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Dear Paul

A group of 6 of us recently took one of your boats up the Irrawaddy to Bhamo.  It was a wonderful experience.  All the crew were committed, friendly, knowledgeable and generally very good at their respective jobs.  It tempts us to do it again, elsewhere.

We were saddened by the woeful (on the face of it) state of the beautiful river itself - the lifeblood of the country - something we appreciate is outside your control.  It was explained to us that you have tried to help tidy up and improve the general appearance of the often very messy, heavily (locally) polluted landing sites that we used every day.  Of course the message from companies like yours to the administration and others must be loud and strong that without improvement, the valuable tourist trade will suffer (though in reality it probably wont).

On a personal note, my only disappointment was the cuisine.  For me - and I love spicy food more than most - especially in the evening I was hoping (and had been reassured beforehand) that there would be at least one spicy regional offering.  Sometimes there was not; though the cook on request routinely provided a small bowl of hot chilli to spice things up, this slightly missed the point.  One or two nights the supper look decidedly like the standard fare dished up across the globe in 4 star hotels frequented by tourists.  My colleagues might say I am being harsh, and I am not questioning the competence of the kitchen, but something for me was definitely lost in translation.  Nor does it detract from the remark I made initially.

On my main point of writing to you, we were very taken by the good work being done by the staff of the Township Public Library in Katha (picture attached), and committed to try to help them.  The thought was that we might become a regular source of reading material in English for the Library and its users.  Of course this may be politically sensitive.  We are not sure exactly what would be of most use.  And thirdly, importantly we are not sure how we might successfully effect a delivery.  On that point, we wondered whether Pandaw could and would help, in terms of acceptance, customs and delivery.  We would start with a small package of probably new books only.  Before going too far this end, I very much look forward to what I hope is a positive reaction on your part.  It would be a pleasure to work with you on this small attempt to give something back to our wonderful country hosts.

Best Wishes
Peter Carter

Response from Pandaw

Dear Peter

Thanks for your message and delighted that your Pandaw River Exepdition went so well.

I will pass your message on to the ZAWGYI  crew so they know that they are appreciated.

I could not agree with you more about the state of the river banks. I felt the same when I did the same trip as you with my family at Christmas. Sadly there is not much we can do about the habits of 60M+ people. For millennia everything came wrapped in banana leaves which happily biodegraded in the back yard. Then plastic arrived.

I also agree about the lack of spicy food. This is a battle I have fought with our cooks for over 20 years and they just do not understand that most westerners really like spicy food. They think we can not stomach it and deliberately make it as bland as possible. I have endless rows about this when I go on the ships. They just do not get it. I grew up in Glasgow where you get hotter and spicier curries than anywhere East of Aden.

I did not know about this library in Katha. We would love to help them and you could send books care of our Yangon office for eventual delivery. Unfortunately we do not have a reliable or economic means of shipping from the UK. One day we would love to work on that. I will ask my contact at the British Council if they can help with book shipments to libraries.

Best wishes for future travels and hope to see you again on one of the Pandaws before too long!

All kind regards,

Paul Strachan
Pandaw Cruises