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Sail Date: October 2018
My wife and I spent an incredible two weeks in Myanmar, and one of the highlights of our visit was our time in Bagan. First, I must share how we got there. We took a four day cruise up the Ayeryewaddy river on the Sanctuary Ananda cruise ... Read More
My wife and I spent an incredible two weeks in Myanmar, and one of the highlights of our visit was our time in Bagan. First, I must share how we got there. We took a four day cruise up the Ayeryewaddy river on the Sanctuary Ananda cruise boat from Yangon to Bagan. The Sanctuary Ananda is a truly five-star experience in every way. The boat itself is small and intimate - a maximum of forty passengers, and with a staff of 43, you are never lacking in friendly and gracious service. The décor is beautiful and evocative, the state rooms are luxurious and spacious, and the food was absolutely amazing. The chef on board was a former head chef at the Mandarin Oriental Hotel, Bangkok, which was rated the number one hotel in the world for many years. Not only was the food incredible, but you had many opportunities to meet this friendly and dignified gentleman, and even take an intimate cooking class from him on the third day of the cruise. The highlight for me was a torch-lit dinner on the beach of the river- a magical and memorable experience. The final destination of the cruise was Bagan, which should be one of the wonders of the world. Within a relatively small region, there are over 3000 pagodas, stupas and temples, some small, and many grand in scale and breathtaking beauty. These temples were build by the kings of Burma over a period of several centuries, with the oldest ones being nearly one thousand years old. Many of the temples and pagodas are worth a personal visit (cars have access to most of the larger temples, or you can rent a horse-drawn carriage if you don't mind bouncing a lot). However, the best way to see Bagan is by hot air balloon. I recognize that these trips are expensive, but the experience is well worth the cost. We recommend Oriental Balloons, but all three of the operating companies in Bagan offer very modern and professional balloon rides. Well, in closing, Bagan was spectacular, the Sanctuary Ananda was amazing, and we were truly fortunate to have had this chance to visit this wonderful country. Read Less
2 Helpful Votes
Sail Date: January 2018
Took the 7 night river cruise from Yangon to Bagon. I have taken many cruises on larger ships but this was our first river cruise and it was fantastic. The ship was very well done and the crew really tried and could not have been nicer ... Read More
Took the 7 night river cruise from Yangon to Bagon. I have taken many cruises on larger ships but this was our first river cruise and it was fantastic. The ship was very well done and the crew really tried and could not have been nicer or more helpful. The food was some of the best I've had. We almost cancelled because of the issues you read about in the paper and extremely glad we didn't. We also flew to inle lake for 4 nights ( which is another incredible stop) and felt very safe the entire trip. While there you see no evidence of any issues and not going only hurts the local people. Myanmar has only opened to tourism in the last 5 years or so and the people are the most friendly welcoming I have ever met. Do not let the bad press put you off go while it is still un and under developed. Destinations such as this are hard to find. Read Less
Sail Date: December 2017
Our 11 day Irrawaddy River Cruise from Prome to Mandalay was exciting, adventerous & magical. We never felt unsafe despite the questionable media reports about this Country. The Staff and Crew on the Scenic Aura always gave 100% and ... Read More
Our 11 day Irrawaddy River Cruise from Prome to Mandalay was exciting, adventerous & magical. We never felt unsafe despite the questionable media reports about this Country. The Staff and Crew on the Scenic Aura always gave 100% and always with a smile, remembering what we liked to drink (tea or coffee, white or red wine, not to mention the cocktails!) and eat. They remembered our names from the first day and addressed us by our names every single time. They could certainly teach the European crews a thing or two about service. Food was exceptional and having cruised with Scenic's European Ships on 3 previous occasions, the food on this Ship surpassed our high expectations. Our Cabin was modern, very spacious and comfortable including the bathroom with a full size shower and separate toilet. If only all of Scenic's Ships carried only 40 odd guests at a time, so much more personal. The tour options were fantastic and our tour guide, Yi Mon was such a good sport, despite many of us wanting to brave the inclement weather for another onshore excursion through the mud. Too many wonderful experiences on this cruise to mention here. Seeing in the New Year with the Scenic Aura Staff and Crew was an absolute highlight. There is a lot of sailing on this trip so lots of time to relax which may not be active enough for some. For me it was a perfect balance. Have I mentioned how wonderful the Staff were? They really make you feel that you are the only guests on the Ship! Read Less
Sail Date: December 2017
We have used Scenic before in Europe and tried them in Myanmar. Our decision turned out to be an excellent one. The ship was very good, although has some odd quirks - which did not detract from the cruise. The crew were all amazing, ... Read More
We have used Scenic before in Europe and tried them in Myanmar. Our decision turned out to be an excellent one. The ship was very good, although has some odd quirks - which did not detract from the cruise. The crew were all amazing, just what you expect from a luxury all inclusive cruise. They could not have been more helpful. The food was better than excellent, huge choices and amazing quality, especially the soups and salads. We stayed in a Royal Panorama Suite which was definitely worth the extra money. All excursions were excellent, but be aware that a reasonable level of fitness is required - just to get on and off the ship - i think this would apply to all cruises on the Irrawaddy though. Highly recommend Scenic and would even consider doing teh cruise again in five years time to see how the country has changed. Read Less
4 Helpful Votes
Sail Date: November 2017
We had decided it was time to take a River Cruise ,but wanted somewhere less crowded and more exotic than Europe So we chose Myanmar and The Avalon Myanmar River Cruise looked the most interesting The Itinerary also looked ... Read More
