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There could be no more romantic way to travel between the colonial port cities of Rangoon and Moulmein than by steamer. Throughout the colonial era steamer services connecting these trading posts that dotted the shores of the Andaman sea. Rangoon can only really be appreciated, even understood, from the river and to slip up river as dawn breaks or down it as the sun sets is one of life’s great moments.

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Moulmein, together with Akyab in the Arakan, were the first British cities in Burma, established in 1824 after the Anglo Burmese war. Rangoon then became capital of British or Lower Burma in 1855 after the second war. Moulmein, though it has suffered the depredations of urban development, still retains a colonial charm. There are a number of Anglican and Catholic churches from this period, completed in a delightful Victorian Neo Gothic. On the hill is the Old Moulmein Pagoda and a sumptuously wood carved royal monasteries.

There are two great day excursions from Moulmein. The first is by car to Hpa-an, capital of Karen State on the mighty Salween, the longest river in Burma. Along the way we pass the most extraordinary rock formations and stack like mountains, the most famous being Mount Zwekabin. Here we see a very welcoming Karen culture at first hand. The town is delightful and after lunch we return to our ship back down the fast flowing Salween on a local boat by way of Martaban.
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The other car excursion is to see the war graves at Theinbyuzayat about two hours south of the city. Immaculately maintained by the War Graves Commission servicemen from the UK, Australia, New Zealand and the Netherlands are interned here, all victims of the Japanese and their ‘Death Railway’ that was to connect Thailand with Burma. We visit the impressive new museum.

We sail on hugging the coast to explore Tavoy about which we know nothing (!) but it is a famous old name and there must be all sorts of discoveries to be made. Then the northern part of the archipelago before entering the bustling port of Mergui. These are areas of mangrove as countless rivers flow off the hills, through labrinths of creeks, and mazes of channels, to eventually find the sea. Mergui was once home to the writer Maurice Collis and setting for his wonderful book Siamese White. Mergui, like all these southern ports, seems to step out of a tale by Somerset Maugham.

The Mergui Archipelago with its 800 islands is one of those areas that remains almost totally unvisited by foreigners. Though now some live-a-board dive boats and yachts venture with special permission into the southern islands from their bases in Thailand, the bulk of the archipelago has remained unvisited since colonial times. During that period when the archipelago was first chartered most of the islands were named after colonial civil servants, a number retain these quaint names to this day.
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The local population are Mokkein, often called sea gypsies and sometimes called pirates. During the Burmese socialist period the Mokkein controlled the smuggling routes and would prey on shipping. Nowadays they have reverted to fishing and fish curing. They are a people with their own language and culture who entirely live on the sea and have evolved a remarkable way of life. We will visit Mokkein islands such as Lampi in the Sullivan Islands.

Please note that for this voyage there is no itinerary. The sailing directions and stops indicated below are what we would like to do. All is subject to, trial and error not to mention navigational directions, tides, weather and government restrictions. Some of these stops may be missed whilst others included in their place. We will certainly work to make this expedition as interesting and exciting as possible. Given the natural beauty of the area, the wealth of things to do and see, this will not be difficult!

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Note that Ranong is a three hour drive from Phuket and the attractive beach resort lies about half way between Ranong an Phuket and a good option for a beach stay.

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Take a look at this month's news and special offers
Take a look at this month's news and special offers
Take a look at this month's news and special offers

The Andaman Explorer was built as the MV Atlantic Guard in 1963 in Norway as a Norwegian coast guard vessel. She is 61 meters long with her original Rolls Royce engines. The hull is built to ‘ice class’ with extra thick plates and she has the power to withstand north Atlantic storms or chases out to sea. Very handy when cruising in tropical waters!

She retired from coast guard duties in 1998 and was acquired by one Doctor Bogazzi, an Italian oligarch whose family owns the Carrara marble quarries. Dr Bogazzi lavished many a million on the ship, now renamed the MY Marina, completely refitting her with eleven very generous suites and a Jacuzzi on deck. Much of the ship is floored with Carrara marble, pleasantly cool under foot for those who go unshod.
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In recent times she has belonged to a powerful shipping family based in Dubai who maintained the ship to a very high standard. Right now she is on her way from Dubai to Rangoon where she will be redecorated and refurnished in Pandaw style. A fuller refit will follow in 2017.

The Andaman Explorer really is a sixties classic. The sort of plaything associated with Onassis, Jackie Kennedy and more glamorous times. There could be no vessel more appropriate for the exploration of South-East Asia’s unknown coasts. Paul Strachan, Pandaw’s founder, has been searching for such a ship for several years and inspected various vessel in Greece and Croatia that were not quite suitable. Paul believes this is the perfect ship for what we want to do.
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Each suite consists of a sitting room, bedroom and marble (of course) bathroom. There is a saloon, indoor dining room and two teak decks aft, the lower for outdoor dining and the upper with a Jacuzzi for lounging. There is also a forward observation deck below the bridge. The ship comes with two RIB tenders for excursions to islands and beaches.

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