Ayeyarwady River

Irrawaddy River or Ayeyarwady from the source to the delta

The water comes down from the mountains of Kachin State, this are offshoots of the Tibetan Himalaya. Waters from eternal snow move through the whole country and sink into the Indian Ocean or Andaman Sea via a wide delta.
The icy mountains of the north with high peaks reaching around 6000m, deliver the water. Beside of the water this could be a excellent mountain tourism destination in Kachin State, could even be the first and only winter sport playground in South East Asia within a snow and glacier setting.

But as usual until now there is absolute no infrastructure, no  accommodation, hotels etc., at trekking tours into this area the preferred place to stay is camping tent or some local huts, meansreal rustic vacation.The mountain streams pictured here are the real sources of this great river. To define a the real geographic starting point the confluence of the Mali River and N’Mai River has been set as the source.

The before mentioned streams are nurtured by are myriads of smaller ones coming down from the immense glaciers of the northern mountains which are the real sources of the Irrawaddyand also of the Chindwin which are a bit more to the west.

Irrawaddy SourceIcy Mountains

Irrawaddy River SourcesMyanmar Mountain Climbing and Camping


Irrawaddy Burmese      Pictures    Source    Delta     Flotilla        Cruise

The Ayeyarwady as it is known in Burmese language is also a great river cruise destination. TheIrrawaddy Flotilla Company which was run by some Scottish during colonial times is not anymore, sandbanks moved in since then and navigation the water today over long distances is only possible with small ships.

This is one of the great waterways

of the world to be explored by gliding serenely on a cruise up the narrowing waters around the Hlaing island, the water is slow moving, brown in color and large. Our travel leads eastwards and after to the north.

Irrawaddy Sources

Yangon the capital already seems far away and the true Burma is unfolding before the eyes. The air blows free here over the wide fields, green with the young rice ; the little villages deploy on the water’s edge. Great panoramas are waiting. The top cruise tour  is  from Bagan to Mandalay and vice versa with the ‘Road to Mandalay’ and other cruise ships, it open up exotic sights and sounds.

Ayeyarwady or Irrawaddy River at Bagan

Ayeyarwady at Bagan with Bupaya Pagoda

The Ayeyarwady is Burma’s lifeline

where the ships move, the people take their water, wash in the morning and late afternoon plus more. Some ships like double decker plying the delta routes are a legacy of the Flotilla Company, Glasgow, Scotland whose fleet plied the more than 8,000 kilometers of navigable waters of Chindwin, Thanlwin, Sittang and the Ayeyarwady long time ago.

When the British launched their second campaign against Burma the East India Company supplied four cargo steamers and a few barges to  be used on the Ayeyarwady in the war, check the Irrawaddy Map.The waterway became more important when the British took control of lower Burma and established an administration which used these ships and barges for their own purposes which mainly was passenger and rice transportation.

This is a mighty river and has an enormous importance for the country as it can be seen here at Bagan.

Irrawaddy at Bagan

Irrawaddy river at Bagan

A team of Scots took over the small fleet during colonial times and established the ‘Irrawaddy Flotilla Company‘ in 1865. Initially the Flotilla company operated from Yangon to Thayetmyo a garrison town 350 miles away which marked the northern outpost of the British colony. At that time many Irrawaddy dolphins where still seen, they are almost gone today.


Recognizing the value

of the waterway especially to the agricultural sector, since everything was moved on this stream and the other big waterways such as the Chindwin, a tributary.

King Mindon granted permission in 1868 to extend the operation up to Mandalay. By 1885 all was under British control and the Irrawaddy Flotilla Company? extended their routes to Bhamo.

Irrawaddy river east of Shwebo

Cruise east of Shwebo

Myanmar River Ferries

Car ferry crossing

By the time World War II began, the company managed a fleet of some 600 vessels. The Flotilla Company ceased operations by 1948 and the fleet was taken over by the Inland Water Transport Department of the government (IWT).Of the 353 mechanically powered vessels and ferries operated 292 have exceeded their specified serviceable life.In the case of engine-less vessels, 184 of 266 exceeded normal service and 52 of 69 pontoons, piers and jetties had also outlived usual service periods by the end of the former century.Older vessels that should have been retired years ago, are gradually being replaced

