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Have you considered a trip to SE Asia? I just returned from a fabulous trip to Myanmar with Avalon River Cruise. What an unbelievable country and the people are so friendly. If you say Mingalarbar (min-ga-la-ba) (hello), you won’t believe the smiles that you will receive. We also learned and used Kye zu bar (jeh-zu-ba) (thank you) and Ya bal tal (Yah-bah-day) (you are welcome). Just learning this much made a big difference to the people on the ship and those on the streets. We began our journey with two nights in Yangon. It is a very busy city, with lots going on, but very safe. We walked around on our own and ate street food, which was great. They have markets there and one was just around the corner from our hotel, the Sule Shangri-la. The market had everything and you could bargain with them on the price. Many people spoke at least some English, so it was easy to communicate. From there, we flew to Bagan to begin our river cruise on the Irrawaddy River. In Bagan there are over 2000 stupas and pagodas. We even visited the stupas to see the sunrise and set over them which were really great. The Avalon Myanmar is a beautiful ship and the staff is very friendly and helpful. It has 36 cabins; however, we only had 25 people on our trip. The ship has wooden floors; hand carved wooden panels surround the dining room and original paintings. It was very welcoming. As we traveled north, we had daily excursions to see cities, visit villages, and visit a school and a nunnery. These excursions were all included in the trip and were very enjoyable. There was so much to see and we felt very comfortable traveling around the country. We even went to an elephant camp and nursery. The elephants are no longer used to harvest teak trees and pull them out of the forest. Now they give a demonstration on how it was done and they give rides on the elephants. The elephants are well cared for by their mahouts and there is also a veterinarian on site to take care of them. If the vet sees an elephant standing on all four legs instead of only on three, he knows that the elephant is sick. We were able to feed the babies bananas and watched the mahouts take the elephants into the river for their twice daily baths. It was a great experience. I would highly recommend this trip over other river cruises. The Avalon Myanmar is built for the Irrawaddy River and it travels all the way from Bagan to Bhamo, whereas the other ships only go as far as Mandalay. You lose out on a lot of the country and villages along the way. This was an outstanding trip!