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Irrawaddy Cruise from Bagan to Mandalay

We decided to take the ferry from Bagan to Mandalay. It was a good choice.

Sitting in an air-conditioned cabin on RV Panorama. The sun streaming in the window cruising up the Irrawaddy ... the start of a perfect morning. 

It started quite early with a taxi collecting us from the hotel and driving us to the jetty (the taxi transfer included as a bonus in the ticket we bought from Tun Tun’s Forever Travel).

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We arrived at the jetty just after 5am ready for the launch at 5:30am. There were a few people onboard and over the next half hour a dozen or so arrived. Cast off was on schedule as the first light of dawn was visible on the skyline.

Sunrise

Over the next hour the sun made its way up as the moon dimmed overhead. Standing on the open top deck there was a chilly wind  created by the speed of the ferry. 

People were still dressed in jackets. The colours of the sky were changing minute by minute from orange to a final rose pink. The pink water reflecting the sky.

Nearly everyone took pictures of this magical experience. We are fortunate. Very fortunate to be able to live this surreal life … even for a few short moments.

As the morning arrived so did the breakfast. Bottomless strong coffee, scrambled eggs, jam and toast and two bananas complemented the perfect start to the day.

The throbbing of the powerful motors, the ferry zig zagging its way up the river. Too shallow in places to go straight. Sand banks jutting out. The river bank alive with activity, commercial barges passing by and fishermen in tiny boats went about their Monday morning.

The sun was up and it's warmth penetrated through the window. Relaxed and grateful we prepared for the day ahead.

All through the morning we passed barges and ferries and people on small skiffs.  

We had a short stop mid river to liaise with another ferry from the same company. Their problem …  they were carrying a bunch of festive young guys and had run out of beer!!

Lunch

Midday and time for lunch. A choice of chicken, pork or fish. The meal started with a very tasty soup, then the main (my fish was very good) served with vegetables and rice. To finish there were tamarind sweets and groundnut and sesame brittle. Served with a local Myanmar beer it went down well.

The afternoon passed uneventfully until the engines slowed down and we veered towards the bank. Not because we had a problem but to pay a river tax. We drifted closer to the “tax collector” boat moored on the bank. And using one of the long bamboo poles used for testing the water depth stuffed with money in the end. The local tax collector reached out and took the money before wrapping up the receipt and stuffing it into the pole. Tax paid and we were on our way

Entertainment

In the late afternoon we were entertained by the crew together with a few passengers. The first was demonstrating the versatility of wearing  a longyi skirt. 

It can be tied to be shorts for sports or climbing, a headdress or a cushion for the head or shoulder when carrying a heavy load.  

They then demonstrated the use of thanaka. The yellowish-white cosmetic paste that is applied to the face and sometimes the arms of mainly women and girls and occasionally boys and men. It is applied in various patterns and amongst other qualities provides protection from the sun.

Arrival in Mandalay

Arriving at the jetty we were met with the usual hordes looking to make a fast buck. As I stepped off the ferry a man took a small carry on suitcase from me and handed it to a woman who carried it up a flight of stairs. Arriving at the top she demanded 2 000 Kyat for her minimal effort.

We were then deluged by taxi drivers who we could fortunately dismiss as we had arranged a hotel pickup. As we’d arrived early we sat watching the sunset over the river … a perfect ending to our Irrawaddy Cruise.

About the Author Patrick Millerd

On a mission to help others expand their horizons. Who knows where they can end? Passionate about learning and embracing the changing world. Adventurous and skeptical but optimistic!

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