We visited Myanmar, or Burma if you prefer, for the first time in 2012 for a cruise along the Irrawaddy River.
The river serves as the highway for the many villages that lie along it and its banks are fertile fields when the water level falls in the dry season. Cruising slowly along is the ideal way to see the country and its people.
We saw temples, monasteries, monuments, schools, workshops, markets and even a wedding!
As well as the boat, we travelled in some unusual (and sometimes uncomfortable) vehicles and our wonderful guide, Daniel, kept us informed and amused the whole time.
Mandalay is the second largest city in Myanmar (the capital Yangon is the largest).
It is a former royal capital. Mandalay Palace, surrounded by a moat is a popular tourist attraction as are Shwe Nandaw Monastery, Mahumuni Pagoda and Kuthodaw Paya – the world’s largest book.
Local crafts include gold workshops, silk weaving, embroidery and alabaster carving.
The area around Mandalay is full of history and therefore a major tourist magnet.
Awa (Innwa) is a former imperial capital; Sagaing, with numerous Buddhist monasteries is an important religious and monastic centre.; Mhagandayon Monastery is Myanmar’s most importantmonastic college; U Bein’s Bridge is the longest (and probably most photographed) teak footbridge in the world.
Yandabo Pottery Village
This short video is from the riverside village of Yandabo, along the Irrawaddy.
Yandabo is famous for its pottery and we saw the process from preparing the clay – using foot-power – to firing the finished pots.
Su Paung Kyun Village
Su Paung Kyun is a typical riverside village along the Irrawaddy. When we visited it the river was low and the banks were planted with crops, probably pigeon peas or lablab beans.
All the buildings are on stilts, necessary when the river is high.
Train ride over the Gokteik viaduct
The Gokteik viaduct is one of the most famous sections of railway in South East Asia. It’s up there with the bridge on the River Kwai, but Gokteik is much more spectacular as there are no guard rails, just a very long drop into the gorge below.
The train travels very slowly!
While we cruised the Irrawaddy River an earthquake struck central Myanmar and a bridge under construction about half a kilometre away from the boat collapsed.
This short video shows the aftermath.
Lashio is the largest town in northern Shan state and the closest to the Chinese border.
The Burma Road began here and ended in Kunming in China. It was an important supply route in the second world war.