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The Irrawaddy is still a valuable alternative to land routes. On the main stream, the bulk of the trade is in the hands of the Irrawaddy Flotilla Company. Their steamers, of shallow draught, run from Rangoon, through the Bassein creek, past Thongwa and Ma-u-bin, as far as Bhamo, carrying passengers and cargo. The faster steamers run single-handed, stopping only at important towns. Others, known as cargo-steamers, have each a flat or barge attached on either side. With them speed is not the object. Stopping at every village and carrying on board a travelling bazaar
Fig. 15. Burmese girl.
or market, they present a microcosm of Burmese life in many phases. Other steamer services ply in the Delta. On the main river, steamers move only by day, anchoring or tying up to the bank at night. Elsewhere they rush, day and night, through labyrinthine creeks, often crashing into the mangrove forests on the margin.
From the sea to Bhamo and two miles beyond, for a distance of 689 miles, the Irrawaddy is navigable by steamers at all times. But while in the rains it is a deep and magnificent river, some two miles wide at Bhamo, in