The sparkling pagodas and saffron cloaked monks of Myanmar (Burma) can be viewed from the serenity of the Ayeyarwady River onboard the Road To Mandalay as it sails on a series of 12-day ‘Gorges of the Far North’ cruises in August and September this year.
The cruise sees the Road To Mandalay sail 682 nautical miles departing from the storied city of Mandalay up to Bhamo, near the Chinese border and at the foothills of Yunnan, finishing at the spellbinding plain of temples at Bagan. The voyage is only possible post rainy season when the river is swollen and water levels are high enough to allow passage through the three dramatic gorges, flanked by vertical cliffs, in the north of the river. Delving deep into the heart of a country largely undiscovered by tourists, the cruise, ideal for travellers seeking authentic new adventures, incorporates off-the-beaten-track experiences and inimitable glimpses into Burmese life in comfort and style.
Meandering upriver from the departure point at Mandalay, guests discover the world’s largest brick-built pagoda and uncracked bell at Mingun and visit traditional clay pot sculptors at Nwe Nyein. Local markets are encountered in the quaint village of Kyan Hnyat and in the old town of Katha, the British outpost once home to George Orwell, author of ‘Burmese Days’, guests will be transported back to the 1930’s as they discover the streets of this enchanting colonial town in trishaws. Continuing north, the cruise includes a visit to the island of Shwe Paw with its highly venerated pagoda and monastery with pretty gardens well maintained vegetable patches.
Reaching the northern-most leg of the cruise at Bhamo, barely 50 miles from the Chinese border, the scenery is a stunning contrast of lush jungle, bamboo forests, steep rock gorges and mountains. There is the opportunity to interact and meet with the local people who rarely see tourists venturing this far north, with excursions including a tour of Bhamo and its backstreets and the bustling market. Returning downstream on the ship, guests disembark to board a train through thick jungle to the forest station of Naba. Another forest adventure, this time aboard an elephant, enables guests to watch the mammals hard at work moving teak. A tour of Burma’s second-largest city Mandalay is followed by a show of tribal dancing aboard the ship. Mandalay is Myanmar’s spiritual capital, and its many monks and nuns pursue their studies alongside the most intact record of the Buddha’s teachings, carved in stone on 77 tablets. The itinerary also includes visits to the Golden Palace and Mahamuni Temple with its impressive statue of the Buddha, covered in thick gold leaf.
Sunset over the world-famous plain of more than 2000 spectacular temples at ancient Bagan whets appetites for a guided tour of the ancient sites on the final day, including an optional tour to Mount Popa and its summit monastery, legendary sacred home of the 37 Nats. The Road To Mandalay, launched over 17 years ago, is the longest running and most established river cruiser operating on the Ayeyarwady and offers a refined travel experience with facilities including a wellness centre, swimming pool and a variety of lively evening entertainment. With a capacity of 82, the Road To Mandalay is a large and well appointed ship that provides the best vantage point to admire the views of Burmese life from the country’s largest and most vital river.
Mountain scenery, the great Ayeyarwady River, ancient temples and a fascinating mix of friendly local people are all features of this extraordinary experience. Departures for the Bhamo cruise in 2012 commence on August 1, 15 and 29, and September 12 and are priced from £2380 per person which includes all table d’hôte meals and accommodation on board based on two people sharing, domestic flights, transfers and all sightseeing in small groups accompanied by knowledgeable local guides. Packages can also be tailor-made to include a stay at Orient-Express’ hotel in Yangon, The Governor’s Residence. Guests may book this insightful 11-night trip to Bhamo before 30th June 2012 and stay at The Governor’s Residence for two nights on a complimentary basis either before or after the cruise. Offer is subject to availability and quote RG11 upon booking.