The Pandaw Story
The Irrawaddy Flotilla Company was founded in 1865 and by the 1920?s was the largest privately owned fleet of ships in the world. In 1942 the bulk of the fleet of over 650 vessels was sunk in an act of denial when the Japanese invaded Burma. Most of these vessels were paddle steamers and the largest class was licensed to carry 4000 deck passengers. In 1995 the Irrawaddy Flotilla company was revived by Paul Strachan. He acquired the Pandaw built in 1947, from the Inland Water Transport and spent a year re-fitting her. They tried to conserve as many original features as they could, restoring her to recreate the atmosphere and character of the first class deck of a colonial river steamer. Using old photographs and models and interviewing a number of the old company's former employees the restoration was as authentic as was possible.
Demand for the Pandaw exceeded all expectations. For this reason the company decided to introduce a second vessel into service in November 2001. Pandaw II is of a similar design to the original Pandaw but slightly larger, she was built in Rangoon with very clear ideas of how a river cruise ship in the tropics should work best for passengers and crew. The much loved and generously sized staterooms of Pandaw I were faithfully reproduced as was the character and atmosphere of a colonial river steamer. Following the success of Pandaw II, the first passenger cruise ship ever to be built in Myanmar, an even larger Pandaw III - the Tonle Pandaw was launched in November 2002 with further improvements to design and efficiency without sacrifice to charm and authenticity.
The average Pandaw stateroom size (170 sq ft) is considerably larger than the average on other ships. Fine dining and excellent service, a hospitable caring management team all help to make a Pandaw experience something very special. The staff to guest ratio is higher than on most other ships or hotels ensuring high levels of service and care. There are no hidden extras on a Pandaw cruise like additional charges for unscheduled sightseeing trips; complimentary coffee and tea are available all day on the sun deck and mineral water is not charged for.
Nothing on a Pandaw cruise is compulsory. Passengers are welcome to join the escorted shore excursions, do their own thing or just stay on board. Though there is space for those who seek silence, a Pandaw cruise can also be a convival experience with a group of like-minded travellers exploring a little known country in the charming and historic atmosphere of a Pandaw. Cruising on a Pandaw can be a peaceful experience interrupted only by stimulating and exciting trips ashore. Scheduled for at least once, if not twice a day, there are excursions into timeless villages and small towns. The river world we explore is remote and far from the trodden tourist track. The shallow draft ships can ply and moor virtually anywhere on the inland waters, thus offering penetrating insights into the areas of the country that could not be reached by land.
THE PANDAW STATEROOM
On all the Pandaws the much loved twin staterooms remain identical. All rooms are air-conditioned with their own controls. In the cool season, from November to March, air conditioners are rarely required. For these times there are fitted windows with insect screens and warm blankets are available. There is a mini safe in each room. Slippers and kimonos in the company livery are supplied as are mineral water, note books, pencils etc. The bathrooms, for a ship are very roomy with granite basin tops. Hot water is copious and the pressure high. Tonle Pandaw (Pandaw III) has an additional lower deck with cabins for solo travellers; smallish yet cosy, these all have solid brass port holes giving to the river.
European executive chefs have evolved a fusion cuisine combing the best of Asian and Western traditions on board. Produce is sourced locally as far as possible, not just to assist the local economies but also so that passengers can taste and sample local products. As much tropical fruit and vegetables are offered as possible and the fresh river fish is a favourite. At each meal there is a choice of spicy Asian, European or vegetarian. Breakfasts and lunches are simple buffet. Dinner is a sit down table d?hote. Dress at night is smart-casual and never formal. There is no compulsory seating plan and a choice of table sizes from a couple to a larger group.
ON BOARD A PANDAW
All the ships in the Pandaw fleet follow a similar layout and design, with staterooms on the main and upper decks opening onto circular promenades furnished with rattan reading chairs. The Tonle Pandaw has an additional, lower deck with outside single cabins which have port holes. The key ingredient to the success of the Pandaw design has been the fact that passengers are not cooped up all day with sealed windows. On board the Pandaws, in the public areas, the windows open, walls slide back and all but disappear. Ventilation is natural, not ducted. You are close at all times to a real river world that is unfolding all about you. On each Pandaw there is an observation or sun deck above. This is part covered by an awning and offers a bar service with complimentary coffee and tea ready on the sideboard from dawn to dusk. Here you will find the bridge, and with the open bridge policy you can follow the fascinating work of the ship?s officers and pilots as they ply seemingly invisible channels with neither charts nor modern navigational aids.
Local materials like rattan and homespun fabrics are used in furnishing and decoration of the ships. Thoughtful detail in all aspects of the design remembering that this is a ship, not a hotel, and space is precious. The ships have teak decks and panelling throughout, inside and out, not to mention the use of other plantation hardwoods mixed to rich effect with the teak. The Pandaw collections of paintings, old prints and objects of art make the atmosphere on board more akin to being on an elegant 1920?s motor yacht than a cruise ship. The Saloon, with its well stocked cocktail bar, is in the forepart of the upper deck and this is a favourite place for passengers to sit in the afternoon and enjoy the incoming breeze from the windows, always opened when cruising during the day.On all our ships the dining room is designed to open up at the sides to allow airflow during daytime meals. Both the saloon and dining room can be closed up at night to prevent ingress of insects and are fully air-conditioned. All the ships in the Pandaw fleet are fitted with water and sewage treatment plants, emergency communications equipment, intercoms and PA-systems, night navigation searchlight, bakery and laundry, life rafts and other saving equipment, fire fighting equipment with emergency pumps and generators and emergency lighting circuits. Smoking is not allowed in any of the interior areas on Pandaw. Television, video and slide presentation facilities are available for seminars and lectures held on board. All the Pandaws have outboard propulsion systems utilising rudder-propeller technology. With adjustable height controls for the propellers, this maximum offers manoeuvrability in areas of shallow water offering maximum flexibility.