The Irrawaddy River—the long and lyrical waterway stretching from the Himalayas to the Andaman Sea—inspired Rudyard Kipling to write of “spicy garlic smells” and “tinkly temple-bells.” Still the lifeblood of modern-day Myanmar, the Irrawaddy and its intoxicating sights, scents, and sounds can be experienced aboard the new Strand Cruise (thestrandcruise.com), a luxury riverboat that made its inaugural voyage last December. Three- and four-night itineraries take the cruiser’s 56 passengers between Bagan and Mandalay, with stops along the way at temples, stupas, jade markets, and monasteries. While aboard, guests can sip Burmese wine at the bar and swim in the top-deck pool. In the 28 staterooms, floor-to-ceiling windows and Juliet balconies ensure many a Kiplingesque observation on the road to (or from) Mandalay.
Beginning this month, the cruise can be paired with a stay at the boat’s newly remodeled sibling property, the Strand Yangon (hotelthestrand.com). Opened in 1901, the colonial gem is as much a landmark in Yangon as the iconic Shwedagon Pagoda. Its 6-month restoration, which is scheduled for completion on November 15, is polishing every inch, from the marble floors and chandeliers to the antiques that date to the grande dame’s first days. Don’t miss the revamped Sarkies Bar, a social center in the city for more than a century.