By David Wishart, Cruise Critic Contributor
Kalay Pandaw is a handsome little vessel aimed at private charters for just 10 passengers, two of whom can share a spacious owner suite. Its shallow draft enables Kalay Pandaw to cruise hard to reach sections of the Irrawaddy and Chindwin rivers.
The owner suite is 450 sq ft and is the only accommodation on the upper deck. The teak floor and walls give it a rich ambiance, complemented by a vanity table and easy chairs. The bed has a convertible configuration, and the wrap-around design and French window give panoramic viewing.
The four main-deck cabins are all 180 sq ft, and have air-conditioning and French windows opening on to a walk-around deck. Bathrooms have good showers, with bathrobes, hair dryers, and slippers provided. Cabins also have desks and safes. There is an onboard laundry and crew clean shoes after excursions.
Passengers spend their time on the open but covered upper deck, where they can take in the sights from teak loungers and wicker furniture. Meals are also served at tables here, a pleasant alfresco experience affording backdrops such as floodlit golden stupas, passing vessels and sounds from nearby villages. Breakfast is buffet style but preceded by coffee, tea and light bites for early risers. Lunch is served either buffet style or standard sit-down, while dinners are four-course affairs. Produce is fresh, regional and seasonal.
Coffee, tea, soft drinks, beer and domestic spirits are complimentary and served at the bar/library on the upper deck. There is an open-bridge policy.
There is wifi that is often slow due to the remote areas traveled. However, some of the riverside towns have internet shops.
Kalay Pandaw has one guide who gives briefings at cocktail hour every night, and accompanies all excursions, which are daily and free. Some local entertainment is offered, such as folkloric dancing and puppet shows. Tipping is optional.
Overnights usually involve stopping at a riverbank and securing the ship with lines attached to stakes hammered into the sand. Sometimes part the gangway is little more than a plank and sandbags, making this trip difficult for those with disabilities. But plenty of willing crew hands are always there to assist., Most passengers see Pandaw as a world away from conventional cruising and take such measures in stride..