Slow boat down the Irrawaddy River

14 07 2012

living on a raft
Living on a raft

To get from Mandalay to Bagan in Burma/Myanmar there is the quick and costly aeroplane or there is the very slow but cheap bus. We, however, took a third alternative: a boat down the Irrawaddy river, leaving at 7.30 and taking about 10 hours for the journey.

Early morning working
Early morning departure

An early arrival at the boat was essential to get one of the good seats, the ones with a view and shade, and eventually we set off down the river.

In the control room

The journey down the river is calm and mostly unchanging, with the occasional temple complex and a stop to buy bananas. We were surprised that the boat had a small kitchen producing tasty versions of the ubiquitous fried rice or noodles, served with, as always, Myanmar beer.

On the shore
Along the shore

Bananas for sale!
First stop

The appearance of two large steel bridges interrupted the languor of the voyage. The first of these is the Ava Bridge at Sagaing built by the British colonial government in 1934, destroyed during World War II and re-built in 1954 by the Myanmar Government as a 16 span rail and road cantilever bridge. This is soon followed by the new, majestic, Ayeyarwady Bridge, opened in 2008 with a length of 1.1Km. The light was such that both bridges looked as if they existed in the distant past.

A tale of two bridges

Timeslip bridge
Timeslip bridge

spans and spires
New and old

We were treated to a number of excellent sunsets in Myanmar but the one awaiting us at our destination was probably the most spectacular of all.

Light on the water

Land of the two suns
Land of the two suns

Bronze across the sky
End of the journey

And in the fading light we arrived at the ancient temple region of Bagan.

There are more photographs of our river journey here and here.

Photographs of our Myanmar trip can be found here and here.

— words by Paul
— pictures by Paul & Elizabeth




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