Myanmar is standing at the precipice of great change. It is the country in Southeast Asia that has changed the least over the last 1,500 years but will likely change the most in the next five. The country—bordered by China, Thailand, India, Laos, and Bangladesh—has made great strides in the past two years in regards to improving human rights for all its citizens and creating infrastructure to become a true participant in today's global economy.
The country is piquing the interest of more and more travelers and many cruise lines and tour companies have launched expeditions to this fascinating place. In fact, we wrote about Myanmar tours from companies like Asia Transpacific Journeys and Abercrombie & Kent as well as many of the river cruise itineraries along the Irrawaddy, including those from Haimark, Grand Circle Line, and Orient-Express.
New Luxury River Cruiser in Myanmar
Another new luxury river cruiser will make its debut in December 2014: Sanctuary Retreats' newest ship: Sanctuary Ananda. The all-suite ship—named after a Sanskrit word that means "extreme happiness"—was custom built in Yangon and accommodates 48 travelers. In addition to spacious suites, the three-deck ship is outfitted with a plunge pool—a very important commodity when exploring such a humid region. The Thambyadine Spa & Gym is another strong addition for the ship with trained masseuses offering a variety of therapeutic treatments.
The all-inclusive cruise includes all meals as well as complimentary local beer and soft drinks. Wines from a comprehensive cellar are available on an a la cart basis. Burmese cuisine will be available along with Western and international specialties. Breakfast features, among other things, mohinga (Burmese fish noodle soup). Meals can be taken all day at Talifoo Restaurant or at Mindoon for al fresco lunch or snacks. Kansi Panorama Lounge, with its floor-to-ceiling windows, is a gathering spot all day long since it's an ideal spot to view the passing scenery and is the destination for morning coffee, afternoon tea, and evening cocktails. Many lectures and demonstrations are held in this space as well.
Sanctuary Ananda offers 3-, 4, 7-, 10-, and 11-night voyages along the Irrawaddy River that explore destinations like Mandalay, Bagan, Pyay, Chindwin, Homalin, Bhamo, and Yangon.
Local guides who are experts on Burmese culture will be on hand every step of the journey to ensure guests see the best sights and understand the significance of regional customs. Whenever possible, tours on shore will include local transportation, like trishaws, small boats, and horse-drawn carts (although transportation to and from some sights is via air-conditioned buses).
So, what exactly is there to see in Myanmar? The country offers both vibrant cities as well as rural villages in which day to day life hasn't really changed all that much in hundreds of years. The landscape is punctuated with temples, pagodas, convents, and monasteries.
--In Mandalay you'll spend time exploring the spectacular Soon U Ponya Shin temple.
--You'll marvel at a few of the 2,000 temples and pagodas in Bagan, including the Shwezigon Pagoda. It's of note because it purportedly contains a bone and tooth of the Gautama Buddha.
--At Monywa you'll visit Thanboddhay Pagoda and will be amazed to see thousands of images of Buddha covering its walls. Nearby is the Bodithaung Pagoda, which is home to the largest statue of Buddha in the entire country.
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: Photo courtesy of Sanctuary Retreats