The difference in Burma

Mandalay fisherman BurmaThe difference between a disaster and one of your best travel days can come down to the littlest things. A helping hand from a few locals was all it took for a rough day in Burma to end in smooth sailing for former Intrepid group leader Ian ‘Swamp’ Marsh…

“Another perfect travel day unfolding on the mighty Ayeyarwaddy. We were heading back to Mandalay on our small riverboat after spending an adventurous and fun morning in the ancient capital of Mingun. The sun was out. Smiles and waves from other riverboats kept us on our toes, as the 40 minute journey back unfolded. What could go wrong?

After a short splutter, our tiny and somewhat the worse for wear motor ground to a halt, leaving us gently floating downstream past our intended stop. No one was in a hurry and we had another day and half to enjoy what we hadn’t seen in Mandalay. What to do?

Our smiling boatman, apologising and working on the engine simultaneously, waved to a few passing craft who were ominously converging on us – a full 6 of them! Lots of shouting and advice shared, suggestions and directions given and ignored. A community was forming here in the middle of this wide expanse of river. A lady jumped on and offered us all tea and some snacks. A father and son beckoned us to “jump ship” and head back to shore with him. But we were all way too relaxed and having too much fun enjoying the shared hospitality and smiles.

After about half-an-hour the motor turned, kicking and spluttering back to life, and we headed back to the jetty. We had trouble docking, only because the many and varied other craft had followed our riverboat, eager to enjoy the day with us. We all ended up sharing lunch on the riverside and what would be an inconvenience in most places, ended up being one of our many trip highlights.”

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* photo by Katherine Neumann – Intrepid Photography Competition

About the author

Sue Elliot - Like many of us, Sue contracted a serious travel bug at an early age. She's visited over 90 countries in search of a cure, but her wanderlust just seems to get worse. Thankfully at Intrepid Travel she's amongst people who understand the affliction and since 1998 Sue has enjoyed being our blog and newsletter editor. Here you'll find helpful travel advice and inspiring tales from Sue and other Intrepid travellers.

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