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Spiritual Exploration: Judaism and Buddhism in Myanmar and Cambodia
Two Amazing Countries from Unique Point of View

Private 16 Days Tour– December 13 – 28, 2017

Tour Operated by Exotic Journeys International    •  e-mail:

Celebrate Hanukkah in the most unusual of places: Synagogue and private homes of Yangon (Rangoon)! Spend a day with monks in an ancient monastery and learn about their branch of Buddhism, traditions, and rituals! Meet Jews of Cambodia and learn about their history and lifestyle.

This experience is focusing on:

– Comparative religion and rituals
– History and art history
– Architecture and the arts
– People and their traditions
– Local cuisines and life styles

This private tour will be escorted by:
Irene Shaland, an internationally published art and travel writer, educator, lecturer.
Alex Shaland, an internationally published travel photographer.
Irene Shaland’s latest book “The Dao of Being Jewish and Other Stories” was published in 2016.
To learn more on Irene and Alex, visit their website Global Travel Authors

Places to visit, Itinerary, and Inclusions

Yangon • Bagan • Mt. Popa • Mandalay • Amarapura  • Irrawaddy River • Mingun • Heho • Inle Lake • Siem Reap • Phnom Penh

  • Private, personal and escorted deluxe tour.
  • Services of a professional tour manager.
  • Accommodation in deluxe hotels as listed with daily breakfast and taxes.
  • Airfare in Economy Class: Yangon – Bagan – Mandalay – Heho – Yangon.
  • Airport Security Fees and taxes.
  • Private Airport transfers as per itinerary.
  • Baggage handling: One standard size suite case per person.
  • Comprehensive sightseeing and excursions: As per itinerary.
  • Entrance Fee to monuments included in the itinerary and Zone Fees.
  • English speaking knowledgeable local guide in each city.
  • Cost of surface transportation: As per itinerary above.
  • All transfer and sightseeing by private air conditioned car/ coach.
  • Road tolls and taxes.
  • Fuel surcharges by airlines and transporters.
  • Government Tourist Services Taxes.
  • Sunset boat ride on river Irrawaddy.
  • Private boat ride in Inle Lake and Mingun
  • Discover the world famous golden Shwedagon Pagoda.
  • Visit the spectacular massive ancient temples in Bagan.
  • Capture the mystery and romance of Mandalay.
  • Observe the influences of other cultures in the region
  • Explore the waterways of Inle Lake, floating gardens and villages.
  • Private Boat Ride on Inle Lake and in Mingun.
  • Explore Angkor Wat and Phnom Penh

December 13, 2017: Day 1: Yangon, Myanmar

Arrive in Yangon, Myanmar.
A representative from Exotic Journeys will meet you in the arrival lounge and escort you to your hotel.
Meals: None
Overnight: Yangon
Kandawgyi Palace (Lake Front) or Chatirum Hotel (Lake View)

December 14, 2017: Day 2: Yangon

Breakfast at the hotel.

Drive through downtown to explore the city centre and its fabulous mix of architecture and sites. The streets are filled with historical buildings many of which have a faded colonial charm not seen elsewhere in Asia. You’ll start at the post office – a lovely historic building, passing by Strand Hotel, Mahabandoola Garden and Independence Monument along the way. Then visit famous Chauk Htat Kyi, home to the 70-meter long reclining Buddha. The feet of the statue carved with traditional symbols and often many locals gathering to pay homage and pray. Photo stop at the Karaweik Hall royal floating barge. Nothing will prepare you for Shwedagon Pagoda, with its glittering gold stupa. At the pagoda observe local pilgrims and monks offering their devotions and enjoy the amazing sunset view at Shwedagon pagoda.

Overnight: Yangon
Kandawgyi Palace (Lake Front) or Chatirum Hotel (Lake View)

December 15, 2017: Day 3: Jewish Tour of Yangon

Breakfast at the hotel.

Transfer to Rangoon Railway Station. Ride on the slowly traveling circular train for a journey to the outskirts of town observing the lively and colorful life of the rural Burmese people en route. Disembark to visit Insein market where a variety of street vendors sell colorful wares and meet with the friendly locals before returning to Yangon to explore downtown.

Then visit Pansoden to see beautiful “Sofaer building” used to own by famous Jewish merchant. Rare visit the Yangon Old Jewish Cemetery seeing gravestone the way back to dated 1860. Visit 100 year old beautiful Rangoon Synagogue. In there you will have the opportunity to meet with Trustee of the Synagogue to learn the Jewish Life in the Pagoda Land. Then you will have opportunity to light the Hanukkah Candle at this beautiful Synagogue together with local Jews.

Overnight: Yangon
Kandawgyi Palace (Lake Front) or Chatirum Hotel (Lake View)

December 16, 2017: Day 4: Yangon – Bagan

Breakfast at the hotel.

