30 September 2016
Setting out from Bagan, this three-day cruise on the Ayeyarwady River lets you feast your eyes on spectacular temples and pagodas, browse colourful markets and get right to the heart of local villages and workplaces. You'll travel on the sleek Sanctuary Ananda, which boasts luxurious cabins, a pool and sundeck and even its own spa.
Your cruise begins as you board the Sanctuary Ananda at 1pm today. If your flight arrives in Bagan early enough, there'll be time for a tour of Bagan beforehand. You'll visit Minanthu village before continuing to a brick factory, then on to the village of Myinkaba, a centre for the ancient craft of lacquerware, and finally to a jaggery workshop. After checking in to the Sanctuary Ananda you'll enjoy lunch, then a visit to the Ananda Temple, which dates back to 1091 AD and is regarded as one of the most beautiful temples in Myanmar. You'll then ride in a traditional horse cart to Htilominlo Temple, built around 1211 AD, before continuing to the Pyathatgyi Temple and watching the sun set behind the hills on the far side of the Ayeyarwady River.
You have a choice of how to start today: either watch the sun rise from a temple terrace in the company of a meditation expert or take an optional balloon tour to enjoy the spectacular views of the Bagan plain. After breakfast, you'll visit the bustling Nyaung Oo market to browse the stalls of fruit, vegetables, china and lacquerware. Next, you'll head to the great golden Shwezigon Pagoda, said to contain important relics of the Gautama Buddha, two bones and a copy of a tooth. Afterwards, you'll learn about the local craft of lacquerware at a workshop in Myinkaba, before returning to the ship and setting sail upstream towards Sagaing. You'll have time to relax in the Kansi panorama lounge and enjoy the views of small villages, tamarind trees and pagodas on the distant hills. After lunch, you can enjoy a variety of onboard activities, including a longyi (sarong) and thanaka (cosmetic) demonstration, a cooking class, cheroot and betel-nut tasting and a talk on Myanmar's history and prospects for the future. Finally, you'll enjoy a delicious dinner on board.
Early risers will be able to enjoy a meditation and yoga session before breakfast today, then you'll spend the rest of the morning relaxing and enjoying the countryside scenes as you sail past. In the afternoon you will arrive at the Sagaing hills, an important religious centre that's home to 554 monasteries and 6,000 monks and nuns. You will visit several of the monasteries and pagodas on your way uphill to admire the amazing views from the terraces of the Soon U Ponya Shin Pagoda. Next you'll visit a silversmith workshop in the village of Ywataung, then continue to Amarapura, where you'll visit a textile workshop and the U Bein Bridge, a spectacular place to enjoy the sunset. You'll then take a boat up the Ayeyarwady River to rejoin the Sanctuary Ananda. Alternatively, you can choose to sail north on the Sanctuary Ananda to the unspoilt village of Sin Kyun to learn more about the traditional way of life here. Tonight, you'll enjoy a farewell dinner on a sandbank overlooking Mingun, home to the ruins of King Bodawpaya's folly, a huge pagoda.
Early this morning, you may like to join an optional visit to the village of Sin Kyun before the Sanctuary Ananda sets sail for Mandalay, arriving at 9:45am, when the cruise will come to an end. If you have time before your onward flight, you may like to take an optional tour of Mandalay, including visits to Mahamuni Pagoda, the beautiful teak Shwenandaw Monastery and Kuthodaw Pagoda (Maha Lawka Marazein), known as "the biggest book in the world" for its 729 marble slabs inscribed with the Buddhist canonical texts.
Suite, Bagan Deck fr £967pp
Deluxe Suite, Bagan Deck fr £1230pp
Deluxe Suite, Middle Deck fr £1582pp
Luxury Suite fr £2109pp
Rates based on twinshare
International flights not included unless otherwise stated