If you are reading this review you must be considering going to Burma – our advice is go ahead and book. It is a beautiful country with surprises around every corner, friendly and welcoming people and cycling is a great way to see the country.

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Dear Paul,

In September, 2012, we were fortunate to be amongst 20 passengers on the 20 day Chindwin trip on Katha Pandaw…a trip we can only describe in superlatives!

What a lovely vessel, crewed by incredibly obliging and cheerful Burmese staff, who, to a man, did their utmost to satisfy the needs and whims of all the passengers. Their attentiveness, sense of humour, and generous spirit, combined with the unexpectedly luxurious comforts of this ‘Expedition Boat’, made for an outstanding travel experience .

The 3 hour, 24 mile, eventful drive in a pair of rudimentary buses from the Kalaw airport to the boat at Kalaywa gave us our first taste of the ‘expeditionary nature’ of the journey we were anticipating. We were both educated and entertained by this bus trip, thanks to our excellent guide, Daniel, whose numerous special qualities we were yet to discover. On arriving at Katha Pandaw,  Naing Maung’s welcomed us ‘to our new home’ – and that is exactly what the boat quickly became – our home ( with the added benefit of staff laid on!). Naing’s patience, consideration for others, compassion, generosity and good humour, were clearly a shining example to his entire team.  His daily perseverance in teaching us some basic Burmese was appreciated, and once I realized that not pronouncing consonants on the ends of words is integral to the Burmese language, I easily understood his English. During  the trip, we were anxious to make contact with home whenever we could, as our 28 year old daughter had cancer. Naing Maung helped me find internet access opportunities in towns where we berthed to keep track of her progress. His demonstrated concern also included suggestions for traditional Burmese remedies which might help.  Sadly, she died, just 3 weeks after our return to Australia, but not before she had heard all about our travels in Burma – a trip she had wanted to make herself.

We immensely enjoyed the outdoor dining setup on the upper deck.  Here, it was possible to experience all manner of weathers; to socialize with fellow travellers or not, as one’s mood dictated; to sit quietly and watch the day to day activity of villagers when we moored; or to ‘be’ the entertainment for them.  How much we would have missed had we been enclosed in an air conditioned communal area, or had our view obstructed by an enclosure at the rear of the deck.  (It  was one of the reasons we opted for this vessel instead of the Pandaw II which did the same trip) Similarly, we enjoyed being able to draw back the French doors in our cabin to watch the river go by, with fresh air rather than air conditioning  if we were sailing during the day.

We were also delighted by the variety and quality of the catering.  It didn’t take long to become hooked on the traditional mohinga/soup at every meal.  It was obvious that the chefs were keen to impress, and particularly when they served versions of Burmese cuisine, they most certainly did.  I still enjoy Shan green tea with slices of ginger as my first drink of the day – a habit acquired on Pandaw Katha.

The shore excursions exceeded our expectations in terms of how far afield and how varied they would be.  It may detract from the ‘surprise’ element of the trip for others to be too specific here; but thanks to Daniel’s efforts, no doubt supported by others, the comprehensiveness of our experience of Burma was enhanced…and the Chindwin element appears to have encompassed more than most who live in the country have had the opportunity to see.

And now for Daniel.  I do not believe any of us could have been in better hands.  Not only handsome (!) , but talented, a joy to witness interacting with children, a funny, highly educated and well informed guide, passionate about his country, musical to his very core and quick to appreciate the varying capabilities of his tour group. We were privileged indeed to be in his care.

Thank you for Pandaw, the concept, and for it’s professionally brilliant execution by your wonderful front line team.  We were excited to see your new trip focussing on Tonle Sap and look forward to being part of that in 2014.

Very best regards,

Pippa & Ben Smith