a cruise along the Irrawaddy River from Mandalay to Bagan
The driver swerved around pedestrians, motorbikes and mules as our hired SUV sped through Mandalay on a hot July day. Riding in the back seat, I gripped the headrest in front of me and hung on for dear life. Dust swirled as we pulled off the pavement and came to a stop on a dirt path. Nearby, families sat on the ground weaving large sheets of canada goose discount uk bamboo, and cows foraged in the piles of garbage strewn about the banks of the Irrawaddy River.
Then the driver eased behind a tall wooden wall, and chaos gave way to sophistication. The dust settled, along with my nerves, as I gazed at the antique European river cruiser that stretched before us canada goose outlet reviews in the latte colored water. A Burmese woman in a tailored sarong and a blond canada goose outlet ontario haired man wearing a sport coat stood smiling at the top of the gangplank, holding glasses of fresh pressed mango juice to welcome me and my husband, Brian, on our three night luxury cruise aboard the Road to Mandalay.
canadian goose jacket Drink in one hand and luggage in the other, we stepped over the threshold of the 333 foot vessel’s entrance and set off a barrage of hospitality. Greeters whisked away canada goose outlet toronto factory our bags and replaced them with wet jasmine scented cloths to soothe our hands and faces. A polite stewardess showed us to our compact but plush cabin overlooking the Irrawaddy. With an hour to spare before setting sail, Brian and I changed into the soft white bathrobes hanging in the closets and wasted no time booking our first activity: a 90 minute spa treatment complete with Himalayan canada goose outlet location salts. canadian goose jacket
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canada goose store While my fellow cruisers set sail from the sun drenched top deck, waving to bamboo merchants along the riverbanks, I departed on my journey from two decks below, in a dimly lit, floral scented well being room, my eyes shut and my thoughts turning to the forthcoming adventure. canada goose store
Canada Goose Parka A guest enjoys a poolside drink on the Road to Mandalay’s observation deck. The sun drenched deck is the perfect perch for floating down the Irrawaddy River, watching the passing villages, pagodas and rice paddies. (Jamie Rich/for The Washington Post) Canada Goose Parka
Glamour and grit
Brian and I had booked this cruise to pamper ourselves and to reconnect far from distractions back home in Florida. But you don’t travel across the globe canada goose outlet online store review to a country emerging from decades of isolation just to sip champagne and read George Orwell’s “Burmese Days” by the pool. You cruise Burma (also known as Myanmar) because you want a little dust on your feet, bitter tea leaf salad in your belly and a holiday with some gumption.
Canada Goose sale Luxury hospitality brand, formerly Orient Express, has offered glamour and grit on Burma’s Irrawaddy River since 1996 with its 50 year old German river cruiser Road to Mandalay. The atmosphere on the long, slender boat reflects a canada goose outlet uk decidedly vintage but also eclectic mix of Burmese, British, modern and traditional styles. Polished teak flooring and molding give the boat a rich, timeless appeal. Fine Asian fabrics accent the furniture in the common areas and the bedding in the cabins. The sprawling observation deck is the showpiece, with its scalloped canopy, dipping pool, cocktail bar and outdoor living room lounges. A fitness room, nightly entertainment, spa rooms, world class cuisine and an attentive staff round out the luxury. Canada Goose sale
The boat carries up canada goose outlet edmonton to 82 passengers, offering a posh oasis in a nation of thatched hut villages, rice paddies and thousands of Buddhist pagodas. Despite canada goose outlet vip the opening up of the economy in 2012 and growing numbers of tourists, canada goose outlet mississauga cellphones and motor scooters, Burma’s a country where villagers still bathe in the river, pull water from wells, live in houses made of bamboo and plow their fields with oxen.
buy canada goose jacket cheap Aboard ship, some of Burma’s canada goose coats uk best old world culinary traditions commingle with new world flavors in the dining room, which is decorated with oil lamp sconces and white tablecloths. For our first lunch, we sat canada goose outlet at a table overlooking the rolling river and ate medleys of local salads, sipped spicy soups and sampled curries off the buffet. buy canada goose jacket cheap
“Ah, mangosteens,” Brian said, returning from a dessert run with a pile of golf ball size, maroon colored fruits on his plate. Although they were once banned for harboring Asian pests, irradiated mangosteens can now be imported into the United States. But strict regulations make the criminally delicious fruit a rare, pricey find.
