4000 talented travel consultants, suppliers and press converge in Las Vegas one week each year to connect, learn and enhance their clients’ travel experience. The energy and passion for this travel connection is immense. Classes are offered by the top travel experts in the business- highlighted by Helen Nodland, and the always delightful Ann Scully. An active network called VAST offers an all day exposition to better learn about the latest and greatest offerings in the active travel industry.
We meet hotel General Managers, heads of hotel marketing, destination management companies, tour operators, safari operators, airline representatives, destination wedding suppliers, and sales directors from all over the world – 396 meetings over a four day period. We meet before the general meetings, at specialized luncheons, cocktail parties and dinners, in addition to the 396 presentations. By the time the week is over, I can say I am thoroughly ensconced in travel information. I came home energized, inspired, armed with the best information and fabulous new connections to enable me to make my clients dreams come true.
Home to 1800- 2000 pagodas, Bagan is a must on any visit to Burma. Most are from the 11th and 12th century when Bagan was the capital of Burma. Similar in some ways to Angkor Wat, there are Pagodas as far as the eye can see. We visited the major ones, including Ananda. I am struck by the peace and spirituality of Bagan.
One of the highlights of our visit to Burma is a cruise on the ship Road to Mandalay.
An Orient Express owned operation that lives up to it’s elegant, amazing reputation.
I have never seen any company work as hard at making your travel experience truly unforgettable, be it one of their hotels, trains or cruises. Nothing is overlooked, top notch at every point. Fine dining, spacious cabins, amazing service, spectacular in every way-as one would expect from Orient Express. We departed from Mandalay and sailed on the Irrawaddy River downstream to Bagan. Delightful at every turn, it is an experience I heartily recommend.
Monasteries and Monks have a tremendous influence in the predominately Buddhist country of Burma. We were privileged to visit the Mahagandahyon Monastery in Mandalay- one of the most important and holy monasteries in Burma. It houses 1000 monks from age 12- 90.
Every Burmese man must become a monk for at least one week; there are 500,000 monks in Burma. Highly revered, they take their vows seriously and spend most of their time studying and living Buddhism. Buddhist Monks only eat twice a day at around 8AM and again at 11AM and that is the last meal of the day for them
Mandalay is the ancient capital of Burma, established by King Thibau in 1852. He built a palace surrounded by a 2mile square moat. The palace wall has 12 gates- 3 gates on each side – only the east gate is open to the public. The original gold covered palace was bombed by the British during WW2 and the government built a small replica in the 1990’s.
One original structure from the Palace is still standing, called the Golden Palace. It had been moved in 1860 to a then country location guarded by a monastery. We can see the spectacular intricate teak wood carved exterior, alas without the gilding, presently.
The interior did not weather as badly as the exterior and the original gilding can be seen. One can only imagine the sight of this building when it was covered in gold. The carving is still absolutely breathtaking.
When we were in Burma 10 years ago, we were taken to a newly opened ancient pagoda and temple complex called Shwe Inn Dein. We went by boat and we had to jump dikes to get there. It was uphill and In a remote part of Inle lake.
The complex was completely empty, overgrown with jungle and absolutely spectacular.
The tin covered walkway, about a half mile long, led to a central temple and there were 1059 pagodas around it. Nothing was “restored” and it was beautiful. The picture of the Buddha heads was taken 10 years ago and sadly, they were gone. We were delighted that we found it again. Now a small village has grown up around it and we hardly recognized the entrance.
We have landed in the Inle Lake area of Burma. It is like traveling back to a very simple time. We see farmers plowing their fields with cows, horse and buggies used for transport. Inle lake is in the center eastern part of the country. A very fertile area, Inle lake is a shallow lake that is the agricultural heart of Burma. Hundred of floating islands of tomatoes and other vegetables. We flew to Heho, and then took a bus and boat to our hotel, the Inle Princess. Beautiful and very peaceful. Right out of George Orwell’s “Burmese Days”.
Today we are taking the longboats to a tribal market.