Pandaw takes guests off the beaten track with new Irrawaddy excursion

The Secret Of Burma’s Ancient Salay Unlocked By River Cruise Pioneer

Boutique river cruise pioneer Pandaw Expeditions Ltd has announced the introduction of a new excursion to the Pagan-era village of Salay, one of the most beautiful and least visited areas of Burma. The new excursion takes place on day three of the fascinating, ‘Mandalay Pagan Packet’ itinerary, which sails the mighty Irrawaddy River to Burma's ancient royal capitals.

Salay’s history is rooted in the twelfth and thirteenth centuries as an overspill of Old Pagan. To this day, Salay remains an active religious centre with almost fifty monasteries and many Pagan-era shrines to explore on foot, offering a truly peaceful insight into Buddhist culture. The shrines are amazingly well-preserved thanks to the devotion of the monks who tend to them.

“Visitors to Salay can truly claim to have stepped off the tourist trail,” claims Pandaw Founder, Paul Strachan. “Our Pandaw expedition managers are constantly carrying out reconnaissance on new routes we sail, in search of undiscovered treasures for inquisitive guests to explore. When we came across the secrets of Salay, I was so impressed by the wealth of history, preserved temples and sheer beauty, that I decided it was an essential addition to the Irrawaddy itinerary.”

This colourful, ancient village lies twenty-two miles from Pagan. Once a bustling trading port under British rule, Salay is now a sleepy village filled with colonial architectural treasures and timeless teak monasteries. The only remnants of the Burma Oil Company are the crumbling colonial houses in hues of peeling blues and greens which housed workers from 1886. 

One of many visual delights, is the Mann Paya Buddha, an outstanding relic. Legend has it that local villagers spotted the hollow, twenty-foot, wooden statue floating downriver after heavy flooding in 1888. The villagers dragged it ashore and coated it in gold lacquer. Nobody knows for certain who carved it, but its style suggests an origin of around 1300 AD. 

On the eastern riverbank of the village is another highlight; the eighteenth century Yout-Saun-Kyaung monastery, adorned with elaborate teak carvings and now a Burmese Cultural Heritage site.

For those interested in the literary heritage of Burma, Salay is the native town of the famous writer Salay U Pone Nya. There is a small museum dedicated to his writings during the time of the Myanmar Kings.

Salay House, a recently-restored trading company warehouse, built on the banks of the Irrawaddy in 1906, is now operated as a museum. Visitors will learn about British Colonial Burma and view many artifacts and antiques. There is an extensive garden area where guests can pause to enjoy classic Burmese tea and admire the view over the Irrawaddy. 

Pandaw’s seven-night ‘Mandalay Pagan Packet’ itinerary departs from Pagan to Mandalay (upstream) or from Mandalay to Pagan (downstream), from February to March 2017, from September 2017 to March 2018, and from July 2018 to April 2019. 

The ports of call between Pagan and Mandalay include Salay, Pakokku, Yandabo, Amarapura, Sagaing and Mingun. The ships that sail the itinerary are RV Kalaw Pandaw, RV Orient Pandaw and RV Kha Byoo Pandaw. 

Prices start from US$1,535 per person, based on twin share. The price includes airport or hotel transfers to/from the ship, excursions and entrance fees, guide services, gratuities to crew, main meals, locally made soft drinks, local beer and local spirits, jugged coffee and a selection of teas and tisanes, mineral water. International flights are additional. 

Pandaw is the longest running river cruise company in Southeast Asia, offering adventure and discovery on board its 16 luxurious small ships. Guests enjoy expeditions along the Mekong River through Vietnam and Cambodia, the Red River and Halong Bay in Northern Vietnam, the Upper Mekong through Laos and Thailand to China and the Irrawaddy and Chindwin rivers in Burma, as well as the coastal region of Burma with the Mergui Archipelago.

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