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River Cruising in Myanmar

Belmont River Boat Cruise in Myanmar
The Orcaella by Belmond, Myanmar


I read recently that River Boat cruising is growing by 25% each year. Baby boomers love the fact they can unpack once, walk off the boat on a daily basis  to see quaint and cute towns not easily accessible other ways.

Most of those River Boats are centered in Europe where understandable culture abounds and folks are attracted to this stress free way of traveling. There are few drawbacks except some crowding and lack dock space at popular destinations like Amsterdam as the manor companies like Viking and Uniworld add more long boats to their fleets to keep up with the demand.

Orcaella, Belmond, Myanmar
The Orcaella pulls up to the dock? Myanmar

In Myanmar, however, you can take a river boat cruise and have no problems with over crowding at the dock. Actually there are very few docks. You might only see a permanent dock at the start and end of your river ride. Most of the time, when the elegant Orcaella ties up on the Irrawaddy River, the crew has to create the dock when they dig stakes into the ground and secure the boat for the night. Hanging off the deck, I found it fun and fascinating to watch this process.

Orcaella, Belmond, Myanmar
Creating a dock for the Orcaella, Myanmar

I did this last year when we enjoyed eight days on the Irrawaddy River  on the Belmond boat the Orcaella, which slowly made it s way from Yangon to Bagan. We added on some other destinations in Myanmar (featured on this blog) but the center piece of the trip and what drew me there was the chance to float along this river in a land that hasn’t seen tourists for decades.

Belmond Orcaella, Myanmar
River Cruising on the Belmond Orcaella, Myanmar
Orcaella, Belmond, Myanmar
Scene from the ruins of a British fort of the Irrawaddy River. Our boat, the Orcaella in foreground

For the first seven days we didn’t see other tour boats. They only appeared when we got to the number one destination in Myanmar—Bagan. We saw fishing boats, barges and and all kinds of interesting modes of river transportation. We even got stuck once in the shallow water but our skilled captain and crew got us free using the innovative 360 propellers.

Typical of the boats we saw on a River Cruise in Myanmar
Viewed from the Orcaella, Belmond, Myanmar
Barge on Irrawaddy River in Myanmar
Seen from the Orcaella, Myanmar
Small boats along the Irrawaddy, Myanmar
Seen from the Orcaella, Myanmar
River Scenes on the Arrawaddy, Myanmar
Seen from the Orcaella, Belmond, Myanmar
Another view of the barge on the Irrawaddy
Myanmar: River Cruise
Spotted on the River in Myanmar

We glided past villages created of bamboo nestled in the trees next to the Pagodas with signature  golden spires in this land of 1000’s of Pagodas. Going by boat provides the chance to see real life not influenced by curious tourists.  We saw scenes of daily life and ancient reminders of the role of Buddhism in Myanmar, once known as Burma.

Along the Irrawaddy River in Myanmar
Myanmar Village scene
Irrawaddy River, Myanmar
Along the Irrawaddy River, Myanmar
Irrawaddy River, Myanmar
Along the Irrawaddy River, Myanmar
Irrawaddy River, Myanmar
Buddhist statues along the Irrawaddy River, Myanmar
Irrawaddy, Myanmar
Typical scene along the Irrawaddy River, Myanmar
Irrawaddy River Scenes, Myanmar
Villages along the Irrawaddy River in Myanmar
Irrawaddy River scenes, Myanmar
Every day life along the Irrawaddy River, Myanmar
Irrawaddy River, Myanmar
Life along the water on the Irrawaddy River, Myanmar
Irrawaddy, Myanmar
Pagodas come in all sizes
Irrawaddy River, Myanmar
Waving hello to us along the Irrawaddy River, Myanmar
Irrawaddy River, Myanmar
Every day life on the Irrawaddy River, Myanmar

I loved the sunrises and sunsets when I felt like I could reach out and touch the opposite bank.

Sunrises and sunsets on the Irrawaddy River





There were no casinos or nightclub type shows on board. Instead local dancers and a wonderful puppeteer  joined us from their villages to share  special performances.

local puppet show in on the Orcaella

We got off the boat every day, heading off for adventures in this exotic land. Many of these experiences are chronicled on other blog posts on

On the Irrawaddy River
Walking back to the Orcaella after an excursion to the ruins of a British fort
Off on an adventure, Orcaella on the Irrawaddy River

The ship held 40 passengers, from all over the world. It was fun to meet them. A highlight of the week was enjoying a recently retired Security officer of the British Military who once guarded Mrs. Thatcher, recite Rudyard Kipling’s The Road to Manaday in the ruins of an old British Fort by candle light. I was too entranced to get a photo,  just know it was spine tingly special—lucky for us to experience in an exotic and faraway place.

Adventures on the Irrawaddy River
We enjoyed a lovely dinner and performance in an old fort on the banks of the Irrawaddy River
Belmond Orcaella, Myanmar
Beautiful experiences in Burma

Here’s a link to Belmond for more about River Cruising in Myanmar.

Post Author
Susan J. Smith
Susan's career includes writing for newspapers, lots of community work and a wonderful family life. Now she is enjoying traveling, photography and writing for DesignDestinations and Grand Rapids Magazine. She welcomes you on her journey and appreciates your comments.


  1. posted by
    Jun 13, 2016 Reply

    You are so right about we baby boomers loving having a base camp on a boat!

  2. posted by
    Jun 13, 2016 Reply

    You have done a great job showing the uniqueness of a river boat cruise in an extremely isolated country. The picture of the tiny dock being constructed for your large boat says it all!

    • posted by
      Susan J. Smith
      Jun 13, 2016 Reply

      Thanks Kathy. I appreciate your comment on my blog post.

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