To get from Bagan to Mandalay (or vice versa) you can of course take a day or a night bus, but a more relaxing and picturesque way to travel is to take one of the river boats.
It takes longer (about 12 hours) but you see beautiful scenery along the Irrawaddy / Ayeyarwady River.
Cost:: $35 per person, including breakfast and lunch.
I recommend pre-booking a taxi to take you from your hotel to the boat.
If you look at the map, the pier looks like it is walking distance from most of Nyaung U but we found that the maps are not always accurate or to scale. Because the departure time is so early it is just less stressful to take a taxi.
Even though you might be tired and want to go back to sleep when you get to your seat on the boat, stay awake.
The sun rises at about 6 am and it is so worth it to see along the river.
Breakfast is included in your ticket, served from 7am – 10am in the restaurant.
toast with butter and jam
hard boiled egg
coffee or tea
Lunch is also included in your ticket, served from 12:00 noon – 2pm.
Fried glass noodles (vermicelli) with vegetables and an egg fried over easy. Served with a sweet/spicy sauce and a chili/garlic soy sauce.
Views from the boat:
Along the way the boat pulled off to the river bank at a small village, allowing the locals to sell some goods to the boat passengers.
We bought some bananas, a huge bunch of bananas (probably we got 10). The local woman selling them threw the bananas up to us on the second deck of the boat and we threw the money down. Very fun experience.
Sunset is also very beautiful from the boat. Head up to the top deck to see it.
Arriving in Mandalay:
Word of warning, there is NO pier in Mandalay. The boat anchors along the riverbank and the staff lay two wooden boards between the boat and shore and that is how to disembark.
Work on your balance! The boards are only about 1 foot wide.
If you have an extra day, this is absolutely the best way to travel between Bagan and Mandalay!