We had decided it was time to take a River Cruise ,but wanted somewhere less crowded and more exotic than Europe So we chose Myanmar and The Avalon Myanmar River Cruise looked the most interesting The Itinerary also looked intriguing ,traveling further north than any other riverboat into remote areas.We decided to take the Southbound route starting in the north and gradually returning to "civilization" . Our Journey started with two nights in Yangon at The Sule Shangri La Hotel, an enormous luxury property beautifully decorated with lovely rooms and great views . A tip if you need an extra night, book direct with the Hotel it is easy and more economical than using Avalon. We met up with our Cruise Director Myo and our local guide Andrew at our first day in Yangon for a briefing, both are Burmese, also their English was very good.This was a huge plus for us as you get so much more from someone who is native to the country. After a day in Yangon, seeing the main sights we were ready to get out of the big city and board our riverboat. We flew from Yangon to Bhamo on a charter flight and on arrival it felt we were somewhere really remote,they closed the airport gate when we left on our Tuk Tuks through Bhamo for, our embarkation . This ship is gorgeous, only two years old decorated throughout in Burmese Teak with lovely indoor and outdoor lounges . a perfect size , the staff are the best, all Burmese, most speaking at least a little English wonderful smiley and helpful, forever cleaning and polishing with cries of Mingalabar at every turn (the Burmese greeting ). The ship had a nice gym ,small but adequate ,a spa , a selection of books to borrow and a very nice bar open for early risers coffee or tea and drinks throughout the day. All the food was delicious , a great selection for all tastes with a nice mixture of Burmese Dishes and Western staples, wonderfully prepared, Breakfast and Lunch selections were from the buffet with hot and cold options . The Dinner Menu had a large selection of choices served at your table. The dining room was set up in tables of 4 or 6 with open seating. Our cruise comprised of 28 travelers, with an age range from 40 to mid 70,s mostly well traveled North Americans , Australians, Austrians and British. We sailed mostly in the afternoons and had tours and excursions in the mornings.The crew stood along the river bank assisting everyone up the slopes, mostly we moored by tying up to trees and no formal jetty. On our return to the ship we were given a refreshing fruit drink while we took our shoes off and wore slippers provided .The crew then cleaned our shoes every day. When we sailed Myo or Andrew , alerted us to sights to watch out for including the famed Irrawady Dolphins, a rare sighting. For Entertainment after Dinner there were several Movies shown also a puppet show and Burmese Dancing. Plus some interesting lectures and demonstrations during the day. We would recommend Avalon Myanmar to anyone with a sense of Adventure ,without giving up the niceties in life . Hot water, comfy beds great food and wine etc! Read Less
1 Helpful Vote
Sail Date: November 2017
Having travelled with Scenic in the past we decided to book our Myanmar trip with them and see the country before it gets too crowded. Firstly the Ship - the Aura. On initial inspection a lovely yacht type ship, nice entrance and ... Read More
Having travelled with Scenic in the past we decided to book our Myanmar trip with them and see the country before it gets too crowded. Firstly the Ship - the Aura. On initial inspection a lovely yacht type ship, nice entrance and ambiance but it does have some issues. The general feel is of spaciousness with only a max of 44 passengers, the bedoms are very nice with electric beds, lounge area, small walk in wardrobe, compact but very accessible bathroom with reasonably large shower and 2 opening (electronic slide down) windows. However the first issue with the ship is the balcony in the room. This is a complete waste of space and badly designed. It should either have been a dedicated balcony with sliding doors or part of the lounge. It is awkward at present because it has folding doors and we left them open and it became a dumping ground for bags. The dinning room is lovely with central serving area and a small dedicated specialist area, which everyone is invited to during the cruise. There is plenty of space for all the passengers and the food was excellent. There is a small compact pool area at the back with bar and seating and this was used for entertainment at night. The library did not seem to be in much use only for getting on and off the ship when docked. The main issue with the ship's design is the lounge. This is a strange design with a central section separating it into 4 quadrants, so not easy to accommodate everyone altogether for the port talks, in fact they need 2 screens to do their presentation. This is a very poor design feature and interestingly not many people used it. This is the worst feature on the ship. There is a great top sundeck however with walking area and plenty of seating; a great place to cool-off when sailing. Also as the ship was built in Myanmar it does have a slightly 'cheap' feel to it and to say that it is only 18months old is showing signs of wear already. However despite the faults it was a pleasure to sail on the Aura. Next the crew - they were fantastic and always ready with a smile. Many thanks to Chantel, the Cruise Director , who was always around to solve any hitches or have a chat with and the Captain who was always there with a helping hand when embarking or dissembarking. A word of warning here, this trip is not for people with mobility issues as there are no proper docking facilities, at many of the places the ship stops climbing up sand banks or rough ground was the norm. So in conclusion the Aura is a nice ship with plenty of space for the passengers, it has good bedrooms, fantastic dining area and one of the nicest crews we have come across. Also the food was as good as any river or sea cruise ship and not overtaking. The variety of the Wines were reasonable and premium drinks were included throughout the day. Scenic always have great tours and this cruise (Yangon to Mandalay) was no exception. Some wonderful cultural visits, insight into the people and their ives all brought to life with a great Tour Diector - PA PA Min. Read Less
Sail Date: September 2017
One of the most amazing experiences I've had in my life! The best way to travel and get into unexpected placer in Myanmar, you cannot imagine the feeling when arriving to the cruise, all luxury, and then disembarking in the most ... Read More
One of the most amazing experiences I've had in my life! The best way to travel and get into unexpected placer in Myanmar, you cannot imagine the feeling when arriving to the cruise, all luxury, and then disembarking in the most mystique places you've ever seen. From the sunrise in the temples to the traditional dinner party, all amazing! Get on board and let yourself be pampered by the best crew, best service ever. No joke we were coming form Peninsula Hotel in another Asian City, and this is way above. The best service in my more than 20 trips I´ve done in Asia, hard to believe but true. The last dinner, the specialty of the chef is the best French meal you can try in all Asia. If it wasn't in the other side of the world from where I live, I would do it very often, just for the pleasure to indulge myself and meet great people. Read Less
9 Helpful Votes
Sail Date: February 2017
We were inspired by the movie "The Lady" to visit Myanmar to see and support this country that so recently had emerged from absolute Military control. We had traveled with Scenic before and were impressed by their care and ... Read More
