Postcard from Myanmar – Up a Lazy River

Pandaw II
Pandaw II
Pandaw 2 cruise boat on the Irrawaddy, one of the world’s great rivers north o Mandalay in Myanmar

North of Mandalay the Irrawaddy River spreads out wide and shallow, skirting huge sandbanks. I was travelling up it on Pandaw 2, a river cruise boat based on the old style boats that plied the river a century ago (having been sent out flat packed from Glasgow) with teak verandahs lined with rattan chairs reminiscent of an Agatha Christie Nile adventure. One soft, silky evening Pandaw 2 fetched up mid-river alongside a swathe of grey sand. The sun disappeared behind a gilded pagoda silhouette on the far shore while the crew carried the rattan chairs and tables on to the virgin sand. A fire pit was scooped out, chairs circled it, a bar appeared, dozens of lanterns were lit, lining a path from gangplank to fire, and music pealed out into the dark, warm air.

Finally, we passengers were led ashore along the lantern-lit path and settled in the chairs. Drinks and canapés were brought. I chose a chilled white Aythaya wine; a blend of Sauvignon Blanc and Chenin Blanc made at a Myanmar winery in the south of the Shan state. The white was throat-enlivening citrus with tones of grapefruit and gooseberry and went extremely well with the local curries served on Pandaw. The Aythaya white and its sister red had proved happy travelling companions as we travelled up the Irrawaddy. Tonight it was extra special, sipped by the firelight while gossiping about the day’s temple and market visits as one of the world’s great rivers slurped its way south all around us.

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