Myanmar

Myanmar is known as the golden land and the two major rivers – Ayeyarwady (Irrawadand Chindwin – traverse the country from north to south.
These waterways shape the country and its people in manifold facets and are the most important fluvial lifelines.

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The Magic of Myanmar

A golden land of pure bliss

The Epitome of Buddhism

In Myanmar, the origins of Buddhist beliefs go back over 2,000 years. It was and is still expressed today through its sheer number of beautiful temples, pagodas and Buddha statues. Most of these spectacular structures are situated along the Ayeyarwady or Chindwin rivers and can be observed from off-shore, or they can be found not far inland. Every corner of the Golden Land has its own story to tell.

The world famous ancient royal town of Bagan hosts thousands of stupas of various sizes and forms. An unbelievable aura emanates from this place, which one can feel when watching the sun set and casting golden hues over the mystical temple-filled plains.
A land of craftsmanship

The people of Myanmar are known to be excellent craftsmen. Wood carving, delicate paintings, silversmithing, gemstones and jewellery, hand-woven fabrics, pottery of any kind - Myanmar is likely to have a region specializing in every form of art. With so much talent in this nation, one can only imagine the splendour and grandeur the kings of yore must have lived in.

Our journeys bring you to the most interesting places to marvel at unique handicrafts, such as Myanmar’s legendary lacquerware workshops or the amazing pottery manufacturing riverside village. Lacquerware products are hardly found anywhere else in Asia and are typically created only in three colours: red, blue and green.
Unspoiled nature & life

Voyaging through Myanmar and along its captivating rivers offers the most unspoiled experiences. The land is characterized by tropical landscapes; lush green, towering mountains; rolling hills; small creeks and vast streams; cultivated rice fields; palm tree dotted shorelines; and more.

The endless expanses of forests with ancient stupas peeping out over the treetops, the fishermen standing on poles in the deep water to get the best catch and the puttering boats going by all come together to create a unique picture. Life in the pristine countryside floats in slow-motion, adapting to mother nature’s pace, the river’s steady flow, and the rising and falling of the sun.
Amiable authentic people

Visiting Myanmar and encountering its locals can make you fall under their spell. The calmness of the Burmese people will become an everlasting experience that will make you want to come back. The country’s foremost fashion tradition is the longyi skirt, still worn by men and woman as a proud symbol of their national culture.

Another centuries-old Burmese custom can be observed on the myriad faces adorned with Thanaka paste. Myanmar also has more than 100 ethnic groups, all of which still preserve their culture and traditions. One of the most fascinating groups are the Naga people, a former warrior tribe situated in north-western Myanmar, along the Chindwin River.
The colonial dash

When people think of former British-Burma, they may envision classy gentlemen’s lounges, plush outfitted train carriages, and glamourous hotels with ritzy lobbies and suites. Although not always as romantic as some like to imagine, the colonial era has left a mark on Myanmar and its people. The colonial era can still be seen and felt across the country.

Once the world’s leading river fleet and mentioned in Rudyard Kipling’s famed “Road to Mandalay” poem, remnants of the Irrawaddy Flotilla Company are found in many settlements along the Ayeyarwady and Chindwin rivers. Another celebrated 19th century author, George Orwell, based his book “Burmese Days” on the town of Katha, where the legendary author’s house is still standing and part of a sightseeing tour in our upper Ayeyarwady voyage.
Burmese food

Set between Thailand, India and China, Myanmar’s cuisine has taken on elements of all its neighbours. And in addition to its outside influences, each of Myanmar’s 135 ethnic groups also have their own dishes and distinct flavours. Whether your favourite is a flavourful curry with freshly baked bread, a tasty local noodle and fish soup known as Mohinga (Myanmar’s national dish), a fresh salad prepared with local greens and exotic fruits, or a delicious Burmese tea leaf salad, the possibilities for any meal are limitless.

You will find some of these famous Burmese dishes aboard - make sure to experience the flavours of Myanmar during your journey.