We were inspired by the movie "The Lady" to visit Myanmar to see and support this country that so recently had emerged from absolute Military control. We had traveled with Scenic before and were impressed by their care and service. We were again very happy with the cruise and associated hotels. We traveled from Yangon to Mandalay and did the Inle Lake extension. Our guide PuPu was a wonderfully caring, knowledgeable and organised person who we had complete trust in so we could relax and enjoy the trip. PuPu's expertise added immeasurably to our enjoyment. The hotel in Yangon is excellent and well located and the food terrific. We did the market free choice and could have easily done it on our own with a map. This excursion could readily be a more extensive walk around the city area to see other sites. The coach trip to Prome is 8 hours and although breaks and box lunch are organised it is a long way, be prepared! The Scenic Aura is beautiful with magnificent cabins and suites and with everything included all that is left is to enjoy yourself. Staff are caring, friendly and go out of their way to make your cruise very special. Meals are delicious and varied and promptly served with a smile. The excursions are varied and much thought has gone into exposing Scenic travellers to different modes of transport and seeing as much variety in villages as possible. As shoes and socks need to be removed to enter religious sites on just about all excursions, sealed wet towels are supplied to wash feet before putting shoes back on and shoes are cleaned when you return to the ship as it is dusty. Both very thoughtful touches. Shoulders and knees need to be covered for admission to religious sites but trousers and Capri pants are fine, skirts are not necessary. The hotel in Mandalay is very nice and meals were, again, delicious. The add-on to Inle Lake was wonderful. The trip there, the magnificent hotel, the amazing day trip around the lake's sights, the meals and the exceptional sundowner party on our last night there exceeded all expectations. We chose to spend the final day at the resort rather than do either of the Scenic Free choices as they both involved 5 hour bus journeys for a 3 hour stop and most of us decided that was too much travel. We had a lovely restful day at the beautiful resort. There were a couple of issues! 1)The layout of the Scenic Aura means there is nowhere under cover where all 44 guests can gather to hear and see speakers or events. The only space is around the pool which can be plagued with insects being outside. 2) A free choice at Inle Lake that doesn't involve 5 hours travel could be offered, a trek was mentioned in the brochure but not offered possibly because we were a smaller group. 3) Be careful with flights to Yangon. Scenic booked our flights and we arrived at the hotel halfway through the briefing and after travelling for over 17 hours we were too tired to catch a bus to the restaurant for the welcome dinner. I would strongly advise arriving the day before and spending the night at the hotel at your own expense so you can enjoy the beginning of the package. One other tip could be to take a couple of balls or something to play with the children at the monastic school, I'm sure they would enjoy it more than just talking. We loved the trip and wholeheartedly recommend it but in February, March and April the river is getting low and problems with sandbanks could occur and the countryside is very dusty. September and October the river is very high which could impact some excursions. We were told November and December were the best months but whenever you go it's a wonderful experience. Read Less
7 Helpful Votes
Sail Date: January 2017
Mystical Myanmar- January 15th 2017. Accommodation All very good particularly Aureum Palace on Inle Lake. Beautiful surroundings and good service. Some rooms quite a way from reception and restaurant. Yangon - accommodation on ... Read More
Mystical Myanmar- January 15th 2017. Accommodation All very good particularly Aureum Palace on Inle Lake. Beautiful surroundings and good service. Some rooms quite a way from reception and restaurant. Yangon - accommodation on the club floors with a lovely view. Mandalay- nice room and it had a good restaurant where we celebrated Chinese New Year. We were on the upriver cruise and it was a long trip from Yangon to Pyap but buses were comfortable and we had several breaks. Embarkation went smoothly, in fact I was welcomed by name before I was in badge reading distance! I looked surprised and was told they had read a comment I had written on their Facebook page and recognised me. Scenic Aura suite 201 Large suite with very good bathroom with a multifunction shower. Comfortable bed and I did use the electronic head raising function. Good storage in walk in robe and under the bed. "Balcony nice - I can't imagine the glass folding doors being shut often, if at all. We did sit with the window / balcony open sometimes while moving along the river. Once moored it was shut due to any insects around. Staff kept the suite beautifully. Public Rooms. As said before, the lounge was badly designed but we spent early evenings on the pool deck so it didn't affect us too much. In the afternoons it was a cool quiet place to read my book with a cup of tea or a cocktail. The pool deck was the social hub before dinner with attentive service from the bar staff. Group size We were divided into 2 groups from the start - those going to Inle Lake and those just doing the cruise. There should be a mixture of people going to Inle Lake and ones not going. It would even the numbers out a little. We did have free seating and got to know the other group but our group was larger. One lady going to the lake was in the other group and found it difficult fitting in as we had all been together for 12 days and knew each other's foibles. We did the up river cruise and it was quite a relaxed start with excursions in the morning and time to read etc. in the afternoon. It would be an ideal time to have a band so that people could "bond" in a party atmosphere. We did have a band at the end of the cruise but it had been a busy day and we rushed from excursion to shower, to be entertainment to dinner. They were very good and we didn't do them justice. It was unfortunate that Papa our guide needed to go home early on as she was exceptional, but Sia did an admirable job taking over from her although less experienced and never having such a large group. I believe that the group going to Inle Lake should have had 2 tour leaders, or at least someone to help with the administration particularly arranging transport to the different flights from the airport. Arranging for 25 people was time consuming for Sia and it meant time on the phone rather than full focus on the group. Excursions Enjoyed most of them as we were travelling for cultural experiences. The people are a lovely gentle welcoming people although the hawkers were very persistent! Because of the low water level there was usually a steep river bank to negotiate. On mooring I often felt daunted about getting up, but with my hiking stick ( supplied in each cabin) and help from the crew I made it!! The crew were wonderful. We travelled by horse and cart, trishaws, and buses, saw village life up close, visited MANY pergolas and stupas, visited monasteries and a nunnery and many different craft workshops. We didn't do the Balloon flights but everyone I spoke to that did really enjoyed it. Some also did a balloon flight at Inle Lake and were awestruck. Said the experience was indescribable. Inle Lake was wonderful and although I was nervous about getting in and of the boats with a bad knee, I wouldn't have missed it. Arriving and departing the hotel by boat was a highlight, although the day on the lake in the boat was as good. With such a large group it was a slow process with a fair amount of waiting for the rest of the group to arrive. Food. Very, very good. Asian or Western at all meals. Buffet at breakfast and lunch, but table service at dinner. We could always find a wine we liked and they were very generous. Cocktails before dinner were varied and fun. Staff From the people meeting the plane on arrival, the hotel staff, the tour guides, the exceptional ship's staff, and getting us to the airport on time, everyone did a fantastic job. I would like to add my thanks to Sia. He did a great job once he settled in. A hard job to follow such an experienced guide with little notice. It was a large group of mainly very well travelled opinionated Australians. Once he worked out Aussie humour he relaxed a little (when he had time). By the end of the trip we couldn't have asked for better. As I commented before, a hard job for any guide to have 25 in a group. To sum up. A wonderful trip, everything we wished for. Our blog of the trip. http://thefletchers.com.au/The_Fletchers/Myanmar_2017/Myanmar_2017.html Read Less
8 Helpful Votes
