Woodland Travels was founded in 1995 by Mr. Win Aung as a way to share with the world the immense cultural and biological diversity of his Myanmar homeland. Win Aung spent much of the first part of his career living in the forests of Myanmar doing forestry doing work. This work enabled him to develop a deep understanding of SE Asian ecology as well as the various tribal groups that make their home in Myanmar’s dense forests. Win Aung’s over 30 years in the forests have been punctuated with stints in some of Myanmar’s most austere monasteries in which he continues to undertake long stints of Vipassana meditation.
After emerging from the forests and monasteries, Win Aung began building local and international partnerships needed for high-end ecotourism operations.
Woodlands view of tourism is one that seeks to offer travelers more than simply relaxing escapes into an exotic SE Asian landscape. Though Woodlands certainly offers some of the most indulgent and relaxing vacations possible in Asia, we also enable participants to go deeper into the travel experience, to see more than just towering Buddhist monuments and the inside of opulent boutique hotels. At Woodlands it is understood that in order for people to truly immerse in the landscape and cultures of Myanmar, tours that emphasize interaction with the people and close observation of nature are needed. Over the years Woodlands has refined the ecotourism experience in Myanmar through perfectly balancing the rejuvenating luxury of the spa with the intellectual stimulation and physical challenge of cultural and wilderness immersion.
These ideas began to coalesce into the finished tourism products now on offer from Woodlands with the addition of Jon Miceler to the Woodlands team of Directors. Jon brings to Woodlands over 18 years experience in Asia’s ecotourism and adventure tourism industry. Jon is the founder of High Asia, an adventure tourism company that continues to offer some of the most cutting edge ecotours in Asia. Jon is also the founder of Inner Asian Conservation, a non-profit dedicated to the conservation of nature and indigenous cultures at the tri-junction of India/Myanmar and China (Tibet). Jon and Win Aung met in Manhattan at a conference on tiger conservation at the Museum of Natural History. At this conference both men were presenting on ways ecotourism can function as a mechanism for conservation and sustainable development.
Jon and Win Aung have both witnessed vast swathes of Asia’s wilderness disappear over the last 2 decades. Ecotourism is one of the few industries that values wilderness and local culture in their original form. Woodlands understands that if any wilderness and cultural diversity is to remain in Myanmar it is incumbent on companies such as Woodland Travels to give back to land and people that make Myanmar unique. All of Woodlands diverse travel options are designed to impart the importance of cultural and environmental conservation to both the traveler and the local communities in which our activities take place.
The Woodlands Difference
Woodlands is the only company in Myanmar that gives back to the land and people in tangible ways. Win Aung and Jon Miceler have designed ecotours in some of Myanmar’s most exotic locations-many of which lie on the Indo-Myanmar border. These areas of Rahkine and Sagaing Divisions, the Chin Hills, Kachin State and the Mergui Archipelago are extremely rich in cultural and biological diversity. The Hukaung Valley in Kachin State and areas of northern Sagaing division are home to some of the last viable populations of tiger. The Moken boat people of the Mergui region and the Naga tribes of northern Sagaing are some of the most culturally fascinating people in Asia. Because of this they are increasingly becoming tourist attractions and their culture is at risks of commodification. In order to halt the homogenizing effects of mass tourism and properly educate all stakeholders (tourists, tour companies and the local people themselves), Woodlands partner Jon Miceler and Inner Asian Conservation are undertaking community based ecotourism capacity building initiatives along the Indo-Myanmar and Indo-China borders. This works builds on highly successful programs of similar nature spearheaded by Miceler in Tibet and India.
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Woodlands is constantly adding new destinations. We regularly guide trips into the Myanmar’s most exotic destination ranging from the unexplored summits of Myanmar Himalayan wilderness in the Hkakaborazi nature reserve, to tropical splendor of the islands of the Mergui Archipelago. Woodlands has pioneered expeditions along Old Burma Road through Kachin state, toured on elephant the jungles of Alaungdaw Kathapa National Park, hiked through remote tribal villages in Shan and Chin states, discovered hidden animistic forest temples of the Naga in Sagaing Division, sea kayaked the mangrove forests of the Ayeyarwaddy delta region and the western Rakhine coastal region and the eastern Shan State. If you are in search of new, unexplored destinations Woodlands is the outfitter for you. When you contact us, ask about our latest exploratory journeys and ready yourself for the experience of a lifetime.
Myanmar’s cultural and historical wealth rival that of its heavy-weight neighbors China and India. How best to experience this cultural wealth without being overwhelmed by the sheer number of monasteries, temples, diverse peoples and natural landscapes? Many a traveler to Myanmar or other exotic lands is initially dazzled by this immense cultural and geographic diversity, but risks cultural overload. With Woodlands, our itineraries are balanced specifically to avoid cultural overload. We have carefully designed our tours of Bagan, Yangon, Inlay, Sagaing, Mandalay, Sittawe and other ‘must see’ sites, in ways that balance monument viewing, with human interaction, expert lectures and healthy doses of pure relaxation during which the days experiences are quietly absorbed.
Interpretation: Our Guides
No matter how meticulously designed your tour, it risks failure without expert guides. Our guides are the face and personality of Woodland Travels. All of our guides are experts in their specific locale. Myanmar is a vast country, our guides are locally recruited so that no matter where you wish to travel in Myanmar your guide will speak the local dialect and lead you with the confidence of one showing a guest around his/her own home. Whether you want to summit an unclimbed peak in Kachin state, discover a rare wildflower or bird in the Chin Hills, Woodlands has a guide that can help you realize your goal. From a cultural standpoint, Woodland’s guides can reveal to you the mystery behind the countless pagodas of Bagan, help you understand the spirituality behind Burmese Nat worship at Popa Mountain or the subtle insights gleaned by generations of monks through Theravadan Buddhist practice. Travel with Woodlands and you will leave Myanmar not only with a depth of insight not possible with other companies, but also with new found friends.
Woodlands Commitment to Superior Services
Woodland Travels is a completely private company. Our Yangon office is composed of a dedicated staff of men and women led by Ma Su and Jon Miceler. Our guides come from villages in each corner of Myanmar. We are confident that any itinerary you let us craft for you, will be the finest possible in Myanmar. A testament to our ability to provide unsurpassed service is our investment in what we feel are some of the finest boutique hotels in Myanmar.