7-Day Irrawaddy Explorer Cruise
Mandalay - Bagan
This 7-Day / 6-night journey takes you downstream on the Irrawaddy River of Myanmar (Burma). From the over 2,000 ancient pagodas of Bagan, to the historic terra-cotta potters' village of Yandabo, the Irrawaddy river, its people, and on to Mandalay. Aboard the Irrawaddy Explorer Cruise you will visit Mandalay, Mingun, Amarapura, Ava (Inwa), Monywa, Yandabo, Shwe Pyi Thar, Bagan, Tan Kyi Mountain, andSalay.
Below is a "downstream" cruise program. The Irrawaddy Explorer operates a reverse 7-Day program "downstream" as well depending on the date of travel. All touring is done with local, English speaking professional guides. Wireless headsets are available for listening to your local guide while seeing the sites of Myanmar (Burma) by way of the Irrawaddy River. All meals are included as indicated in the program below. Daily excursions typically run from one to two hours long or as half day excursions.
The itinerary below is dependent on the river water level, weather conditions, and accessibility to locations, so touring may vary.
DAY 1: Mandalay
12:00 PM: EMBARKATION FROM GAWEIN JETTY
Board the ship at Gawein Jetty as we welcome you with cocktails.
Lunch onboard in Customs House Dining Room.
Enjoy an afternoon tour Mandalay. We visit the Kuthodaw Pagoda, which contains the world's biggest
book, as well as the Shwe Nan Daw Kyaung Monastery, the only original monastery left from the
royal era. Then we proceed a workshop that produces the gold leaf commonly used to adorn Buddha
images at temples throughout Myanmar, and the Mahamuni Pagoda, to see how the gold leaf is used.
DAY 2: Mingun - Amarapura
AM: After breakfast we will enjoy a leisurely walking tour of the small town of Mingun. Our first stop is King Bodawpaya’s monumental, uncompleted stupa. During construction, an astrologer to the king argued that the king would die upon completion of the temple, and work was immediately halted. Had it been completed, it would have been the largest in the world. The cracks we see are the result of the 23 March 1839 earthquake that shook the area. We continue our walk to the Mingun Bell, which was the heaviest working bell in the world until 2000 when the Bell of Good Luck was unveiled in Henan, China. After having the opportunity to stand inside the bell as it is rung, we have time to shop in the local market, famous for its makeshift galleries that display inexpensive art from both local and internationally known artists.
PM: This afternoon we travel by coach to the penultimate Burmese royal capital of Amarapura to visit a silk workshop before driving to U-Bein Bridge, believed to be the world’s longest and oldest teakwood bridge. Local sampans wait to take us on a leisurely cruise of the lake while admiring the sunset over the bridge.
DAY 3: Sagaing - Ava
AM: This morning we will explore to visit Sagaing by coach, an important religious site with countless pagodas dotting the surrounding hillsides. Here, stop to see Soon U Ponya Shin Pagoda at the top of Sagaing Hill for stunning views of the Irrawaddy and across to Mandalay. Next continue onto a Nunnery to witness life in a local nunnery. After visiting Sagaing, we continue to the AVA Kingdom ruled upper Burma from 1364 to 1555, explore by horsecart, visiting the beautiful 200 year old teak Bagaya Kyaung Monastery, Nanmyin watchtower (27mt. high) and the Yadana Hsemee pagoda complex.
DAY 4: Yandabo - Hnaw Kine
AM: On 24 February 1826, the peace treaty of the first Anglo-Burmese War was signed at Yandabo.
Today, it is a picturesque village famous for its pottery. As we take a leisurely walk through the
village, we have the opportunity to stop at the various family homes and workshops, each with its own
unique style and markings, to witness the making and firing of the Yandabo pottery, famous throughout
PM: This afternoon we sail to the village of Hnaw Kone, and enjoy our second leisurely walk of the day. Hnaw Kone is a typical, rural, river village, with friendly residents and adorable children. During our exploration of the village we will stop to see the local handicraft of bamboo cane basket weaving.
