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Back to Homepage / Testimonials / May 2024

THE BRAHMAPUTRA REVIEW

WENDY EVANS, COOK ISLANDS, THE BRAHMAPUTRA, MARCH 2024

General
Many Pandaw passengers have been on cruises on the Mekong. Indian rivers like the Brahmaputra are very different. The average width of the Mekong is about 1.5km. The Brahmaputra average is more than 5km in the dry season. (In the monsoon season, July to September, it is very much wider and rougher but Pandaw does not sail then.)

This means that for a lot of the journey you will not see close up views of the land, just wide expanses of water. However, onboard activities and shore excursions keep you occupied, and the Saloon and Upper Deck are comfortable places to relax and talk to other travellers, a favourite occupation on a Pandaw expedition. WiFi is available in the Saloon.

Food

Food was plentiful and colourful with lots of spices and vegetables in the Indian selections. Western options were available. The crew worried that we weren't eating enough. They seemed to be disappointed if we didn't want soup, starter, main and dessert for every meal. But the kitchen staff would also prepare special dishes on request. For example, one evening I was feeling under the weather and asked for a cheese and tomato sandwich for dinner. When it was delivered it was a prince among sandwiches. Toasted with several layers of molten cheese interlaced with slices of tomato. Magnificent.

All the crew members were friendly and helpful, sometimes overly so. (I did not really need someone to fill my breakfast cereal bowl, add milk and carry it to the table!)

Excursions
Most of the excursions involved taking a minibus, sometimes for over an hour, but this way we saw more of the countryside and towns than from the boat. We had a wide variety of shore excursions, most of which went well. The Commonwealth War Graves in Guwahati were closed when we arrived because it was a Sunday. However Sunday at the Kamakhya Hill Temple was a crowded with worshippers and animals, mainly goats and pigeons. Sadly this temple practices animal sacrifice but nowadays many people anoint the animals with aromatic oil and pink powder instead of killing them. These are the lucky ones.

The standout excursions were Nameri rafting and the Kaziranga jeep safari and they were spectacular. Kaziranga is home to the world’s largest population of the Indian One-Horned Rhinoceros and I'm afraid we became a little blasé about spotting them but they often posed nicely for us! The tiger pictures that feature on the Pandaw website are a little misleading as tigers hunt by night and spend a lot of the daylight hours sleeping in secluded places. Just like moggies really. Since our tour took place at about 10am and many tourist-laden jeeps were on the tracks at that time, there was very little chance that we were going to see one. However we did see the carcase of a long horned buffalo that had recently been eaten by one.

Presentations
The several Assamese dance performances on the Upper Deck were a delightful prelude to cocktail hour. Executive chef Kunal Shukla gave several excellent presentations about Indian spices and vegetables. My favourite was about Indian snacks, in fact how to make samosas. Many people tried their hand and we all got to taste the end results. Yum! Kunal is a star. Unfortunately the other presentations weren't so good.

Our guide Pranab and purser Lakpa gave talks about Assam and Sikkim. Their slides were dense with tables, small maps and graphs and were impossible to read even from the front of the room. A course on how to use Powerpoint would be useful.

Disembarkation

There were some hold-ups on disembarkation day. Purser Lakpa had said that he only needed to print out boarding passes for various onward flights and could do that from 6am. Unfortunately in almost every case there were problems that necessitated phoning the flight company (Indigo in our case). This online check-in could have been done the previous day.

This was an enjoyable expedition and a nice addition to Pandaw's offerings. The longer Brahmaputra cruise was not available at the time we booked but would probably be even better.

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