Pandaw has launched a brand-new expedition, sailing into the heart of the vibrant and varied landscape of the Irrawaddy Delta, exploring its maze of tributaries which remain untouched by tourism. Set sail from Rangoon and weave through the complex labyrinth of waterways only navigated by the most experienced pilots on this fascinating 7-night itinerary and savour the contrasts of indigenous village life, markets, ancient trading ports, temples, churches and mosques, as well as a plethora of birdlife and the possibility of seeing salt water crocodiles.
As the longest established river cruise company in Southeast Asia, Pandaw are undoubtedly the pioneers of boutique adventure for the inquisitive traveller and exceptional at creating river cruising itineraries unmarked by the tourist footprint. Take a step back in time and recapture the golden era of luxurious travel on board the beautiful RV Katha Pandaw, hand-crafted in teak and brass, to embark on this unique circular delta expedition from Rangoon. The Katha offers only 16 spacious cabins, exquisite dining al fresco using locally sourced ingredients and a very personalised service in the comfort of Katha’s shaded deck by their 21 crewmembers.
Setting sail from Rangoon along the Twante Canal, stopping en route at the pottery village of Twante, the Katha reaches Pyapon, 15km inland from the Andaman Sea, in time for guests to explore this lively delta town and seaport with its bustling docks and market. The following day the ship ventures further inland to the former Mon capital of Bogale in the Ayeyarwady Region, as well as visiting Mein Ma Hla Kyun Wildlife Reserve, a mangrove ecosystem and home of the salt water crocodile. From Bogale to Myaungmya is a fascinating day of sailing as the Katha weaves through tidal creeks and channels across the heart of the delta which is completed the next day when joining the great Bassein River up to Bassein, originally a colonial rice town, now a seaport and the capital of the delta, with charming riverfront teahouses and restaurants specialising in seafood. Bassein is home to the traditional monk’s waxed cloth hand-painted parasol as well as many shrines such as the Schwemokhtaw Pagoda and a vibrant central market. On the fifth day of the itinerary, guests are offered the chance to further explore this interesting port or can opt for a relaxed day at the palm fringed, white sand and crystal clear waters of Ngwesaung Beach.
The voyage then joins the upper delta route used by the old Irrawaddy Flotilla Company launch service, stopping overnight at the attractive river port of Wakema. This is the hometown of a notable Buddhist missionary known as Sayadaw U Pannya Vamsa. The seventh day is a lively contrast of busier channels and riverbanks teaming with activity, arriving at sunset to enjoy a walk along the colourful boulevard of Maubin. The final morning is spent crossing the Twante Canal and back to Pandaw’s base on the Rangoon River in colonial downtown for midday disembarkation.
This expedition is truly a step back into a bygone era. Since the Raj, life in the Delta has seen little change, although British civil engineering increased the cultivatable land through dykes and barriers, connecting the Delta via the 22-mile Twante Canal with the Yangon River, on which sits the country’s former capital and main port of Rangoon. In the heyday of the Raj, the Delta’s rice production fed vast swathes of the British Empire via Rangoon’s docks. These flatlands comprise mineral rich soil which continues to produce high yields of rice. In the early 1900’s The Irrawaddy Flotilla Company operated over 100 creek steamers across the Delta connecting these rice towns and villages at a time when there were neither roads nor bridges. On the waterways themselves, fishermen and turtle egg hunters ply their ancient business, while exotic migratory water birds paddle in the shallows.
The Irrawaddy Delta was the scene of Pandaw’s celebrated humanitarian rescue mission after the devastation of Cyclone Nargis in 2008. The launch of this new expedition marks the 10th anniversary of Pandaw playing a leading role after the worst storm in the long history of Burma made landfall, causing a tidal wave 40km inland. Pandaw converted its ships into floating clinics and provided emergency relief packages. This was the launch of Pandaw Charity which today has seven clinics and twelve schools established in rural locations around Pagan.
Pre and post tours are offered in combination with the Irrawaddy Delta itinerary. Add an overnight stay in the Sule Shangri-La Hotel in Rangoon and enjoy a guide-led excursion to the nearby Schwegadon Pagoda.
For those still seeking further adventure, consider the three night post tour of the Ancient Arakan in the Bay of Bengal. The temples in Mrauk-U have been constructed from hewn stones instead of mud and bricks, the most important being Shite-thaung, Htukkanthein and Koe-thaung as well as Five Mahn pagodas.
Departures from 10th March 2018 for seven nights from $2,117pp sharing a twin cabin.
Visit www.pandaw.com for more information.