You may only know the mysterious country of Myanmar from Rudyard Kipling's famed poem, "The Road to Mandalay," but many river cruise companies would love to introduce you firsthand to this fascinating place—the Land of the Golden Pagodas—in Southeast Asia. Politically, Myanmar has been on the path to democratization for the past five years, and with that has come more opened borders, with tourism development still in its early stages. That means you'll see this beautiful land in a very authentic, untouched way.
The best way to get to Myanmar (formerly known as Burma) is to sail part of the 1,350-mile-long Irrawaddy River, which starts high up in the Himalayas and continues down through the country until spilling out into the Andaman Sea in the south. River cruise experts like Orient-Express, Sanctuary Retreats, Haimark, Grand Circle Cruise Line, Pandaw River Expeditions, Viking River Cruises, and Voyages to Antiquity all offer sailings along the river. Starting in November 2014, popular line AmaWaterways will also offer two of its own itineraries along the Irrawaddy.
Visitors fall in love with the country for its thousands of gilded pagodas, temples, stupas, and mountaintop shrines. It's a place where you can still see traditional villages surviving and thriving along the banks of the river. Cities like Yangon (Rangoon) give a hint to the country's colonial-era past with Victorian-style buildings lining cobblestone streets. The people are also friendly and fascinating and most practice Theravada Buddhism.
AmaWaterways plans to offer two itineraries: the 10-night Golden Treasures of Myanmar and the 14-night Hidden Wonders of Myanmar. Both options may be booked with pre- or post-cruise land tours in Yangon or an extension to Inle Lake.
Both voyages visit Yangon, Pyay, Thayetmyo, Minhla, Magwee, Salay, Thanktkyil, Bagan, Yandabo, Inwa, Sagaing, Mingun, Mandalay, and Amarapura. The longer Hidden Wonders tour also calls on Myaunaung, Zalon, Danuphyu, and Maubin.
AmaWaterways is custom-building the 28-suite AmaPura for use along the Irrawaddy River. Each suite will have its own balcony—either a French balcony, a full step-out balcony, or twin balconies. Cabins range from 285 to 420 square feet. The ship will be outfitted with a restaurant, main lounge and bar, pool and sun deck, spa, and gift boutique. The cuisine onboard will feature locally sourced ingredients, regionally inspired specialties, and favorite Western dishes. Complimentary house wine, local beer, and soft drinks are available at lunch and dinner.
The cruise line is currently accepting reservations for its Myanmar cruises from November 2014 through April 2016; visit www.amawaterways.com to book.
Andrea M. Rotondo is a freelance writer based in New York City. She covers cruise news and luxury travel trends for Fodors.com and writes for a variety of outlets, including her website Luxury Travel Mavens. Follow her on Twitter: @luxtravelmavens.
Photo Credit: Courtesy of AmaWaterways