Why Travel the Chindwin River?
As far as rivers go the Chindwin River is a much more scenic river than the Irrawaddy. Bordering the river are steep banks of granite, rolling hills, and in many parts the forest comes right up to the river bank. You may even be lucky enough to spot monkeys jumping along the shoreline. There is considerably less traffic on the river and it is much less frequented by tourists, making it all the more magical for those who make the journey.
Monywa, the first major town along the Chindwin River, is a popular visitor stop on overland travels and is best known for the Thanboddhay Pagoda, an enormous Buddhist temple that happens to be covered with more than 500,000 images of Buddha. The town is also home to the largest Buddha likeness in Myanmar, measuring in at 100m long by 27m high and housed in the beautiful Bodi Tataung Pagoda. The best time to visit is during the late afternoon, as the light begins to change and glisten over the surrounding hills.
(Bodi Tataung Pagoda)
Travelling along the Chindwin by river boat is one of the best ways to experience the untouched, natural beauty of the riverscape. Whilst sailing you will pass through jungle-covered gorges, a site rarely seen in Myanmar and a very atmospheric setting. There are also ample rural villages to explore along the way. One such village is Kalewa, which is situated right at the foot of the Western Mountain Ranges. These glorious mountains loom over the town, the pagoda on the hill and the placid waters of the river, making for an exceptional photo opportunity.
(Map of Chindwin River)
Cruising further into the jungle-clad stretches of the Chindwin River you’ll arrive at Sitthaung. This is the perfect spot to relax in the tiny town and soak in the views of the emerald green paddy fields. Discover the bustling markets and traditional way of life, which remains largely unchanged for hundreds of years. There is also a village pagoda which offers picturesque views over the town and river.
(Paddy field at Sitthaung)
As you sail up the Chindwin River, misty blue and green hills rise high on the horizon, and near the village of Masein, a row of 28 whitewashed pagodas line the crest of a sloping hill and file down towards the river. The number signifies the 28 Buddhas that have brought enlightenment to the world. This is a sight best seen from the river and one which few tourists get to see.
(Masein from the Chindwin)
For something completely awe-inspiring and unique, visit the cave pagodas of Po Win Taung and Shwe Ba Taung. Carved out of the sandstone hills, this setting is breath-takingly special to behold, and a highlight of any trip to Myanmar. More ancient than the Thanboddhay Pagoda are the two cave pagoda complexes of Po Win Taung and Shwe Ba Taung, believed to be over 300 years old. There are almost one thousand caves in which both the Buddha images and the thrones were carved out of living rock. Covering the natural interior walls of the caves are exquisitely executed and ornately detailed 17th century frescoes. The entrances are rimmed with traditional motifs of vines and flowers and figures of mythical beings and traditional design elements are seen both carved and painted.
(Po Win Taung)
After sleepy riverine villages and towns, it is best to end your cruise with the splendour that is Bagan.
Bagan, known to be one of the greatest architectural sites in Asia, was the centre of Myanmar from the 11th to 13th centuries. During this time the monarchs built multitudes of massive stupas and pagodas, scores of which are still present on the shores of the Irrawaddy River. The majesty of Bagan, with more than 2000 red brick temples on a plain of the size of Manhattan Island, is one of the highlights of a Myanmar holiday that will soothe the eye of every traveller and is the perfect ending to a cruise of the Chindwin River.
Discover the Chindwin River in style on a 10 night cruise with Sanctuary Ananda. For more details, please contact our Myanmar experts on firstname.lastname@example.org (enquiries from Americas, Africa & Europe) or email@example.com (enquiries from Australia, New Zealand & Asia).