At sunrise early morning tea will be served on the upper deck, followed by breakfast. After breakfast we start our shore excursion in Inwa. The old capital, known as Ava in the West, is situated at the confluence of the mighty Ayeyarwady and its tributary Myitnge (Small River). This city has been the capital of Myanmar’s various kingdoms for more than four hundred years. In the In 1839 Inwa was struck by a powerful earthquake that flattened most of the Royal City and it was never rebuilt. Today only a few pagodas in the middle of paddy fields bear witness to its old splendor. After the earthquake the court moved to Amarapura, Bodawhpayas capital, but up to the very end of the Burmese kingdom in 1885 the royal court was referred to as ‘court of Ava’ – in Amarapura as well as in Mandalay, the last capital. A horse cart is waiting for us and takes us to our first destination: Bagayar monastery, a truly grand building erected under king Bagyidaw in 1834. It’s one of the few buildings that survived the earthquake of 1839. Astoundingly, the Nanmyin Tower (dubbed Leaning Tower of Inwa ), one of the highest structures in Inwa, survived too, even though it is inclined a little bit since then… Maha Aung Mye Bonzan monastery is a brick building that copies the traditional wooden architecture. It too was damaged badly by the earthquake but rebuilt in 1873. A part of the city wall is still standing, the most impressive is the Northern gate which was called ‘Hair washing ceremony Gate’ (Gaung Say Daga). During the New Years Festival the king would wash his hair at this place to welcome the arrival of his colleague Thagyarmin, the king of gods.
Return to the ship. While we have lunch, we sail up the Ayeyarwady River to Sagaing to see the myriad of monasteries and pagodas which are home to more than 5.000 monks and 3.000 nuns. Pick up by truck from jetty and go to Tilawkaguru cave temple with wonderful murals. Continue to Umin-Thonze Pagoda with its unique corridor containing over 40 Buddha statues. From there we have a fantastic view over the hills of Sagaing. After a short ride we reach Sun U Ponnyashin Pagoda, the oldest one in Sagaing, dating from the early 14. century A.D. It offers a nice view over the Ayeyarwady valley, all the way to Mandalay Hill in the North. Finally, we can watch the sunset over the Ayeyarwady River from the pagoda’s terrace. Return to the ship, dinner aboard or barbecue at a sandbank (water level allowing).
M.S. HINTHA proceeds upriver to Mingun (appr. 15 miles) and while you are having breakfast you pass the city of Mandalay. Mingun is a small village but home to some extraordinary pagodas. King Bodawhpaya, the most powerful king of the last dynasty, wanted to build the highest stupa in the world, the Mantara Gyi, measuring an astounding 170 meters. His death in the year 1819 ended his dream and his successor, King Bagyidaw, ordered to stop the construction work when the pagoda was half finished as the financial burden on the country was too heavy. This proved to be a very wise idea: 1839 a heavy earthquake ripped the structure apart. It destroyed the giant guardian lions at the entrance, too.
The small Pondaw Pagoda is a model of the Mantara Gyi and the nearby Settawya (footprint) Pagoda was the first pagoda in Mingun, finished in 1811. It houses a giant marble footprint of the Buddha which was intended for the Mantara Gyi. Miraculously, the temple bell that was already cast, survived undamaged and can be seen to this very day – it weighs 90 tons and is said to be the largest in the world… Just opposite the bell is a Buddhist infirmary with very friendly old people who welcome foreigners. Most of the buildings have been donated by the trustee of the Haw brothers, who invented the world famous tiger balm… A visit to the beautiful Myatheindan Pagoda (a.k.a. Hsinbyume Pagoda), a copy of Mt. Meru, the mythical center of the Buddhist universe rounds up the visit. Return to the ship for lunch and sail downstream to Inwa where your airport transfer is waiting for you to take you to Mandalay airport.