RV Orient Pandaw, Rajang River, Sarawak

Sarawak Travel Blog

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The RV Orient Pandaw began cruising the Rajang River, Sarawak, Borneo in June 2009.  We were on the twelfth cruise, which started in mid-October.  The boat holds sixty passengers, but there were only thirty on our cruise, with a further two joining half-way through the week.


The boat has three decks for passenger use.  The lower one has a few cabins and the dining room; the middle one has most of the cabins and a small office/shop; the upper one is the sun deck (mainly covered) and bar/hot drinks station.  There is also a lecture/TV room/mini library below the lower deck, where they sometimes showed a DVD in the evening.  Our cabin was compact, but with more room than the one we had on a Costa cruise earlier this year, and the en-suite was more generous than on most cruise ships.  The surfaces are all dark wood, and each cabin has a small amount of outside deck space, with a couple of rattan chairs.  These chairs went on two tours with us, as we had to use small cargo boats to navigate the shallower parts of the river, and they were taken off the boat so we could sit in comfort for a rather good riverside barbeque of fish and chicken, with a variety of vegetables and salads!


Breakfast was a buffet, lunch and dinner were à la carte with a choice of starter and main course.  Some of the food was a bit spicy, and you had to watch out for chillies, but the food was good.


The organisation on the boat is superb.  Pandaw have been running almost identical boats on rivers in Burma, Indo-China and Vietnam/Cambodia for some years, and most of the crew had previously been employed on those boats.  All were very cheerful and helpful, and nothing was too much trouble; several always accompanied on us on excursions.  When we left the boat, we were offered bottles of water in shoulder carriers, with a moist towelette, and umbrellas (for sun or rain), and when we returned, there was one person waiting with cold flannels, and another with the cabin keys.  They also took our shoes to clean if we’d been somewhere wet/dirty.  We had an extremely good Iban guide travelling with us; he’d been a guide for years, but not for this part of Borneo.  He’s done all twelve cruises, and has been asked to do next year’s cruises, too. 


We had daily excursions, sometimes two, visiting four towns, a “best kept” village, an Iban longhouse, a boarding school, rapids, a pepper plantation, and two jungle walks.  As tourism is so new, we tended to attract attention, but people were very friendly.  The most interesting excursion was probably to the Iban longhouse.  Borneo is still tribal, and the Iban live in community houses, the largest of which holds eighty-six related families.  The one we visited was built in 1880 and holds fifty-six related families, four hundred and sixty-eight people in all.


We recommend this cruise highly.  Many of the passengers travelling with us had already been on other Pandaw cruises, and we are certainly considering doing the Mekong cruise in the next couple of years. 

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photo by: dyron_888