Mindfulness in Myanmar Cruise OCT 7 2017

March 14, 2017

– Belmond Road to Mandalay introduces mindfulness cruises in Myanmar, taking passengers along the spiritually enriching Ayeyarwady River on expert-led journeys of self- discovery.  Guests can choose from a seven-night round trip cruise, departing Bagan 7th October 2017 or three night ‘taster’ cruise departing Mandalay on 11th October 2017.

In a country renowned for its golden-topped temples, monasteries and hidden pagodas, where meditation is a way of life; there is no better voyage to digitally detox and pursue inner fulfillment.

Bringing the experience to life through one-to-one coaching and group Tibetan yoga and meditation sessions is Brian Hilliard and Shannon van Staden of Mindfulness Journeys – who between them have over 40 years of experience studying, practicing and teaching mindfulness to all ages and levels of ability. A true pioneer and early-adopter, Brian is a long-serving advocate of mindfulness and began teaching well before it became a fashionable phenomenon.

Belmond Road to Mandalay provides the ideal environment for participation in mindfulness. The peaceful indoor Observation Lounge provides a scenic space for evening meditation and the open air deck makes for an inspiring outdoor classroom, where sunrise morning sessions take place against a backdrop of changing light and landscapes. Adding to the journey’s intrigue and adventure, some meditation sessions take place on land in rural pagodas, a botanical garden and under mango trees in Ava. The personal service and intimate size of the ship, which carries just 82 passengers, encourages a comradery between guests and evenings can be a time for further social interaction or quieter private reflection.

The early morning juice bar and freshly prepared healthy spa cuisine, including a mix of pan-Asian and western dishes, allows guests the option to make healthy food and drink choices that are conducive with practicing mindfulness. The ship’s dedicated wellbeing area, complete with spa treatment rooms and state-of-the-art fitness equipment is a further haven for relaxation and exercise.

Offered complimentary and in addition to the existing itinerary, guests can join sessions at their leisure, however, to make the most of the experience guests are encouraged to complete the whole week under Brian and Shannon’s guidance. Brian explains why hosting this cruise is so special, “Myanmar is the perfect place to try mindfulness and Tibetan yoga. Meditation is a way of life in this Buddhist country so it is a very honest and natural way of immersing in local culture. We hope that bringing all these elements together on a cruise of this nature is going to be life changing for those who join us.”

Cultural highlights of the cruise include, a visit to one of the most significant pagodas of Bagan, Ananda Temple, which contains four 30ft gilded Buddha statues, a horse-drawn cart tour of Old Bagan’s archaeological zone, a monastery visit to participate in a traditional almsgiving donation to the monks, and arts and crafts tour of Mandalay to watch local artisans and craftsmen at work. Land excursions are daily and led by expert guides and more active explorers can enjoy the sights by biking through Bagan or joining a morning run with Brian.

Prices start from $2,656 per person for the three-night departure on 11th October from Mandalay   and $4,632 for the seven-night departures on 7th October 2017 from Bagan; based on two guests sharing a deluxe cabin. Prices are fully inclusive of all mindfulness sessions, meals, international house wines and local beers and excursions as per itinerary. Domestic flights and transfers from Yangon to the ship are excluded but can be booked through Belmond at a supplement. Guests also have the option to stay at Belmond Governor’s Residence, Yangon pre and post cruise.


