Cruise on the Irrawaddy, from Mandalay to Bagan

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YANGON - MANDALAY - MINGUN - SAGAING - YANDABO - PAKOKKU -BAGAN

A mysterious and enigmatic land, Myanmar is a destination quite unlike any other. We offer you the chance to discover this country, with a cruise along the Irrawaddy, affectionately called the “Mother River” by the Burmese. Originating in the Himalayan Mountains, it’s a main navigational route that has seen its banks shaped by Royal cities and religious buildings. You will “go back in time” when visiting this original and well-preserved country, and you are sure to be fascinated by its magnificent and turbulent history, unique sites and ancient civilizations. This is an unforgettable expedition along this great river, for such a long time the only means of communication in the country. You will be captivated by its river edges dotted with golden-roofed pagodas, temples and magnificent monasteries, ancient landscapes, countless rice-fields and rich mosaic of ethnic groups— each maintaining their unique traditions.

 

DAY 1: YANGON

The program will vary according to your arrival time in Yangon. If your flight arrives before 10:30 a.m., the program will be as follows:
You’ll enjoy lunch in a restaurant and then you’ll be transferred to the Chatrium Hotel, where you can check into your room. This afternoon, you can enjoy some free time after your long trip. In the evening when the lights come alive, we’ll visit the Shwedagon Pagoda, a remarkable stupa and the country’s primary religious center. Situated on a hill a little outside the old town, the pagoda is 328 feet high, and is graceful and imposing — towering over everything around its impressive silhouette. Its golden splendor floats as in a dream when bathed in light. We’ll enjoy dinner and an overnight stay at the Chatrium Hotel (superior class) or similar accommodations.

Day 2: YANGON

We’ll start the day with a lovely breakfast before heading off on a panoramic bus tour of Yangon to discover its colonial districts, taking visitors back to another time. Along the way, we’ll see the 2,000-year-old Sule Pagoda. The main buildings of the British colonial administration were built around the pagoda — such as the Town Hall, a fine example of imposing colonial architecture. Across from the Town Hall, you will be able to see the Supreme Court of Justice. Not far from here, the Maha Bandula Park houses the Independence Monument. We’ll enjoy lunch in a local restaurant, and then set off for the port of Nanthida Jetty, where you can observe local life along the banks of the Yangon River. In the evening, you can stroll through the Chinese District with its nocturnal market and visit the Indian District. We’ll enjoy dinner and an overnight stay at the Chatrium Hotel (superior class) or similar accommodations.

DAY 3: YANGON – MANDALAY

We’ll start the day with a breakfast before transferring to the airport and taking a morning flight to Mandalay. The last royal capital of the country, Mandalay is considered the epicenter of Burmese culture. The second largest city in the country, it’s a young, vibrant metropolis undergoing major changes. It has more than 700 monasteries and is home to half the country’s monks. Transfer to our boat, the 4-star RV Kalaw. You’ll be able to settle comfortably in your cabin before lunch on board. In the afternoon, we will visit the Mahamuni Buddha Temple, Myanmar’s second most popular pilgrimage site. The temple ambiance is exhilarating, testimony to the intense devotion of the people. You will also visit the sculptors’ district where they work in marble and alabaster. We’ll continue on the magnificent Shwe In Bin Monastery. At the end of the day, we’ll travel to the top of Mandalay Hill and its breath-taking view over the town. We’ll have dinner on board and remain in port overnight.

DAY 4: MANDALAY – MINGUN

You'll begin your day with breakfast on board, as we cruise northwards to a typical village on the banks of the river. This morning you’ll be able to meet and mingle with the locals. We’ll have lunch on board as we cruise to Mingun. Nicknamed the “Road to Mandalay”, the river provides marvelous panoramic views against the outline of the Shan Mountains. On the banks, you may perhaps catch sight of the men who pull boats with ropes for miles up the river. Once in Mingun, we’ll set of on foot to visit the unfinished Pagoda — an undertaking begun in 1790 under King Bodowpaya and which had it been completed, would have been the largest in the world — and the Settawya Pagoda with its brilliant whitewashed exterior. There are many souvenir shops, tea houses and art galleries dotted along the route of our tour. You will also be able to admire the Mingun Bell, the heaviest completely intact bell in the world at almost 200,000 pounds. After our tour, we'll return to the boat. We'll enjoy dinner and the evening on board.

