Flowing for more than 1,300 miles through central Myanmar, the Irrawaddy River is the historical, cultural, and economic heart of the country. From its source in the awe-inspiring Himalayas, it meanders peacefully through jungle-shrouded land and sun-drenched plains to its mangrove-dotted delta at the Andaman Sea. More than 90% of the Burmese population are practising Buddhists, so it’s not surprising that the pagoda is an iconic yet natural part of the landscape as you sail serenely past. Myanmar is rich in plant and wildlife, and if you’re lucky, you may even catch a glimpse of the rare Irrawaddy dolphin. However, it’s the people who will capture your heart as you get a glimpse into the lives of locals. Visit a farmer in his home and spend time with children at a village school. See how people make a living from creating the famous 50-gallon Martaban pots, or make candy out of toddy palm tree sap. Taking an Avalon Irrawaddy river cruise affords a short-lived opportunity to experience the country before Western influence alters its culture, land and people.