Go On a River Cruise Expedition in Burma

There are nearly 5,000 miles of navigable rivers in Burma.  At the height of the British Raj they were vital commercial arteries and the Irrawaddy Flotilla Company, founded by Scottish merchants, ran the largest privately-owned fleet of ships in the world.  Its 650 teak-decked steamers with their shallow drafts were a glorious sight threading their way through the complex sand banks as they ventured up country.

That abruptly came to an end with the Second World War as many of the Clyde-built steamers were scuttled in the Irrawaddy in 1942.  The exotic world of Pagodas and elephants described by Kipling, Maugham and Orwell could no longer be explored in such style.

In 1995, British historian and traveller Paul Strachan decided to recreate the adventure by venturing up the Irrawaddy by boat.  It proved a great success and Pandaw River Expeditions were born.

Today the company runs 14 beautifully crafted ships, hand-finished in brass and teak, on the rivers of South East Asia, India and China with the Amazon to follow.

A Burma Expedition onboard the RV Pandaw II, seal the 1,000 miles up-river from Rangoon to north of Mandalay.  The 17-day trip’s  first stop is at Twante Township where Eric Blair (George Orwell) was stationed in the 1920s.  You then explore markets, temples, faded colonial wonders such as the botanical gardens at Thayetmyo and rarely visited archaeological sites.

A trishaw ride to the Magwe Myat-thalon Pagoda, built with solid gold bricks, is followed by a journey in a World War Two Jeep up Tan-chi-taung mountain. Mandalay is waiting with is impressive pagoda and monasteries.  You can even take a hot air balloon ride for the ultimate view.

Part of the expedition is a visit to the world’s largest working bell at Mingun you also get to see the unfinished and earthquake-damaged massive stupa – possibly the most impressive pile of bricks on the planet.