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Buffaloes in the Irrawaddy River

Irrawaddy River Cruise

On the Ayeyarwady River

The Irrawaddy River in Myanmar
The Irrawaddy (Ayeyarwady) River in Myanmar is probably the biggest and best known of all rivers in South East Asia ASEAN together with the Mekong.

The stream is also a fixed point in Myanmar history since many important events in the country has something to do with it. There are many other important waterways in the country such as theSalween or Thanlwin and Sittang at east along the border Myanmar-Thailand. The Mekong is in the north and the Kaladan river in the northwest near the Bangladesh border region plus the Chindwin River in the west it became a tributary to the Irrawaddy around Mandalay.




Over around 2000km long and partly navigable over large distance during British colonial times but today not anymore since the waterway is not maintained, which means shifting sandbanks won’t allow the ships to navigated at many parts that are the same problem with most rivers of Myanmar.

Navigating bigger river ships is almost impossible. From a tourist point of view, only one stretch is maintained which is from  Bagan-Mandalay  this part is ok for bigger vessels and certain parts of the Irrawaddy (Ayeyarwady)  delta, e.g. from Yangon to Pathein (Bassein). ​​
Irrawaddy River at Bagan
Irrawaddy Delta
Chindwin River at Monywa
Irrawaddy River Cruising
Irrawaddy River at Mandalay

Irrawaddy / Ayeyarwady  River Sources in Kachin State 

sources of the Irrawaddy Ayeyarwady
The Ayeyarwady is emerging from the mountains of north Myanmar which are offshoots of the Tibetan Himalayas. At the confluence with the Chindwin River a bit southwest of Mandalay the river unites with the Irrawaddy and forms more or less the artery of Myanmar or Burma finally pouring through the Irrawaddy Delta into the Andaman Sea.

The clear white water passes the mountains of the north hills and forests becomes brown and flows lazy past the white and golden pagodas along the river.


Irrawaddy Pictures around Mandalay & Sagaing

When visiting the country a voyage on the mighty Irrawaddy (Ayeyarwady) river should be on the agenda.

For local people, this is one way to reach large parts of the country since the road and train system is even less than lousy.

Today for tourists this has another dimension and that is called luxury travel in a river vessel. E.g. probably the best of those had been floated the half world around from the Rhine in Germany to become the "Road to Mandalay". There are some more cruiser and even refurbished old ones from colonial times were resurrected and renovated.

The "Road to Mandalay" vessel was moved into a floating dock and towed the half globe around today that is the backbone of the "Orient Express" river fleet.

Tourists pay a high price to float with between Mandalay and Bagan.
  1. Irrawaddy View from Mandalay hill during monsoon
  2. Mandalay business on the Irrwaddy
  3. Mandalay roadside
  4. Around Mandalay Myanmar during monsoon
  5. loading teak logs onto trucks by buffaloes
  6. Bamboo rafts floating on the Irrawaddy River
  7. living on the Irrawaddy river at Mandalay
  8. Old painting of Irrawaddy River at Mandalay
Mingun Pagoda and Irrawaddy Ayeyarwady River
The Irrawaddy at Mingun with the famous pagoda in front.
The Irrawaddy river around Mogok Rubyland
Irrawaddy River Photos
The stream around Mogok north of Mandalay was the main traffic lane until the British came into the country since there were no roads at that time.

Actually not much has changed since the British run away from Japanese they did nothing for any development WW2. They only collected teakwood and rubies plus other precious stones and gave back nothing. On top of it, the English / US threaten the Myanmar's continuously by embargo although they have very well known that the people (east India company and the crown in London were responsible for the mess in Myanmar / Burma.

The only people from the UK who ever did something positive for the Burmans where some Scotish who run the "Irrawaddy Flotilla Company" with around 3000 river vessels operating on all bigger Myanmar rivers. It needs to keep in mind that Myanmar is as big as France and UK combined. Stretching from icy Myanmar mountains to tropical beaches .

  1. Irrawaddy River Life
  2. The King on the Irrawaddy River
  3. irrawaddy delta stilt houses
  4. The King on the Irrawaddy River
Riverbanks of the Irrawaddy
At the source of the Irrawaddy river are mountain stream scoming from Myanmar icy mountains, swollen with melted snow and heavy rain rush southwards through mountains valleys.  During that time the river can climbs about 15 meters during one night and the flash flood sweep the mountains creating an inferno of water nobody can survive.