OCTOBER 07-14, 2017
Myanmar Meditation Retreat aboard Belmond Road to Mandalay
with Mindfulness Journeys
7-night Journey
Edited, 03 March 2017
Mingalaba! Welcome aboard Belmond Road to Mandalay. We are here to ensure that
your cruise is unforgettable, with a blend of expert-led mindfulness activities, intriguing land excursions and
authentic experiences that will leave you fully relaxed, enriched and in love with Myanmar.
Day One
Saturday, October 7 Arrive Bagan
Please board Belmond Road to Mandalay at our private jetty in Taung Be Village, near Old Bagan,
between 10.30 and 11.00. Once on board, you are invited to attend a welcome and safety briefing in the
Observation Lounge. You will also meet the Captain, managers and your two mindfulness experts for the
week—Brian Hilliard and Shannon Van Staden of Mindfulness Journeys.
Relax, unpack and enjoy a delicious buffet lunch on board. Afterwards, return to the Observation
Lounge, where Brian and Shannon will reveal details of the mindfulness activities available during the
cruise and discuss the types of meditation and yoga techniques that will be used. Throughout the
journey, Brian and Shannon will also be available for 20-minute private appointments, from one-to-one
chats to tailored sessions.
The afternoon offers two tour options:
Introduction to Bagan
Discover the magnificent ancient city whose thousands of Buddhist monuments and ruined temples
make it one of the world’s great archaeological sites. You will visit Ananda Temple, one of the most
beautiful examples of Mon architecture, and majestic Thatbyinnyu, the tallest of Bagan’s pagodas. You
will also stop at a workshop to observe Bagan’s famous lacquerware being crafted.
Mindfulness in Bagan
Explore the temple complex of Minnanthu, whose richly coloured murals date from 1225, before visiting
an underground cave monastery where monks live and meditate. Enjoy your first guided meditation
session at a pagoda as the sun begins to set.
Those who choose the mindfulness tour will have an opportunity to enjoy the first excursion later on in
the cruise.
After the tours, both groups come together for an exclusive Belmond experience. Visit a small riverside
temple to participate in a magical candle-lighting ceremony.
OCTOBER 07-14, 2017
Myanmar Meditation Retreat aboard Belmond Road to Mandalay
with Mindfulness Journeys
7-night Journey
Edited, 03 March 2017
Back on board, enjoy a succulent Road to Mandalay Grill dinner on the Observation Deck.
Day Two
Sunday, October 8 Bagan & sailing
Today begins with the chance to experience one of the magical highlights of Bagan—a sunrise hot-air
balloon flight over the pagodas (operates October-March, advance reservations essential). Participants
will leave the ship at around 05.00 and return three hours later.
Early risers may wish to enjoy a refreshing drink from the Healthy Juice Bar on the Observation Deck. A
lavish breakfast is served in the Restaurant on the Main Deck.
This morning you can choose from a wide selection of excursions and activities to continue your
exploration of Bagan.
Mindfulness options are:
Temple Meditation with Shannon
Join Shannon to meditate surrounded by the beauty of Bagan’s ancient temples and pagodas. This onehour
session includes a discussion of method and technique and a sitting meditation inside a temple.
Morning Run with Brian
Bring energy to your day with a 45-minute jog through the village of Taung Be and along Old Bagan’s
pathways. Please have sturdy running shoes and be prepared for uneven or sandy surfaces.
Further options are as follows:
Bagan by Bicycle
(Limited space. Advance reservations essential. English-language tour only)
Set off on an independent mountain bike adventure (a map will be provided), or opt to join our staff on
a guided ride through Old Bagan. Pedal along small paths and roads that wind their way around ancient
temples and pagodas. The ride is suitable for advanced beginners and above and cyclists should expect
to bike on dirt road surfaces with patches of sand.
Pagodas in the Morning
Enjoy an early-morning walking tour with your guide. Visit a small temple surrounded by fields where
farmers can often be seen nurturing crops such as peanut, sesame and beans, before exploring a pagoda
famous for its brick and ornamental work and murals.
Traditional Horse and Cart Ride
(Advance reservations essential)
OCTOBER 07-14, 2017
Myanmar Meditation Retreat aboard Belmond Road to Mandalay
with Mindfulness Journeys
7-night Journey
Edited, 03 March 2017
Travel in time-honoured style with your own horse and buggy through Old Bagan. Your local driver will
take you on a leisurely, scenic route through the heart of the archaeological zone, passing many ancient
pagodas and offering plentiful photo opportunities. Please note that some buggy drivers may have
limited English-speaking ability.
