There could be no more romantic way to travel between the colonial port cities of Rangoon and Moulmein than by steamer. Throughout the colonial era steamer services connecting these trading posts that dotted the shores of the Andaman sea. Rangoon can only really be appreciated, even understood, from the river and to slip up river as dawn breaks or down it as the sun sets is one of life’s great moments.
Moulmein, together with Akyab in the Arakan, were the first British cities in Burma, established in 1824 after the Anglo Burmese war. Rangoon then became capital of British or Lower Burma in 1855 after the second war. Moulmein, though it has suffered the depredations of urban development, still retains a colonial charm. There are a number of Anglican and Catholic churches from this period, completed in a delightful Victorian Neo Gothic. On the hill is the Old Moulmein Pagoda and a sumptuously wood carved royal monasteries.
There are two great day excursions from Moulmein. The first is by car to Hpa-an, capital of Karen State on the mighty Salween, the longest river in Burma. Along the way we pass the most extraordinary rock formations and stack like mountains, the most famous being Mount Zwekabin. Here we see a very welcoming Karen culture at first hand. The town is delightful and after lunch we return to our ship back down the fast flowing Salween on a local boat by way of Martaban.
The other car excursion is to see the war graves at Theinbyuzayat about two hours south of the city. Immaculately maintained by the War Graves Commission servicemen from the UK, Australia, New Zealand and the Netherlands are interned here, all victims of the Japanese and their ‘Death Railway’ that was to connect Thailand with Burma.
We sail on hugging the coast to explore Tavoy about which we know nothing (!) but it is a famous old name and there must be all sorts of discoveries to be made. Then the northern part of the archipelago before entering the bustling port of Mergui. These are areas of mangrove as countless rivers flow off the hills, through labrinths of creeks, and mazes of channels, to eventually find the sea. Mergui was once home to the writer Maurice Collis and setting for his wonderful book Siamese White. Mergui, like all these southern ports, seems to step out of a tale by Somerset Maugham.
The Mergui Archipelago with its 800 islands is one of those areas that remains almost totally unvisited by foreigners. Though now some live-a-board dive boats and yachts venture with special permission into the southern islands from their bases in Thailand, the bulk of the archipelago has remained unvisited since colonial times. During that period when the archipelago was first chartered most of the islands were named after colonial civil servants, a number retain these quaint names to this day.
The local population are Mokkein, often called sea gypsies and sometimes called pirates. During the Burmese socialist period the Mokkein controlled the smuggling routes and would prey on shipping. Nowadays they have reverted to fishing and fish curing. They are a people with their own language and culture who entirely live on the sea and have evolved a remarkable way of life. We will visit Mokkein islands such as Lampi in the Sullivan Islands.
Please note that for this voyage there is no itinerary. The sailing directions and stops indicated below are what we would like to do. All is subject to, trial and error not to mention navigational directions, tides, weather and government restrictions. Some of these stops may be missed whilst others included in their place. We will certainly work to make this expedition as interesting and exciting as possible. Given the natural beauty of the area, the wealth of things to do and see, this will not be difficult!
Two reconnaissance voyages are planned for February 2016 and passengers who have noted interest following the initial announcement will be given priority when booking. Or please contact Angela in our London office now to register interest in case you missed our initial announcement.
Northbound pax connecting to upcountry Pandaw river sailings on the 20th Feb may stay on board without extra charge on the 19th in Rangoon port.
There are eleven suites on the Andaman Explorer and all are priced the same and allocated on a first come first served basis according to preference.
The price for the ten night expedition is USD 3,995pp twin share, USD 5,995 single, which includes all meals, local drinks, shore excursions, entrance fees, etc., but excludes any flights, personal laundry, wines and premium drinks. We will be happy to arrange car transfers from Rangoon or Ranong airports.
Note that Ranong is a three hour drive from Phuket and the attractive beach resort lies about half way between Ranong an Phuket and a good option for a beach stay.
Pandaw are delighted to announce the acquisition of a classic motor yacht that will be deployed on the coasts of South-East Asia to explore little known cruising areas up till now virtually unknown to travellers and filled with marvels to see and do.
The Andaman Explorer was built as the MV Atlantic Guard in 1963 in Norway as a Norwegian coast guard vessel. She is 61 meters long with her original Rolls Royce engines. The hull is built to ‘ice class’ with extra thick plates and she has the power to withstand north Atlantic storms or chases out to sea. Very handy when cruising in tropical waters!
She retired from coast guard duties in 1998 and was acquired by one Doctor Bogazzi, an Italian oligarch whose family owns the Carrara marble quarries. Dr Bogazzi lavished many a million on the ship, now renamed the MY Marina, completely refitting her with eleven very generous suites and a Jacuzzi on deck. Much of the ship is floored with Carrara marble, pleasantly cool under foot for those who go unshod.
Each suite consists of a sitting room, bedroom and marble (of course) bathroom. There is a saloon, indoor dining room and two teak decks aft, the lower for outdoor dining and the upper with a Jacuzzi for lounging. There is also a forward observation deck below the bridge. The ship comes with two RIB tenders for excursions to islands and beaches.
We plan an informal recce cruise between Rangoon and Ranong in Thailand in February. If you would like to join this please register with us now. As with all recces it will be a haphazard unplanned voyage so this is not for people who want to know what is happening next! If you are up for it let us know and we will get back in touch with firm dates and costs.
From June to September 2016 we will start our first official voyages out of Bali exploring Indonesian coastal waters: Lombok, Sumbawa, Komodo Islands and Flores. These are areas of exquisite beauty with an astonishing biodiversity, not to mention cultural life ashore.
From October 2016 to April 2017 we will offer cruises on Burma coast between Ranong and Rangoon, a fascinating cruise area that includes the Mergui Archipelago and old colonial seaports like Moulmein.
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