Sail Date: December 2016
Being able to cruise the Irrawaddy River was a privilege, seeing Burma at this time was fascinating. The people of Burma are wonderful, the crew could not do enough for us. The Chef cooked me a special meal each night as I have dietary ... Read More
Being able to cruise the Irrawaddy River was a privilege, seeing Burma at this time was fascinating. The people of Burma are wonderful, the crew could not do enough for us. The Chef cooked me a special meal each night as I have dietary problems, always with a smile on his face. Our guides were the best, very passionate about their country. The whole crew was always on hand to help us climb the riverbank to disembark at each destination, and would say Ming Ga La Bah, (their greeting), and there again when we came back from our excursions. From walking tours, pony trap rides, tuk tuks, bus, every one an adventure. Local artisans would come on board for shows, and a great New Year on a sand spit in the middle of the Irrawaddy River highlights of our cruise. Travelmarval I hand it to you, you have got it right, I will have no hesitation in travels with this company again. Jan Riccobono Read Less
3 Helpful Votes
Sail Date: December 2016
Embarkation was so easy...no queues, just boarded and taken care of. The cabin is all in teak as is the ship. Nice toiletries. My only complaint is that the water pressure for the shower is not that strong. Plenty of hot water. Note: ... Read More
Embarkation was so easy...no queues, just boarded and taken care of. The cabin is all in teak as is the ship. Nice toiletries. My only complaint is that the water pressure for the shower is not that strong. Plenty of hot water. Note: there is only one plug (European two pin round) so bring an adaptor if you have lots of things to recharge. The food was excellent and inventive. Do try the Burmese breakfast though you can have eggs and bacon et al too. The hash brown potatoes are excellent! Lunch and dinner were 4 course meals. 3 main course selections: European, Burmese, and vegetarian. Bottled water always available, as much as you want. Leo, the Pandaw manager for South East Asia, was on our ship for half of the cruise. He was typical of the kind care and service that all the cruise staff gave to us. Nothing was too difficult. Endlessly helpful, which for me using a cane, was just perfect. Wifi is available on the Sun Deck when possible. Download time varied according to where we were. And while talking about the Sun Deck, I must tell you to try the nuts...excellent! English is sometimes difficult to understand, but that is part of the fun. Take some warm clothing as it is cool in the morning as you near Mandalay. Have lots of Khat 1000 bills...about 60p. I changed $50 at the airport and still had left over Khat by the end of the cruise. They only accept NEW American dollars. Business is done in dollars, absolutely no need for Pounds. They went out of their way to make Christmas and New Year Eve exciting and pleasurable...with gifts for all. This is a relaxing, easy, cruise. The ship holds a maximum of 48 people, but we had only 31, so lots of room. All the excursions were well organised and interesting. I highly rate this cruise and this cruise line. Read Less
4 Helpful Votes
Sail Date: October 2016
If you think you've seen it all on your many travels around the world, you clearly haven't experienced the luxury, professionalism, high-end service and tourist savvyness of Amawaterways' AmaPura river cruise along ... Read More
If you think you've seen it all on your many travels around the world, you clearly haven't experienced the luxury, professionalism, high-end service and tourist savvyness of Amawaterways' AmaPura river cruise along Myanmar's sleepy Irawaddy. Just like our seasoned fellow travellers, including geography professors, we were profoundly impressed by the unique combination of must-see tourist sites, such as Yangon's Shwedagon Pagoda or Mandalay, and visits to forlorn villages visibly frozen in time along the river banks. It was this carefully selected juxtapposition of visits to tourism hotspots on one day and strolls through breathtaking colonial villages or fishing hamlets along the river on the next day, which made this trip so unique. Amawaterways clearly knows about the unparalled advantage it can offer its passengers compared to land travellers: it can anchor anywhere along the river banks, quickly hew a few steps into the pristine slope, and within no less than 20 minutes passengers young and old can disembark to riverbank places no backpacker can reach for lack of land infrastructure. Add to this charming suite-size rooms with great bed and shower, an attentive and tirelessly friendly crew, and, most of all, unparalleled, de-luxe gourmet meals three times a day, plus in between, and you will not want to ever leave this small boutique cruise ship, which soon feels like your own private home. Chapeau, Amawaterways, you teach widely travelled folks like me that there are still adventures out there definitely worth discovering. And you make responsible and wise use of ever dollar you charge. Read Less
10 Helpful Votes
Sail Date: January 2016
We traveled on the AMAPura’s 14-day itinerary in January 2016, from Yangon to Mandalay. We included an AMA transfer from Mandalay back to Yangon at the end of the cruise and then continued on a private tour to Viet Nam. We arrived three ... Read More
We traveled on the AMAPura’s 14-day itinerary in January 2016, from Yangon to Mandalay. We included an AMA transfer from Mandalay back to Yangon at the end of the cruise and then continued on a private tour to Viet Nam. We arrived three days in advance of our AMAPura cruise start date. We engaged “Tour Mandalay” for two days of private guide and driver services in Yangon. This particular cruise itinerary starts with one excursion per day and shifts to two excursions per day or all-day excursions as you move towards Mandalay. Some guests indicated the schedule was too slow at the beginning. An alternative is to start from Mandalay and cruise to Yangon. This would have resulted in enjoying the less active days at the end of the river cruise. Though I understand that due to moving with the river current, the southern cruise from Mandalay to Yangon includes one additional excursion. An another cruise alternative is to select the 10-day itinerary. The disadvantage of this cruise itinerary is that it requires a six-hour bus trip between Yangon and Pyay. We were fine with the 14-day program. Travelers should recognize that Myanmar river touring has only recently opened up. Accordingly, some excursion stops on the AMAPura cruise, prior to Bagan, were more focused on seeing local life than spectacular cultural or historical locations. The walking pace of all the excursions was generally slow. There was no distinction between groups for more active versus slower walkers. In addition, there is little accessibility accommodation in Myanmar for those visitors with significant walking limitations or difficulty dealing with stairs. There were no handrails for stairs at many excursion stops. In temple and pagoda visits, shoes must be removed. In many cases, visitors must also remove their socks. Generally, we found the temple and pagoda tiles and floors to be very dusty and it was better to simply avoid wearing socks. Feet wipes were provided by AMA staff after each stop that shoes were removed. The AMAPura staff – hotel, housekeeping, ship crew - were all very friendly and extremely service oriented. It was nice to be welcomed back by the captain and crew members after each excursion. The food was what I would characterize as hotel quality food – tasty local fruits and vegetables, some Asian dishes and Western selections. Breakfasts and lunches