Village Visit and Social Contribution
(English language only)
Join our staff in Taung Be village to participate in one of Belmond’s Social Contribution Projects. Next to
the jetty is our free health clinic, established by the ship’s doctor, Dr Hla Tun, where he treats hundreds
of patients a week while Belmond Road to Mandalay is stationed in Bagan. Activities change depending
on the current project and community needs and might include: preparing lunch for visiting patients,
assisting the monks or helping to build a new clinic.
All tours conclude by 09.00, when you re-board the ship ready to set sail for Mandalay. A leisurely day
on board awaits.
Indulge in a treatment at the spa, relax by the pool admiring the breathtaking vistas and enjoy lunch in
the Restaurant. Art lovers may wish to visit an exhibition of local works. In the afternoon Housekeeping
staff will give a demonstration of how to tie a longyi, the Myanmar sarong worn by both men and
women, and how to prepare thanaka, a paste that serves as both decorative make-up and protection
from the sun. Later in the afternoon, attend a fascinating lecture in the Observation Lounge on
Myanmar’s Past, Present and Future.
Mindfulness guests are invited to join Brian for a Tibetan yoga session on the Observation Deck as the
sun sets over the mesmerising landscape.
This evening, dinner is served in the elegant Restaurant. Enjoy a selection of gourmet Asian and Western
dishes prepared by our Executive Chef. After dinner visit the Observation Deck for an unforgettable
surprise on the river (weather permitting). Make sure to bring your camera!
Day Three
Monday, October 9 Sailing & Mingun
Start the day off in invigorating style with a healthy drink from the juice bar before stretching out at a
Tibetan yoga session on deck and enjoying meditation in the Observation Lounge.
As the ship continues to sail north to Mingun, enjoy further onboard activities such as an enticing
cookery demonstration by our Chef and a lecture by one of our Myanmar experts.
OCTOBER 07-14, 2017
Myanmar Meditation Retreat aboard Belmond Road to Mandalay
with Mindfulness Journeys
7-night Journey
Edited, 03 March 2017
On arrival in Mingun you may choose from the following:
Classic Mingun
Enjoy a walking tour of Mingun and visit Pahtodawgyi, an enormous unfinished pagoda that was started
in the late 18th century by King Bodawpaya. You will have the chance to ring the world’s biggest
uncracked bell, which weighs 90 tonnes and stands 13ft tall. You will also see the dazzling Myatheindan
(Hsinbyume) Pagoda, constructed of seven whitewashed terraces designed to symbolise sacred Mount
Meru. Those who wish can climb the 88 steps to the top of the pagoda, which represents obtaining
Village Walk (English language only)
An alternative option is to visit a rural village in the middle of the river. Walk along the island’s narrow
dirt paths and across fields of beans, corn and millet and see villagers going about their daily lives. Visit
the home of talented woodcarvers who make decorative ox carts used for ordination ceremonies and
witness the production of dried lima beans, a vital ingredient in Burmese Tea Leaf Salad.
Back on board you are invited to dress in your longyi for a special cocktail party on the Observation
Deck, with views of Mingun in the distance.
Dinner is served in the Restaurant, after which you are invited to join an evening meditation in the
Observation Lounge.
Day Four
Tuesday, October 10 Mandalay & Sagaing
Early this morning, Belmond Road to Mandalay sails to the city of Mandalay, considered the religious
heart of Myanmar and the home of Burmese traditional arts. You have a choice of morning tours:
Almsgiving (English language only)
Transfer to shore at 07.30 for an opportunity to donate food to a procession of monks in accordance
with the Burmese custom of almsgiving.
Those joining this activity can then continue their day with any of the following tours of Mandalay.
Highlights of Mandalay
Explore some of Mandalay’s great treasures with your guide, including Kuthodaw Pagoda, a UNESCOlisted
site with 729 stone tablets inscribed with Buddhist scriptures, and the atmospheric Shwenandaw,
an intricately-carved wooden monastery which used to be part of King Mindon’s living quarters. Pass
through the streets of the marble quarter where artisans sculpt Buddhas of all sizes and continue to the
OCTOBER 07-14, 2017
Myanmar Meditation Retreat aboard Belmond Road to Mandalay
with Mindfulness Journeys
7-night Journey
Edited, 03 March 2017
outdoor workshop of a family of bronze casters to observe, first hand, the creation of statuary and
ceremonial gongs.
Mandalay Arts and Shopping (English language only)
This excursion focuses on Mandalay’s local arts and cottage industries. Visit the home of candy makers
