Time to sail away
Traditionally Burma’s busiest thoroughfares have been its rivers. Today you still see great rafts of teak being transported down the Ayeyarwady to Yangon. Since the 1990s, several companies have been operating river cruises in vessels evoking the days of paddle steamers – with modern updates.
Orient Express’s Road to Mandalay (0845 077 2222; roadtomandalay.net) offers 56 cabins aboard a ship with on-deck swimming pool (right). Prices start at £1,640 pp for a three-night cruise on the Ayeyarwady, with meals and domestic flights from Yangon.
In July, Orient Express will launch another smaller ship. With just 25 cabins, the Orcaella (0845 077 222; orcaella.net) will be able to navigate waters further north. It will operate between Yangon and Bhamo on the Ayeyarwady, and between Mandalay and Homalin along the Ayeyarwady and Chindwin rivers. Prices start at £3,660 pp for the 11‑night trip, including domestic flights and meals.
Alternatively, take a trip on a boutique vessel. Ampersand Travel (020-7289 6100; ampersandtravel.com) suggests an 11-night trip which takes in Yangon and Inle Lake as well as a six-night cruise from Mandalay to Bhamo on one of two splendid wood-carved Amara (amaragroup.net) vessels. With just five or seven cabins, these small river ships are able to stop frequently and so offer a very intimate insight into the country. The holiday costs from £3,480 per person including flights from Heathrow to Yangon, domestic flights, the cruise and accommodation on the other five nights.