DAY 5: MINGUN – MANDALAY – AMARAPURA

You'll have breakfast on board, before returning to Mandalay this morning. In the city center, you can still see the well-preserved walls and moats of the royal city. Conforming to the ancient town building and planning rules, the royal city was designed as a square orientated according to the four points on the compass. Not far from here, we will visit the Shwenandaw Monastery, also called the “Golden Palace Monastery”, built from sculpted teak and carved to perfection according to the Burmese architectural principles of the 19th century. We’ll then continue on to visit a workshop where craftspeople make carpets and work in gold leaf. These very fine leaves are precious offerings the faithful use to cover the Buddha statues they worship. We will then be able to observe the famous tradition of monks having their meal at the Mahagandayon Monastery in Amarapura. After our visit, we'll return to the boat. We’ll enjoy lunch on board as our river cruise continues. In the afternoon, we’ll travel by bus to Amarapura, the “City of Immortals”, well-known for its famous U-Bein Bridge. Three-quarters of a mile long, it was built in 1849 with ancient teak planks from the abandoned palace at Inwa. We’ll then enjoy a boat trip on Lake Taungthaman and visit a silk and cotton workshop. At the end of our afternoon tour, we'll return on board. We'll enjoy dinner and the evening on the ship.

DAY 6: SAGAING - AVA

In the morning, we’ll cruise towards Sagaing while you start the day with breakfast. Sagaing is a major Buddhist center. More than 5,000 monks, novices and nuns live here in over 1000 retreats and sanctuaries. Temples, stupas, pagodas and monasteries are in abundance and are spread out over several hills. We will take you by bus to the top of one of the hills for a marvelous view over the town and the Irrawaddy. We’ll then visit a silversmith’s workshop and the Sun U Ponya Shin Pagoda, built in the 14th century. During our excursion, we’ll also visit a convent. We’ll return on board for lunch and continue our cruise to Mandalay. This afternoon, we’ll travel by bus to Ava (Inwa), the most important royal city in the Burmese Empire 400 years ago. We’ll cross the Myitnge River by ferry, and visit the main remains of this ancient capital by horse drawn carriage. The Bagaya Monastery is considered to be one of the finest classical monasteries made of wood. We'll then return on board. This evening, we’ll see a classical Burmese dance performance at the University of Culture in Mandalay. We'll enjoy dinner on the ship.

DAY 7: YANDABO - PAKOKKU

Enjoy a leisurely breakfast this morning before we arrive later in Yandabo. We’ll then set off to visit the Potters’ village, where the incredibly skilled craftsmen spend hours turning the pots by hand using ancient traditional methods. This village is also an important historical site: the first peace treaties were signed here between the United Kingdom and the Burmese authorities in 1826 after the first Anglo-Burmese War. We’ll then visit the Pandaw School, built thanks to gifts from crew members and former passengers. We'll return on board and continue our cruise to Bagan. You'll enjoy lunch on board as we pass the confluence of the Irrawaddy River and its main tributary, the Chindwin. This afternoon, we'll enjoy a presentation of Burmese traditions on board and we'll arrive in Pakokku early in the evening. You'll enjoy dinner and the evening on board.

DAY 8: PAKOKKU – BAGAN

Enjoy breakfast this morning before our trip to the Pakokku Market and a discovery tour of the town center. We'll then return on board and continue our cruise to Bagan. We’ll spend the rest of the day visiting this ancient city. Bagan is one of the most remarkable Buddhist sites in southeastern Asia. More than 2,000 temples and stupas were built here between the 9th and 13th centuries over this vast plain of some 16.2 square miles. The great number of “stone pyramids” among the vegetation makes it one of the largest archaeological sites in the world.
We’ll visit several of the most symbolic monuments in Bagan, including the Ananda Temple, one of the finest Buddhist monuments. We’ll also visit a workshop where they make lacquerware. Bagan is famous for its lacquer work which was once greatly appreciated by royalty for storing documents and jewelry. We return to the boat for lunch. In the aftrnoon we will enjoy a special puppet showon board, one of the oldest traditions in the country. Dinner and overnight on board. In the afternoon, we’ll enjoy a Burmese puppet show, one of the oldest traditions in the country. We'll have dinner on board.

DAY 9: BAGAN

Enjoy breakfast this morning before we set off by bus for an additional half-day visit of Bagan. Other marvels await you today, with countless splendid temples, stupas and pagodas. We'll then return on board for lunch. The afternoon will be spent making even more beautiful discoveries. We’ll have dinner on board and remain in port overnight.