were buffet oriented but also offered some personalized offerings. Complimentary wine and beer were provided during lunch and dinner. The cruise manager and assistant cruise manager were very good at providing information before each excursion and during the excursions. At some meals, the assistant cruise manager joined a guest table for dining. We particularly enjoyed the personal stories and experiences shared by cruise managers with the passengers. Our cabin (third level) was nicely furnished. The balcony was convenient, but we rarely used it. We could occasionally hear some noises from the fourth level public areas, such as furniture movement or heavy footed walkers. Generally, this noise wasn’t much of an issue for us. One cabin discovery was that there were no air filters integrated into the individual cabin HVAC system. Some guests with CPAP machines mentioned that their CPAP filters were heavily soiled with 2-3 days. On-board laundry was available, but our travel clothes wash/dry easily and we tended to do more hand-wash. We strung our portable clothes line with suction cups in our bathroom. I used the one exercise bicycle a few days during the cruise. In regards to January insect life, we did experience a few mosquitoes in Yangon. We took anti-malarial pills but some guests decided to forego the pills. The weather was often very cool in the early mornings and moderately warm during the day. We didn’t experience high humidity or any rain during the day. During January, the daily air quality along the Ayeyarwaddy was generally smoke and dust-laden. Including eye drops and cough drops on your packing list is recommended as well as antihistamine drops for itchy eyes. A dust mask may be helpful. Some guests developed respiratory issues during the cruise. A friend traveling with my wife and I developed pneumonia about half way through the cruise. Experiencing difficulty breathing and fever, she was transferred by ambulance from the AMAPura and admitted into a Mandalay Hospital. As I understand it, this was the first actual medical evacuation in two years of AMAPura operation. The AMAPura cruise manager and hotel staff were extremely attentive and supportive during this incident. The cruise manager and my wife were at the hospital until 1am on the day of patient admission. As my wife and I worked on preparing medical evacuation insurance documentation and visiting the hospital, AMAPura staff were very helpful at arranging transportation (understandably, at our expense) and ensuring we had translation support. We were also extremely lucky that an AMA-related consultant was on-board during the cruise. He provided us Internet access from his laptop (using non-ship Internet connectivity) to reschedule our travel from Mandalay so that we had more time to ensure there was movement on evacuating our friend back to the US. Third-world hospital conditions are very dissimilar to what one might expect from most US hospitals. The bed in the initial admitting room had a very primitive appearance. Once admitted to a private room, we were informed that you needed to pay in advance, bring your own food and water and hire a private nurse assistant. The bathing equipment was essentially a plastic tub with a ladle. After entering the private room bathroom, I saw what looked like a cockroach scuttling across the floor. Our fellow passengers expressed their concerns and a physician passenger was very helpful in providing guidance and sharing personal supplies he had brought on board (e.g., food snacks, fly swatter). As the Myanmar hospital did not accept credit cards, many passengers offered to loan dollars or Kyat to cover unanticipated hospital expenses (very much appreciated but we were able to deal with the cash requirement). AMAPura also shared ship supplies such as water bottles, toilet paper and tissues. When attempting to press the hospital physicians to complete the insurance paperwork, we were asked to email the forms to a hospital physician. I did this at 9am after the evening admission and was told to return at 4pm to pick-up the updated forms. My plan was work with AMAPura staff to scan the documents and email them to the US insurance carrier. When we returned at 4pm, we were told the hospital did not have Internet access. Luckily, the English speaking taxi driver (arranged by AMAPura and who accompanied us to the hospital room) brought me to a Mandalay copy shop where I could print out the forms and return to the hospital. This paperwork fiasco set us back one day in respect to updating insurance forms. Once the forms were updated, on-board AMAPura hotel staff assisted me in electronically transmitting the documents via personal cell phone hot spot Internet connectivity. There are a number of lessons that we learned from this event. I will offer a few suggestions that are more related to third-world travel rather than purely comments on the AMAPura. These suggestions include: • Bring a printed copy of ALL your insurance claim forms and instructions with you on your cruise. • Start contact with your travel insurance as soon as emergency medical assistance is requested. We waited until the following day and, in the best case, would have placed us several hours behind on submitting any paperwork. Read the paperwork instructions carefully – it may be that just the assignment of benefits authorization will start the insurance process • Confirm that you have medical evacuation insurance to your residence area and not just to a local hospital. • Bring an unlocked GSM phone with you and purchase a local SIM for its use. A Myanmar SIM is very inexpensive and, given poor ship Internet connectivity, it may be critical to arranging assistance. I suggest purchasing additional SIM top-up cards (10,000 Kyat) to ensure enough cellular phone, messaging and Internet time is available. • Despite the marketing material of travel evacuation insurers, there may NOT be any local/regional emergency personal to accompany a solo traveler back to the US. In this incident, it took several days for the insurer to arrange a nurse to travel from the US to Mandalay to accompany our friend back to the US. Be prepared to deal with this type of delay. • When dealing with the travel insurer for emergency services, ask that a case manager be assigned to the claim. Othewise, each telephone call will be handled by a call center staff member. • A local physician may be unwilling to discharge a patient from the hospital to fly home. This may not necessarily rule out discharging the patient to a local western-oriented hotel while an anti-biotic regimen completes and/or evacuation assistance arrives. • Bring two different ATM cards for withdrawing local currency. I suggest two cards as our friend’s one ATM card was not accepted by multiple machines despite assurances from the US card issuer. We needed to use our ATM card to withdraw sufficient Kyat for the hospital. A short Myanmar hospital stay could easily run about 500,000 to 1,000,000 Kyat ($400-$800USD). Overall, we enjoyed our AMAPura cruise and would recommend it to others. AMAPura staff provided great on-board services and help during our emergency. The cruise also reminded us that a little advance planning for emergency situations goes a long way. Read Less
10 Helpful Votes
Sail Date: December 2015
Comprehensive review Our first cruise on the Irrawaddy was on the Road to Mandalay in 1996 and in 2004 we joined a Pandaw expedition cruise from Bagan to Bhamo and enjoyed it so much we waited for Pandaw to start cruising from Yangon so ... Read More
