River Cruise to Mandalay

We got strong recommendations from Angela (from our Tibet tour) to take the boat along the Irrawaddy river between Bagan and Mandalay, our next stop towards Inle Lake. We immediately liked the idea of a different and relaxing mode of transport, so booked the tickets as soon as we arrived in Bagan.

It called for an early start at 4.30 for a taxi to the jetty. Little did we know we would be awake at 2am with another bout of food poisoning for Michèle! It was touch and go to take the boat or not, but Michèle soldiered on.

The sunrise was rather nice but mostly ignored due to trips to the boat toilet. Mercifully the river is very tranquil so the situation wasn’t complicated by sea sickness, and Michèle (and David) could snooze a bit through the following 11hrs.

Not many pictures were taken, although between swapping seats to avoid the full glare of the sun David did manage to listen to some podcasts and work on a drawing or two. A single pepto bismal helped Michèle alot, and just as the effects started to wear off we arrived in Mandalay. With relief we flopped into the back of a mini-truck and went to Hotel Apex to recover on dry land. Phew!

Not the journey we hoped for but with food poisoning, an open boat in the fresh air at a gentle clip is a much better option than a bus charging around with limited toilet options.


Still recovering from food poisoning meant energy was low and appetite reduced, so nothing strenuous or exotic was on the menu.

The city is very large and tough to enjoy walking around, so you end up in taxis and tuk tuks a lot. We entertained ourselves checking out the following places:

  • Skinny Buddha
    We stumbled upon this while walking and enjoyed the over the top nature of the sculptures.
  • Kuthodaw Pagoda
    This is a well-known site which houses a very large book. We didn’t see the book but did enjoy walking around the white shrines which are a feature of Kuthowdaw.
  • Sri Ganesh Hindu Temple
    They just opened the temple as we arrived. Equally as colourful as a buddhist temple but with an intricate and chaotic roof. They also had a massive sound system rigged up, so reckon this is the party temple!
  • Mandalay Palace
    Occupying a large area of the city, we contented ourselves to walk around some of the perimeter and moat.
  • U Bein Bridge
    This old teak bridge (the longest in the world) is a classic sunset spot, with many tourists and locals crowding onto the bridge. We took a tuk tuk to get there in time and stood away from the bridge so it could feature in our photos. After that we walked the 1.2km length of the bridge to the other side.
  • Jade Market
    This was closed, maybe due to a religous holiday. We mooched around the shuttered trading stalls and the surroundings, stumbling across a dirty little lake with kids flying kites, people diving for scrap/rubbish, and snakes swimming.
  • Shwe In Bin Kyaung
    This temple is known for elaborate carvings on the teak it is made from. It was a bit underwhelming and the heat was a bit overwhelming, so we went for lunch and planned our onward trip.