Cruising Through Myanmar
Traveling by boat in Myanmar can be an illuminating alternative to the bus or train, connecting some major destinations and allowing travelers to get a real taste of life on the river, take in sunsets over stupa-lined riverbanks, and mix with locals. The most popular routes follow the mighty Irrawaddy River (the backbone of Myanmar that flows north-south through the country) and various waterways in the Irrawaddy Delta near Yangon.
I was fortunate to travel from Bagan to Mandalay (a four-day, three-night journey) aboard the luxurious, all-suite, all-balcony Ananda. A riverboat with 21 suites, it blends Burmese design with contemporary amenities and outstanding cuisine. It was the perfect combination of Myanmar culture and luxury.
We cruised during the day, sailing past villages set against a backdrop of soft browns, rich tamarind trees, and golden pagodas. The movement of the Ananda was imperceptible; it gracefully glided along, allowing time for contemplation and observation of the teak dwellings, cheerful waving youngsters, and local women going about their daily chores.
Our mornings were spent ashore exploring bustling markets. Afternoon options included visits to monasteries, pagodas, and craft workshops. Onboard activities featured lectures and demonstrations, including a cooking demo by executive chef Sumet Sumpachanyanont and a tour of the ship's impressive galley. Our evenings were highlighted by local entertainers and talks in the Ananda's salon.
During my long journey in Myanmar, I appreciated this time on the river to recharge and reflect upon the freedom and privilege of travel. The ship offered every amenity and comfort I relished while aboard. I woke each morning and moved directly to my balcony. I loved the stillness and quiet of the morning, and observing the Burmese people going about their daily tasks, seemingly unaware of our existence. The simple, elegant grandeur of the Ananda drifting up the Irrawaddy was an experience of a lifetime.
Later on my trip, I had a another kind of captivating water experience traveling on the colorful long-tail boats of Inle Lake. From the moment I first boarded a long-tail boat, I was in love. There were no amenities, luxuries, or refinements, just the spare elegance and speed of a working boat. The contrast of these two very different experiences—savoring luxurious cultural lessons on the Ananda and speeding along the waterways of Inle Lake on a long-tail boat—left a lasting impression on me. Both resonate inside me still, two halves of my whole Myanmar.
Following are photos—and two haiku poems—that present some of the riches and reflections from my adventures in Myanmar.
Little Boy at Monastery
Keep Calm and Listen to Bon Jovi
Waking Up on the Ananda
Salon Aboard the Ananda
Gliding through Inle
Euphoric in the cool breeze
My long-tail boat love.
Long-Tail Boat Driver on the Inle River
Your life unlike mine
Our stories beneath our hats
Faces we have earned.
Kim Anderson has spent a lifetime traveling and is among the first friendly voices to greet you when you call.
Learn more about GeoEx's small-group trip in Myanmar, which includes a two-night river cruise, or browse through sample itineraries of custom journeys in the country. Additional inspirations for explorations by water can by found at GeoEx Cruises.