Jungle cascades into the fast flowing, muddy rivers and not far to the west across the steep mountain ranges lies India. Of great interest are a number of unpublished art treasures around Mingkin, which includes the oldest teak carved monastery in Myanmar.
We can only offer this expedition during the monsoon period. It will be rainy but not all the time. River banks will be muddy and slippery. On the positive side the rains do keep the heat off and the atmosphere of cruising through tropical downpours can be romantic in the extreme. But be warned! We are linking this 10 night cruise with the 10 night Upper Irrawaddy so that serious river explorers can cover the two great rivers of Myanmar on one visit with 20 nights on board the much loved Pandaw II. Pagan and Mandalay sight seeing have not been included as most of our passengers know these places well but extra nights on board or in hotels may be booked at these places if required.
Day 1: Rangoon. Arrive Yangon International Airport and stay overnight at Kandawgyi Hotel (or equivalent 4 star); sunset visit to the Shwedagon Pagoda.
Day 2: Rangoon - Pagan. Early morning flight up followed by a coach tour of the main monuments. Ship will depart from Pagan at 5:00 pm.
Day 3: Lower Chindwin. Cruise all day through the great Lower Chindwin plain.
Day 4: Monywa. Arriving in the busy port town of Monywa will be a bit of a shock after the peace and remoteness of the Chindwin. We will explore the town and time permitting make a quick trip to the Thanbodi Temple with its million Buddha images - a sort of Buddhist Disneyland! Beyond Monywa we enter the Upper Chindwin. The river narrows and the forested hills fall away to farmland we pass a number of attractive villages like Kin or Kanee where we can stretch our legs.
Day 5: Mingkin. Mingkin was rediscovered by Paul Strachan in 1987 and described in some detail in his book Mandalay: Travels from the Golden City. It remains for Paul the most art historically interesting site in Myanmar (more so than the now spoiled Pagan) with its Konbaung court style teak monasteries sumptuously decorated. Mingkin may be described as the Luang Prabang of the Chindwin.
Day 6: Mawlaik. Mawlaik replaced Kindat as the administrative capital but ironically the Myanma refused to move there from upstream Kindat. It was mainly settled with the company houses of the by the Scottish owned and run Bombay Myanmarh Trading Corporation in the 1920s and 1930s. There are many splendid ‘Dak Bungalows’ set around a verdant golf course. Mawlaik and the other towns of the Upper Chindwin can only be reached by boat so cars are few. There is a dreamy otherworldly quality to such places and truly one feels that one has traveled there in the Pandaw time machine!
Day 7: Paungbyin - Sitthaung. Pantha was an important oil refinery belonging to the Indo-Myanmar Petroleum Co (Steel Brothers). We pass the mouth of the Yu River which drains the Kubu valley that provided the route for a Lieutenant Grant to march to the relief of the Manipur garrison when the chief commissioner of Assam was massacred in a local rebellion. Sitthaung was the final resting place of a number of IFC steamers scuppered there in 1942 in an ‘act of denial’ from the advancing Japanese who were a matter of hours behind. We hope to find remains of these ships as we have in the past at Katha on the Irrawaddy. It was from here that the survivors of the Japanese invasion marched out to Tamu on the India border.
Day 8: Sithaung - Toungdoot. Toungdoot or Hsawng-hsup in Tai, is an ancient Shan enclave which in British times still had a ruling sawbwa complete with palace and court. It will be interesting to see what has become of the royal family and their home and to see these Shan people so far from their Tai-Shan homelands.
Day 9: Toungdoot - Homalin. We pass the Uyu River worked by gold washers on the way to Homalin, the furthest navigable point on the Chindwin for vessels of our size. Alister McCrae wrote of his visit there 1935 ‘I loved the atmosphere of quiet and peaceful living there. At night I could hear greylag geese as they came in to the flooded land around us from far away north’. Bird in 1897 says little other than that Homalin is the headquarters of a township, but has very little trade. Until we get there and explore the place there is not much we can say!
Day 10: Homalin and return downstream.
Day 11: Return downstream to Kalewa.
Day 12: Kalemyo - Rangoon. Travel 20 miles from Kalewa to Kalemyo the gateway to the Chin State and fly by private air charter to Yangon. Overnight Dusit Inya Lake Hotel. Time permitting there is a tour to the Downtown area and Scott Market.
Day 13: International Departures. If time permits we can arrange a visit to the War Graves at Htaukchan.
Also see tour packages in:
Asia Myanmar Outdoor: Water Drifter Boating and Sailing Cultural Journey