The Irrawaddy

The Irrawaddy River
Myanmar’s most important river, the Irrawaddy, flows from north to south through the country. It is a commercial waterway beginning at the confluence of the N'mai and Mali Rivers. It finally drains into the Andaman Sea after its long journey. It has a nickname, ‘’The Road to Mandalay’’ in reference to Rudyard Kipling’s poem and it has been of enormous importance for trading since as early as the 6th Century when it was also the best way to travel throughout the region.The British colonialists found the river invaluable and it is no less important today.

Myanmar tour packages include the Irrawaddy River whose canals have provided irrigation to farmers throughout the country who could thereby grow the rice that feeds the Nation. The Delta is the most fertile part of Myanmar.

Mandalay sits on the Irrawaddy River and is one of the highlights of a Myanmar holiday. Made famous in song and poem, it was largely destroyed in World War II so today’s city is largely reconstructed. However it does contain a very important religious site, Maha Myat Muni Paya, a golden 4 metre high Buddha richly decorated with jewels. There are many temples and monasteries to visit as well so overseas travellers inevitably visit the City and see the river as its course flattens and heads towards the Delta.

Irrawaddy travel guide

Inevitably the Irrawaddy Riverhas been a resource that the Government has used to good effect. There are dams for the creation of hydro-electric power though one of the consequences of change has been the threat to the Irrawaddy dolphin and the Irrawaddy river shark, both endangered. Other fauna live along its length though the days of the tiger are effectively over.

The flow varies greatly throughout the year. Monsoon rains make the Irrawaddy Riverflow quicker between May and October while melting snow and glaciersalso make an impact. In Mandalay for example there can be a range of 2 metres between high water in August and low water in February. The commercial importance of the Irrawaddy Rivercannot be underestimated as it remains one of the best ways to move goods and raw materials. The change in levels has to be taken into account by the river traffic.

Myanmar travel packages sometimes include a river cruise. Mandalay is just one of the main attractions on the river. The reason why more and more people are undertaking Myanmar travelis to see Bagan, the former home of 20,000 temples and pagodas and still with excess of 2,000 even today.Bagan has yet to receive due recognition for its qualities but everyone who has visited certainly realises that it should be ranked as highly as more famous places in South East Asia such as Angkor.

Often one of the best ways to see and enjoy rural life is from the water. There are villages dotted along the river with fishing being an important activity. The journey between Bagan and Mandalay takes about three days but travellers could well spend that much time in either city in addition.

The Irrawaddy map