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The Classic Irrawaddy River Cruise

A River Cruise from Prome to Mandalay Aboard the Kanee Pandaw

Overview

Float through the middle of the “golden land” to centuries-old stupas, gilded pagodas, and landscapes of tamarind trees and teak plantations along Myanmar’s longest river, the Irrawaddy, either upstream from Prome or downstream from Mandalay. Among the many highlights are the 3,000 monuments and spires of ancient Pagan, the magnificent Magwe Myat-thalon Pagoda constructed of solid gold bricks, and the Yout-saun-kyaung monastery, with its spectacular wood carvings. Witness rural riverside life from the open-air lounge and observation deck, dine al fresco on chef-prepared meals, and explore Myanmar’s tropical countryside, small villages, and complex, fascinating cities on private guided tours.

Note: This cruise is not exclusive to, nor operated by, Wilderness Travel, who acts solely as agent in booking your reservation with the ship operator. The itinerary, lecturers, and all other arrangements are subject to change at the discretion of the cruise line.

Itinerary

Day 1
Prome (Pyay)

Embark the Kanee Panday and sail to Prome, arriving by early afternoon. Travel by coach to the 5th-8th century archaeological site of Thiri-ya-kittiya, the former center of the Pyu civilization with a fascinating museum of early Buddhist artifacts and sculptures. You’ll journey across the countryside to monumental Pyu stupas and excavations of this former palace city, one of Myanmar’s many old capitals. The hilltop pagoda, Shwesandaw Pagoda, is in the center of town and is one of the country’s biggest pilgrimage sites. From here, take in the panoramic views of the river and its bustling banks.

Day 2
Thayetmyo

This pleasant colonial town once guarded the border between Royal Myanmar and British Myanmar following the 2nd Anglo Myanmar War of 1855. Many of the buildings, including the covered market, date from this period. Thayet boasts the oldest golf course in Myanmar (1885). Visit the market, see the colonial houses, and ride out by horse-drawn cart to the golf course, passing through the former British botanical garden on the way.

Day 3
Magwe

In Minhla, explore the two Italian-built forts that were constructed to keep the British at bay from Royal Myanmar. The fight for the Minhla redoubt was the only serious action in the war, and the death of a young subaltern inspired Kipling to write a poem about it. Ride in a trishaw to reach the magnificent Magwe Myat-thalon Pagoda, a stunning structure constructed with solid gold bricks. Also of interest are the many nat shrines and hermitages within the temple precincts.

Day 4
Sale

Visit the Yout-saun-kyaung monastery with its spectacular wood carvings and figurines that depict stories from the Buddha’s 550 previous lives. The monastery is home to the Sale museum, which displays artifacts from several centuries including sculptures, carved furniture, and a rare paper writing tablet used for Buddhist rituals.  Before continuing upstream, explore an area of splendid colonial-style houses.

Day 5
Tan-Chi-Taung

In the morning, the ship moors at the Tan-Chi-Taung Mountain where you can walk to the top and enjoy the view. Continue on, enjoying the slow pace of river life, to one of the highlights of your trip: the spectacular 3,000 listed monuments at the World Heritage Site of Pagan, and one of the richest archeological sites in the world. Between the 11th and 13th centuries, the kings of the Pagan dynasty ruled the country and ordered over 10,000 pagodas and temples to be built. Although an earthquake in 1975 destroyed many of the pagodas, around 3,000 religious structures remain, with a wide range of designs and detail. The ruins of shrines and pagodas are spread out over 20 square miles in a dazzling display of spires that reach towards the sky.

Day 6
Pagan

Continue your explorations in Pagan, followed by a lacquerware workshop and a visit to the local markets. Return to the boat to sail upstream. Disembark for an evening walk at Oh Ne Kyaung village. As the sun goes down, enjoy seeing local life bustling about in this typical riverside community.

Day 7
Yandabo

Today the ship sails to the small village of Yandabo, known for its pottery. Explore the village, and visit a local school, the Pandaw School, built with donations from previous travelers.

Day 8
Mandalay, Sagaing, and Amarapura

This morning, take a tour of central Mandalay, Myanmar’s second largest city, and visit the Mahamuni Pagoda and Shwe Nan Daw Kyaung teak-carved monastery. Though Rangoon is the modern-day capital, Mandalay, or Yadanapura—the “City of Gems," remains the Golden Land’s spiritual capital. Situated in the heart of Upper Burma, the city is at the hub of river routes from China and India and land routes from the Shan massif and Siam beyond. Around the palace area King Mindon constructed many splendid teak monasteries for the royal monks, rest houses for pilgrims, shrines on the Mandalay hill and, most significantly, the great Kuthodaw Pagoda. The city was bombed in WWII and the palace disappeared, along with much of the rest of the city. But the palace was rebuilt in the 1990s, and since then Mandalay has been rebuilt, giving it its haphazard modern atmosphere.

In the afternoon, explore Sagaing. The true delight of Sagaing lies in its 1,000 hermitages and sanctuaries, rich in woodcarving and religious art. Drive to the ancient capital of Amarapura and take a boat ride across Taungthaman Lake, taking in the sight of the iconic U-Bein wooden foot bridge as the sun sets. Amarapura is populated by craftsmen who, in legacy from ancient times when people lived by royal order, live in the quarters given to them by King Mindon. There are quarters along the road for stone carvers, wood carvers, bronze casters, and silk weavers.

Day 9
Mingun

Cruise to Mingun where you'll see the largest working bell in the world and the unfinished pagoda—the largest single mass of brick building in the world—and explore the Mingun Old People's Home, originally established with the assistance of the Irrawaddy Flotilla Company in the 1930s.

Day 10
Kyauk-Myoung

Continue on to Kyauk-Myoung and view the spectacular pottery of the region, specifically the 50 gallon handmade water pots. You’ll see all stages of manufacturing from the throwing of the pots to the week-long firing process in huge kilns. In Khan-nyat, visit the many Buddhist monasteries and an orphanage. Afterwards, sail on to Mandalay.

Day 11
Mandalay

Disembark in the morning in Manday and head to the airport for homeward-bound flights.

Highlights

Highlights

Relax on the outdoor observation deck as you sail past temples and ancient Bhudda carvings
Spend 2 days in Pagan exploring over 3,000 monuments and pagodas
Visit the former Pyu civilization of Prome and the archaeological site of Thiri-ya-kittiya
Witness the pottery-making process in the small rural village of Yandabo
Take a boat ride along Taungthaman Lake and visit the famous wooden foot bridge

Details

Length: 11 days
Cost From: $3856  
Arrive: Prome, Myanmar
Depart: Mandalay, Myanmar
Lodging: 10 nights aboard a 28-passenger vessel
Meals: All meals aboard ship included
Activity: Archaeology, Cultural Adventures, River Cruising
Trip Level:

11-day river cruise, cultural exploration and walking tours

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