Transfer to airport. Fly to Bagan in the morning. Begin our exploration by visiting a busy local market and gain an insight into the bustling market atmosphere in Bagan. You will spend the day exploring the architectural masterpieces of this amazing town by visiting to a diverse selection of the most important pagodas and temples. Then get to learn more about the local culture with a visit to two workshops producing Bagan’s most famous products: lacquer ware and wood crafts. Watch as the skilled craftsmen use techniques passed down through generations to create beautiful items. In the late afternoon climbing to the top of the Temple for sunset views. Sit back relax and be amazed by the beauty of Bagan as you watch the sun slowly set behind the ancient Pagodas.

Optional: Hot air balloon ride over Bagan.

Overnight: Bagan
Aureum Palace (Deluxe)

December 17, 2017: Day 5: Bagan & Villages

Breakfast at the hotel.

More than just temples, our tour introduces you to a great overview of Bagan’s history, culture and local lifestyles. Visit villages near Bagan to view the local lifestyle. Then you will explore Bagan from a different perspective as you explore the area by Pony cart. The cart can explore areas that cars are unable to enter giving a different feel of Bagan. In the late afternoon, transfer to jetty where a private wooden river boat is waiting. Sitting under the shade or on the open-deck you’ll be treated to fabulous views as you cruise down the Irrawaddy River to Shwezigon Pagoda. A private boat tour on the river during sunset time will hopefully show you a spectacular sunset. Relax and enjoy the scenery.

Overnight: Bagan
Aureum Palace (Deluxe)

December 18, 2017: Day 6: Bagan – Mt. Popa & Salay

Breakfast at the hotel.

The day begins with a drive south, parallel to the Irrawaddy River, en route to Salay. After one hour we’ll make a stop in Chauk which has a colorful morning market to explore. Few tourists visit this market and it is a great place for local interaction and photos. Continue to Salay (30 minutes) an important center of Buddhism in Myanmar with several active monasteries. Salay, many years ago, created its own unique style of Bagan-era architecture. While visiting Salay you will learn more about monastic life, Burmese Buddhism and this unique architectural style as you visit several sites including Salay – Yoke Sone Kyaung monastery, one of the oldest wooden halls in the area.

We then head east toward Mount Popa, an extinct volcano standing 1518 meters high. Arriving at midday, we’ll first go to Popa Mountain Resort for lunch with fabulous views over the surrounding area. Mount Popa has played an important role in Myanmar culture, religion and history since earliest times. Its shrine is dedicated to the worship of the 37 Nats, the Burmese ancient animist spirits. Learn about Nats and Nat worship as you climb the stairs to the top with your local guide. The view over the Myingyan Plain from the top of the volcanic peak is impressive (and the climb is optional!). Drive back to Bagan.

Overnight: Bagan
Aureum Palace (Deluxe)

December 19, 2017: Day 7: Bagan – Mandalay – Amarapura

Transfer to the airport for your flight to legendary Mandalay, a city of great cultural importance. This morning visit the second most sacred image in Myanmar, next to the Shwedagon Pagoda, is the Mahamuni Pagoda. Visit local artisan’s workshops of gold leaf making, woodcarving and marble carving. Next visit Golden Palace Monastery famous for its intricate woodcarvings. Continue to the Kuthodaw Pagoda, which is known as the world’s largest book due to the Buddhist scripture carved on 729 marble slabs. Before sunset visit a 200-year-old teak bridge, the most photographed site in Myanmar.

Overnight: Mandalay
Mandalay Hill Resort (Deluxe) or Sedona Hotel (Deluxe) or Rupar Mandala (Deluxe)

December 20, 2017: Day 8: Mandalay – Irrawaddy River – Mingun

After breakfast you’ll board a private boat for a trip up the Irrawaddy to Mingun (45 min each way). Visit the Mingun Bell which weighs more than 87 tons and being the world’s largest intact bronze bell, the unfinished Mingun Paya (built with the intention of being the world’s biggest pagoda). Mingun’s other highlight is the Hisnbyume Pagoda, a white-washed temple built to resemble Mount Meru. Throughout Mingun there are small neighborhoods crafting traditional basketry and other artistic items and there is plenty of time to stop and interact with the craftsmen and friendly locals. Returning to Mandalay in the afternoon and continue sightseeing the ruins of the Royal Palace. In the evening, you will enjoy a commanding overview of the city from the Mandalay Hill.

