Arrive by river and stay on a cruise ship – still the best way to visit Burma

//Arrive by river and stay on a cruise ship – still the best way to visit Burma

shwedagon.jpgMy father travelled to Myanmar almost 70 years before I did. Except it was called Burma then and was a British colony which had been occupied by the Japanese during World War 2.
He, too, arrived in the Yangon River. On a troop ship from India rather than a cruise ship carrying passengers alternating their time between educational talks and exciting excursions.
Instead of tying up at a berth in close to Rangoon’s Pansodan ferry terminal (below), as Voyage to Antiquity’s Aegean Odyssey did, he transferred to a landing craft which then hit a mine in the water. A fellow soldier was killed in the explosion.
Like me, he marvelled at the golden splendour of the Shwedagon Pagoda (top). Unlike him, I didn’t have to blow up any buildings during my few days in the city.
Much has changed since those days in 1945. Freed from Japanese occupation, Burma gained independence from Britain in 1948 and became subject to military rule after a coup in 1962. Its new leaders changed the country’s name to Myanmar and were ruthless in putting down any anti-government protests.
An international arms embargo and trade sanctions against the country remained in force until after recent democratic elections which have seen Aung San Suu Kyi becoming part of the government. Now tourists are free to enter (most of) the country and Myanmar has been added to countless bucket lists. Even Barack Obama turned up last month, becoming the first serving US president to visit the country.
However, there is still a chronic shortage of hotels meeting Western standards and it will be some time before the international chains can meet the demand.
Until they catch up, the best way to visit the country will be to travel by cruise ship – although opportunities are few and far between. Azamara Journey arrived shortly after Aegean Odyssey left; because it is a larger vessel, it had to use the commercial port 90 minutes drive from Yangon instead of berthing in the heart of the city.
Aegean Odyssey will be back there in February, on an identical itinerary to the one I have just completed. Fares for the 16-night trip, which include a two-night hotel stay in Singapore, start at £2,845.
And my father? Having survived that mine explosion in 1945, he will be celebrating his 90th birthday at the end of January.

By | 2017-06-15T15:59:41+00:00 24 December 2012|Cruise Destinations|0 Comments

About the Author:

John Honeywell is a travel writer specialising in cruise ships and cruise travel. Winner of CLIA UK's Contribution to Cruise award 2017.

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