Tuesday 21 October 2008

Cruise Weekly Comment: Burma

Cruise Weekly – Comment by Roderick Eime

I reckon it would be tough selling anything to do with Burma, yet the tenacity and optimism of Pandaw Cruises is inspirational. Resurrected in 1995 from the original Irrawaddy Flotilla Company of the 1860s, the gorgeously recreated vessels typically carry around 60 pax in nostalgic, teak-and-brass luxury.

Traditional river cruising, European style, is normally far-removed from the adventure product, but with Pandaw there is a definite crossover. Itineraries include shore excursions, village visits, historic sites and cultural encounters in sufficient quantity to easily qualify as an adventure product.

With luxury accommodation as a basis, passengers enjoy an extensive selection of cruises encompassing Myanmar, the Mekong (Cambodia and Vietnam) and now Borneo aboard a growing fleet currently comprising six vessels.

The vision of the far-sighted and heritage-minded Scotsman, Paul Strachan, he regrets once being seen as an apologist for the Burmese regime but, according to fellow Scot Colin Donald, stoutly defends one of the few foreign owned businesses that puts money in the pocket of the ordinary Burmese.

As if Burma needed another setback, Cyclone Nargis tore the Delta region apart in May. Instead of throwing his hands up in despair, Strachan activated his fleet as floating hospitals and supply vessels and was one of the few aid providers to make a measurable impact on the suffering of the God-forsaken Burmese. His humanitarian work continues.

Website: www.pandaw.com

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