Overnight: Mandalay
Mandalay Hill Resort (Deluxe) or Sedona Hotel (Deluxe) or Rupar Mandala (Deluxe)

December 21, 2017: Day 9: Mandalay – Heho – Inle Lake

After breakfast, fly to Heho, gateway to Inle Lake. From Heho drive to Nyaung Shwe where we pick our boat & transfer to your hotel for check in. Enjoy the full day tour by private boat in Inle Lake. Visit the Phaung Daw Oo Pagoda, the most holy religious site in southern Shan State. Be amazed by the local handicrafts, silk weaving, wooden handlooms and traditional blacksmith methods along the way. Visiting Inle Lake is not just about being on the water but also about discovering the Shan and Intha villages on the banks of the river. Pass the endless floating gardens, houses, monasteries built on stilts on the lake. Stop at Nga Phe Kyaung Monastery then proceed to Nampan village and see local cheroot factory (where the Burmese cigars are made) and canoe carving.

Overnight: Inle Lake
Inle Princess (Lake House) or Villa Inle Resort or Aureum Palace or Sanctum Resort

December 22, 2017: Day 10: Inle Lake – Indein

Begin your day with a visit to the market, which rotates locations every five days and where hill tribe people dressed in colorful, traditional outfits — as they barter for goods and produce. We continue our sightseeing in Inle Lake, maneuvering by boat though long, scenic channels. We will visit the fascinating village of Indein, with its complex of ancient shrines and stupas and walk though exotic colonnades of stairways and shop stalls. We’ll visit the “long neck” tribal women, and weaving and craft villages perched on stilts. See the lake’s unique “leg rowers” – the Intha people row standing up with one leg wrapped around an oar. It is a feast for the senses and a photographer’s dream.

Overnight: Inle Lake
Inle Princess (Lake House) or Villa Inle Resort or Aureum Palace or Sanctum Resort

December 23, 2017: Day 11: Inle Lake

Today explore around Nyung Shwe village and meeting with local tribal group. Then in the late afternoon drive about 15 minutes to beautiful Red Mountain Vineyard to taste local wine and see the panoramic view of Inle Lake.

Overnight: Inle Lake
Inle Princess (Lake House) or Villa Inle Resort or Aureum Palace or Sanctum Resort

December 24, 2017: Day 12: Inle Lake – Heho – Yangon

Breakfast at the hotel.

Transfer to Heho airport and fly back to Yangon. Visit Scott Market, the sprawling 75-year-old market. At the market you will find a whole variety of interesting Burmese souvenirs, from lacquer ware to gems & jewelry – bargain at the stores to fully experience the Burmese market atmosphere! Drive through the city and observe the influences of other cultures in the region. Intersperse in the tour are various religious sites such as the St Mary’s Cathedral, built in 1899, and the Buddhist landmarks of Sule Paya. Then visit Little India and Chinatown – stop to greet the vendors and let them introduce you to their wares – some familiar, some exotic.

Overnight: Yangon
Kandawgyi Palace (Lake Front) or Chatirum Hotel (Lake View)

December 25, 2017: Day 13: Yangon – Bangkok – Siem Reap (Cambodia)

Breakfast at the hotel.
Day at leisure until transfer to airport.
Fly to Siem Reap via Bangkok.
Meeting and transfer to your hotel.

Jews in Cambodia

The Jewish community in Cambodia is very small. Only about 200 Jewish people reside in Cambodia, mostly in Phnom Penh. A shabad house was opened in 2008 that includes a kosher grocery store! Siem Reap is home to about 20 Jewish people, most of whom work at the local hospital.

Siem Reap – The Cradle of Angkor Civilization is also a famous archaeological city and recognized as one of the seven greatest architectural wonders of the World. Covering approx 600 sq km, it contains more than 100 ancient monuments and over dozen major compound Temples. Khmer Dynasty built the complex the between the 9th – 13th century.

Angkor Wat – one of the seven greatest architectural wonders of the world, as a temple and mausoleum for King Suryavarman II at the peak of the Khmer empire in the first half of 12th century Angkor Wat is probably the best-preserved of the Angkorean temples, with a central tower surrounded by four smaller towers. The central monument represents the mythical Mount Meru, the holy mountain at the centre of the universe, which was home to the Hindu God Vishnu. The whole complex covers 81 hectares, a rectangular wall measuring 1025 meters by 800 meters borders the inner edge of the moat, and temple’s greatest sculptural treasure is its 2 km-long bas-reliefs around the walls.

Phnom Bakheng temple is the first temple in Angkor region build by the Yacovarman I King in the first half of 9th century, located on a slope of a gentle hill.

Overnight: Siem Reap
Park Hyatt Siem Reap or Borie Angkor Resort

December 26, 2017: Day 14: Siem Reap (Cambodia)

Breakfast at the hotel.

Full day tour visiting Angkor Wat.

