The Irawaddy bisects Myanmar, the country formerly known as Burma. This once-closed nation has recently opened its borders after a long time under the rule of an oppressive military regime. The most popular routes operate between the temple-studded Bagan and the former royal capital of Mandalay, where you can tour gold-leaf workshops and cross a teakwood bridge. But it’s the remote northern reaches that are a step back in time. Starting in Bhamo and descending south, you’ll encounter sugar-palm farmers, pottery villages, maroon-robed monks, and school children, all while soaking up views of scattered stupas, grazing water buffalo, and baby elephants at home in a nursing camp.