The First Trip of Pandaw from Saigon to Angkor in 2002 by Barry Broman

The visitors will travel and cross a large number of oustanding destinations in journeys from Saigon to Angkor. Barry Broman carried out a trip from Saigon to Angkor with exciting experiences.

Barry Broman

Barry Broman used to be an ambassador and had worked in Cambodia, Thailand, Indonesia and Paris for 20 years. After retiring in 1996, he took many photos of ships of his friend, Paul Strachan. They became good friends only after the meeting in Burma in 1995.

He fell in love with his wife when they met together at the University of Washington in 1963. At that time, he was studying Thai and his wife was studying Japanese. Their two sons work in graphic design and film editing.

Barry Broman’s First Trip from Saigon to Angkor

In the prime of Irrawaddy Flotilla Company (IFC) , it was considered as the largest fleet of privately-owned ships in the world. However, IFC has a sad ending. In 1942, when IFC and its vessels were likely to fall into the hands of the Imperial Japanese Army, more than IFC’s 600 ships were scuttled in the Irawaddy and Chindwin rivers to prevent that. Paul Strachan is a young Scotsman and saved an old IFC ship named RV Pandaw. Hereby, he started build Pandaw as a new Scottish-owned river cruise company from this aging vessel.

Barry usually play a role as a photographer and rarely a lecturer on the Pandaw small ship through  the Irrawaddy, Mekong, Tonle Sap, Ganges, Rajang (Borneo) and the Chindwin rivers. He found that having a trip on a luxury Pandaw ship is an adventure and travelling on the teak deck of Pandaw ships is the greatest way to enjoy the Southeast Asian rivers as well as watch gent landscape and have a chance to step back in time.

In 2002, Barry accompanied Paul on the RV Mekong Pandaw maiden voyage up the Mekong river from Saigon to Siem Reap. They began their RV Mekong Pandaw from the Saigon port, passed My Tho, watched aquatic sceneries of the Tonle Sap Lake and would end at Angkor in Siem Reap. The canal they crossed under the My Tho bridge was really strange with exotic craft and business of Vietnamese. The actualwaters of the Mekong river is beyond the My Tho bridge and contains the tight system of canals. However, this is not a problem of Pandaw vessels, because the railings of these ships can be lower when passing the canals.

My Tho Bridge

When the ship was not able to cross through the full tide and the dark night, it had to wait for lower water level. But it did not spend time of the passengers, instead of floating on the water, they had an interesting excursion ashore. Then, the ship succeeded in crossing the highest part of the Cho Gao canal thanks to Paul’s direction. After a long road, the ship reached the Mekong river, moved up the delta towards Cambodia. Before discovering Kampong Cham, a Cambodian province with the combination of the old and the new, the excursion temporarily stopped on the bank of a close village at night. They had to give explanations of their sudden visit for the locals in both Cambodian and French. At this village, the most special celebration is organized on the evening of full moon of the 12th lunar month named Bon Om Taul festival or Loy Krathong in Thailand. The ancient festival’s aim is to giving the respect for the river spirits. Unlike other festivals, offerings such as food, incense and candles are covered by banana leaves and drifted down on the rivers and canals. Additionally, the guests of the village are enthusiatically welcomed to participate in this colorful festival with the locals.

Bon Om Taul Festival

The journey quikly arrived at the riverside city of Phnom Penh. Here, they had several activities for entertainment including a small cocktail party and a classical Cambodia ballet troupe. Some VIP guests in the Cambodian royal family also were invited to the party on board. Bedises, a cruise around the confluence of the rivers was taken place in order that the Cambodian guests had an oppotunity to enjoy the beauty of the rivers.

The next destination of the trip was Tonle Sap river. The majority of the viilages along the banks were followers of Theravada Buddhism. Some others built mosques of Muslim Cham group. However, many of these mosques are in ruins now because of Khmer Rouge’s damage and destruction in their wiping out the Cham in the 70s. Then, the passengers proceeded to a shallow lake of Tonle Sap which filled with floating fishermen villages. The feature of flood made this area an immense source of fish. According to the locals, they sometimes caught 20kg-weigh fish. Due to a large natural supply of fish, fish sause and pra hok with specific taste are produced and considered as national treasures.

Tonle Sap Lake

Bidding the Tonle Sap, they continued their cruise to the province of Siem Reap, known as a gate to Angkor Complex, particularly Angkor Wat which is a symbol of the flourished Cambodian civilization. Barry’s journey from Saigon to Angkor finished at the lost Angkor in Cambodia. Another group was waiting Pandaw’s next ship from Cambodia down to Saigon.

The cruises from Saigon to Siem Reap include a variety of popular attactions to discover and experience. Let’s be an explorer in our Mekong River Cruises. 

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