As Myanmar has started to open up to tourism, I have had an itch to go there! My primary goal was to take the boat on the Irrawaddy River from Yangon to Mandalay.
After looking at the options I chose the 10-day trip with AmaWaterways, which turned out to be an excellent call. They provided a route full of villages and temples and Burmese culture. I had a very spacious cabin on their small ship, which had just 30 cabins. There were two tour guides who took us out daily and provided genuine insights into the 20th century history of Burma/Myanmar. The food on board was wonderful, plentiful and full of interest for both eastern and western palettes.
Because Myanmar is very hot and can be quite humid, it was superb having a deluxe cabin with air conditioning and all the trimmings at the end of a day’s adventures….not to mention the joy of unpacking only once on the 10 day trip! The Burmese staff were a joy to meet, very gracious in their service, and hard workers… they sang with and for us, made excursions easier, and were welcoming as we returned to the ship each day.
I decided on seeing a few other Asian destinations that interest me. I flew to Bangkok and had an over-the-top stay at one of our preferred hotels, the Mandarin Oriental. It sits along the river and breakfast is set out each morning as you watch the commerce on the river…..the Mandarin has a teak houseboat that crosses the river any time you need to go! I was upgraded to a river view suite with a butler’s pantry, windows toward the river and a loft bedroom. It had all the trappings of a Somerset Maugham novel with its literary bent.
Two days in Yangon before boarding the riverboat were sufficient to see the former Burmese capital in its faded glory; my stay at the Governor’s Residence was centered around the governor’s 1920’s teak home in the Embassy neighborhood.
I returned to Thailand and went to the north, where the countryside is simply lovely. Chiang Mai is a bustling city, and I chose to ride a bicycle which was a good call: flat, easy to see neighborhoods, visit to archeological remnants, and even the former leper colony. My suite at 137 Pillars House overlooked the century-old teak house. The drive to neighboring Chiang Rai was through the forests and streams of a Thai national park. Staying at our preferred hotel, Anantara Golden Triangle Elephant Camp and Resort was just plain fun: walking with baby elephants, checking out the Opium Museum….never a dull moment. My room was upgraded to a suite that overlooked the rivers that define the golden triangle, right under my balcony!