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Active Travel
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Off the Beaten Track in Majestic Myanmar

As we cruise down the swollen river, bordered on both sides by heavily forested hills, it is easy to imagine that we are the only souls for miles. It is not until we spy the white or golden spires of pagodas that we realise people have left their mark here. Pagodas are everywhere in Myanmar - Bagan alone is said to have over 3,000 - and we spot a dozen an hour on some of the remotest stretches of the Chindwin river.

Our journey began in Mandalay City, when our smiling Pandaw guide met and transferred us to Mandalay airport for the flight north to Homalin. The airport at Homalin is a simple brick building, which was jam-packed with locals collecting arriving family members, serious looking security staff and a small swarm of foreigners: all Pandaw passengers either finishing or beginning their Myanmar river cruise adventure. A short drive took us from the airport to the shores of the Chindwin river, where the RV Kha Byoo (our home for the next seven nights) awaited.

We all quickly fell into a comfortable routine of waking each morning to the putt-putt-putt of local boats cruising past, enjoying breakfast with a view on the sun deck and preparing for our morning excursion. The cruise itinerary remains flexible, as water levels are constantly changing and not all planned stops are possible. Our captain found alternative villages for us to visit on several occasions where the water was too high or the bank was not suitable for us to disembark. During one memorable village visit, what seemed like the whole populace (some 200 people) escorted us on a walk through the village, enthusiastically took pictures with us, and waved us off ceremoniously when we pulled away from shore. Our ship was equipped with mountain bikes, which we took for a ride one day through the peaceful countryside, past colonial period buildings falling into disrepair, rice paddies and the odd water buffalo.

At half past six each evening we would gather on the sun deck to discuss the day’s events over a refreshing drink. Dinner was always a treat: four courses each night, usually a mix of local and Asian dishes, with some western options. Vegetable curries, fried fish and a delightful coconut desert were personal favourites. Pandaw cruises has been operating river cruises in Myanmar since 1995, and have long been one of Active Travel’s favourites. Their off-the-beaten track itineraries offer visitors real interactions with locals and a comfortable home to come back to each night. The service on board was excellent, and the staff catered to our every want.

Myanmar has certainly changed since my last visit just a few years ago. One sign of this change is that at the time of my previous stay, there were no ATMs in the country. Now Mandalay airport alone has two (although only one of them is currently functional - I checked on two separate visits). I was pleased to see that women filled a little over half of the customer service roles in the tourism industry, as reception staff, waitresses and tour guides, and surprised to hear guides and hotel staff speaking English, French, German and Chinese among other languages. Relaxing of international sanctions and a growing tourism sector along with political shifts have resulted in a rapidly changing Myanmar. Thankfully some traditions remain strong: visitors to Myanmar will see many locals wearing traditional thanaka on their cheeks, and greeting friends and tourists alike with a friendly ‘Mingalaba!’ Now is the ideal time to plan a visit to Myanmar, to enjoy the unique culture and hospitality of these wonderful people.

- Terri from Active Travel
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2016-10-26
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This just in: enjoy 15% off all Intrepid cycling tours if booked before 28 Nov 2016. This deal is exclusive to Active Travel and, as an added bonus, you will also receive Qantas Frequent Flyer points when you book Intrepid trips over $1000. To find out more, visit our website or get in touch today:

http://activetravel.com.au/active/
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STELLAR SAVINGS ON 2017 FLIGHTS TO EUROPE

Keen to sample a real Roman-style spaghetti carbonara? Or spend an unforgettable week of shopping and museum hopping in Paris? Well now is the time to start planning your dream adventure, because for a limited time only you could be flying to Europe and Britain for just $499.

Simply secure one of our selected Trafalgar 2017 Cultural trips to Europe or Britain and you could enjoy the holiday of a lifetime. Not to mention with stellar savings to match, through Etihad Airways, Cathay Pacific & Qatar Airways. This is the perfect chance to explore different cultures and make new friends right across the globe.

You’ll have to be quick to save though, because this fantastic offer can only last until 23 October 2016. Visit the Active Travel website now for inspiration, or contact one of our experienced travel consultants to find out what’s on offer and how we can help bring your dream journey to life:

https://activetravel.com.au/active-travel-experience-enquiry/
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Plan Your Own Unique Group Tour

Active Travel is renowned for our wonderful small group adventures, such as the Taste of Tuscany with Julie and Geoff or The Kii Peninsula with Mike. We are always on the lookout for new tour hosts to introduce into the Active Travel family so if you would like to start your own group tour, then we’d love to talk through the options with you. Simply drop us a line today to discuss how we can help launch your hosted group tour for like-minded travellers. The possibilities truly are endless:

groups@activetravel.com.au
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