511px-Shwedagon-Pano.jpgI had to borrow this picture of Yangon’s Shwedagon Pagoda (thanks to Wikimedia Commons and Ralf-André Lettau) but by next weekend I should have captured a few of my own.
Tonight I’ll be flying to Singapore where, on Saturday, I will board Voyages to Antiquity’s Aegean Odyssey for a 13-night cruise to Burma – or Myanmar if you prefer.
The ship will arrive in Yangon (Rangoon) next Thursday evening; providing the authorities deal with the paperwork in time I’m hoping to be able to go ashore for something to eat. Over the next couple of days I’ll be taking an included tour of the city, and an extra-cost excursion by air to Mandalay.
Should be fascinating. The country’s ruling military regime is slackening its controls, thanks partly to the relentless campaigning of the redoubtable Aung San Suu Kyi, and western visitors are being welcomed to a land that has been off-limits for years. Barack Obama was there a couple of weeks ago, making the first visit to the nation by a serving US president.
With Myanmar hotels and the tourist infrastructure not yet up to western standards a visit by cruise ship would seem to be the best way to go, for now at least.
Voyages to Antiquity are among the first but other lines are set to follow next year, and there’s a growing river cruise trade on the Irrawaddy (Ayeyarwady).
Having travelled on Aegean Odyssey twice before in the Mediterranean I know I’m in for an interesting time. Journalist and former MP Martin Bell is among the impressive line-up of guest speakers on board and he will be joined by military historian Major Rodney Baldwin, environmental historian Dr Antoinette Mannion, natural therapist Elaine Williams, and author Justin Wintle.
We’ll also be visiting Kuala Lumpur, Phuket, Penang, and Malacca over the course of the next few days, with excursions by longtail boat, and to a brace of UNESCO World Heritage sites along the way.
There can’t be a better way to round off an amazing year, not to mention successfully avoiding the Royal baby frenzy and the domestic preparations for Christmas (sorry, Mrs Greybeard). At least I should be able to pick up some interesting presents to put under the tree when I return.