Bagan to Mandalay by boat

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Asia » Burma » Mandalay Region » Irrawaddy River
December 18th 2018
Published: December 18th 2018
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Having see the sunrise from land on Sunday and from the air Monday today (Tuesday) we saw it from the water. Our alarm clock has been set earlier and earlier this week and we are both looking forward to a lie in tomorrow. This morning we were up at 0400, checked out and ready to leave the hostel by 0430.

The hostel had arranged a taxi for us and this arrived on time. The driver was kind enough to wait patiently whilst the staff checked our room and I had a quick cup of tea. As we left we were provided with a little packed breakfast of a jam sandwich, boiled egg and banana. Perfect.

The boat jetty is just over 4km from the hostel so the drive didn’t take long. Our friendly driver soon got us chatting though and asked us about our views on Myanmar. I explained that we were really enjoying travelling here but we struggled with whether or not it’s right to encourage other people to come as it could be seen as approving the governments actions (I didn’t elaborate as I’m aware they can get in a lot of trouble for talking politics). Without prompting our driver started to talk about the Rohingya people. He described the situation as a ‘misunderstanding’ between the government and the UN. He explained the history of the situation and why it has resulted in the current problems. Whilst it was obvious there’s a lot of truth twisting by the media (I’m unconvinced he’s aware of the extent of the killings) I was also surprised how much he is aware of. His very sensible conclusion is that both sides have probably been in the wrong at certain times. Unfortunately he does not see the Rohingya as Burmese which seems to be one of the biggest issues facing them. I also found it concerning that he didn’t seem to think there was anything wrong with innocent people being accidentally killed by the military.

Tickets checked we boarded the boat. Walking down the dark, uneven stairs made from sandbags, I was slightly surprised to find a series of gang planks across the water between myself and the boat. Large backpack on, small rucksack in one hand and packed breakfasts in the other I decided this looked a bad idea. Rearranging stuff so I had a hand free (there was at least a hand rail on one side) I started across. It was easy enough in the end but I’m not convinced a walkway the width of a single plank is the best idea for passengers with heavy bags.

Once on board you can sit wherever you wish. There’s a downstairs, inside area with fancy looking new seats and air con, or upstairs on deck on surprisingly comfy bamboo chairs. Most of the deck is canvas covered so you’re not in the sun. We decided to sit up on deck, toward the front where there was loads of leg room. As we sat down we were provided with blankets - this turned out to be incredibly useful as it was freezing once the boat started moving. Even once the sun came up we needed or long sleeves as our seats remained in the shade.

We cast off at 5am, onto the pitch black waters, with a spotlight pointed at the bank. The sun soon started to rise and we got to enjoy a lovely red sunrise. We were served our breakfast of egg, banana and pastries around 6am. There was plenty of tea and coffee available too.

The landscape is incredibly flat. Much of the river bank is a small cliff with either tall grasses or trees lining the edge meaning that it hard to see many villages or much scenery beyond the immediate river and banks. You can see gold stupas rising above the tree line, villagers washing their clothes on the banks and river boats, all with people waving at you as they pass.

Lunch was served around 1130am - it was a pretty good offering of rice and chicken. The servings aren’t huge though so we were glad to have bought snacks of yoghurt and biscuits and to have our extra bananas from our double breakfasts (boat & hostel). They serve cold drinks (incl beer) and extra food at slightly elevated prices but not terrible (the coke is k2000 as oppose to its usual k1000, but given a restaurant we walked into in Bagan charged k3000 this doesn’t seem horrendous).
Later we were provided with tea and French toast.

We arrived in mandalay around 4pm. We got a taxi to our hotel and checked in. So far we’ve been a little disappointed with our room, there was tea & coffee making stuff but no kettle (now corrected), it smells of cigarette smoke (I think we’re next to the staff smoking area) and the bathroom light doesn’t work (we asked them to fix it but so far nothings happened). Fortunately it’s in a convenient location.

Additional photos below
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Dinner Dinner

Having accidentally served us the wrong main we were presented with an extensive selection for desert. Delicious.

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