Anticipation is high, as it always is, when travelling to a remote location. We take an afternoon flight to Bangok and break our journey with an overnight stay at the Novotel Bangkok Suvarnabhumi Airport.
On the wings of a short flight to central Myanmar, we find ourselves in Mandalay. Visit the Shwekyin Kyaung Monastery and observe the novice monks. Renowned for their remarkable discipline, the monks here attend to the finest details including the symmetrical stacking of sandals before prayer. This evening before dinner, the auspicious nature of this monastery is brought to light as we receive an authentic blessing for prosperity and spiritual security in the face of our journey.
We linger a while upon the evening. A special Welcome Dinner and puppet show at the Mya Nanda Restaurant awaits before we rest at the Rupar Mandalar Resort.
Embark on an exploration of Sagaing. Emerald hills topped with silver and gold pagodas, Sagaing is home to Buddhist monasteries, nunneries and a monastic hospital. Observe the hallowed skyline from Soon Oo Ponya Shin Pagoda on Sagaing Hill.
The Shwenandaw Monastery is the last building remaining of what was once the Mandalay Palace. Upon returning to Mandalay, examine its intricately carved panels that depict Jataka tales – stories concerning the previous incarnations of Buddha. After visiting Kuthodaw Pagoda, we enjoy sunset from a prime vantage point. On board a local boat, become familiar with the frills of cruising as glasses are raised in celebration.
Board the Sanctuary Ananda this morning. While most river ships head south, our captain will point the bow in a northerly direction. We spend the day acquainting ourselves with life on the Irrawaddy. Later, there will be a reception of drinks and canapes followed by a lavish Welcome Dinner on board.
In the charming pottery village of Nwe Nyein, watch craftsmen create beautiful pots as they work potters’ wheels with their legs. Back on board, we learn about Burmese traditions such as sarong tying and make-up techniques. The remainder of the day is spent travelling through soul-stirring riverscapes to Kyar Nyat, where the Sanctuary Ananda will dock for the night.
Arriving in the ancient walled town of Tagaung, fascinating archaeological sites dating back to the Pyu Dynasty await our discovery. We continue our voyage upriver toward the town of Katha, aiming for an early morning arrival. An evening lecture, held on board, on Myanmar’s history is sure to be an enlightening affair.
The languid current guiding our path, a morning meditation session is held on the Sun Deck. At the same time, intricacies of Burmese cuisine are enlightened by our chef.
In Katha, tuk tuks ferry us to the colonial splendour of the former British Club, which was used as a literary retreat by George Orwell when writing Burmese Days.
Easing into a day on board, we cruise to the most northern navigable point of the river for a ship of this size, setting our sights on Bhamo. We are deep in the tropics when we pass the famous Parrot’s Head statue. It is said that if the beak of this bird-shaped rocky outcrop is touching the water, the river is too high to navigate. Before delving into dinner, enjoy a traditional Kachin dance performance.
In the bustling market town of Bhamo, we explore the Shwe Kyi Na pagoda and historic Catholic churches. Turning the Sanctuary Ananda back, and cruising in a southerly direction now, we see the peculiar practice of pachyderms and people working together harmoniously at an elephant logging camp in the village of Moeda.
Though standing on your private balcony is an ideal way to take in the ever-changing river scenes, perhaps you’d like to make the experience even more otherworldly with a morning meditation session on the Sun Deck.
We revisit the small village of Kyar Nyat, alighting in the afternoon. Teased by exotic scents that waft from nearby food stalls, village life continues to its own rhythm.
It’s an honour to pass time with the humble villagers of Sink Kyun, predominantly farmers and hatmakers. The village of around 1,000 people has received philanthropic help from the guests of Sanctuary Ananda, which includes a library and a house for an English teacher. Our arrival is welcomed, therefore, with much delight.
We cruise by the monumental temple of Mingun, followed by an afternoon visit to Amarapura, or the City of Immortals, where we are serenaded by the clickety clack of weavers’ looms at a textile workshop. Over the darkening U Bein Bridge, the longest teak bridge in the world, we bear witness to a spectacular sunset.
A marionette show plays out on board tonight allowing us great insight into the Myanmar of the 18th century.