to see their unusual methods of pulling and stretching sweets made from molasses. Watch artisans
sculpting Buddha statues in the marble quarter and browse a store showcasing high-quality crafts.
Watch skilled artisans carving intricate wood panels typically used for monasteries and weaving
tapestries with semi-precious stones, and visit the outdoor workshop of a family of bronze casters.
Finally, observe silk weavers at their looms, creating textiles with traditional ethnic patterns. This is a
great place to purchase famous Amarapura silks.
Mindfulness in Mandalay
Your tour begins with a visit to the exquisite wooden monastery, Shwenandaw, once part of King
Mindon’s palace complex. Its name means ‘golden palace’ and it was once entirely covered in gold, but
now only the interior remains burnished. Afterwards you visit a working monastery. Participate in a
monks’ blessing ceremony, where Buddhist scriptures are read in the ancient Pali language, and enjoy a
meditation session.
All tours end at Shwe Kyet Yet village, where you rejoin the ship for lunch.
In the afternoon, disembark for an excursion to discover the hills of Sagaing, the spiritual centre of
Myanmar, which is home to hundreds of monasteries, nunneries and Buddhist learning centres. Admire
the expansive views of the Ayeyarwady River from the Soon U Ponya Shin Pagoda and visit a Buddhist
nunnery to learn about the monastic way of life. End the day at the magnificent 200-year-old U Bein
Bridge, one of Myanmar’s most photographed sites.
Tonight a sumptuous dinner is served in the Restaurant, after which you are treated to a traditional
acrobatic show on the Observation Deck.
Day Five
Wednesday, October 11 Mandalay & environs
This morning you disembark with Brian to enjoy a full day’s excursion to the Shan Mountains and the
former colonial hill station of Maymyo, now known as Pyin Oo Lwin.
Reached by a coach journey along the famous “Burma Road” (the route to China from Mandalay), the
drive takes around two hours, climbing to 1000m/3500ft above Mandalay, where it may be 8-10
degrees cooler.
OCTOBER 07-14, 2017
Myanmar Meditation Retreat aboard Belmond Road to Mandalay
with Mindfulness Journeys
7-night Journey
Edited, 03 March 2017
Maymyo (“May-town”), named after Colonel May of the 5th Bengal Infantry, was founded by the British
in 1896 as a cool summer retreat. For the next 50 years it was the scene of gins-and-tonics, casual tennis
tournaments and other hallmarks of Raj-style colonial life. You can still see many English country
cottage-type mansions, although a number are in need of restoration. You will enjoy a typical Shan
lunch at one of the restored mansions—look out for photos of the building from the 1930s.
Your tour will include a circuit of the town in a traditional horse-drawn carriage, visiting the vibrant local
market where you may find unexpected delights such as locally produced strawberry jam and beautiful
flowers. The floral theme continues as you make your way around the Kandawgyi Botanical Gardens,
which were established in 1924 and are still superbly maintained. In this beautiful setting you will end
the day with a yoga session before returning to the ship.
The pleasure continues with a convivial cocktail party on the Observation Deck, followed by dinner in
the Restaurant.
Day Six
Thursday, October 12 Ava & sailing
Before or after breakfast, those who wish may join our guides for a 10-minute walk to the entrance of
the Shwe Kyet Yet Pagoda. Here staff will donate food to a procession of monks from the local
monastery in accordance with the Burmese custom of almsgiving. The return walk to the ship offers a
glimpse of early-morning activity in the village market and teashops.
Belmond Road to Mandalay then sets sail for the ancient capital of Ava (Inwa). On arrival, there is a
choice of tour options:
Ava by Horse & Cart
This is perfect for those who wish to explore the most fascinating highlights of the city. Climb into one of
the traditional buggies and enjoy a scenic drive. See the ruins of King Bagyidaw’s palace walls and moat,
visit a beautiful 19th-century teak monastery, now a monastic school, and journey through picturesque
villages, farmlands and rice paddies.
Ava Adventure
(Limited space. Please register at Reception the night before. English-language tour only.)
Set off on an independent mountain bike tour or join one of our staff for a leisurely, guided bike ride.
Head off the beaten track into Ava’s more rural pathways, pedalling past King Bagyidaw’s palace ruins,
through farmlands and tranquil villages. The ride is suitable for advanced beginners and above. There
OCTOBER 07-14, 2017
Myanmar Meditation Retreat aboard Belmond Road to Mandalay
with Mindfulness Journeys
7-night Journey
Edited, 03 March 2017
are no steep inclines, but be prepared for a mix of paved roads and dirt tracks with rocky or sandy
