A trip aboard the mighty Anawrahta, cruising down the inimitable stretch of the Irrawaddy River between Mandalay and Bagan, seems like something out of a romantic, problematic, colonial-era fantasy we’d somewhat guiltily star in.
The 65-meter ship was built as a replica of a colonial period Brit paddle steamer, and each of the 23 cabins features both vintage English and Burmese details. It’s named after Anawrahta Minsaw, the 11th-century king credited with the founding of the Burmese nation.
The 10 basic cabins, called deluxe staterooms, seem pretty roomy. Each comes with its own private balcony and is largely crafted of repurposed teak. The details that stick out include hand-carved wood paneling, large windows to make the most of the river scenery at any time of day or night, and antiques and textiles that recall Myanmar’s golden age.
The color scheme juxtaposes rich woods with saffron, rich green, and pops of orange. If you’re looking to really splash out, splurge on one of the suites. The junior and executive suites feature baths overlooking the river, but it’s the two royal suites, with massive round jacuzzis on their own private terraces decked out with fine art, that really got us going.
The standard cruise for the Anawrahta is the “Myanmar’s Ancient Capitals Cruise,” a three-day, two-night affair that starts at (womp womp, time to kill our fantasies) — US$1,380 per person.
Guests board at Mandalay Quay and make their first stop later that day at Sagaing. They will be shown an unusual cantilever bridge from the 1930s before jumping into a horse-drawn carriage to check out a teak monastery before chowing down on a picnic lunch at what organizers call a “secret, sacred place.”
The next day, the ship stops at a riverside village called Yanderbo where guests can try a unique form of Burmese pottery-making. That night, a formal dress party happens back on the ship. Gin and cigars are said to feature heavily.
On the final day, the Anawrahta docks at an old trading port called Pakkoku. Here, guests will be taken to a local market and to a tobacco farm where they can buy cigars to puff back onboard. Later that day, they’ll say goodbye to the Anawrahta and disembark in Bagan.
When they are not checking out cool bridges or buying smokeables, cruisers can pass their boating hours at the ship’s opulent pool and sun deck, with oversize loungers and light colors to deflect the sun. The ship also features its own floating spa, the Thazin Spa, where guests can order massage, manicures, pedicures, steam treatments, facials, and more.
Meals can be taken in the staterooms or at the river boat’s restaurant, Hintha Hall, which is decorated in grand old Bagan style and features classic Burmese and Western dishes.
If looking at all that river water makes cruisers thirsty, they can visit Kipling’s Bar on the terrace deck. Pulling up an old-school caned stool and ordering up a classic cocktail of yesteryear would be a mighty fine way to pass an evening while watching the moonlight shimmer off the Irrawaddy… if you’ve got the dough to throw down, that is.