The Way to Mandalay Is Full of Traffic - 1 More Reason to Take Cruise

In his own work, Rudyard Kipling would tell you that you never actually went to Mandalay. The city's name is euphonious but its traffic is horrendous. The road in Mandalay now is crowded with cars, bikes, trucks and people. So how are they going to cross and live?

However, the traditional road to Mandalay is really Irrawaddy River. The number of visitors is rising, so travelling by boat from Mandalay to Bagan will be a great idea. Recently, I have visited Mandalay twice. The first one was in the spring. I was on a ferry leaving at 5.30am and reaching Mandalay at 7.00pm. Trees rearing along the banks and the shapes of skiffs on the golden water made me think that I could paint. It was the first I thought that.

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The streets of Mandalay

In the end of the journey, the boat crossed through hills with glittering pagodas. This attracted me and other tourists to stop and explore. All things seemed to be yearning because of Kipling’s 150th birthday by the late December. Once more time I came to Mandalay in the Irrawaddy River, but this time I was on the maiden voyage of the Strand Cruise.

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Sunset in Bagan

The Strand in Yangon was built in 1901 and reopened in last November after being refurbished fully. It is one of Asia’s oldest hotels. And its ship, the Strand Cruise constructed nearly opposite to the hotel, is one of the newest on the Irrawaddy River.

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A room at the Strand hotel in Yangon

The journey took 4 nights. Another way, downstream from Mandalay to Bagan, was a three-night cruise. There were 27 suites on board, 24-hour butler service and minutes you step from the outside world’s dust. Someone would give you velvet flip-flops to wear, so your shoes could be cleaned.

At our initial briefing, we were introduced that used toilet paper should be placed in a bin in the bathroom. It was the same river, but now it felt accessible. The ship was so nimble and light. We could have stop at any riparian beach, under those sandy cliffs, if the captain took the sudden notion.

The Strand team spent much of the year on looking for picturesque locations along the Irrawaddy River where their new ship could dock before its launch. In the first night, we were next to a village in Bagan. From here, we could come to the main road leading to temples. Also, we could be closed to the locals who sold tourist hawkers.

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A wall painting inside the Sulamani temple

Just one morning or afternoon excursion on the Strand’s itinerary is not enough. I think that we should spend at least another day there before (or after) the cruise to go camping or travel by bicycle. There are wall picture of Sulamani temple describe life along the river. You will realize that anonymous others also loved the landscape’s vast haloes of foliage long time ago. And they were skillful to paint such scenes in Sulamani’s narrow corridors.

Each day changed: something old, something new and something local. We cruised without Wi-fi on board and the television signal was practically non-existent. My screen came to life once during a program entitled When Vacations Attack! I turned it off, went outside, and waved at the crew on another boat. They waved back. At Mingun, a number of elegant ladies waved the air in front of us with their sandalwood-scented fans.

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The unfinished pagoda in Mingun

There is an unfinished temple with a crack, a huge bell and a nearby pagoda as white and tiered as a wedding cake in Mingun. We dawdled and thought of the cosy ship close by. In the evening, we drank together on a sandbank and the next day, we sailed up and down the river at the best time of day. We saw the U-Bein teak bridge, the sunlit Buddhist spires ofmonasteries in Sagaing and the long-abandoned capital of Innwa... We saw them all.

We thought about the 150-year-old poet as the river he never saw in the past. When I read the poem one more time, I understood how Kipling wrote about yearning of the marvel places we’ve left.

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The Hsinbyume pagoda in Mingun

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