Road to Mandalay
Few places on earth remain untouched in their natural beauty and charm from one
century to the next. The ancient land of Burma, now known as Myanmar, is
however, an exception to the rule, and on board the Road To Mandalay we bring
you the best of this fascinating, unspoilt country.
A journey along the Ayeyarwady River is a voyage of a lifetime. From this mighty river, which runs the length of the country, treasures can be admired which have for so long been hidden from the world’s gaze.
With the comfort and personality for which the Orient-Express is famous, the Road To Mandalay provides the most comfortable vantage point from which to absorb the surrounding serene beauty, taking in its golden-spired pagodas, ancient temples, sleepy riverside settlements and saffron-clad monks.
With its inaugural voyage in January 1996 the Road To Mandalay marked a new
venture for the famed Orient-Express.
With the Union of Myanmar (formerly Burma) gradually reopening its doors to the outside world, the Road To Mandalay became the ideal way to explore the undiscovered beauty of this long-hidden land.
The ship itself originally began life as a Rhine cruiser in Germany and made her maiden voyage on 6th July 1964. Originally built to very high standards for its day, the ship was purchased by Orient-Express Hotels, Trains & Cruises in 1994 following a period as a floating hotel in Dresden.
The ship underwent a major refurbishment programme at Lauenberg /Hamburg at
a cost of US$6 million. This mostly consisted of reducing the number of
cabins from 98 to 72, and installing decorations that blend contemporary
designs with traditional Burmese, plus a state-of-the-art sewage system to
preserve the purity of the Ayeyarwady River.
Once the refurbishment was completed the ship was transported, courtesy of a specialist transporting ship, via the English Channel and the Suez Canal to Myanmar, arriving towards the end of 1995. The Road To Mandalay was unloaded in Yangon and, after attracting a great deal of local interest, sailed up the Ayeyarwady River to Mandalay.
Once in Mandalay local craftsmen added final decoration and fittings
including locally woven furniture for the Observation Lounge, and carvings
for the Restaurant. Local antiques were also sought and carefully chosen to
provide a true Burmese atmosphere on board.
The inaugural cruise departed Mandalay on 31st January 1996 and arrived in Bagan on 5th February 1996, guests included HRH Prince Michael of Greece, Helena Bonham Carter, HRH Princess Michael of Kent and HRH Princess Marina of Greece.
Today the Road To Mandalay continues to ply the waters of the Ayeyarwady River giving passengers the opportunity to see this fascinating and ancient land while travelling in traditional comfort.
Stretching for over 1,930 km from the North Himalayan region to the South tip of the Tenasserim region, which faces the Andaman Sea, Myanmar (Burma) borders India and Bangladesh to the North West and West, China and Laos to the North East and Thailand to the East and South East.
The Road To Mandalay cruises the Ayeyarwady River which flows over 2,000 km from the Kachin Hills
Life on Board
The Road To Mandalay incorporates elegant Burmese materials and unique
styles with high standards in decor and modern comfort.
The ship has 14 beautifully appointed, spacious State Cabins located on A Deck. The State Cabins are 22.5 metres square and comprise twin beds, sofa and a writing desk with two panoramic windows.
The ship has 38 Superior Cabins, located on both decks A and B. Superior Cabins on A deck are 11.25 square metres with twin beds and a panoramic window. Superior Cabins on B deck are 11.25 square metres with twin beds and two smaller windows.
The Ship has 6 Single Cabins located on B deck. Single Cabins are 11.25
As the Road To Mandalay meanders along the Ayeyarwady River, you can gaze at the
surrounding beauty from the canopied Observation Deck, cool off in the on-deck
pool or enjoy a cool refreshing drink from the top-deck bar, which is open all
day and evening. Cane and teak furniture allows you to relax in comfort and to
observe the unfolding river life or watch the beautiful sunsets.
Buffet lunches and afternoon tea are also served on the Observation Deck, Weather permitting
A variety of local entertainers perform in the evenings, ranging from the
traditional Burmese marionettes to amazing acrobatic feats and traditional
dances. Extend your knowledge of Burmese culture with a lecture given on sailing
days by our expert guides. Learn how to tie a longyi and apply thanka.
The small Library of topical books in several languages is available in the Reception, along with a selection of games.
Your remote-control cabin TV offers satellite channels and there are two video channels showing in-house movies. Please note that TV channels are only available when the ship is moored at Bagan or Mandalay. At the end of a day of discovery, retire to the Piano Bar for an evening in the company of your fellow travellers.
Decorated with a mixture of light wood and Burmese lacquerware, the Piano Bar offers guests a range of delicious local and international cocktails while enjoying the musical talents of the local pianist.
The reception area on board the Road To Mandalay contains a small Library with a variety of books in different languages, games and magazines as well as a small seating area.
With a civilisation that's more than 2,500 years old, Myanmar (previously Burma)
possesses a rich and vibrant cultural tradition. Great natural beauty combines
with magnificent temple architecture and everywhere the visitor encounters
welcoming and hospitable people.
