From its headwaters in the eastern Himalayas, the Ayeyarwady River drains for around 1,250 miles (2,000 km) to its delta on the Bay of Bengal. Since ancient times, this artery has formed a strategic link between China and the ocean. Numerous civilizations have sprung up on its banks. Invaders, missionaries, and merchants from across the globe have battled its currents to reach the capitals for which the river was a lifeline. The writer Rudyard Kipling immortal ized it as “the road to Mandalay.” Even today, millions remain dependent on its life-giving waters to nourish their crops. Whether in the dry season when water levels are low or during the fast, silty flows of the mon soon, to journey along the river is to experience the timeless essence of the country’s core, little altered in centuries.