Ayeyarwady river sources

They emerge from north Myanmar mountains whose sides are marked with huge granite boulder, tropical rainforest, bamboo thickets and an abundant wilderness in the north, this is Kachin State, a real beautiful area with a great tourism potential if they would ever stop their continuous fighting with the central government.

Imagine with all this beautiful nature, the big and small rivers of Myanmar around, having the highest peak in South East Asia plus the only area with snow, stop quarreling, start thinking and get wealthy, many other groups have done like this and were successful.

Kachin people in north Myanmar should know they cant win this struggle and only listen to people within their own community inside the country, groups abroad just use them for flimsy ideas. Instead they should cooperate with the central government and try a revolution from inside the system by melting into the bureaucracy and finally get what they want within the current borders. Fight with weapons is outdated in this kind of liberation struggle, is better to use the brain and within two or three generations results will show up.

The sources of Irrawaddy river are in the wilderness of the Kachin mountains and not only Kachin at the north west where Naga and Chin are living the Chindwin comes down.

The Ayeyarwady  river delivers great exotic colors and incredible sunsets with mysteries enclosed, in particular at the Sagaing Mandalay and the pagoda studded plains at the eastern bank of the waterway at Bagan. In that areas the connection to Myanmar history can clearly be seen.

Today its a different perspective, every year thousands of tourists from all over the world come to this places to have a look for one of the last real Asian countries immersed in the past with only minimal modern influence. A Irrawaddy cruise is like a "time machine" three hundred years and more back into the past, its genuine, its very attractive from a travelers point of view, we don't talk about politics here, today its Some great views around the river open up during Monsoon time from around June to October, after the dry season everyone is awaiting the Monsoon floods which immediately let the Irrawaddy flood the close environ.
In the Irrawaddy River Delta
The stream is also a mighty part of the Irrawaddy Delta with the sources in the Myanmar Himalaya Mountains .

The harbor at Yangon River along Strand Street serves ocean going and river vessel up to around 20.000 tons there is also a container port along the water. There are some rush hours in the morning and late afternoon when commuter cross the water to and from Dalla.
Map of the Irrawaddy River Delta
Irrawaddy Luxury River Cruise

Sightseeing on the mighty stream.

When visiting the country a voyage on the mighty Irrawaddy (Ayeyarwady) river should be on the agenda. For local people this is one way to reach large parts of the country since the road and train system is even more than lousy.

Today for tourists this has another dimension and that is called luxury travel on a river vessel. E.g. probably the best of those had been floated the half world around from the Rhine in Germany to become the "Road to Mandalay". There are some more cruiser and even old ones from colonial times where resurrected and renovated.

At Sagaing with pagodas and the Irrawaddy and the river vessel
The Irrawaddy at Sagaing is flowing through the old center of the country with several old capitals around, on the other side is Mandalay the last last capital before the British took over. Today this is a beautiful stretch at the water with countless pagodas and temples around, read more.
The Irrawaddy river around Mogok north of Mandalay
The stream around Mogok north of Mandalay was the main traffic lane until the British came into the country since there were no roads at that time. Actually not much has changed since then since the regimes since WW2 did nothing for any development. They only collected the rubies and other precious stones and gave back nothing, read more.
houses on stilts in the delta east of Yangon
The Irrawaddy Delta is a vast stretch of wetland covering around 20% of the country in the upper south. The best to see this is when you approach Yangon by aircraft just look out by the window. It's very flat and green although in February it gets brown and becomes green again with the monsoon, read more.

fishing for irrawaddy dophines

Here are some River Pictures to make a better understanding and this is for sure. They tell among other, who poor the people are after the past sixty years they really have to start at zero again. See the water at the source in the mountains with eternal glaciers all the way where it pours into the Andaman Sea, read more.

Ayeyarwady at Bagan is the life support for the city but the water is badly used.

River Life is often quite busy.

Tributary & Sources are not known very well even the British already tried to figure them out but failed.

Around Mandalay the stream becomes very busy because most upcountry traffic runs through here.

