Popular river cruise operator AmaWaterways has always pushed the envelope when it comes to pioneering new destinations. The line was one of the first operators to realize the full potential of sailing along the Mekong River between Vietnam and Cambodia and to aggressively market the Mekong to North Americans alike.
The company also invested heavily in upgrading its ship along Russia’s Volga River, and currently leads the way in South Africa, where the 24-guest Zambezi Queen plies the Chobe as part of a comprehensive land-river-cruisetour.
Last fall, AmaWaterways launched what might be its most exotic river cruise offering to-date – and it runs through a country that should excite even the most jaded traveler: Myanmar.
Sailing aboard the intimate 56-guest AmaPura, AmaWaterways Myanmar offers two distinct itineraries. Myanmar is also known as Burma in many countries as a result of a contested name change that occurred under rule of the country’s military government in 1989.
Indeed, Myanmar is a country of secrets and contradictions – but it is one that is gradually revealing itself, little by little, to the Western world.
Back in 1985, I actually visited Myanmar, or as it was known then, Burma. I was in my 20s, traveling around the world with a backpack slung over my shoulders. Burma was an odd country, stuck in some socialistic backwoods.
Because Western imports were prohibited, and the Burmese were eager to get their hands on Western goods, I traded Johnnie Walker Scotch and cartons of cigarettes that I brought with me for “my own personal consumption” for a “black market” tour package.
The Scotch and the cigarettes paid for seven days of touring, although my tour was in the back of a pickup truck with three Canadians.
Burma was utterly fascinating, probably the most interesting and other-worldly country I visited during my two-year-backpacking-and-bicycling journey around the world. It’s still a fascinating destination.
“Our new cruises [in Myanmar] will immerse our guests in a place that has long been shut off from the rest of the world, and that’s an opportunity no world traveler will want to pass up,” Kristin Karst, co-owner and executive vice president of AmaWaterways, tells us.
I couldn’t agree more. In fact, I wrote about Myanmar in Three Of My Favorite AmaWaterways’ Cruises & Three That I’d LIke To Do.
Treasures Of Myanmar Sailing
Easing prospective cruisers into Myanmar is AmaWaterways’ 14-day Golden Treasures of Myanmar.
Beginning with a two night pre-cruise hotel stay and city tour in Yangon, guests then embark the AmaPura in Pyay for a 10-night voyage along the Irrawaddy River to Mandalay.
It’s a veritable journey through the history of this mysterious country, and also one of the best and most scenic ways to reach the fabled city of Mandalay. Despite having a modern airport that was opened in September of 2000, only eight airlines currently serve Mandalay International – all of which are feeder runs for larger, more populated Asian airports.
The entire journey is sure to inspire:
- visits to local markets
- Buddhist monasteries
- out-of-the-way villages and the homes of locals
- local artisans
In Bagan – sometimes confusingly referred to by its old name, Pagan – guests can even take in a spectacular sunset on one of two excursions: viewing the sunset from the Observation Tower, or the Guni Temple.
Temples are so numerous here (more than 2,200 remain) that the region has become known as the capital of the Pagan Kingdom. Breathtaking and shockingly well-preserved, this is Myanmar’s Chichen Itza or Valley of the Kings.
Though it is unlikely to mean much to the traveler visiting Myanmar for the first time, the itinerary is clearly an ambitious one, with calls made to Minhla, MaGwe, Salay, Tant Kyi Taung, Bagan, Yandabo, Inwa, Saigaing, and Minguin. Following disembarkation in Mandalay, guests will return to Yangon for a one night post-cruise hotel stay before beginning their onward journeys home.
Hidden Wonders Of Mandalay
For those who want to indulge in the ultimate experience in this beautiful country, AmaWaterways offers a longer, 16-day cruise tour that extends the cruise portion aboard the AmaPura to 14 days in length and includes a one-night stay in Yangon.
Called the Hidden Wonders of Mandalay, this itinerary is ideal for culture and history mavens.
In Yandabo, guests can visit a local artisan for a demonstration in how the local pottery is hand-crafted. Excursions to the so-called Holy Mountain are offered from Bagan, and the colonial dykes and rice farms of the region can be visited while in Myan Aung.
In Sagaing, an excursion is offered to the U-Bein Bridge, which is thought to be the oldest and longest teak wood construction bridge in the world. Built around 1850, it runs for more than half-a-mile in length. Nine separate sections of the bridge can be removed to allow boat traffic to pass through.
In Tha Yet Myo, guests will visit a golf course – presumably for the obvious reason – and the local post office.
If you want to look it up online, have fun: Researching Burma is a bit like stepping back into the pre-internet dark ages. There’s no Google StreetView, very few photographs, and even less information. Truly, this extended voyage through Burma is akin to river cruising around the dark side of the Moon.
Are you ready to explore this hidden gem?
Both itineraries can be booked as a cruise-only sailing without the extended pre-and-post land tour
With its new voyages in Myanmar and an equally impressive ship providing all the comforts of home to their guests, AmaWaterways continues to be a major driving force behind new and exotic river cruises around the world. One can only wonder where AmaWaterways will think of taking us next.
Contact our team today to learn more about these voyages or read more about the AmaPura.