Road to Mandalay
The luxurious 82-passenger Road to Mandalay was the first luxury riverboat to operate in Myanmar. Originally built for Germany’s KD Lines in 1964, it underwent a transformation under the guidance of Orient-Express (now known as Belmond) in 1995 before being transported to Myanmar. The vessel, which remains the largest in the region, offers guests a mix of the continental and the oriental, with the emphasis firmly on the latter.
What We Love
Creature Comforts: The Observation Lounge is an oasis of rattan chairs, teak tables and Burmese art, while the adjacent Piano Bar is a nightly social hub with a colonial ambiance reminiscent of Rudyard Kipling’s song: “On the road to Mandalay”.
Elegant Dinners: Each night the brigade of 15 chefs present a tour-de-force of Burmese; Thai; Indonesian; Indian and European specialties in the Restaurant. There’s also the alfresco grill offering local cuisine in an inspiring setting.
Best Known For
Visits to Bagan: Between the 11th and 13th centuries, devout Burmese monarchs built over 4,000 temples across a 20 square-mile swathe of parched-earth. Many of the original pagodas have crumbled into oblivion, but there are still thousands to be explored.
Wellbeing: Yoga and tai chi sessions take place on deck and at specially chosen venues on shore.
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Who It's Best For
Intrepid travelers: Along the river, golden stupas reinforce the Burmese devotion to Buddhism. Passengers visit Kuthodaw Pagoda, where 729 pillars are inscribed with Buddhist Tripitaka scriptures — often referred to as the "world’s largest book." There’s also a visit to a monastery where alms are offered to the burgundy-robed monks.
Don't Say We Didn't Warn You
Tourism to Myanmar is still in its infancy. Not all tour buses have efficient air-conditioning (temperatures can often be higher than 90 degrees) and when the river levels are low it can be quite a climb at Bagan to reach the buses.
There Are Limited Options: The riverboat sails only between Mandalay and the ancient city of Bagan, offering 2-, 3-, 4-, and 7-night cruises.
Gary Buchanan is a UK-based contributor to ShermansCruise who has written multiple books about cruising.
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Road to Mandalay at a Glance
- Line: Belmond
- Number of Passengers: 82
- Ship Size: Small
- Launch Date: 1964
- Refurbish Date: 1995