This is the first year the Indochina Pandaw has sailed on the Irrawaddy between Mandalay and Bagan (Pagan) giving a range of 7,4 and 2 night cruises. We chose the 7 night which fell over the New Year between December 2017 and January 2018 starting from Mandalay. Pandaw offer some cruises with no single supplement and, as we were two female travellers of a certain age who think of ourselves as Destination Dames, this was one of the reasons we chose them. After all, sharing is fine, but a room each for the same price next to each is even better.
We were looking forward to a more colonial style, teak ship which was well-appointed and the Indochina Pandaw did not disappoint. We arrived on board and found our cabins to be immaculate and exactly like the pictures. They were comfy, clean, lots of hot water, space to unpack etc. The crew of 24 went out of their way to make us feel welcome as we gathered for the briefing with a welcome cocktail (the first of the many).
Going on a cruise is about a journey, not just the stops and this was no exception. Sitting watching the temples, fields, villages and many other ships go by from either the sub-deck or the chairs on the deck outside the cabin was a restful, ever changing experience (even when we had unexpected rain).
We could write for ever (and out diaries are quite long) but a typical day has:
- Coffee/tea and pastries (they have their own bakery) on deck at 6.00 am if you want to see the dawn and, often, the boat leaving the shore
- Breakfast at 7.00-9.00 which is a full buffet including eggs to order. It should be said that the coffee is variable.
- The first planned itinerary with the guide -e.g. visiting a temple, a village or a workshop
- Lunch was 12.30 and has soup, an appetiser, salads, a main course, sweets and, often, very good cheese.
- The second planned itinerary with the guide -e.g. often a walk. The itinerary was very much culturally orientated and designed to show Myanmar traditions, crafts and current ways of life.
-Back on the boat cocktails (with nibbles) were at 6.30 on the sun deck and briefing for the next day was about 7.00 prior to dinner at 7.30 (lunch and dinner are heralded by the gong).
- Dinner was a three course meal (there was always a vegetarian option and we travelled with gluten free guests who found they bent over backwards to take of them). Try the local wine which was surprisingly good.
- Some evenings there was an entertainment such as a dance, puppet show or movie and there was time to relax with a drink before bed.
We told you we were there for New Year and the ships crew gave real attention to making it a special event. We had dancing, lights, champagne and fireworks. Watching fireworks and holding a roman candle over the side whilst moored in the middle of the river drinking Champagne will be a favourite memory out of many.
We should note that the boat can carry 60, but a combination of the single supplement and the political situation meant that there only 9 of us for the full trip and we were joined for 4 nights Including New Year's Eve) by another 18.
We went looking forward to a relaxing and informative trip that combined sailing on the Irawaddy river with tours of local places. It's often easy to find fault with something but we really can't with this trip. The food was excellent, the service and care extraordinary. It may seem trite, but we really did not want to leave - it had truly exceeded all our expectations.