Myanmar’s temples are
a highlight of the journey.
I love you very much. I will never forget you,” said Daw May Lwin
Zin, headmistress of the village school of Kindat, Burma (or
“Myanmar” as it is now known). Before we parted, she showered me
with gifts of limes, pomelos and green jade earrings.
We strolled arm in arm down the main, muddy thoroughfare of
Kindat, as the headmistress proudly announced to curious onlookers
in their houses on stilts that I was the representative of the Road
to Mandalay who had just presented the school with much-needed
“We ask ahead of time what is needed,” said crew member Terry
Kyaw Nyunt, who managed the school fund for eight years.
Our Road to Mandalay river cruiser visited remote villages along
the Ayeyarwady River, immortalized by Rudyard Kipling in his poem
“Mandalay,” when he described Burma as “quite unlike any land you
What was once Southeast Asia’s most secretive and mysterious
country is now slowly opening up to the outside world to reveal a
rich and glorious cultural heritage and breathtaking natural
beauty. Those concerned about safety in light of last fall’s
violent anti-government protests, should know that the U.S. State
Department currently has no Travel Warnings or Alerts pertaining to
My journey began with a tour of Yangon (formerly Rangoon). Our
group stayed at the Orient-Express-owned Governor’s Residence, a
teak mansion set in a quiet residential area. The following morning
we boarded a plane for the short flight to Mandalay, a huge kind of
Oriental bazaar of artists and craftspeople at work.
The luxurious 108-passenger Road to Mandalay was transported to
Myanmar from Europe in 1995. Local craftsmen added decorations such
as woven-cane furniture, Burmese antiques and traditional carvings.
Each spacious cabin enjoys a view. And recent refurbishments
include a new gym, health and beauty center and main restaurant
which offers both Asian and European-style menus.
Throughout our journey, the magic charm of Burma wove a spell,
with something new appearing at every bend. Entire villages turned
out to greet us. Excited children ran along the riverbanks, waving.
We saw creaking ox carts cultivating fields; fishermen casting
their nets and ancient temples shrouded in mists. In the distance,
we gazed at teak forests, virgin jungles and snow-capped
During the day, onboard lectures helped us understand Myanmar’s
culture. Each evening, a pianist entertained. And we were treated
to colorful performances by local Burmese dancers.
Our tranquil river journey ended in eerie old Bagan (formerly
Pagan) where the mysterious ruins of more than 2,000 temples dot
the landscape. Once the ancient center of a glorious kingdom, Bagan
is an inspiring scene at sunset.
As we said our good-byes, tears glistened in the eyes of two shy
staff members. In respectful prayer positions, they murmured to me,
“We will miss you always.” And I, them.
Road to Mandalay will sail three-, four- and seven-night cruises
weekly in 2008, with four 11-night cruises this summer. Price per
person for the seven-night sailing begins at $2,210 (double
occupancy) and includes flights within Myanmar, transfers and