Comprehensive review Our first cruise on the Irrawaddy was on the Road to Mandalay in 1996 and in 2004 we joined a Pandaw expedition cruise from Bagan to Bhamo and enjoyed it so much we waited for Pandaw to start cruising from Yangon so we could complete the navigable part of the mighty Irrawaddy. The full Itinerary can be found here https://www.pandaw.com/expeditions/irrawaddy/ and a shorter version joining the vessel at Prome here https://www.pandaw.com/expeditions/golden-land/ We joined their December cruise-the same boat, and the same cabin of our original cruise. Welcome home... The cruise was 70% full-all English speaking pax, a mix of the UK and the ex-Colonies, and included 7 singles who were quickly assimilated to mix with the couples. A few had travelled to Myanmar before but most were first timers, although seasoned travellers. Ages varied from early 40's to late 70's but age was no barrier on this cruise We were quickly welcomed aboard, our luggage was in our cabin before us and we were soon on the top deck casting off in the Yangon river. CABINS Small but cosy, surprisingly good storage space, good aircon and a compact but good bathroom with shower. Water is piping hot but takes a bit to come through and loo flushing is a bit of an art. Two is good-seven means your technique is wrong. A great feature is having your own lloyd loom seats and table outside so as to watch the river go by, supping a Mandalay sour... Housekeeping was excellent with really efficient make over after breakfast and a full turndown during dinner. Laundry was cheap, efficient and flexible (cool wash, iron then on hanger etc) with an average price of only $2 FOOD AND DRINK Excellent food, a mix of Asian and Western but chef would cater for all tastes and allergies. Buffet breakfast with hot A la Carte and mostly A la Carte lunch and Dinner but with a substantial choice for buffet starter and dessert/cheese. Fresh bread with every meal-we toured the super kitchens and the chef was ever-so proud of his bread maker. There was free seating and generally most moved and mixed, with a few notable exceptions who developed squatters rights on a certain table. All water, tea & coffee, local soft drinks, beer and local spirits are included as is also a cocktail of the day at the briefing before dinner. The local spirits of Gin, Dark Rum, Whiskey, Light Rum and Vodka are excellent and if you were not a wine drinker you could have a zero extras bill after 14 days. The DIY coffee/tea/drinks station on the main deck was open from 6am till late. There was plenty of chairs/loungers on the top deck to seat everyone and when cruising this was the choice of many, whether reading, chatting, drinking, dozing or just watching the river traffic go by. We had film shows, presentations, marionettes, dance troupes on many evenings but nothing late TG -most were whacked out and ready for bed after a long day. THE CRUISE We were blessed with great weather starting in Yangon at 32C and finishing at Mandalay at 28C,cloudless skies with low humidity. Evenings were cool at 15/18C and then, and when the boat was motoring against the wind ,long sleeves were needed. On many days we had two stops and, because of the distance we had to cover, the boat cruised as late as it could before mooring at a deserted river bank before setting off at dawn the next day. Only in Bagan and Saigang did we moor in towns and near other cruise boats. Many of the stops in the early part of the cruise were at small delta villages where we were the only tourists and a curiosity to the villagers who took more photos of us than us of them. Even in remote places there were phone shops and even little stalls sold SIM top ups. Cheap Chinese handsets have flooded the country and many stall holders had phones-some bigger and fancier than ours. The real eye opener was the difference in undeveloped, in tourism terms, towns and villages and Bagan/Mandalay. For the first 9 days we never came across foreign tourists and had the local villages such as Maubin,Danabyu and Myanaung to ourselves. Even major towns of Pyay, Thayatmyo and Magwe were tourist free and as I have already said, we had more photos taken of us in the local markets than we took of the village scenes. We were never approached by sellers, never saw a beggar and the children just wanted to say mingalabar, not expecting pens or sweets. One market lady apologised when her kids said "money" as they had mispronounced "morning" It was a real shock to the system when we hit Bagan and Mandalay when we saw the tourist hoards, most of them being Burmese, not a foreigners! The two big highlights of our cruise was visiting these river towns which are still the real Myanmar and for me-watching and photographing the river traffic which varied from bamboo rafts, through a variety of barges carrying rice or aggregates to the occasional fancy Belmond Gin Palace Cruiser. Every boat, big or tiny waved at us passing-except the Belmond Orcaella pax who could not be bothered to get up from their luxury sun loungers around their pool, nuf said. We were accompanied on the visits by our Burmese guide and also a few crew members to make sure we kept up and did not fall behind. They also helped with local shopping -SIM cards, antibiotics, camera memory cards, gifts etc. The cruise stops cover many places in Burmese history and we visited stupas, village markets, old forts, colonial buildings, agricultural workhouses,potteries, and even a golf course founded in 1885 complete with grazing cattle on the fairways. On return to the boat after each trip our shoes were removed for cleaning, a cold drink was offered and, most importantly we had an antiseptic hand gel-this was also mandatory before all meals. WiFi and MOBILE RECEPTION WiFi was intermittent and only in the main villages when moored and only on the sun deck. There was always a good signal using a local SIM, both for calls and data- there always seems to be a mast on sight along the river. HEALTH Some pax took Malarone, others just sprayed and covered up and there were very few bites-and non on the boat itself. Once we got to Mandalay we were invaded by tiny moths in the evenings. This January in Myanmar, especially in the dry dusty zone, coughs and colds and especially sore throats , were rife everywhere. Wherever and however you travelled, boat, coach or aircraft there were coughs and sneezes everywhere from tourists and locals alike. Most on Pandaw ended up with a sore throat or cough but only a couple had travellers tummy-certainly not due the food coming from the galley. The Purser was very helpful dishing out remedies and also very efficiently treating a couple of cuts-he and the other first aiders are trained by an International medical company. OVERVIEW This is not a inexpensive cruise although many had booked early to get discounts. Some booked direct, some as part of an Agents package and arrived through a variety of airlines and airports-Bangkok, Singapore ,KL, Taiwan etc etc. Other cruises of a similar length could be 50% more . Pandaw is a traditional teak fitted river expedition boat with no pool and certainly no jackets for dinner although many of the ladies dined in very smart casual. As has been reported in other reviews on extended trips, there can be a touch of tribalism towards the end and this cruise was no exception. Nothing serious and not country specific. It did not detract from the pleasure of the cruise-in fact it could be quite amusing to observe. If there was a criticism it is that language skills of the purser and guide were not of the best although one could not fault their efficiency enthusiasm and dedication to our care. Pandaw, as the original cruise company on the Irrawaddy, has found their staff being poached by the many start up cruise companies .There are now 10 cruise companies and 35+ boats plying the Irrawaddy-15 years ago there were 5 boats so the problem will not go away, with the fancy boats paying top $ for the best guides. BUT this was a memorable cruise, good value for money and a delightful time spent on a boat of real character. They are planning short cruises around the delta which we plan to join-and maybe a Chindwin expedition? Read Less