Available Cruises

Discover Myanmar’s treasures with our exceptional cruise itineraries

2, 3, or 4 nights

Bagan – Mandalay or vice versa

This cruise explores the cultural and spiritual heart of ancient Burma along the Central Ayeyarwady and its former royal capitals and is available with various cruise lengths to experience Myanmar at will.

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7 nights

Mandalay – 2nd Defile – Mandalay

This well-balanced and multifaceted voyage on the upper Ayeyarwady to the breathtaking natural canyons of the second defile, explores enchanting local river life and the country’s colonial heritage

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11 nights

Mandalay – Homalin – Bagan

An exciting and peaceful river expedition up-and downstream along the exotic Chindwin River visiting the remote, untouched and quaint region of the Nagaland in the northwest of Myanmar.

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Insights

Interesting facts about Myanmar

Myanmar’s Climate
Yes it can snow but...
The best time to visit Myanmar is from November to February. As Myanmar is in the northern hemisphere, temperatures during this period are quite pleasant (25 to 30°C) with low humidity, little rainfall, and clear skies. The northern, elevated regions may also experience snow fall – but this is rare. March, and in particular April, can get very hot. During the monsoon months of May through October (also called the green season), nature explodes with greenery and rivers swell with rushing waters.

A river cruise is highly recommended during this time, as it is the tourist low season and landmarks are much less crowded. Although rainfall can be heavy in the southern delta region, including Yangon, it typically only rains for a few hours a day in the central and north’s cruising areas (and cruising halts in the months of May and June).
Burmese People
Who thought of that?
Myanmar is considered one of the most ethnically diverse countries in the world with a population of approximately 60 million people, which are further divided into 135 ethnic groups. The major groups in Myanmar are the Shan, Kayin, Kachin, Rakhine, Mon, Naga, Chin, Kayah and Wa.

There are hundreds of languages and dialects spoken, and this diversity is one of the most significant aspects which makes Burmese culture so unique and fascinating. Myanmar people are genuine, honest and welcoming to both their neighbors as well as new faces, and visitors often praise their friendliness and hospitality. The country is also known as an epicenter of Buddhism, with 88% of its population practicing Theravada beliefs.
Myanmar’s history in a nutshell
A brief insight
What we know as the country of Myanmar started around 849 AD with the founding of the city of Bagan on the banks of the Ayeyarwady river. The state prospered under the reign of King Anawrahta. Over the next millennia, neighboring kingdoms were in constant conflict with one another, with borders being redrawn time and again.

The British colonized Burma and made it a province of India during the late 19th century. Several times the people of Myanmar attempted to gain independence, but it was only granted post-World War II. Shortly after, the young country fell into chaos as ethnic minorities attempted to form their own states. The military would eventually take over the country. Only in recent years have the borders been opened to the outside. Today, the people of Myanmar are proud to once again host visitors from around the world.
Being “Trendy” in Myanmar
From Thanakha, Longyi and Chinlone
As you travel around Myanmar, one of the first things to catch the eye will be many local women and children wearing a white paste on their cheeks. This is made from the Thanakha tree and is used as sunscreen as well as a way to keep the skin from getting oily. Some even like to express their artistic creativity by painting it in the shape of a leaf or a flower.

And there is the all-time-famous Longyi dress, fashionable among both men and women, and you will see even expats wearing this comfortable garment. This relatively recent fashion statement became popular during the times of British colonial rule due to its ability to keep cool from the heat, or its versatility – they can be rolled up and worn like shorts or to assist in carrying large loads. Another interesting tradition in Myanmar is a national game named Chinlone, also known as caneball. Locals play it everywhere. Players stand in a circle and pass the ball, made from sugarcane leaves, amongst each other with any body part except the hands.
Shwedagon
The most expensive stupa in the world?
“Then, a golden mystery upheaved itself on the horizon, a beautiful winking wonder that blazed in the sun, of a shape that was neither Muslim dome nor Hindu temple-spire” (Rudyard Kipling).

