Last week I asked: What is the best way to get from Mandalay to Bagan, Myanmar?
On a Pandaw Cruise.
John and I are not fond of tour groups but a cruise accomplishes the same thing better without changing hotels.
We flew Air Asia from Bangkok to Mandalay and stayed at the Amazing Hotel Mandalay, which has a good central location.
The Pandaw people picked us up at the hotel and transported us to the Pandaw Kindat.
We chose a Pandaw cruise because the ships are built by the same company, the Irrawaddy Flotilla Company, which had hundreds of ships that plied the river during their British colonial days when their fleet numbered in the hundreds.
When the Japanese attacked during World War II, they sank all their ships but now are building new ones in the same style but with all the modern amenities.
The seven-day cruise was a wonderful mix of touring the historical sites, visiting handicraft shops (In Myanmar things are made and done the old-fashioned way) and free time to lounge in the sun, read, or just watch life along the river.
The staff was amazing, anticipating every need, and attending to every detail including cleaning our shoes after every shore trip.
The meals were gourmet.
Myanmar is called, “The Golden Land” for good reason.
There are many temples, pagodas, and Buddha statues adorned with gold.
In Mandalay, we visited Mahamuni Pagoda where the faithful have adorned the Buddha with so much gold leaf that the statue is now many times its original size.
To meet the need for gold leaf pounders using sledge hammers pound the gold into the thinnest foil.
They work from sunrise to sunset with a break for lunch for about $6 a day.
After visiting a beautiful teak monastery in a horse and cart we took a small boat on Taungthaman Lake to watch the sun set on U Bein, the world’s longest teak bridge.
I noticed that one of the crew members who came along was the boat’s bartender.
Jokingly I said, “You know it is going to be a great tour when you bring your bartender along.”
It was no joke.
He served us Sunset Cocktails while we were sitting in our boat watching the sun set.
Every day was an adventure.
Normally, I am not a fan of going to workshops.
But, in Myanmar they still make products the old-fashioned way and not to just show tourists.
One day, we stopped at a small pottery-making village where we could see the entire process from breaking up the hard clay to firing the pot in an earthen kiln.
Myanmar people are very friendly so when they offered some of their locally brewed tea we were quick to accept.
It was sweet and delicious.
We visited all the famous historical sites between Mandalay and Bagan.
Bagan, with more than 3,000 temples, is the crown jewel of Myanmar.
Part of the fun was getting to the sites.
Yes, we sometime took a bus, but I rode an ox cart to the Mingun Bell, crossed a small river to see ancient Ava, and we toured a village market in a tuk-tuk stopping at a school on the way back.
On board we were entertained by traditional Myanmar dancing, singing, puppetry and other cultural presentations.
In retrospect I realized the cruise was very value-laden because the cruise included accommodations, tours admission fees, tour guides, various mean of transportation and the wonderful meals and free-flowing libations.
Trivia Tease™: What SE Asia beach is the new hot-spot for beach lovers?
Look for the answer next week.
Sandra and her husband, John, have been exploring the world for decades, always on the lookout for something new and unique to experience. We have sailed down the Nile for a week on a felucca, stayed with the Pesch Indians in La Mosquitia, visited schools in a variety of countries, and — to add balance to our life — stayed at some of the most luxurious hotels in the world. Let the fun continue!