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Think you know Burma? Not until you've seen the Chindwin

While the Chindwin River looms large in the story of Burma, its magnificent length (1200km) and unique presence are undersold by its classification as "a tributary of the Irrawaddy".

This overshadowing by a bigger sister (the Irrawaddy is 2170km) has obscured the Chindwin in Western eyes. If we have heard of it in the West it is probably due to its status as a key strategic landmark of the Burma Campaign (1942-1945).

The ultimate significance of this brutal jungle clash to the Allied victory is still much debated but, especially for those involved, the Chindwin is remembered as a major strategic goal of - and fearsome obstacle to - successive advances and retreats of British and Japanese imperial armies. That puts it up there with the Rhine, the Elbe, and the Volga among the World War II's key rivers.

All that is history, of course. Nowadays it is peace – perfect peace – that distinguishes the Chindwin. Many of our passengers, some with personal or family links to the legendary Fourteenth Army, and its memorial Burma Star Association have remarked on this.

Chindwin River 1

This is a river for the true lover of this beautiful country, and particularly for the return visitor who has already had an eyeful of the great set-piece sights of Rangoon, Mandalay and Pagan, and who seeks a deeper journey into the country's gorgeous, unspoiled hinterland. With highlights such as the visit to Nagaland and to Sitthuang, where a large part of the Irrawaddy Flotilla Company fleet was scuppered during the war in the face of the advancing Japanese, it is a river that grips the imagination, and once experienced, is never forgotten.

Pandaw has been plying this serene, scenically dramatic waterway since the 1990s. We were able to be the first because we went "back to the future" adopting the ultra-shallow-draft designs of the original Irrawaddy Flotilla Company to tackle the navigational complexities of a fast-but-shallow river. We did this first with the Pandaw II, whose voyages were possible in August and September, and since 2014 and the introduction of the Kalay Pandaw, departing from July to November.

Hugh Clayson, Pandaw's Director, and a self-confessed Chindwin addict explains: "The Kalay Pandaw is a very small vessel with five cabins. We are the only operator in the 4-5 star category who can offer the Chindwin experience with the much longer season. The bigger ships can only do August and September.

Chindwin River 1

"We can sail from Monywa to Homalin in July to November, and in September we go all the way to Nagaland, and from December-Feb we do Minwa to Kaleywa. All of these three itineraries are seven nights."

"The Chindwin is a river that often appeals to repeating customers, people who have 'done' Mandalay and Pagan and central Burma. What makes the Chindwin so special for our guests is that it's a very remote river. There aren't many tourists, if any."

"For me, the Chindwin is all about observing nature, savouring the landscape, enjoying the unspoiled villages and the pagodas dotting the riverbank. There are no big blockbuster highlights as you see in Mandalay or Pagan, it's more about savouring the experience, the natural beauty and the remoteness of the landscape, and of course daily interaction with people in the villages."

Feedback from our passengers certainly bears out Sven's enthusiasm. Not only are more and more passengers opting to return to Burma for the Chindwin experience, but others are combining it with our other Burmese cruises, and finding that despite the relatively remote location, they receive the same high standard of Pandaw service and food offering from our much-praised crew.

As Sven sums it up; "The lower Irrawaddy may have the cultural highlights, but the landscape is quite flat, it's nice of course but it's fairly consistent day by day. The Chindwin also gives you the culture but it's the natural beauty and variety of the landscape, the forests, mountains and the rolling hills that are the big draw. Like the upper Irrawaddy it's very dramatic and it changes day-to-day. "

To find out more about the true Burma connoisseur's river of choice, see our website. If you have any questions, or would like to comment on your own Chindwin experience, please contact colin@pandaw.com.

Click Here to see our Chindwin expeditions

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