We will watch the villagers as they expertly split bamboo and skillfully weave the strands into baskets
or larger panels for building homes.
DAY 5: Bagan
AM: This morning our excursion takes us to one of the most incredible areas of Myanmar: Bagan. Once the center of the Pagan Empire, Bagan today is a tourist, artist, and archeological mecca. We will start the tour with the massive Htilominlo, built by King Htilominlo on the site where he was chosen from the five sons of King Nadaungmya to be the crown prince of Pagan. While the murals that once decorated much of the inside of this temple have only survived on the ceilings, Htilominlo boasts the finest plaster carvings which still remain undamaged on the arch pediments. After that we will climbing aboard traditional, ceremonial oxcarts for a short ride through the temples of Bagan. A visit to Bagan would not be complete without exploring one of the most famous temples of Bagan, Ananda. Built in 1105 CE during King Kyanzittha’s reign, it is one of only four surviving temples from this period. We will explore the cruciform of the temple, with four standing Buddhas facing north, south, east, and west.
PM: After lunch, we visit a local workshop where the traditional methods of creating lacquerware (known as yun-de in Burmese) are still practiced. After a demonstration of the labor-intensive process required in making each piece, we have time to shop before continuing on our tour. A short coach ride takes us to Gubyaukgyi Temple (Great Painted Cave Temple), where the richly-colored paintings are thought to date to the original construction period in the early 12th century and we will also see a sand painting demonstration by a local artist. Next to this temple is the gilded Myazedi Stupa, which offers both a linguistic and a historical significance: an inscription consecrating Gubyaukgyi in four languages (Pyu, Mon, Old Burmese, and Pali), which established Pyu as an important cultural influence in the early Pagan period. For our final stop of the day we proceed to the Bagan Viewing Hill where we will view the sunset over the pagodas and stupas of Bagan before returning to the ship.
DAY 6: Bagan
AM: This morning, we transfer by motor coach to Bagan’s largest open market, where fresh produce, meats, spices, woodcarvings, longyis, thanaka, and rattan products are sold every day. We have the opportunity to watch the negotiations and transactions taking place, and if we are lucky, see one of the local women carrying their purchases on their heads. After our walk through the market, we proceed to the gilded Shwezigon Pagoda. This important religious site dates to the reign of King Anawrahta, founder of the Bagan Empire. The construction of this complex spanned both King Anawrahta’s lifetime, as well as his son and successor King Kyanzittha’s lifetime. The golden stupa at its center is said to contain a bone and tooth relic of the Buddha, a gold image of Anawrahta and a Chinese emerald Buddha. After exploring this large temple complex, our coach returns us to the ship for Lunch on board.
PM: After lunch, free and easy at leisure in Bagan by guest own arrangement. Return to the ship 4:30 pm and cast off 5:00 pm.
DAY 7: Salay
8:00 AM: DISEMBARKATION IN SALAY
After your breakfast, disembarkation at Salay.
This morning we walk ashore at Salay, a small town founded in the 13th century with Bagan-era
shrines, beautiful 19th century teak monasteries and preserved British colonial buildings. We explore
the Salay House, a restored 1906 colonial trading company warehouse on the bank of the Irrawaddy.
Our walk takes us along the town’s main Strand Street towards the local market before turning away
from the river to visit the beautiful Yoke Soun Kyaung Taw Gyi wooden monastery. This ornately
carved teak monastery was designed as a copy of the Crown Prince House of Mandalay, and is now a
museum boasting remarkable wood carvings and artifacts. We pass some interesting Bagan-era
monuments on our way to visit Mann Paya, a pagoda with a beautiful lacquerware Buddha and a
stroll past some of Salay’s many beautiful colonial buildings.
NOTICE: The cruise schedule includes the latest information regarding your program, but last minute adjustments may occur. The schedule may shift due to the weather, site closure, or unexpected circumstances beyond our control. The exact time for each activity will be announced or posted by the on-board tour staff. The touring is active, so all participants should be in good health. Due to the rural location, handicapped accessibility is not available in Myanmar (Burma).