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Cruising into the sunset

by Raymond Tan, reporters@theborneopost.com. Posted on December 27, 2011, Tuesday

Cover design by BPonline

SIBU:  Pandaw forced to cease unprofitable Rajang River cruise, last adventure next March.

THANKS FOR THE MEMORY: The Pandaw cruises on the Rajang; it will sail for the last time along that river in March.

RV Orient Pandaw the  cruise boat that brings tourists  into the heart of Borneo along the  mighty Rajang is sailing into the  sunset as it will cease operation  next year.

It will sail up the longest river  in Malaysia for the last time  in March and its swansong  voyage is already almost fully  booked with just a few tickets left  available.

The Pandaw newsletter recently  announced the cessation of its  Rajang cruise explaining that  “…logistical and operational  difficulties of working are so  tough an environment that the  project has been commercially  unsuccessful”.

Pandaw the largest luxury  river cruise operator in South  East Asia runs river expedition  cruises in four countries in the  region – Burma on the Irrawaddy  and Chindwin Rivers, Cambodia  and Vietnam on Mekong River and  Malaysia on Rajang River.

The Sarawak Tourism Board  had been notified but there is  nothing it could do because as a  commercial venture the Pandaw  Rajang cruise is subjected to  market forces.

Direc tor of Corporation  Communication of Angelina  Bateman when contacted recently  said; “Our role so far has been to  help facilitate it by promoting the  tour. Other than that we cannot get  involved, except in helping them to  promote since it is a commercial  operation.”

Bateman expressed regret that  the cruise failed to succeed as  a commercial venture as it had  helped to promote tourism in the  state internationally.

When it was launched on July 1,  2009 it was hailed as a catalyst for  the growth of the tourism industry  in the central region of the state  but it was also drew flaks from  local tour operators who were left  out of its travel itinerary.

Tourists are transferred to the  boat from the airport, and after  the river expedition, whisked off  to the airport reducing Sibu to  a mere transit point of the river  expedition.

The travellers instead stayed  several days in Kuching for visits  to Sarawak Cultural Village,  Semenggoh Wildlife Centre and  Matang Wildlife Centre.

For its remaining days on the  Rajang River, Pandaw will be  promoting two river adventure  tours called ‘The Mountain and  the River’ and ‘Into the Heart of  Borneo’.

Both expeditions will start  at Burung Apu Wharf at Khoo  Peng Loong Road to go upstream  to Durin, Kanowit River, Kapit,  Baleh River, Pelagus Rapids and  for a jungle trek in the Rajang  Upper Reaches.

For its lower stream journey, the  cruise will take tourists to Igan  River, Sarikei; a sunset mangrove  cruise experience at the delta and  a cultural visit to Rajang village.

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