burma (Myanmar) can be a difficult country to explore outside the major tourist areas. The roads are few and usually poorly paved. So the famous Irrawaddy River (traditionally known as the Ayeyarwaddy River) is both a national treasure (recently the Myanmar government risked Chinese ire by cancelling a planned dam across it) and the ideal route for visiting many of the less accessible tribal areas. We are fortunate to get passage on a newly built, fully crewed, five-cabin teak boat for a journey north up the river from Mandalay to the furthest navigable point, Bhamo.
Along the way we'll have plenty of time to stop, explore and photograph the scenery, villages, and possibly even the very rare Ayeyarwaddy fresh-water dolphins. This is a unique treat, especially since as Myanmar re-enters the world of international commerce and tourism grows, it will be difficult to have the same sense of adventure and exploration.
MANDALAY – BHAMO (6 NIGHTS / 7 DAYS) Planned itinerary
Detailed planned itinerary:
Day 1 Mandalay Jetty – Shinemaga
We'll embark on the beautiful new teak Amara River Cruise boat at 8:00 am and sail north We sail north on the Irrawaddy (Ayeyarwaddy) River to Mingun. Mingun is home to the 90-ton Mingun Bell, the world's largest undamaged hanging bell, Shin Phyume Pagoda, and the unfinished Mingun Pagoda, a colossal brick monument. We'll explore some before continuing to the town of Sheinmaga.
Day 2 Sheinmaga - Thabeikkyin
We leave Sheinmaga in the early morning for Thabeikkyin, visiting the famous pottery village of Nwe Nyein on the way. We will pass through the Third Defile, a narrow gorge surrounded by dense teak forests, and see small river villages, wood traders and fishermen.
Day 3 Thabeikkyin - Tagaung
Today our journey continues upstream to Tagaung, one of the oldest capitals of Myanmar. Excursion into Tagaung.
Day 4 Tagaung - Katha
We sail to the colorful market town of Katha with its friendly people and unique atmosphere. Katha is the setting for George Orwell's first novel, "Burmese Days," a critical look at the final days of the British colonialists in Burma. Dinner and overnight on board the Amara, moored near the harbor of Katha.
Day 5 Katha - Shwegu
We depart early morning for Shwegu. This stretch of the Irrawaddy River hosts the famous fresh-water Ayeyarwaddy dolphins, which have seemingly developed a cooperative fishing relationship with humans. The Amara will anchor opposite the town of Shweg near the Shwe Baw Kyunn pagodas. Numbering in the thousands, these pagodas were probably built around the 10th century.
Day 6 Shwegu - Bhamo
An early morning departure starts our last day on the river. Today we pass through the Second Defile, where the river deepens and the banks become steep cliffs. In the afternoon our boat will arrive at Bhamo, the most northern extent of riverboat travel.
Day 7 Bhamo to Mandalay, then to Yangon
After breakfast onboard the Amara, we return by air to Yangon via Mandalay. Then it's homeward bound or onward depending on individual itineraries.
Or for more information:
E-mail: safaris [at] cardinalphoto.com
or Call +1.650.851.8350
Below is a map of the region showing some of our destinations.