Unlike our last trip to the Maldives where we flew with Qatar, this time we used good old Emirates direct from Newcastle. We flew direct to Yangon from Dubai where we had a couple of days before doing a gentle cruise along the Irrawaddy river to Mandalay then back home via Bangkok.  The flights were fine but not a patch on Qatar Airways.

The temperature during the day rarely dropped below 36 degrees and at night 25 degrees so sight-seeing was exhausting to say the least. The trip was well organised as they arranged it so that you generally only had one excursion off the boat per day and if it was a long one then the following day was a short one.  The boat itself was fantastic, wonderful staff, superb food and excellent service.  Our suite on board the boat was spacious, comfortable and very well appointed.  The public areas, including the top sun deck, which had plenty of shade were also very comfortable and spacious.

The highlight of the trip was certainly the sunrise hot air ballooning over the sacred sight of Bagan, an area which boasts over 2000 temples and pagodas We were fortunate to be the first balloon away and almost the last to land. The winds were very light so on landing the pilot struggled to get us away from the river so consequently we dipped into it 3 times with the water entering the basket twice and eventually a boat towed us onto the river bank.  For us, it just added to the excitement of the flight and not once did we feel worried at all – the pilot was very experienced and totally in control.  We would definitely recommend Balloons over Bagan and an added bonus is they are much cheaper than other companies.  The whole experience was finished off with a couple of glasses of champagne and snacks on the river bank.  All in all, a very memorable experience.

The main things to see in Burma are temples, pagodas and stupas – the country is known as the Land of the Pagoda so no surprise there. Tourism here is very new and on visiting some of the smaller villages, it was quite obvious that the villagers were quite unused to foreign visitors.   We were very much the attraction rather than the other way round!  In some of the more developed areas where the locals had mobile phones, they were even asking if they could take photographs with us.  On one occasion an entire extended family who were celebrating the initiate monks ceremony insisted on taking photos of us with every single family member – it was great fun.  The one stand-out feature for us was the lovely people.  They were genuinely friendly and, as yet, relatively untouched by tourism, which gave us a far more authentic experience.  We found it so interesting visiting the villages and seeing how they live and work and we also had the opportunity to visit a local village school and orphanage, which was very uplifting in that compared to more developed countries they had virtually no resources, yet never have we come across such smiling, friendly, welcoming people.

The low point of the trip was Lynn getting hit on the leg by a speeding motorcycle, which caused her a lot of pain and limited her ability to walk for long distances.

Burma or Myanmar as it is now called was, for us, a fabulous experience, but will not be to everyone’s choice due to the lack of facilities.

Cruise Itinerary – please click here if you would like to view the full itinerary along with pictures.