Imagine spending all day floating down a river, sunshine on your face, completely able to zone out, staring at the river bank and the hills beyond, tea and toast in hand. This is what sailing down the Irrawaddy River was like. Pure relaxation, pure bliss. The Mandalay to Bagan boat was one of my favourite memories from Myanmar, and it’s something that takes a little longer, but is worth doing.
Here’s what ya need to know!
The boat takes roughly 10 hours, and it costs around $40.
This certainly isn’t the cheapest way to get from Mandalay to Bagan, but it’s my favourite. For that price, you get your boat ticket, a modest breakfast, and lunch.
I recommend booking through your hotel or through a travel agent. Typically I like to book things myself and scout out the best deal, but companies and prices are all so similar for this boat ride that you don’t really need to fuss around.
We caught a taxi to the pier at six, though others have reported getting up at 4:30! You’ll definitely have an early start, but you have the whole day to relax.
What to Expect on the Mandalay to Bagan Boat.
Bright (actually it was before sunrise so it was dark) and early, we took a taxi to the pier. The pier is nothing glamourous – it’s quite rickety and made up of uneven wood panels, but it gets the job done! You’ll show your ticket to the person at the dock, and then you’ll hop on! There are assigned seats downstairs indoors, but I recommend getting there early to get a good seat up top!
The best spot is DEFINITELY on the top deck in the open air, with a view out of the boat.
Once onboard and seated, we were given two slices of toast and either coffee or tea for breakfast. By this point, the sun was just starting to rise. What an amazing view to start the morning with.
Again, the boat ride is 10 hours, so you’re bound to arrive at about 5pm. If you’re into slow travel, like I am, this is a great way to practice it. Slow travel is a new term in the travel industry, typically meaning rejecting the idea that you have to just see all the sights and go. I like to think of it as embracing everything in a country – being more open, being willing to move slowly and soak up new cultures, and being vulnerable. If this is your first time hearing of slow travel, maybe try this boat ride to see how ya like it!
Often when I’m travelling slow (figuratively and literally, in this case), I take a moment to journal, watch the surroundings pass, and just reflect on this new country. I definitely took advantage of the hours we had on the boat, listening to podcasts, journaling, and looking at some amazing sights. The spots along the shoreline are things you don’t normally see, as they’re far from touristy cities.
It was nice to have a moment to sit back and appreciate being in Myanmar – a country that has only opened its doors to tourism relatively recently.
Lunch is also provided at around 12/12:30 and you get your choice of fried rice or noodles. If you’d like, you can purchase sodas, and if you’re feeling a little cheeky, cold beer.
10 hours after we’d left dock, we arrived in Bagan. What an amazing way to see Myanmar.
Don’t Forget to Pack These!
You’ll definitely need to bring a light jacket! It’s quite cold in the morning and when the wind hits, but it’s quite warm for the rest of the day! We wore fleece jackets and scarves, which was perfect. A scarf is also great to have for keeping covered at temples.
If it gets too hot/cold outside, there’s also your real seat downstairs… but with views like these, it was hard to go inside. I didn’t even touch my assigned seat. Blankets are also provided in case you get extra chilly.
Snacks! Always an essential, and so easy to forget. You know how when you’re on a long bus ride or plane ride, all you want is a chocolate bar? A boat is no different. Get the chocolate bar.
I am someone who can get VERY seasick. I always carry a little Dramamine with me in case I can feel some motion sickness coming on, but I didn’t need it for this trip. This boat ride is very calm! If you are worried about being sensitive to the rocking, I find bringing a green apple with me helps. Something about the tart-ness helps calm my stomach.
The Mandalay to Bagan boat ride is something that few choose to do but is absolutely worth the time. What do you think? Would you give the boat a go?
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