Step back in time as we begin our journey in Myanmar. After our international flight we will sit back and enjoy the stunning Strand Hotel. An old Colonial hotel with service that makes you wonder if they would be tying your shoes next.
"The finest hostelry East of Suez" Author John Murray in his 1911 ‘Handbook for Travellers in India, Burma and Ceylon’ declared The Strand as “the finest hostelry East of Suez”, a title it has enjoyed for more than 100 years.Built in 1901 and acquired soon after by the Sarkies brothers, famed for the likes of Raffles in Singapore and The E&O in Penang, The Strand Hotel remains one of Asia’s most enduring and awe-inspiring Colonial landmarks.
Spend four nights in the Capital of Myanmar, Yangon. Yangon originated as a small town called Dagon on the outskirts of the ancient kingdom of Okkalapa. In 1755 the founder of the Third Myanmar Empire, King Alaungpaya – who reigned from upper Myanmar – conquered the southern parts of the country and renamed the town Yangon, meaning End of Strife. After the British colonised the south they turned the town it into a busy port. The British have long since departed but they left a legacy of beautiful colonial architecture and tradition.
The welcome was warm but this became a trend throughout this fascinating country. Besides being a land of spectacular landscapes and buildings, Myanmar boasts a fierce, proud, and kind population who will go to almost any lengths to make you feel welcome.
This country is as you would imagine most South East Asian countries to have been hundreds of years ago before tourism became the currency of choice. It has the look of old Asia that has been preserved by its harshly imposed self-isolation.
Todays Yangon appears lost in time and you almost feel like you have been given an early entry pass to an amazing place that will soon be overrun with tourists. Here life seems to have gone on largely unchanged for the past 2,500 years: peasants, oxcarts, the same kinds of food and clothes yet they are surrounded by beautiful gold pagodas and shrines everywhere you look.
After a few days in Yangon we take a short flight to Bagan where our four night /5 day cruise begins on the Irrawaddy River. You will be greeted at the airport by the butler from the cruise and driven to have a surprisingly wonderful breakfast near our first visit of the day which was a Lacquer Factory. I was so surprised and interested to see how Lacquer Ware is made and how long it takes. After our action packed day we joined the boat waiting for us at the banks of the river.
Having seen the poverty along the drive during the day my expectations were low for my cruise but oh how wrong I was. The cabins are elegant, the food is divine, and the crew are so coddling that you’re surprised that they don’t tie your shoes. The top deck is a teak platform with straw chairs and a small swimming pool and elegant bar; there is enough space so that you can have reasonable privacy even when many other passengers are up there.
Each day we were greeted with grateful thanks from the people for coming to visit their country and we were made to feel very welcome and special. The area of Bagan to Mandalay has over 230,000 ancient pagodas. These vary in size from just a few feet tall to towering gold and marble structures housing giant Buddha sculptures.
On one morning many of my fellow passengers chose to take a hot air balloon ride over the temples and pagodas for one of the most spectacular sights. Looking down from the matching red balloons as you float gently along at dawn will be forever burned into my memory as one of my life highlights!
For many years Myanmar disappeared behind a wall of self-isolation, and only recently did it reopen its doors to the outside world, revealing the country’s unique culture and stunning scenery to new generations of visitors. With a diversity of terrain that ranges from ice-capped mountains in the north, to pagoda-filled plains in the centre, to miles of pristine beaches along the coast, Myanmar has something to offer at all times of the year.
"Elegantly dancing her way along the Ayeyarwady River, Strand explores thousands of years of culture and riveting scenic beauty while offering sophisticated elegance on board. From ship to shore, The Strand experience best showcases this magical country."
PORTHOLE CRUISE MAGAZINE
The ship casts off on day two for a relaxing cruise upstream towards Mandalay to enjoy the passing landscapes and villages along the river bank, with scenes reminiscent of the days of Rudyard Kipling and other intrepid explorers who have visited this rugged landscape over the centuries.
After a leisurely breakfast, day three brings a visit to Ava, the ancient imperial capital of successive Burmese Kingdoms from the 14th to 19th centuries. Horse carts await the ship to transport guests for a delightful ride through the naturally preserved Ava landscape and key landmarks.
After Our week in Myanmar we will then be going to one of my favourite cities Bangkok. There we meet up with Canadian Celebrity Chef Massimo Capra who will be our host for the three nights of our gastro tour of Bangkok. Massimo will accompany us as we eat our way around the flavours at the best restaurants in Thailand plus a fabulous walking street food tour ending at the restaurant owned by the ex chef to the king of Thailand.