DAY 10: BAGAN – SALAY –MOUNT POPA – BAGAN

Enjoy breakfast this morning before disembarking and heading for Salay. Along the way, we’ll stop in the village of Chaunk and visit the market. Once in Salay, we’ll visit the Yoke Sone Kyaung Monastery, one of the finest wooden monasteries in all of Myanmar, with its 154 teak pillars. Mount Popa is considered to be the “Olympus of Myanmar”, and the home of the 37 Nats (Burmese spirits). It dominates the surrounding plains from an altitude of some 1520m (4,986 ft.). The rocky outcrop of Taungkalat at its base looks like an extinct volcano and is topped with an assortment of monasteries, pagodas and sanctuaries can be reached via a steep, winding path with 777 steps. We’ll enjoy lunch in a restaurant at the Mount Popa Resort, where the views of Mount Popa are quite spectacular. On the way back to Bagan, we’ll discover the daily lives of the locals during a stop to observe the harvesting of palm sugar, cultivated to make sugar, wine and palm alcohol.
We’ll enjoy dinner and an overnight stay in Bagan at the Tharabar Gate Hotel (superior class) or in similar accommodations.

DAY 11: BAGAN - YANGON

The following program will vary according to your departure time: If your flight leaves late afternoon, the program will be as follows:
Enjoy breakfast this morning before we transfer to the airport and fly to Yangon. We'll enjoy lunch in a local restaurant. Afterward, we’ll visit the Bogyoke Aung San Market (Scott Market). Its 2,000 little shops offer a wonderful choice of local craft ware and typical Burmese items from all over the country: fabrics, precious stones (jade, rubies and sapphires), woven basketwork and bamboo, lacquer work, puppets, antiques and so on. You’ll have some free time for some last minute shopping.

Transport

For more information about flights and transfers, please contact our call center by clicking on “Request a quote” and filling out the form, or by calling 1-800-768-7232.

More info

This type of tour/cruise is not recommended for passengers with limited mobility.

 

HEALTH

There are no mandatory vaccinations. However, it is strongly recommended, that your vaccinations are up-to-date (tetanus, polio, hepatitis A and B, typhoid and diphtheria). Anti-malarial treatment is recommended. Please see your general practitioner for more details. It is recommended not to drink tap water and to drink only bottled water (always verify that the seal is broken in front of you) or tea. Please remember to bring your own standard medication with you (aspirin, anti-diarrhea tablets, etc.). Mosquito repellent is also strongly recommended.
Transfers: Port-to-port package only. No transfers included. 

CLIMATE

Myanmar has a tropical climate with three seasons.
The rainy season: from the beginning of June to mid-October. Storms generally occur in the late afternoon, when the rain is torrential.
The cold season: which is the most pleasant season for travelling. Between November and February.
The country is covered in a green grassy carpet, rivers are full and the sky is a deep intense blue. It can be cold at altitude – at Inle Lake, for example.
The hot season: from March to the end of May

 

CURRENCY AND MEANS OF PAYMENT

The unit of currency is the kyat (MMK): (pronounced ‘chat’).
As of 18/12/13:
1 GBP= 1600 MMK
1 USD = 980 MMK (please note the exchange rates fluctuate widely)

Credit cards and Travellers Cheques are not generally accepted in Myanmar (apart from a few hotels and restaurants – a surcharge will be applied). We recommend travellers bring sufficient cash (the US dollar is the preferred currency but the Euro is becoming easier to exchange). Other foreign currencies are difficult to exchange. If possible, we recommend you bring new US dollar bills with serial numbers that do not start with a CB, as these notes are not accepted in Myanmar because of rumours about counterfeit notes.

 

JETLAG : with England: + 6½ hours in winter / + 5½ hours in summer, with United-States (Washington): + 11½ hours. 

 

IMPORTANT INFORMATION BEFORE YOU GO

The river you will be navigating is affected by seasonal weather and climate changes : there can be sudden, severe and spectacular high and low water level changes, which can alter the course of the cruise. In such instances, alternative itineraries will be offered: if a port of call has to be missed, then a back-up will be used instead. The programmes are therefore subject to last-minute changes. Beaching on the sand banks can also arise and this is part of the cruise. In addition, the journey can take you through areas with little or no development or infrastructure. A river cruise in Asia is an unforgettable, spectacular experience and one which is full of adventure.