Brand new and brilliant – The Sanctuary Ananda cruise on the Irrawaddy, Burma!

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The Sanctuary Ananda, which first set sail in November 2014, was custom built using traditional materials by local craftsman. The ship boasts 21 contemporary and luxurious suites, plus a sundeck and outdoor pool, to take you down the Irrawaddy River (also known as the Ayeyarwady River) in pure style. The result is the perfect combination of local culture and luxury.

The Sanctuary Ananda was named in tribute to a Buddhist temple that can be found in Bagan. It was built in the Thein Phyu shipyard in Yagon, which in turn supported the local economy. Following the completion of the ship, U Soe Naing, one of the brothers behind the construction, stated that ‘The goal of Buddhism is to get to Nat Pan Na (a peaceful place). This is achieved through living a good life and meditation, a philosophy that is reflected in the ship.’

Tempted to go on the Sanctuary Ananda yourself? Check out our Sanctuary on the Irrawaddy itinerary – 10 days from £2,355pp. Get in touch with Nathan by calling 020 3111 9757. Having recently travelled to Burma, he is filled with ideas to fuel you with inspiration for your trip.

Fishermen in tiny wooden crafts haul in their catch, stilted bamboo villages dot the river banks and children run alongside waving their hands in greeting, flashing ear to ear smiles: life along the Irrawaddy River in Burma is a refreshing throw back in time. On board the Sanctuary Ananda, you get a real insight into their way of life and see parts that you would have easily bypassed on land when running from main sight to the next. Floating down the river was the highlight of my recent trip to Burma.

Children play in the river, using the guide rope from the ship as their volley ball net

Children play in the Irrawaddy River, using the guide rope from the ship as their volley ball net

The Sanctuary Ananda is a luxury cruise ship with all mod cons and beautiful suites. It is surreal to be stood on a fantastic sun deck with a pool to cool off in and a waiter at your beckon call always happy to supply you with Mandalay ice teas right within the action of day to day life: to one side you can seeing a family at work and to the other children playing using the cruise guide rope as an impromptu volley ball net.

Imagine Asia specialist Nathan meeting the local villagers

Imagine Asia specialist Nathan meeting some of the local villagers

The cruise not only allows you to watch the stunning countryside pass by, but you also get the opportunity to hop off and stop by to meet some of the local villagers. Part of the money paid for the cruise goes back into improving the lives of these communities and so it is great to see how the funding from these trips has improved the lives of the locals. Plus, they are a massive fan of selfies, so bring your phone or camera along for them.

Spending time with the Burmese locals

Spending time with the Burmese locals

You will also get to know some of the characters on board the boat during your stay. There is an extremely knowledgeable guide who will point out all the sights along the route. Not only did the chef cook the most incredible food, but also provided demonstrations of making his dishes so we could replicate at home. And up on the sun deck you have a cheeky barman, who loves the British sense of humour, always ready with a cooling beer.

A local Burmese chef delivering cooking demonstrations

A local Burmese chef delivering cooking demonstrations aboard the Sanctuary Ananda

On route to Bagan we stopped off at some iconic sights such as U-Bein Bridge – a trip to Burma would not be complete without a picture of this. The cruise also uses some imaginative ways of getting you from the boat to the sights: an ox cart ride being my favourite. To keep you busy after the tours, you will have some demonstrations on how to wear the local Longjii and preparing Tanaka (the gold coloured local sun block), which your guides are more than happy to assist in applying.

Applying Tanaka to protect from the sun

Applying Tanaka to protect from the sun

As we approach Bagan and the number of temples increases, lying down in the sunshine watching the Ancient World of Burma roll by was quite an incredible experience. When we dock, our knowledgeable guides talk us through the history, followed by watching the sunset from on top of a temple with the dust strewed atmosphere making the photos almost magical – a perfect finale to what had been a fantastic day.

Here's Nathan watching the sun set with a stunning view across the temples

Here’s Nathan watching the sun set with a stunning view across the temples

One of the iconic sights of temples across Bagan

One of the iconic sights of temples across Bagan

As the trip approaches its end, saying farewell to the team is harder than you think – they made me feel so welcome on board. The cruise was an amazing highlight in a stunning country that is a must to all people who love to travel and love South East Asia.

 

 

 

Tempted to go on the Sanctuary Ananda yourself? Check out our Sanctuary on the Irrawaddy itinerary – 10 days from £2,355pp. Get in touch with Nathan by calling 020 3111 9757. Having recently travelled to Burma, he is filled with ideas to fuel you with inspiration for your trip.

 

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