For five wonderful days I cruised on the MV Orient Pandaw along the Rajang River in Borneo.
Pandaw ships are replicas of the old colonial river steamers, particularly the ones that sailed along the Irrawaddy in Burma. They’re finished in brass and teak but while they may look like the old river boats they’ve got air conditioning in all the cabins, the food is fabulous, the crew takes great care of everyone, you meet some really interesting people and go to remote, hard-to-get-to places.
Borneo’s a land of mountains, rivers and jungle. Unfortunately large numbers of jungle trees are being felled and sent down the river on freighters, barges and occasionally the old-fashioned way in a log raft. This is decreasing the habitat of the many birds and animals unique to Borneo but you’re unlikely to see much wildlife along the rivers because these act as highways – communities build longhouses on the banks of the rivers and everyone seems to use small boats to get around.
Our journey was called ‘Into the heart of Borneo’. This is the title of a wonderful travel book by Redmond O’Hanlon who went to many of the places we visited about thirty years ago. Many of the things he saw and did were instantly recognisable although we viewed them from the comfort of the Orient Pandaw rather than getting down and dirty with leeches, ants and mosquitos. We also drank considerably less tuac (rice wine) and its paint-stripper-like distilled offspring arak.
We boarded the Orient Pandaw in Sibu, the largest port on the Rajang River, about 60 miles from the coast, and cruised upstream stopping at Kanowit and Kapit. We took side trips in the expedition boat Pandaw Adventurer - its shallow draft meant we could go along narrow tributaries and visit small communities.
Check it out on the video.
Borneo is a fabulous place and the Pandaw was a great way to see a small part of it.