Other Waterways are many the British run a network on them known as the "Irrawaddy Flotilla Company" of about 4000 km lenght.

This is one of the great waterways of Asia.

The Irrawaddy is the virtual lifeline of the country, if no water from the stream large part would have a very arid climate. Flowing through the country for around thousand miles. From the sources in the mountains of the north, uniting with many tributary and finally pouring through the delta into the Andaman Sea, read more.


one of the sources in the mountain


Irrawaddy river sources in mountains of the north


Irrawaddy river mapHere are some Irrawaddy River Maps it took a long time until the sources of the stream were found or rather identified because there are hundreds of small tributaries in the mountains of Kachin State read more
Some time ago the authorities defined the the confluence of the N'mai and Mali River as the source.

The British were very active to find a "real" source but nobody can do that because there are too many, .


the river flood near Mandalay to water paddy fields
irrawaddy cruises attraction

Boarding at Bagan

The Chindwin is the biggest tributary it comes from the north west.
irrawaddy river life

Irrawaddy River Delta at Pathein

Also the water is very badly used who have no idea about management. A good example is the so called "dry zone" in the center, where there is no need

Dry Zone of the center in Bagan

at all that anything is dry since this stream runs through. It could be a "Garden of Eden effectively it's a semi desert why? Because the laziness is extremely widespread and nobody does anything to get "Mother Earth" a fresh cover.


The present-day travelers are different one.

They are the tourists who try to peep into the past of famous Burma using the great highway under very pleasant conditions with wide and long river ships mainly cruising between Mandalay and Bagan both cities where "Myanmar kings" ruled.


Irrawaddy river in the 19th Century

In the 19th Century for waterway was navigated by steamers of the Irrawaddy Flotilla Company, most of which have been well equipped with the comforts of civilization. Today because of poor maintenance only very limited distances can be navigated by bigger ships.


The river vessel at Sagaing

From the luxury steamer of today such as the "Road to Mandalay" travelers can see local color and more for the insight into the life of the people in the villages along the brown water and watch the smaller Ayeyarwady cargo boats, bamboo and teak rafts.

Road to Mandalay is Myanmar Luxury Travel

Villages are regular stops

Some villages are regular stops on the journey and they do a little show to explain the real rural Myanmar and sometimes bathe in the cool river. At small hamlets at the steep banks secluded

small hamlets at the steep banks

from the real world beyond people are help the wide bamboo and teak wood rafts to navigate downstream. The river vessels with the foreign travelers leave Mandalay the center of "upper Burma" for the hardly 2 day voyage down to Bagan. It is an interesting encounter between the modern age and a countryside still stuck in colonial time.

The journey has a great start and end.

The start is at Bagan and at the other end the the white an golden temples close to the Sagaing Hills opposite Mandalay.


golden temples on the Sagaing Hills
Irrawaddy River cruises at Mandalay

Local cargo and passenger ships around Mandalay
huge bamboo rafts floating down from the north
irrawaddy cruises in the delta

cruises in the delta
collecting flowers in the delta
Irrawaddy River Cruises at Yangon Harbor

Harbor ferry in Yangon
Yangon Harbor River Cruise

The little problem on this sampan cruises is they wont take foreigner as passenger, they are very afraid what could happen in case of an accident.
This deliberation makes sense because the Yangon river here is about one kilometers wide, it is a lively waterway and not even life jackets are in the boat the tourists of today have a continuous changing panorama on a visit to Myanmar from a different perspective read more.
Myanmar Luxury Travel on board the Orcaella

There are 3 main companies in this luxury segment.

The first is the Orient Express Comp. which also operate the train in Europe and one between Bangkok and Singapore plus two high end ships which are the "Road to Mandalay" and 'Orcealla" plus a high end boutique hotel "Governor's Residence" in Yangon. Which was converted into a colonial style villa.

luxury beach resort at Ngwe Saung which is in the Irrawaddy Delta

Another local luxury hotel provider operates the Treasure beach resort at Ngwe Saung and a few other high end lodges at Inle Lake and Mandalay they also own Bagan Air and Kandawgyi Palace Hotel which is probably the most idyllic in Yangon right at the lake read more.