5 Helpful Votes
Sail Date: November 2015
What a fantastic trip! We started in Bangkok ( the hotel could have been next to river) and it was a very long busy day touring. We had toured Bangkok previously so this for us was a repeat. We flew to Yangon, just a few days after ... Read More
What a fantastic trip! We started in Bangkok ( the hotel could have been next to river) and it was a very long busy day touring. We had toured Bangkok previously so this for us was a repeat. We flew to Yangon, just a few days after the historic election of "The Lady". A number of the cruises had been cancelled in advance of the election, possibly because there was anticipated problems with the military and the people who support "The Lady". All was calm and we met our tour guides Terry & Duli at the airport who took us to the Sule Shangi-la Hotel, of 5 star class. Perfect location downtown across fromt he Scot Market. Traffic makes it a long trip timewise to the airport, but a very interesting one seeing the people about their daily activities. A tour of the city and then on the 13th off to Mandalay to board our ship. Our cabin on board was 301 and was very comfortable. The crew and staff are friendly, helpful and very courteous. The food every day was well prepared and presented and very tasty. It was a mixture of choices of Burmese foods and western traditionals. The service was better than I have seen at the best of resorts. The entertainment by the ship's staff was wonderful, and the ship being only 56 passengers (only 37 on our cruise) allowed the making of new friends. My husband and I were celebrating our 50th Wedding Anniversary and as a surprise to me, he planned a Reaffirmation Ceremony. With the help of our travel agent, all was kept a secret from me but with spectacular outcome. There were 50 longstemmed red roses, there was champagne, the Captain and crew in dress whites on the upper rear deck, rose petals sprinkled along the "aisle", a wedding song in Burmese accompanied by classical guitar softly strummed by one of the dining room staff, and the ceremony completed in English by Eric the Cruise Manager, for the Captain. All of this planned by my husband and completed by the staff of AMA Waterways. I cannot praise them enough for a wonderful celebration. The CRUISE AND THE PEOPLE Do not wait too long to visit the wonderful country of Burma. Once the western world influences begin to migrate, things may change. AMA Waterways provided the most interesting tours to the villages of wonderful friendly people where all of the handicrafts are made by hand. The people are happy, well fed, polite, friendly, industrious and deeply religious. The landscape is dotted with stupas and temples everywhere. Do not miss Inle Lake. It is magical and a very different way of life. Each time we returned to Yangon to the Sule Shangri-La (3 in all), the staff greeted us and when we flew to Inle Lake they allowed us to store excess bags until our return. When our tour finished at Paya, it was a long bus ride to Yangon. Hopefully this will be corrected and the boat will sail closer to the city by the next season. I would encourage everyone to see Burma soon. The country and the people are wonderful. We never felt unsafe or threatened. The local "sales fleas" were minimal. The handmade goods are excellent, lacquerware, lotus and silk weavings, pottery, everything is made by hand and the "factories" are family involved and run homes. You are touring their homes when you see the items they are hand making. Wonderful experience. I cannot say enough wonderful things about the AMA Pura boat, and cruise staff. Eric, the Cruise Manager,and the staff of AMA Pura hotel, Terry & Duli the tour guides, the Captain of the AMA Pura and crew, provided our group of 12 the most wonderful memorable holiday. Read Less
1 Helpful Vote
Sail Date: November 2015
As a new destination it was difficult to research Myanmar in advance, but we were very pleased with our trip. The Burmese language is very difficult so this cruise is ideal. You get to see a variety of areas and have the benefit of ... Read More
As a new destination it was difficult to research Myanmar in advance, but we were very pleased with our trip. The Burmese language is very difficult so this cruise is ideal. You get to see a variety of areas and have the benefit of your cruise mangers to navigate the language barrier for you. I would strongly encourage attendance at the daily cruise directors talk...you are offered a lot of information to assist your understanding of the country and details on dress and other requirements for the next day touring. It was very warm and humid during our visit (94-96F) so I would strongly recommend sun screen, a hat and quick dry clothes. We did use the ship's laundry once and found it to be reasonably priced and a quick turn around. When visiting some sites, covered knees and shoulders are required and it is much easier for everyone, if you dress appropriately when departing the ship. We did have a few men who purchases longi's and wore them as required and a few ladies who carried scarves, but it does slow down the process as everyone "dresses" appropriately. Our cruise directors advised us the day before of dress requirements - so it was easy to be prepared. As has been stated by other reviewers, bring shoes that are easily removed, you have a lot of "shoes off" visits. The cruise staff provided us with wipes to clean our feet at each stop. Plan to use one pair of shoes for your "off ship" touring and leave them in the assigned room basket as you return to the ship. It cuts down greatly on sand being spread throughout the ship. Guests are provided with a pair of sandals when you first board....be considerate of the staff and other guests and use them or wear a pair you bring, but definitely have a designated pair of "touring" shoes. The ship staff were outstanding and will do their best to meet your needs/special requests. The food and wine were great and our room was very nice and clean. We only used our balcony twice, the sun was intense. The upstairs deck lounge was shaded and very inviting. The only negative we encountered was the hallways could be VERY noisy based on guest behaviour. Please be considerate of other guests and complete your good night conversations BEFORE you open the hallway door..everyone is aware of your hallway discussions. We did the post tour of Inle Lake which was fabulous and I would strongly recommend the post tour. It was very different from everything we saw during our 10 day cruise. There was even an onsite ATM (outside and to the left down a hallway as you leave the hotel entrance) so having local currency was not an issue. We did find a number of places we visited also took Visa which was a surprise, so bring your card when touring. Myanmar was a fabulous adventure, particularly as it only just opening to tourism. However, as other reviewers have noted, you need to be able bodied to enjoy all it offers. There are lots of steps and uneven surfaces and the heat and humidity can be taxing. Read Less
5 Helpful Votes
Sail Date: October 2015
I wasn't quite sure what to expect as Myanmar is a newer destination for tourists, a poor country and we were there just a few weeks before their election. The people are extremely friendly and welcoming and we felt very safe. We ... Read More