From a humble beginning of 8.2 meters 2,500 years ago, the Shwedagon Pagoda is the grandest of its kind in Myanmar and one of the oldest in the world. Today, it has an astonishing height of about 99 meters and houses four sacred relics of Buddha. Built on an elevated hill, it can be seen from afar in the country’s largest city of Yangon. The lower part of the stupa is covered with 8,688 sheets of gold, the upper part with another 13,153 – totaling 27 tons of gold leaf. Too high for the naked high to see, the top of the stupa is decorated with 5448 diamonds, 2317 rubies, sapphires, 1065 golden bells, and an enormous 76-carat diamond. Schwedagon’s umbrella crown alone is worth estimated 3 billion USD. The sight of the pagoda is truly mesmerizing, particularly at night with its golden spires shimmering from atop Singuttara Hill.
Treasures from the soil
Burmese gold and gems
Myanmar’s soil is blessed with some of the world’s highest quality rubies, particularly in Mogok’s ‘Valley of Rubies’ near Mandalay and Mong Hsu in Shan State. Burmese rubies are renowned for their intense, fluorescent ‘pigeon’s blood’ redness and highly reflective properties. The most famous crimson gemstone, known as the ‘Graff Ruby’, fetched an impressive 8.6 Million USD at a Sotheby’s auction in 2015, setting a new world record.

Mogok is also rich in other gemstones, including scapolite, moonstone, spinel, apatite, garnet, iolite, zircon, amethyst, and peridot. Along the Ayeyarwady in the far north is a recent gold rush, attracting prospective miners from every corner of Myanmar to Kachin State. And similar to the gold rushes of the wild west, this phenomenon has given birth to many small mining communities while also impacting the local environment.
Burmese ‘Tobacco’
One needs to spit it out
For the first-time traveler, it can be surprising to see men spitting red-colored saliva onto the pavement. This widespread habit of using chewing tobacco-like substance, like wearing a Longyi skirt or Thanaka cream, is one of the country’s foremost traditions. Known as paan, this strong psychoactive mixture is made of betel leaf, areca nut, and sometimes tobacco. It is chewed by many Burmese people to give them energy.
Locals believe that chewing paan can be compared to drinking six cups of coffee with additional euphoric effects. As can be expected, this substance is known to rot the teeth and gums as well as lead to other health disorders. Also common in Myanmar is the cheroot, thin, handmade cigars made from rolled tobacco.
Some strange realities
Let’s be different
Myanmar is one of very few countries in the world on a half hour time zone with the official time being UTC +6:30. This is 30 minutes different from neighboring Thailand, which sits on a similar longitude. The reason why is believed to be due to ancient Burmese beliefs revolving around the solar calendar, and the mean Myanmar solar time of UTC +6:24 sits much closer to the half hour. Another of Burma’s oddities is that most cars have the steering wheel on the right side, similar to UK or Thailand. But unlike, traffic in Myanmar drives on the right side of the road! The right-sided steering originates from the country’s British colonial past, but when the government changed traffic rules in 1970 (vehicles now drive on the right), cars have since remained unchanged. And Myanmar is using both metric and the imperial measuring system inconsistently. Though in 2013 it has been announced by officials, the country is going to implement the metric system, however today it is not uncommon to see dual unit speed and distance signs showing both kilometers and miles.
Myanmar’s Capital
No one saw it coming …
After gaining independence from the British in 1948, Yangon was declared the capital of Myanmar. However, in complete secrecy the military government of the country back in these days had begun construction of a city 320 km to the north. It was quite a shock or at least a surprise to both, the Burmese as well as the international community, when the government announced the capital had moved to a town named “Naypyidaw” [also Nay Pyi Taw, pronounced ˈneɪpjiːˌdɔː] in 2006.

“Naypyidaw” means “abode of kings” and is maybe one of the most bizarre cities in the world with its sprawling government complexes, lush villa-style settlements, and a 20-lane boulevard. The capital is estimated to be around 7,000 square kilometers large, which is about eight times the size of New York City and more than four times the size of London – but only has about 950,000 residents.
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