The masterpiece of Angkor Wat is Cambodia’s most famous and best preserved temple. The 500-acre site is one of the largest religious monuments in the world and represents the architectural pinnacle of the Khmer Empire. Originally dedicated to the Hindu god Vishnu, it has remained a place of worship since its founding in the 12th century. Thought to be a miniature replica of the universe, its composition of towers, moats and concentric walls reveals an architectural sophistication, and the bas-reliefs with their plump figures and triumphal battle scenes reflect a robust, healthy and wealthy period of history.

This majestic structure lies at the heart of the Angkor Archaeological Park, which covers 154 square miles and contains scores of other Khmer temples dating from between the ninth and 15th centuries. Each has its own allure. Banteay Srei has intricate carvings of sensuous celestial dancers wearing bangles, beaded anklets and sheer drop-waist skirts.

Ta Prohm is one of the most photographed temples, deliberately left mostly unrestored, and tangled and strangled by undergrowth. The perennial favorite, at Angkor Thom, is the Bayon temple, the towers of which are etched with enlightened bodhisattva faces and where enchanting bas-reliefs depict ordinary Khmer life rather than Hindu gods.

Optional: We suggest a dinner in a local restaurant with traditional folk music and Apsara dancers.

Overnight: Siem Reap
Park Hyatt Siem Reap or Borie Angkor Resort

December 27, 2017: Day 15: Siem Reap (Cambodia)

Breakfast at the hotel.

Full day comprehensive tour of Siem Reap visiting Angkor Thom, Southern Gate, Bayon Temple – one the most enigmatic temples of the Angkor group with 54 gothic towers decorated with 216 smiling faces of Avalokitesvar, Baphuon Temple- representing mythical Mont Meru, Terrasse of Elephants used as a giant reviewing stand for public ceremonies and served as a base for the king’s grand audience hall, Terrace of the Leper King, Phimean Akas temple means “Celestial Palace”, dedicated to Hinduism, Thommanon temple, Chaosay Tevoda, Banteay Kdei, Srash Srong, Kravan and Ta Phrom Temple.

Overnight: Siem Reap
Park Hyatt Siem Reap or Borie Angkor Resort

December 28, 2017: Day 16: Siem Reap – Phnom Penh

Breakfast at the hotel.

Transfer to airport. Fly to Phnom Penh.
You will be met by your guide at the airport and begin your sightseeing tour.

Phnom Penh – the city retains its traditional Khmer and colonial charm. French villas along tree-lined boulevards remind the visitor that the city was once considered the gem of Southeast Asia. Recent political changes have triggered an economic boom of sorts, with new hotels, restaurants, bars and nightclubs springing up around the city.

Sightseeing tour of Phnom Penh visiting Independence Monument, Wat Phnom Daun Penh built in 1372 on a little hill, Royal Palace compound, Silver Pagoda with 5000 silver tiles, a 17th-century emerald Buddha statue made of baccarat crystal and its walls covered with frescoes depicting episodes from the Khmer version of the Ramayana. Continue on to visit the National Museum, the distinctive red building with a beautiful Khmer architecture was build since 1917 and contains more than 5000 art objects made of sandstone, bronze, silver, Copper, wood and others. They are really the cultural treasure of Cambodian.

Depart: Phnom Penh by All Nippon Airways – 818/ suggested flight 1050 PM


  1. This special trip is scheduled during Hanukah and High Holiday season.
  2. Early reservation is suggested before the Synagogue Trustees and host families get committed.
  3. Visa for Myanmar and Cambodia are required.
    Application forms, cost and information will be provided.
  4. Government rules mandate us to share your information with authorities. Please send a scanned / photocopy of your passport/s
  5. Reservation Forms are available on our website also.
  6. Please return the attached completed Reservation Form/s with deposit to secure your place on this special trip of a life time.
  7. Tour Price does not include any item/s of personal nature.
  8. Credit card payments have foreign conversion fee of 4.98%. To avoid bank-processing fee, participants may pay by personal checks.
  9. Hotels may have compulsory Christmas Dinner. Cost will be advised.


Myanmar Only: Dec 13 – 25, 2017    $4648.00 per person, double occupancy.
(Economy class airfare in Myanmar included: Yangon – Bagan – Mandalay – Inle Lake – Yangon)

Myanmar and Cambodia: Dec. 13 – 28, 2017   $5834.00 per person, double occupancy.
(Economy class airfare in Myanmar included: Yangon – Bagan – Mandalay – Inle Lake – Yangon;
Airfare Myanmar to Cambodia extra: Yangon – Siem Reap – Phnom Penh)

Deposit required at the time of booking: $1250 (Myanmar only), $1550 (Myanmar and Cambodia).

For consultation, contact

To book space on this tour, please fill in the Reservation Forms

Or call 800. 554. 6342 / 312 . 332. 4722 for assistance.

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