I wasn't quite sure what to expect as Myanmar is a newer destination for tourists, a poor country and we were there just a few weeks before their election. The people are extremely friendly and welcoming and we felt very safe. We were met by our AMAWaterways Cruise Manager at the airport and transferred to the lovely and good location Shangri-La Hotel in Yangon for 2 night stay. We had a 6 hr drive to Pyay to board the AmaPura. This was a long drive, however we saw the country side and our guides provided general information about Myanmar along the way. The ship was very clean and comfortable and the boarding process was very quick and smooth. The Sun Deck had plenty of loungers, plus a covered area from the sun. The lounge offered lots of seating for everyone. Here is where we had the cruise manager talks, pre dinner cocktails and twice local entertainers came onboard. In the evenings a piano player provided entertainment. The onboard spa offered a variety of massages at a very reasonable rate. The crew onboard seem to always have a smile, they are attentive and wanting to do whatever they can to make our trip enjoyable. Breakfast was buffet style with an Asian offering along with a variety of pastries, fruit, eggs, etc. Lunch was buffet with a variety of salads, cheese, hot items, Asian dishes plus additional hot items from a menu. Wine and beer is complimentary with lunch and dinner. Dinner is plated from a menu. The first couple nights with dinner was on the rough side, however day 3 onward was very good. Included shore excursions generally were not too long and we did see a lot of pagoda's and temples -- the tours were easy to handle however you should be able bodied to do this tour. There are steps, uneven ground, hot and humid plus you will be taking your shoes off quite a bit to enter temples and other sites. The great thing is the crew are there to provide you wet wipes to clean your feet before you put your shoes back on. A few special tours to view the amazing sun sets by sampan and going up on a temple in Bagan, and visits to a local school. Inle Lake is an optional post tour that shouldn't be missed. The hotel used is the Novotel and what a treat to stay on the lake in your own spacious villa. Two pretty full days of touring on the lake with visits to many of the villages to see how life is via small boat. Visits to a silversmith, blacksmith, temples, weaving shops, the village where the Long Neck ladies live and their story plus some very good restaurants. One special surprise was their annual religious festival was taking place while we were there and we got up very early to get into our small boats and sail to where the long boat procession was -- great experience to see this. This is a destination to visit sooner than later. The overall experience, sites visited, and exception service from the crew and cruise managers onboard AmaPura sure made it worry free and a trip of a life time! Read Less
Sail Date: September 2015
We just did an exotic 7 days cruise on the Pandaw on the Chindwin River in North West Myanmar. It was absolutely incredible. It was a small beautiful river ship with 5 cabins, the staff was incredible and the food and presentation was 5 ... Read More
We just did an exotic 7 days cruise on the Pandaw on the Chindwin River in North West Myanmar. It was absolutely incredible. It was a small beautiful river ship with 5 cabins, the staff was incredible and the food and presentation was 5 star. if you are looking for a small intimate and attentive cruise, this is it. We visited Nagaland, it was the first time that foreigners could visit this part of the country since the 70's. The people were fantastic! It was truly a very different experience. The company was great to deal with, they organized our interior flights as well as hotel pick up and drop off. I would recommend this company to any one. We will definitely use them again. Read Less
2 Helpful Votes
Sail Date: April 2015
We have a favourite saying that you never get a second chance at a first impression, well our Viking first impression was simply outstanding. We started our journey in Bangkok staying at the very impressive Shangri La. After a couple ... Read More
We have a favourite saying that you never get a second chance at a first impression, well our Viking first impression was simply outstanding. We started our journey in Bangkok staying at the very impressive Shangri La. After a couple of days, we travelled to Pyay via Yangon. We embarked the Viking Mandalay to a very warm welcome. The crew could not do enough to ensure we were comfortable and relaxed. All services on the ship were first class, the cabin was comfortable and kept very clean by the housekeeping team. The food - breakfast, lunch and dinner was tasty, excellent variety and plentiful and the wines were enjoyable. The destinations [port and shore excursions] were a memorable experience. It was all about the people and their smiles and their pride in their country. Even the dirt roads were swept! Each and every destination/excursion had their 'special' memory. One of the highlights for us was Anzac Day, April 25. I asked our very supportive Hotel Manager Dominik Hofstetter if I could conduct an Anzac Dawn Service on board the ship on April 25. Dominik was extremely helpful and provided all my requests. We had a programme which was typed up and copies made to all attendees. Our Program Director Nan Da read the Anzac oath. Domink even arranged a rose for each attendee to throw into the Irrawaddy in memory of someone special and to those who lost their lives in all conflicts of war. I said to Dominik that it is traditional that a 'Gunfire Breakfast' follows the service. Dominik was again fabulous and provided toasted bacon & egg sandwiches, cold beer, whisky or rum to have in the coffee and he even organised the chef to make some Anzac biscuits for the morning, Absolutely magnificent support from Dominik and all his team. Following dinner each night, there was entertainment on the sun deck which was fun and interesting and usually finished with us Aussies the last to leave - late! Congratulations Viking, we loved it. Read Less
1 Helpful Vote
Sail Date: January 2015
Having travelled in Asia previously, on business and pleasure, I had an idea what to expect. However, I was more than impressed, not only by the views but also by the crew. It was the first time we had experienced a crew that became ... Read More
Having travelled in Asia previously, on business and pleasure, I had an idea what to expect. However, I was more than impressed, not only by the views but also by the crew. It was the first time we had experienced a crew that became totally involved with their passengers, from captain to crew hand. I had been to Bangkok several times before, so had experienced the Thai capital, so we were really looking forward to the trip to Myamar. It started well with a truly warm welcome in Yangoon. After a couple of days visiting the city sights we travelled by coach up country to Pyay. On route we visited the magnificent war cemetery of the forces that fought during the Second World War; truly a thought provoking experience set in a beautiful garden. At Pyay we joined our vessel and started the fascinating. Voyage to Mandalay, with brilliant stops on route that included Bagan, with its many stupas, the highlight of which was the morning expedition to see the sun rise; magical. There were many highlights of the trip, but another impressive visit was to the school and to see the construction and financial commitment put in by Viking to educate the local children. Finally we arrived in Mandalay and after 2 days of visits we left for Thailand and our flight home. It was truly a great experience of a well managed and thoughtful trip, overseen by a fully professional group of people. Remarkable, our best Viking experience so far to a country that is waking up to the treasures of its people, to be experienced by travellers. Read Less

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