slow sailing boat

slow sailing boat

by larger ones bought from China or built locally.slush  to the water edge, the headmen makes for himself a wooden causeway.Long boats lie at anchor like ships of the Vikings, or drawn up ashore mingling in the landscape with the gardens and the palms and the brown house-tops and we enjoy this unique trip. The spires of monasteries are like travel marks in the air, monks go by in small canoes under a nimbus of yellow glory shed by their umbrellas. The fishers spread their net’s over the water, sailing-boats slowly move by and the white gleams of their sails flash over the country-side as they sweep along their waterway. This is a prime Asian tourism and travel destination, but most people don’t know this, actually until now one of the main problem is there is no suitable infrastructure, means adequate hotels, river resorts and other accommodations, could be a great tour but something is missing, although it looks very beautiful and a little mysterious, for the creeks lie low below the level of the fields, the sails are the only pattern the air and some fishermen try their luck.Some banks are broken down into the water and vast plantations of toddy palm’s, whose green and orange blades curve and shimmer under every breath of the passing wind. A full hour is accomplished before the ship gets clear of the suburbs of Yangon, and into the heart of the country, near the city itself there is a different picture, scarcely less attractive.

Great cruises pass Sagaing Hills with Pagodas and temples

Mandalay River Portat MandalayMyanmar river at Bagan

Irrawaddy at  Bagan near Sagaingnorth of Mandalay

River business

Rice boats

Irrawaddy delta rice boats


pulses there with the life of a great city bordering the Andaman Sea. Cargo-boats heavily laden, move slowly ; sampans move up and down the channel, bobbing on the waves like gulls ; rice mills sit like amphibians at the edge of the water, their gabled roofs glistening with yellow dust.Clouds of dark smoke trail away from their lofty chimneys, dun cataracts of husk pour incessantly from their waste-pipes to see the stuff floating helplessly away to sea. From the mills the banks slope down to where the peingaws and the gnaws ride buoyantly at anchor, and a living stream of men flows to and from between. Very swiftly the rice is borne away from their holds, the rice boats are packed and slowly moves downstream to unload the cargo into a storage, along the waterway some bridges orchards and vegetables, rice field and plenty of people can be seen.<h4le=”line-height: 18px;=”” margin-left:2px”=””>

Over our cruise

gleam the golden bell-top of the Shwedagon, serene, unfold themselves, each with its inner significance.

The villages, each like a little ruddy-purple island in a vast wind-ruffled delta. Creeks leads inland to other centers of life and vistas of shining palms and pagodas and winding water.

Gradually the face of the landscape changes, passing slowly from a tidal creek to an inland water. No longer does my vision range over vast deltaic spaces. The mightiest trees, dark and splendid, clothe both banks.

Miles of glistening plantings follow its curves, and hedges of tall grass wave over the lips of the water, sometimes the view opens to a village at the banks.

There is, in spite of tropic exuberance, a regularity and order in the scenery which give it a park-like character is a great tropical experience, the only real problems are the mosquitoes an other insects.

Myanmar River Banks

Ayeyarwady Banks at this Myanmar river

Cyclone Nagis

Cyclone Nagis

Irrawaddy delta at monsoon

Delta at monsoon

Because of the nature of constantly shifting sand in the rivers only smaller ships can navigate. During British colonial times the network with bigger river ships was widespread and maintained but after they left all this went down and never come up again and the country was virtually flattened.The river maintenance started again a few years ago with the introduction of a cruisebetween Mandalay and Bagan, this segment can be served by bigger vessels such as ‘The Road to Mandalay’ which was a former passenger ship on the River Rhine, there are some more old pax ships running this route for the tourist business.


Irrawaddy Delta

Sunset in Irrawaddy Delta

Sunset in the Delta

Irrawaddy Delta

Canoes floating

Irrawaddy Tributary

Tributary stream upcountry

Irrawaddy Fishermen

Fishermen try their luck

at Sagaing

At Sagaing and pagodas

at Mandalay

The river at Mandalay during monsoon

Irrawaddy deltaIrrawaddy delta ferrypagoda at irrawaddy delta

The muddy water

passes Burmese villages with palms and pagodasappear at intervals between the water and the lines of trees. As the ship float by little children dance and clap their hands and mimic the chant of the leadsman as he calls the deeps of the channel.

The more curious of the village folk come out of their houses to look at the passing show and make remarks about the tourists on the steamer. Rice-boats are slowly moving, high out of the water, lie at anchor,

Delta at Pathein or Bassein

Delta at Pathein or Bassein

Buffaloes in the river

Buffaloes in the river near Mandalay

Ayeyarwady Delta at Syriam

Irrawaddy Delta at Syriam