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