Cruising down the Irrawaddi

One of the highlights of our trip was the 24 hour river cruise from Mandalay to Bagan on the Irrawaddi riverPrior to our boat’s departure in the morning, we were spending a night in Mandalay.  After arriving at the Mandalay airport, I did not expect much from the second biggest city in the country.  The airport looked like it could have been out of I Am Legend, deserted, lonely and eerie.

Dressed in Burmese wear (longyi) while visiting a Mandalay temple. 

However, when driving through the center of the city, it was more alive and bustling than Yangon.  Hoards of motorbikes took the streets that were illuminated by the neon lights on the buildings.  Mandalay had a slight western feel to it with its large shopping plaza, karaoke bars and fashionable inhabitants.  Our hotel was large and resembled a Vegas casino more than that of a hotel in a third world country.  While our time was short in Mandalay, it was very intriguing and a place I would like to spend a little more time in if I find my way back to Myanmar in the future.

Samantha and I in front of the cruise. 

Everyone hanging out on the sundeck.
No one really knew what to expect of the river cruise but every aspect exceeded all of our expectations.  For a majority of the time, we were lounging on the top deck soaking in the sun as we cruised past Burmese farms and river villages.  There was also an unlimited supply of tea and cookies to snack on as the boat glided down the Irrawaddi.   

A common fishing boat cruising past a Pagoda on
the shore.  

The river cruise provided us our first views of the country side.  For the most part, we had been in cities or traveling by plane, but for 100km we were able to take in all Burma had to offer.   Although the countryside was quite beautiful, the apex was at sunrise and sunset.  Shades of pink, orange, yellow and red paint the horizon as shadows of palm trees fill in the banks along the river.  It was the true epitome of Southeast Asia.

Sunrise on the river cruise. 

The preeminent part of the river cruise was our stop in a small river village.  They are known for their pottery so we were able to see the entire pottery making process.  The village itself was so primitive that you would think it was a display in Disney’s Epcot center.  It is hard to fathom that people live their lives that way day after day. 

Flower growing in the village with pots in the background. 

Two brothers walking down the street in the village. 

However, it was the people in the village that made this pit stop so special and worth visiting.  Everyone boasted a smile and would send a friendly wave your way as you passed by.  More specifically it was the kids in the village that made this stop memorable.  Typically in Myanmar, kids will greet you to try and sell you something.  However, the kids in the village were uncorrupt by the giving hand of tourists.  They just wanted to smile and laugh with you.  Some of them even gave us pottery they had made, expecting nothing in return.  This was surely the best part of the trip for me thus far…that was until we arrived in Bagan.  

A women making pots in the village. 

The kids loved it when you would take a picture and show them. 


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