River cruises in Myanmar present one of the most interesting perspectives available for discovery via the beautiful rivers and river valleys. Within these areas lie architecture, Buddhist art, and archaeology spanning more than two millennia. These sites include more than 2,000 monuments at Bagan, one of the most important ancient sites in Myanmar history. Cultural sights are vast and varied with monasteries and temples blanketing the country, featuring ceremonies, festivals and other special events.
Tourists choosing river cruises along the Chindwin River and the Upper Irawaddy -also called the Ayeyarwady River - tend to be intrepid travelers who don’t mind traveling during Southeast Asia’s monsoon season; the only time river levels become high enough to navigate the smaller rivers. Each day brings new adventures and each night wonderful meals and accommodation aboard. These river cruises include walks through remote villages and lush landscape before heading back downstream toward the Irrawaddy and Bagan, onward to Mandalay, and on to Bhamo before debarking.
Myanmar’s surprisingly large fleet of ships offers a good range of accommodations. Longer trips are padded with all types of upscale amenities; luxurious cabins, ensuite bathrooms, fine dining, and even traditional entertainment can be enjoyed, depending on the size of the ship. Some smaller vessels offer the advantage of the ability to cruise some of the smaller, narrower waterways giving way to remote regions where villagers carry out daily tasks and wildlife is more easily spotted.
Month-long river cruises include The Road to Mandalay offered by the famed Orient-Express company. Beginning in Yangon, river cruises whisk by white-washed pagodas and through wide gorges on the way to Mingun. From Mingun, guests debark to see traditional arts and crafts, visit small villages, and explore busy markets. Arriving at the jungle in Kachin, exploring Naba station, and discovering a forestry reserve before entering Mandalay are some of the best things to do. After a tour of Mandalay, the ship heads to Bagan to the ancient temple site for a full two days before the final departure back to Yangon. The Road to Mandalay is an all-encompassing tour where Myanmar culture and a fascinating history relay the tale of a compelling and complicated country.
Top image: Greg Walters (flickr)