Cruising this route may not seem like the most obvious choice – buses make the trip in six hours, compared to at least 12 on the river – but it’s the best way to discover rural life along the river’s banks.
It’s a simple life. From the deck, see kids playing and bathing in the river, farmers tending their fields, and fisherman reeling in their catch nearby.
Many boats make afternoon stops at riverside villages, like Yandabo, an historic town known for pots and other goods made of river clay. Visit with the friendly locals and see what their life is really like.
Boats leave Nyaung Oo Jetty in Bagan at 5:30 am. Resist the temptation to catch a few more zzz’s after you board. Watching the sun climb into the sky over Bagan’s temples is impressive, but the sunrises along the Irrawaddy are equally spectacular.
On the 12-hour trip, you’ll pull into Mandalay’s Gawein Jetty just in time to see the sun set on Myanmar’s second largest city.
Keep your eyes open and your cameras ready to snap the thousands of sacred sites you’ll see from the boat. South of Mandalay, there are many hundreds of glittering pagodas in Sagaing, an ancient capital and Myanmar’s religious center.
Why you should skip the pricey balloon ride over Bagan, and how to explore the sprawling temples by e-bike instead.
Just 20km from Mandalay, on a visit Inwa you’ll see monks at Bagaya Kyaung Monastery, pagodas, the old city wall, and local life in the villages.