This journey on the Irrawaddy River is an attraction in itself and can be done in both directions. While we originally planned to travel from Mandalay to Bagan by boat (9 hours) our plans fell through leaving us with the next best option, the return journey travelling from Bagan to Mandalay by boat (11 hours) taking 2 hours longer travelling upriver. The boat leaves Bagan at 05.30am and it should arrive in Mandalay at roughly 16.30pm. We start from the Bagan pier area at 4.45am as advised, arriving to the boat in pitch-black. On-board we are quickly served breakfast; a snack box filled with croissant, banana, boiled egg, jam pastry and coffee. Not the best of breakfasts but we didn’t expect much. The journey begins from Bagan to Mandalay by boat.
The benefit of travelling early is to relax on deck as the sun rises on Irrawaddy River. Few scenes are so authentic and beautiful. The journey is well underway by sunrise roughly 30 minutes into the journey and we’re passing little more than small fishing settlements on the riverside. Every passenger could fit at the back of the boat in outdoor deck chairs although the odd few stay sheltered / sleeping up front.
Authentic Local Life
The landscape doesn’t change much, scattered farms come and go on the sandy and somewhat arid riverside, buffalo plough fields, kids play, small huts and wooden fishing boats, women trek here and there with agriculture bulks balanced on their heads. It is an idyllic simple life and they are views I’d happily watch daylong.
Killing Hunger and Boredom
For me the hardest part of the journey was the hunger. Lunch is served at roughly 11.ooam, 5 hours after breakfast, which for me is crazy. I try desperately to beat hunger with a big bag of sunflower seeds from my backpack (and obviously fail). There wasn’t anything else to offer on-board for our journey and when we are fed lunch it is a choice between a plate of fried rice or fried noodles, no more. I advise to bring snacks for the journey or perish. Fortunately they do have Myanmar beer on-board ($3) and free water. At least we didn’t feel the need to kill boredom and when not supping in the scenery we hide in a sheltered spot below deck looking out over the river, drinking beer and ‘working’. Fanfan edits photos on laptop and I blog about ‘Sunsets and Prostitutes‘ on iPad.
Arrival at Mandalay
The scheduled arrival was 16.30 from Bagan to Mandalay. We arrive at 17.15. Late but not so bad as journeys like these can be unpredictable. The views as we arrive to Mandalay are equally as impressive; hilltop pagodas, bustling harbours and unique riverside living. We disembark at a simple wooden jetty next to fishing boats and locals washing and drying their clothes. For forwarding to Mandalay we find no problem as local taxis and tuk-tuks pester us from the moment we set foot on dry land, not too pushy though. The main road is a quick minute walk where more taxis will be waiting. We pay $10 to the Mandalay city centre and tourists areas which was pricey for the not-so-far journey. $5 maybe a more realistic price.
15 thoughts on “Bagan to Mandalay by Boat (Myanmar)”
Hi! I am planning on doing this journey and I was just wondering a few things…there are a few different boats that do this trip, do you remember the name of your particular ferry? Do the boats also have bathrooms (I hope so for a 12 hour journey!)
Hi Lori. I honestly can’t remember the name as we booked through the hotel, but they definitely have toilets 🙂 if I come across the name I’ll let you know.
Hi Allan! Did you get sea sick or got dizzy during the whole boat trip? thanks.
Hi Gregory. It’s all very calm. My wife would get sea sick quite a bit with travel and she was 100% fine with it.
Hi there Very interested in this discussion. We are going to Myanmar this November and was originally thinking of flying Bagan to Mandalay as we are short of time. However, various reasons now we are looking at other options and boat is coming out as a favourite. Did you book ahead (we live in Australia) or can you easily book once you are in Yangon? It will be high season I think.
Sorry Val. I missed this 🙁 Hope your trip went well. We didn’t book ahead and organised it with our hotel a day or two before.
Hi Allan .. would you recommend this trip for family with toddlers? My major concern is safety.
I think it should be fine. I have heard of the boats becoming stuck but this causes delays rather than dangers. It maybe best to check the height of the river during your visit as it changes at different times of the year. Best of luck. A
no way. i was there. its only for Young single travller!!!
are you not tired to answer all this silly Q here? .did you not get seasick on boat? can we book ticket there? is there a bathroom on boat? men. who are those People asking such Q
It pays the bills
Hi Allan, May I know the cost of boat trip? Thanks.