Yoga under the Mango Trees
For those who would like to benefit from a yoga session, a shorter horse-drawn tour will end at a lovely
spot on the riverside, where you can enjoy a class under the shade of mango trees.
Return to the ship and continue downstream towards Bagan. An enjoyable day aboard lies ahead, with
activities including a presentation by Dr Hla Tun, our resident doctor, on his charitable and community
activities in Myanmar, the chance to have your fortune told by an astrologer, and a local art exhibition in
the Observation Lounge.
In the afternoon, following a buffet lunch, there is a talk on Buddhism by one of our expert guides. A
sunset meditation session is held in the Observation Lounge.
After dinner, another fabulous photo opportunity is offered by a special evening surprise on the
Observation Deck (weather permitting).
Day Seven
Friday, October 13 Bagan
A sunrise yoga session takes place on the Observation Deck, after which you may wish to return there to
enjoy the views as we sail into Bagan at around 08.30.
Disembark to explore Old Bagan, choosing from the following morning tours:
Timeless Bagan
Visit a complex of pagodas, both ruined and restored, which offer a fascinating insight into Bagan’s
history and architectural styles. You will also visit a small temple surrounded by fields where farmers can
often be seen nurturing crops such as peanut, sesame and beans, and later you will discover a village
rarely seen by visitors and glimpse a lifestyle unchanged for centuries.
A Day in the Life
(English-language tour only)
Visit a family compound and observe the process of making ponyegyi (fermented soy bean paste) and
also see the production of colourful bamboo and paper fans. Explore the narrow lanes of the bustling
OCTOBER 07-14, 2017
Myanmar Meditation Retreat aboard Belmond Road to Mandalay
with Mindfulness Journeys
7-night Journey
Edited, 03 March 2017
morning market at Nyaung-U and stroll through a village, meeting local people and learning about their
ways of life. Sample a homemade kyaw sone, a tasty, fried chickpea snack, in a villager’s home.
Bagan by Bicycle
(Limited space. Advance reservations essential. English-language tour only)
Set off on an independent mountain bike adventure or join staff on a guided ride around Old Bagan’s
winding paths and ancient temples. Be prepared for a mixture of dirt tracks and short stretches on
paved roads with motor vehicles. Suitable for advanced beginners and above.
Bagan Mindfulness
Your guide will escort you to a peaceful pagoda, where you can connect with the ancient and spiritual
surroundings during a serene meditation session.
All tours conclude at our jetty in Taung Be village, adjacent to which is the free health clinic established
by our ship doctor, Dr Hla Tun, and the Belmond Myanmar Foundation.
After lunch on board, an afternoon excursion offers another chance to visit the magnificent temples and
lacquerware workshop of Day One’s Introduction to Bagan tour. You will also be led to a small temple,
opened exclusively for Belmond guests, to discover magnificent murals by torchlight. As daylight starts
to fade, gather to watch the sun set over plains peppered with hundreds of pagodas.
Before returning to the ship, you are invited to join an exclusive Belmond Mindfulness experience. Visit
a temple to enjoy the mesmerising sounds of a local chanting society.
Back on board, a delicious Road to Mandalay Grill dinner is served on the Observation Deck (weather
permitting). Afterwards make your way to the Observation Lounge for an enchanting marionette show.
Day Eight
Saturday, October 14 Depart Bagan
Dawn risers have another chance to experience one of the most magical highlights of Bagan—a sunrise
hot-air balloon flight over the pagodas (operates October-March, advance reservations essential,
supplement applies). Guests participating in this activity will return to the ship at around 08.30.
An early-bird breakfast is served in the Restaurant from 06.00. At 07.00 you can enjoy a final farewell
meditation session with Brian and Shannon.
OCTOBER 07-14, 2017
Myanmar Meditation Retreat aboard Belmond Road to Mandalay
with Mindfulness Journeys
7-night Journey
Edited, 03 March 2017
Check-out time from your cabin is at 08.30 and guests may use the public spaces of the ship until the
final disembarkation time of 11.00.
Please note, all timings are approximate and should be used as a guide only. This itinerary is subject to
The rivers of Myanmar vary from season to season, with as much as a 30ft variance in water level. From
January through June, the Ayeyarwady’s levels may drop for a few weeks to a few months, creating a
narrower channel for navigation. To allow for these changes, Belmond Road to Mandalay may operate a
revised itinerary and mooring locations may be amended.