Burma, although starting to open up more for tourism and becoming more accessible, remains a land of intrigue and mystery. Take a wonderful journey across this fascinating country to see some amazing sights, meet friendly, curious people, and have an adventure that you will never forget.
Whilst not being a road, one of the best ways to see different faces of this wonderful and evocative country is to take a trip between Bagan and Mandalay along the Ayeyarwady River.
Bagan, the start of this journey, is home to over 3000 temples. Individually, they range from the impressive to the piles of stones, but collectively provide a truly breath-taking sight. Sunrise, or sunset, is particularly awesome, seeing the temples lining the horizon with the reds, pinks and oranges of the sky behind. Perhaps take a ride in a hot air balloon to enjoy a different view of this spectacular area.
Maroon clad monks and nuns donning white and pink collect alms in the streets, farmers and their oxen toil in the fields, people bustle along carting their wares on their heads, food is cooked at the roadside, betel nut is chewed and spat, and children play simple games in the street. It is a peaceful and tranquil scene that will leave you feeling like you’ve witnessed a rare gem in this increasingly busy and modern world.
Sailing from Bagan, you will pass by small communities living alongside the water, seeing traditional villages and how people live a simple, yet sustainable life. You will pass by people swimming and bathing in the river, and groups of children who will delight in waving and hollering to you. Small fishing boats bob up and down, whilst nets are cast and fish traps collected. Insects buzz in the air and birds soar overhead. Slow down and let your senses really be aroused as you drift along the mighty river.
At night-time, when the sounds of the day have quietened, listen out for chants from Buddhist monasteries, the lilting sound carrying in the still air. See the stars sparkling in the clear skies.
Arriving in Mandalay, you will find a bustling city, less serene than the place you have left behind but no less interesting and beguiling. Working temples are scattered around, including the dazzling and revered Mahamuni temple. Deeply important to the local people, remove your shoes and step inside for a taste of Burmese Buddhism. See the image being constantly covered in gold leaf and be humbled by the respect afforded to their faith by the community. Gaze at ancient wooden temples, with their intricate and ornate designs.
See the imposing palace, set high up Mandalay Hill, and visit some of the drinking stations for a nice cool refreshing beverage. Pay a visit to the old cities nearby, and see the beautiful vistas from the Sagaing Hills. Take a walk along the long wooden teak bridge, U Bein Bridge, crossing over Taungthaman Lake. Perhaps return by boat. Try and time this for sunset, when the scene is really very lovely; people are silhouetted in the fading light high up on the bridge and the bridge itself stands proudly against the changing colours of the sky.
Take the journey from Bagan to Mandalay along the Ayeyarwady River for a unique and fulfilling travel experience.