The Irrawady river in Myanmar (formerly known as Burma) is the country’s largest river flowing from North to South and also a commercial waterway. Yes, the country flourishes along its banks. What better way to experience Myanmar. Towards the latter part of the Monsoon, we embarked on a 3 night cruise on the river on board The Strand.
The cruise begins from the Amarapura township in Mandalay city. Amarapura was one of the capitals of Myanmar. You are initiated straight away to experience a pride of Myanmar, The U-Bein bridge.
The bridge is named after a gentleman of the same name who served as a clerk to the Mayor of Amarapura. Facts and History behind the bridge
- Bridge is over 160 years old, measures 1.57 kilometers
- Built with over 1000 teak wood pillars over Taungthaman Lake
- U Bein Bridge connects to the village of Taung Tha Man Inn (Yadanar Bon University) to the east and Htan Taw to the west
- The planks of teak that make up the surface of the bridge were taken from the old royal palace of Inwa, a former Burmese capital, that had been razed a number of times
In the past, Taungthaman Lake was a natural reservoir that would fill during monsoon season along with the Irrawaddy River’s rising water levels, and see waters recede in the summer months.
Given the extreme humidity, wear light clothing, a sun hat and of course plenty of the locally used sunscreen – The Thanaka. A round trip on the bridge (2 miles/3.2 kms) by foot is free of charge and offers a fine glimpse in to the daily lives of people living around the lake. These days with tourist influx, a number of joints selling souveniours and local snacks have come up. Yet, the place still feels authentic while the people are slowly discovering that that their country is now on the world map.
Floods have prompted replacement of wooden pillars with Concrete ones at certain places. Presently undergoing conservation works – Department of Architecture at Mandalay Technological University, the Department of History at Yadanapon University and officials from the Mandalay Department of National Museum and Library in cooperation with three wood conservation experts from Germany and an expert in conservation management.
Cleanliness efforts near the U-Bein bridge – Phyo Wai Kyaw/The Myanmar Times
U-Bein bridge brings an assortment of experiences. Cheerful youngsters wanting to take a snap with you, tourist souvenir sellers, photographers, local snack sellers and of course people who go about their lives caring two hoots of who is around them.
Travelling to Myanmar is now a breeze. Number of airlines fly in to Yangon with a single stop at any popular hub. Mandalay and Bagan are well connected from Yangon.
- China Southern, All Nippon, Bangkok Airways, Cathay Pacific, Singapore Airlines, Thai Airways among the carriers from the Asian and South east Asian region
- Qatar Airways and Emirates from the middle east
- Air India offers twice a week flight between Kolkata and Yangon on Saturdays and Mondays. Its a surprise that the two countries which share such a common heritage still dont have good direct connectivity.
Tourists can check visa requirements on The Myanmar eVisa website. This is a government website and one can apply online for an e-visa. Check out for countries for whom Visa is provided on arrival. Indians can now apply for visa upon arrival. A recent government order to this effect. However, as a travel best practice it is always wise to utilize the e-visa facility offered. One however has to be careful while entering the passport details in to the Visa application form. Mismatch very clearly results in deportation.
Cheer up! That is really a remote possibility. We will next explore the Amarapura township.