Snaking across Kachin State like an enormous python, the mighty Ayeyarwady River provides the main transport route between a series of gently interesting port towns, isolated villages and gold-panning camps. While no individual sight is jaw-dropping, the journey itself involves an immersion in local life that many visitors find unforgettable. Unlike boat rides from Mandalay to Bagan, ferries on the upper Ayeyarwady are used almost entirely by locals and the slow days drifting along the river provide an opportunity to interact with people in a way that is often impossible on dry land. A phrase book and a bottle of Grand Royal whiskey can be useful tools to help break the ice.
Note that the Ayeyarwady isn’t scenically dramatic in the way of, say, the Nam Ou in neighbouring Laos, but the landscape does reach several modest crescendos as rolling fields and distant sand banks alternate with forest-dappled defiles.