Myanmar brothers break new ground


A new luxury ship, with a local twist, has just been launched to tap into Myanmar’s booming river cruise market.

Sanctuary Ananda, a five-star river ship which will cruise the Irrawaddy and Chindwin in Myanmar, was built by two Mynmar brothers, U Soe Naing and Myo Aung.

Born in a farming town Nyaunglebin, about 160 kilometres from Myanmar’s capital city, Yangon, the two brothers fell into ship building by accident.

Their mother and grandmother laboured long hours in rice fields while their father was a builder.

U Soe Naing originally trained as a civil engineer but struggled to support his family of seven siblings. He retrained as a radio officer on merchant ships before he decided to go into construction with his brother.

Their big chance came when a friend, Paul Strachan, the Scottish founder of Pandaw River Expeditions asked them to restore an old ship into a river cruiser.

The brothers then went on to build other new cruise ships and have never looked back.

“My brother and I are Buddhists,’’ U Soe Naing told a British newspaper.

“The goal of Buddhism is to get to Nat Pan Na (a peaceful place). This is achieved through living a good life and meditation, a philosophy that is reflected in the ship. It’s the kind of place I would dream of staying myself.’’

They used traditional materials and teak to build the three-decked Ananda. It has 20 spacious suites with large balconies, a sundeck, spa, an outdoor pool and lounge.

The contemporary interiors have been furnished with local fabrics and lacquer ware with high tech amenities including an iPod docking station, iPad television connectivity and WiFi in every suite.

Sanctuary Ananda is the tenth ship the brothers have built and according to U Soe Naing, it is also the most beautiful.

“There will be almost one crew member for every passenger and our suites are among the biggest on the river. We’re very proud of her,’’ he said.

Sanctuary Ananda can accommodate 48 passengers and offers three to seven cruises from Mandalay to Bagan and 10-night cruises which include Homalin and Bhamo.

The ship is the newest addition to the London-based Sanctuary Retreats, which specialises in adventure travel and luxury lodges in Africa. The company then expanded into river cruises on the Yangtze in China and the Nile in Egypt. Sanctuary Ananda is the company’s new venture into Myanmar.

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