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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.

Air-conditioned throughout, the ship has 4 decks and accommodates 110 passengers. All of the 58 spacious cabins are sympathetically decorated using Burmese style fabrics.

Facilities on board include a Restaurant, Piano Bar, Boutique, Beauty Salon, small Library and a spacious Lounge, where local entertainment and cultural lectures take place during the cruise.

Inside this graceful river cruiser the emphasis rests on traditional comfort. The spacious en suite cabins are air-conditioned and furnished with beautiful fabrics, fine linens and soft towels, while a friendly room service is available to guests 24 hours a day.

Three types of cabin are available, Single, Superior and State all with en suite shower and WC facilities. Each cabin has a personal safe, telephone, satellite TV with in-house video and hairdryers. Sockets are suitable for 2-pin round plugs (220 volts).

State Cabins

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.

Superior Cabin

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.

Single Cabin

The Ship has 6 Single Cabins located on B deck. Single Cabins are 11.25 square metres.



Observation Deck

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.

Ayeyarwady River


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 fascination.

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


Sights of Myanmar

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 Ayeyarwady River.

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.


Journeys  available on Road to Mandalay luxury river cruiser:


9 Night - Yangon-Mandalay-Chindwin-Bagan

7 Night - Mandalay-Bagan-Mandalay
7 Night - Bagan-Mandalay-Bagan
4 Night - Bagan-Mandalay
3 Night - Mandalay-Bagan

Premier Cruise:

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 the way.




  2005 2006

Single (B Deck) Cabin $2280 $2340
State Cabin $4100 $4200
Superior (A Deck) Cabin $3000 $3080
Superior (B Deck) Cabin $2280 $2340

* Prices are per person and include all table d'hôte meals and accommodation on board based on two people sharing (except Single Cabin), economy class flights, transfers and sightseeing in Myanmar as shown in the itinerary.


Departure Dates

August 9, 23
September 6



Wednesday: Yangon - Mandalay- Mingun
After a morning flight from Yangon to Mandalay board the Road To Mandalay. Berthed on the Ayeyarwady River at Shwe Kyet Yet opposite the pagoda-studded Sagaing Hills. After lunch, sail northwards pass Mandalay, to the east of the river and enjoy a view of Mandalay Hill in the distance. Anchor at Mingun for a visit to the largest brick-built pagoda in the world and the world’s largest uncracked bell. In the evening a cocktail party on the ship's upper deck allows you to get to know your fellow travellers followed by dinner and a folkloric display.

Thursday: Mingun - Kyaukmyaung
The ship makes an early start, transiting the plain to the north and west of Mandalay before entering the 3rd Defile (gorge) at Singu around midday. In the late morning, the ‘Road To Mandalay’ drops anchor off the town of Kyaukmyaung for a walking tour. Later, the ship will sail past the picturesque island pagoda of Thihadaw. During the afternoon, enjoy a lecture by the on board guide in the lounge. Breakfast, lunch and dinner on board

Friday: Kyan Hnyat - Katha
An early morning walking tour of the delightful village of Kyan Hnyat. See hundreds of school children and the lively morning business in the market. Continue your journey north through vast stretches of river, expansive scenery and interesting rural villages on its shores. As the sun sets, the ship will anchor off the old market town of Katha, famous as the site where, in May 1942, the Irrawaddy Flotilla Company scuttled as many as 75 ships to defy them from the Japanese. Breakfast, lunch and dinner on board.

Saturday: Kathay - Swegu
Visit Katha by trishaw in the early morning and visit the market place made famous by George Orwell in "Burmese Days". Back on board the ship continues its journey north through the expansive scenery, with the distant mountains marking the second defile coming into view in the afternoon. The ship anchors off the splendid island pagoda of Shwe Paw, just north of the town of Shwegu. Boats will take you ashore to explore the ancient site. Breakfast, lunch and dinner on board.

Sunday: Zinbon - Bhamo
Reach the magnificent second defile today with its green-clad mountains reaching down to the narrowing channel. The ship holds close to one or other of the banks past logging camps and an old colonial village at Zinbon. Passing to the west of Bhamo at mid-morning continue north towards the challenging 1st Defile. Road To Mandalay travels as far north as possible before returning to an anchorage off Bhamo. The scenery in this unspoilt area is spectacular. Breakfast, lunch and dinner on board.

Monday: Bhamo - Katha
Visit the town of Bhamo, contested over the years by Burmans, Kachins, Chinese, British, Japanese and Americans. The town is barely 50 miles from the Chinese border in the Foothills of Yunnan that can be clearly seen to the east. Local transport will carry you into the countryside, past paddy fields and towards the mountains. Return to the ship for an afternoon departure to sail through the 2nd defile to the anchorage north of Katha. Breakfast, lunch and dinner on board.

Tuesday: Katha - Tigyaung
In the morning an antique train takes you on a journey into thick Kachin jungle and to the forest station of Naba. See a presentation of cultural dancing performed for you by charming local children. Return through the rainforest to Road To Mandalay and continue sailing for the beautiful port of Tigyaing, where you can disembark for a walk in the early evening. Breakfast, lunch and dinner on board.

Wednesday: Tigyaing - Mokok
Depart Tigyaing early morning and pass through the 3rd Defile before anchoring at the ferry point at Thabeikkyin on the east bank. Enjoy the scenery of the forestry reserve where many presious botanical specimens are grown for their essential oils. Various attractions await you. Back on board the ship continues to sail south. Enjoy the remainder of your day on board the ship. Breakfast, lunch and dinner on board.

Thursday: Mandalay
Arrive in Mandalay this morning for a varied tour of the city. Lunch is taken at the Sedona Hotel, adjacent to the moat surrounding the old Mandalay Palace grounds. Rejoin the ship at Shwe Kyet Yet and enjoy a tribal dance display in the evening. Breakfast and dinner on board.

Friday: Bagan
Set sail early morning and enjoy a relaxing day on board. Along the way you will see many villages with women doing the household chores by the river and waving children. By mid-afternoon you will be on your way into the ancient city of Bagan, to witness sunset over the plain which will whet your appetite for the tours the next day. The evening will allow you to see traditional Bagan entertainers perform in the Observation lounge. Breakfast, lunch and dinner on board.

Saturday: Bagan and Mount Popa
Your final day offers you the opportunity to visit more of the ancient sites in and around Bagan with the experienced guide, or perhaps taking a local horse-drawn cart or bicycle to explore on your own. An optional afternoon tour to Mount Popa, legendary sacred home of the Nats, with its impressive summit monastery is also available. Breakfast, lunch and dinner on board. A cocktail party held before dinner maks the end of amost memorable voyage.

Sunday: Bagan - Yangon
An early departure this morning to Bagan airport for your return flight to Yangon.


Inquire about dates and prices for shorter cruises and private tours.


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