Saturday, May 15, 2010

Romancing the Rajang

You could picture yourself in wild, headhunting Borneo as you travel up the Rajang in the MV Orient Pandaw, a 19th century steamer.

Steaming off in the 1860s, the opulent brass- and teak-trimmed riverboats owned by the Irrawaddy Flotilla Company dominated the waterways of South-east Asia nearly a century ago. During this time, royalty and viceroys, as well as top-hatted gentlemen and genteel ladies alike, travelled in paddle steamers described by Rudyard Kipling in his poem Road to Mandalay.

After a five-decade hiatus caused by World War ll, the company was revived in 1995 and again began operating luxury river voyages on the Irrawaddy and Chindwin in Myanmar.

In mid-2009, expeditionary Pandaw cruises began in Malaysia’s largest river, the Rajang. From its source in the highlands of central Borneo, the Rajang flows for some 563km before emptying out in the South China Sea. Along the way, it passes Sibu, an important commercial centre in Sarawak and the departure point of the MV Orient Pandaw.

After landing in Sibu’s small airport, my wife and I were graciously met by Pandaw staff and whisked off to the docked vessel. The following nine days spent with 53 like-minded travellers aboard a new river cruiser built to replicate a 19th century colonial steamer proved to be culturally stimulating and totally relaxing.

Fitted out with modern conveniences, including a theatre for lectures and films and a spa and fitness centre, the 30-cabin MV Orient Pandaw provides maximum comfort in a remote corner of the world.

Continue reading (Incl. Pics) at: Romancing the Rajang

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