I'm off to Burma in June, and was roughly planning a route from Yangon - Pyay - Bagan - Inle Lake - Mandalay - Pyin Oo Lwin (if time remaining). However I've heard really good things from some sources about the ferry from Bagan to Mandalay.
So now I'm wondering if I should change the route to go from Yangon - Inle (maybe breaking the journey in Taungoo or Meiktila/Thazi) - Bagan so I can take the ferry to Mandalay. However Taungoo or Meiktila/Thazi sound far less interesting than Pyay....
I'm flying out of Mandalay, so doing Yangon - Pyay - Bagan - Mandalay - Inle - Mandalay feels like a waste, having to backtrack.
Opinions, please: is the ferry interesting enough to sacrifice Pyay for?
My interests are very much focused on scenery and temples.
FYI, I've checked the website for the tourist ferry and it is scheduled to run daily throughout the rainy season (I've read in some places that it only runs a couple of days a week, but I'm assuming demand is high enough these days to run it daily).
We passed on it when we were there as word was it is slow and the scenery rather dull (dry season) - better to get some river time by just taking a boat trip for the day while in Bagan. Trains in Myanmar are fun. Really fun, like a roller coaster.
This is a bit of a crap-shoot. When I did the trip in the other direction, from Mandalay to Bangan, I loved it. It was 10 blissful hours on the deck of the boat with my book, my music, a few beers, the odd village, big flotillas of teak logs with people and animals living on them floating down the river. I thought it was quite relaxing, as well as interesting even though the scenery was pretty flat and beige for the most part. You see things from the river that you just don't see from the inside of a bus.
Friends of mine have had opposite experiences, though, as they all ended up spending much more time on the boat than planned due to low water levels. One friend ended up spending the night on the boat because it grounded itself in a shallow part of the river.
The trains definitely can be like roller coasters, as Casey mentions. The one I was on nearly derailed on the way to Moktama. Guess that's what happens when one rides on slave-labour-made railways.
I made the Mandalay - Bagan boat trip in August 2012, and quite enjoyed it, although it was very long and not particularly comfortable (plastic chair for 12 - 13 hours). I did get to see some very interesting sights of rural life as discussed above, that definitely would not be seen otherwise. The water level would probably be lower in June, so that could be a consideration.