As we close in on Bagan, riverside monuments become increasingly grander. We see Mahamuni Pagoda and Shwenandaw Monastery, where hundreds of age-old marble slabs inscribed with Buddhist texts comprise what some historians consider the biggest book in the world.
Arriving in Bagan, we visit the Nyaung U market and the great golden Shwezigon Pagoda. At the 1091-built Ananda Temple, we find ourselves astounded by legend that tells the story of a king, so enthralled by the original structure, that he executed the architects after its inception.
The day’s finale is a quiet moment on the terraces of the Pyathatgyi Temple, awash in a sunset glow.
Bidding farewell to the cheerful crew of the Sanctuary Ananda in Bagan, we board a morning flight to Yangon, where the Governor’s Residence Hotel awaits. Spend the afternoon on your own personal schedule, delving into the city’s striking cultural scene.
Today is set aside for an epic immersion into discovery. Seldom visited by travellers, the Kalaywa Tawya Monastery offers us a glimpse into the daily details of novice monks, our visit coinciding as it does with the monks’ meal time.
Within the Reclining Buddha Pagoda, we cast our eyes over an enclosure devoted to the study of Buddhist manuscripts as well as a collection of effigies. The glittering domes of the Shwedagon Pagoda round off our sightseeing, before we prepare for a four-course Farewell Dinner at Le Planteur restaurant.
Thanks to our evening flight, we are graced with more time in Yangon. Spend the day at the National Museum and investigate the Musmeah Yeshua, the city’s last remaining synagogue. Of course, you may otherwise prefer to wander at leisure. Afterwards, we visit Bogyoke Aung San Market which houses standard household goods as well as antique heirlooms and produce that, while exotic to us, is common fare for locals.
Later this afternoon, transfer to the airport where we board our onward flight.
Arrive home today. We realise how far removed, not just in distance, but in cultural tradition and practices, Australia is from the land we have just traversed.
Sometimes travelling can be a chore, distracting you from the fascinating places you are in. That’s why everything mundane has been moved behind the scenes. You will never have to carry a map, luggage, small change for tips or bargain for a taxi fare.
There are no hidden costs. Everything is included – flights and other travel arrangements, luxurious accommodation, travel insurance, all dining and drinks, and even sightseeing trips. Even the Your World experiences within your itinerary and internet access when available.
Welcome to your homes away from home. Each one has a certain something that sets it apart from every other residence at its location. Whether for its history, cultural significance or natural setting, we’ve selected only the very best.
Arrested by teak wood and natural landscapes, the ambience of the Rupar Mandalar Resort is a truly authentic way to experience Myanmar’s distinct environment. Over 4.4 acres of natural vegetation, the resort was crafted by a team of award-winning designers and showcases exotic flora and a skyline marked by emerald growth. From the private balcony of your Premier Suite, you’re in prime position to survey the surrounds.
Few travellers dare dream of chartering a course along the Upper Irrawaddy River, we do just that. Of course, even though we’re discovering the country’s quietest waters, there’s no compromise in services and amenities. On board, a spa offers a variety of authentic treatments, cuisine features ingredients sourced daily from local villages, and early morning meditation allows us to reflect upon the wondrous regions we cross.
A magical close to our journey, we stay among the lotus pools and carefully manicured lawns of this boutique hotel set within Yangon’s embassy quarter. With an extremely high staff-to-guest ratio, your every need will be attended to in the most lively manner. After days spent learning about the city’s fascinating culture and history, prepare to retire to the carved teak panels and silk bedding of your private suite.
Fares are based on a Suite aboard the Sanctuary Ananda. Per Person, Twin Share.
Fares are in Australian dollars and include Thai Airways flights from Sydney, Melbourne or Brisbane. Prices from other cities available on request.
Land Only Guests join the tour in Mandalay on Day 2 and depart Yangon on Day 17 after touring.
Cruise Upgrades, add per person, twin share
Deluxe Suite (Bagan Deck) $1,300
Deluxe Suite (Mandalay Deck) $2,200
Luxury Suite $3,800
Owners Suit $6,100
Solo Supplement listed is for a Suite on board Sanctuary Ananda. Prices for other suites available on request.
Trip notes: This journey is reserved for a group of just 36 guests.