Perhaps the most pleasurable way to see Myanmar, feel its pulse, live its
legends and understand its history, is to travel the Ayeyarwady River. While
enjoying the river's tranquillity, life on the riverbank offers endless
From the small teak and bamboo dwellings, home to the excited children who run along the riverbank and the women purposefully going about their daily chores, to the ox carts cultivating fields, a river cruise gives a unique insight into the way of life of the country.
Elegant monasteries rise above canopied trees, and ruined ancient temples reveal a wealth of historic treasures.
The Ayeyarwady River still remains Myanmar's lifeline, the people and economy ever dependent on its vital natural source. Ferries, bamboo rafts, barges and fishing boats, all ply their trade along these waters, at a slow relaxed pace - there is no need to hurry in Myanmar.
Over the centuries Myanmar has developed around the banks of this mighty river making it the ideal vantage point from which to experience this once isolated nation
Some 5,000 monuments, a testament to Bagan as a former centre of Buddhist
spirituality and learning, are scattered over the 42 square kilometres of the
The kings of Burma from 1044 to 1287 devoted their energy and considerable resources to building pagodas and temples. While their great palaces which were built of wood have since burnt down or crumbled away, hundreds of temples and pagodas remain on the banks of the Ayeyarwady River.
As a World Heritage Site, Bagan stands alongside the other great centres of South East Asia, comparable only to Angkor Wat in Cambodia.
Framed on both sides by the great Ayeyarwady River, the main concentration of monuments is around the original city on the bend of the river. No two monuments are the same. All are highly original in design and conception.
Bagan cannot fail to move you. Ask any visitor who has witnessed the sun rise or set across these fields of glowing temples. The temples are now empty. Sacked by man or felled by nature, the great communities of chanting monks and reverberating bells have moved on.
In its place is calmness and peace, and a vision of wonder at how man was capable of creating such a vast city of spiritual monuments.
Every Burmese has a birthday once a week, perhaps not in the sense of
celebration, but the day of the week on which a Burmese is born affects many
decisions in their lives. It dictates the first letter of their name and where
they pray at the Shwedagon Pagoda in Yangon, which, along with many other
shrines features planetary posts for each day of the week.
There are eight such posts, each identifiable by an animal (a tiger for Monday, a Lion for Tuesday, and so on). Wednesday is split into two, an elephant without tusks in the morning, one with tusks for the afternoon. Corresponding “planets” would be Mercury for Wednesday morning, Saturn for Saturday and the Moon for Monday. There is also a Burmese “planet” called Rahu (Wednesday afternoon), said to be the cause of eclipses. Worshippers bring offerings of flowers and fruit to their planetary post, and anoint their animal with water.
Buddhism, more than anything else, has shaped Burmese history and culture.
Eighty-five percent of the population today follow the teachings of Siddhartha
Gautama Buddha, a royal prince who lived some 2,500 years ago in India. Though
bought up surrounded by wealth and luxury, he eventually renounced worldly
riches and devoted his life to teaching.
Eight of the Buddha's hairs are believed to be enshrined in the Shwedagon Pagoda. The foundation stone of this magnificent gold-leafed edifice, one of the world's great religious sites, is said to have been laid by the Mons around 480BC.
Following the Buddha's death, the Buddhist world divided into two schools.
Theravada Buddhists believe you are an individual on your own and feel they
adhere more to the Buddha's original thinking. Tha Mahayana school believes an
individual's life is linked to others, thus affecting the world.
Buddhists believe that all humanity is subject to pain and suffering from birth to death, and tolerance and forgiveness should supercede, vengeance and hatred.
Although Myanmar is a devoutly Buddhist country, the people have retained a wealth of lore and superstitions which date back to the animistic beliefs of their ancestors. Buddhism, a tolerant faith, does not contradict these earlier traditions, which have become entwined with the national religion, giving a rich texture to spiritual life.
Besides astrology, which influences many aspects of daily life, from the
selection of business partners to days when it is unwise to cut one’s hair,
traditional beliefs encompass a spirit world inhabited by an assorted cast of
supernatural beings, none more important than nats, mischievous little spirits
that can wreck havoc if not placated with offerings of flowers, money and food.
Before Buddism was introduced into Ancient Burma by King Anawrahta in the 11th century, an animistic religion held sway, based on the worship of these spirit gods (nats). The spirits are not to be treated lightly, King Anawrahta tried to put the nats in their place and was gored to death by a wild buffalo, a fate predicted by his soothsayers.
Buddhism never totally superseded these powerful creatures, and today pagodas and nat shrines sit happily side by side.
11 Night - Mandalay-Bhamo-Bagan
Join the Road To Mandalay for this incredible passage north through
magnificent gorges visiting fascinating riverside towns and pagodas along
Wednesday: Yangon - Mandalay- Mingun
Inquire about dates and prices for shorter cruises and private tours.
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