Myanmar on the Scenic Aura
21st Mar 19 -8th Apr 19
We have been on 3 previous river cruises with Scenic. The trip to Cambodia and Vietnam (see my previous review) was so good that we thought it could not be beaten. But the 18 day to Myanmar (including land addition) equalled, if not surpassed, that trip.
It really was difficult to find any ‘niggles’ so I’ll concentrate on the ‘exceptionals’.
1 – Myanmar is a truly fascinating country. It is about the poorest in South East Asia. Most people may live without electricity, running water or mains sewerage, but we didn’t see one person or child who looked malnourished or badly cared for. Indeed quite the opposite. Everyone was extremely friendly welcoming you with broad smiles. Many wanted their photo taken with my wife who has blue eyes – uncommon in Myanmar.
Apparently many people have been put off visiting due to the bad publicity. This trip doesn’t go anywhere near the areas affected We felt very safe walking around on our own.
My advice would be COME TO MYANMAR whilst it is still relatively undiscovered by Western tourists.
2 – The Scenic Aura is a pretty new addition to the fleet. Very modern and functional. Only has 22 suites – so maximum 44 pax. There were only 39 on our trip which included a few ‘singles’. Many Australians – but 6 other Brits + Canadians.
Even the WiFi worked reasonably well. We had a Grande Deluxe Suite which was very spacious. Even had an area for my laptop that my wife referred to as The Office.
The Hotel Director – JOYCE – was particularly good.
Food was to a high standard. ‘Egg man’ always there for fresh fried eggs at breakfast.
3 – The standard of the pre and post cruise hotels was exceptional, in particular the Sanctum on Inle Lake and the Melia in Yangon. Truly ‘Top of the Range’ hotels.
4 – Difficult to pick out which excursions we enjoyed the most. But special mention to:
- Pindaya Caves and Cookery course at Inle Lake
- Longtail boats around Inle Lake visiting the local markets and houses on stilts.
- Visiting some of the 4000+ temples of Bagan by horse and cart
- Visiting the monastic school in Sagaing where the children all sang to us before we had to sing ‘Old MacDonald’ to them!
- BBQ dinner with kite flying and live music on a sandbank in the Irrawaddy.
- Visiting the pure white Hsinbyume Pagoda in Mingun - Myanmar’s Taj Mahal
- Visiting the U-Bein wooden bridge at sunset in a sampan. Scenic had champagne for us to enjoy as we watched the sunset.
5 – Our guide Sai San was exceptional – both knowledgeable and personable. Everything went like clockwork. We were particularly impressed with the baggage handling on the two internal flights. Put your bags outside your room and subsquently saw them inside your next hotel room.
6 – I see some other reviews complain about the 7 hour coach trip from Yangon to join Scenic Aura at Pyay. The journey itself was quite interesting – in particular the stop at the Allied War Cemetery. The hours seemed to pass quickly and the coach used was very comfortable and spacious.
As I remarked above, Myanmar is one of the poorest countries in Asia. So in many areas visited you won’t get ‘Western’ restrooms, the roads will be dusty and uneven, the markets are busy and smelly. You will witness many scenes of extreme poverty - like women washing clothes and their babies in the dirty river. Men unloading heavy bags of rice for 8 hours non stop in temperatures of 100F+ for a few dollars a day. There are lots of stray dogs in the streets.
You will often have to clamber up a steep and dusty river bank to and from Scenic Aura.
For us this just added to the experience. But clearly if you are going to get upset about this don’t go!
All-in-all an excellent holiday which I would thoroughly recommend.
Extremely spacious. Over 450 sq ft. Modern decor. Beds v comfortable. Loved the separate 'office' area where I set up my lap top. Air con adjustable separately in three areas. You could also turn it off which we did when we went to sleep. Bathroom well equipped. Good shower.
Only minor 'niggle' was that the light in the corridor to the bathroom was movement controlled. So if you got up to visit the bathroom in the night all the lights came on! There was no OFF switch. Clearly this is a common problem as it was solved by our butler covering the sensor with tape. Problem then was it was dark all the time! Clearly a design fault. But, hey, if that's the only thing we can think to complain of, I think that says it all!