buy canada goose jacket Brian carefully peeled away the fruit’s tough skin, revealing a glistening white nugget, and offered it to me. buy canada goose jacket
Canada Goose Jackets “Nectar of the gods,” he said, as sweet juice burst from the soft cushion in my mouth. Canada Goose Jackets
canada goose deals Villagers fortify the walls of the Irrawaddy riverbank in Bagan, where a pagoda rests canada goose outlet toronto address dangerously close to the edge. Pagodas dot Bagan’s landscape of acacia trees and farmland. (Jamie Rich/for The Washington Post) canada goose deals
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Not long after lunch, we docked a few miles upriver from our starting point and disembarked for a tour of Mandalay. Sixteen of us, from countries as far flung as Canada, Egypt canada goose outlet store calgary and New Zealand, split into small groups and climbed into minibuses that would ferry us to various heritage sites and Buddhist temples.
Our group’s guide, Thet, explained that we should remove our shoes when entering pagodas, out of respect for Buddhist tradition. Then he led us on a barefoot stroll through Kuthodaw Pagoda, with its long canada goose outlet hong kong rows of 729 white domed stupas, each containing a marble slab inscribed with ancient Buddhist scriptures. They’re collectively known as the world’s largest book, canada goose outlet in uk Thet said. Next we traipsed through Shwenandaw Monastery, the only remaining original structure from Mandalay Palace, which was destroyed in World War II. With no guards or signs keeping tourists at bay, I explored the intricately carved rooms made of teak covered in gold leaf, which is fading now, thanks to the thousands canada goose outlet belgium of visitors who carelessly touch the walls, altars and pillars.
I saw only one warning at the monastery: a small plastic sign propped on the stairs leading to the main Buddha statue. “Ladies are not allowed to enter,” it read. Eye rolls from some of the women in our group quickly turned to chuckles when one of our fellow cruisers, 19 month old Jasmine, picked up the sign and toddled around the gilded room.
canada goose coats After Jasmine’s peaceful protest, a la canada goose outlet trillium parka black Aung San Suu Kyi, our band of sightseers headed to the city’s marble quarter, where artisans carve large blocks of rugged stone into shiny cross legged Buddhas. canada goose coats
canada goose black friday sale The Buddha count rose with each place that soft spoken Thet, who wore a black longyi, or sarong, took us to. Throughout the afternoon he told us about royal dynasties and Burmese generals and monks. He talked about architecture and explained the meaning of the Buddha’s hand gestures. He canada goose vest outlet showed us gold leaf, silk weaving and lacquerware workshops, where the conditions are rudimentary at best and ancient crafts are forged by hand. But by the third hour, I’d reached the guided tour saturation point. canada goose black friday sale
Fishermen cast their lines near a pagoda on Taungthaman Lake in the city of Mandalay. (Jamie Rich/for The Washington Post)
cheap Canada Goose At our last stop, the U Bein Bridge, our group scattered. Brian and I wandered along the 200 year old teak boardwalk that stretches three quarters of a mile over Taungthaman Lake. The smell of fried fish wafted from waterfront cafes. Packs of children hawked jade necklaces. Fishermen waded in the lake, and tourists snapped photos of the sun sinking lower in the sky. cheap Canada Goose
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canada goose clearance sale On Day 2 of the trip, Brian and I slept late in our cozy stateroom, skipping a photo op with monks collecting alms near the ship’s berth. We were ready to change course, cruise down the river at 12 knots toward Bagan http://www.canadagoosesalesus.com and settle into the cushioned chaises on the sunny observation deck. We’d actually expected more than one full day of sailing, but with only 115 miles of waterway separating Mandalay and Bagan, there isn’t much distance to cover. Once we shoved off, I whiled away the six hour trip lounging by the pristine pool, looking at the villages along the riverbanks, reading local English language newspapers and having my fortune told by the onboard astrologer, Sayar. canada goose clearance sale
I sat with the white robed mystic at a small table outside the ship’s piano bar. As he frantically scribbled lines, dots and tic tac toe boxes in his notebook, I blocked out Brian’s warning that this was a sham. I hoped that Sayar was the real deal.