Paukan is the old name of the city of Bagan, so it was a very appropriate place to board this cruise. Embarkation was 11:30am, but we were too early – not because I like to be early, but our driver had told us pick up was an hour earlier than it should’ve been. Shame – it would’ve been nice to have been a little more leisurely with the morning routine and even have a bit of a lie in.
Once at the “dock” (read sloping, sandy and rocky embankment that finishes in a small gangplank to clamber aboard), we were greeted by official looking guys in colourful uniformed shirts and badges, one with clip board in hand with our names spelled correctly and our cabin numbers printed clearly. Our luggage was hoisted above heads and marched to the gangplank, and then sternly held hostage until we had tipped our porters. Luckily, one of our group was actually paying attention to the subtlety of the proceedings and sorted out the money situation. I was too distracted by the fact that the guy who had struggled with my heavy bag was being beaten about the head and shoulders by his ‘colleagues’, who stopped and smiled and pretended it was all ‘just mucking about, Miss’ – just like when on playground duty at school!
It was nearly a ‘full house’ on this cruise; only 6 shy of her 55 passenger capacity (with 30 crew). We cast off at midday and settled in to a buffet lunch with options for all tastes, fads and food allergies! There was time for a ‘rest’ after lunch, before throwing ourselves ashore for the first village excursion at Shwe Pyi Thar (population about 700). This village was slightly less geared to the visiting tourist than the ones we visited in Cambodia. We followed our guide, meandering through selected parts of the village, smiling at children and adults alike, and were encouraged to take pictures of them and their homes. It did feel a little odd – that weird feeling of intrusion, but hoping that by having the cruise company ‘sponsor’ the village that it and its inhabitants will be better off. Of course, we will never know the true effect of our visits or the sponsorship, we can only hope.
Another weird component was the older American couple carrying their Casio keyboard so as to play to the children the ever so popular numbers “It’s a Small World” and “Frere Jacques”. It was a little uncomfortable actually – it should’ve been about the little ones who were singing a song for us, not trying to upstage them with a ‘set’.
There are many things missing from this cruise that we had on the Jahan in Cambodia: no laundry service, no bar fridge, no way of pressing wrinkled clothes, and organised seating for EVERY meal (with the same people all cruise). One of the perks of cruising, is having the opportunity to get to know (even slightly), a whole bunch of new people that you would probably never meet in ‘real life’. So why rob us of that chance by stipulating that EVERY meal be formal, arranged seating? Dinner would be fine, but do I really need to be told who to sit with for breakfast and lunch? However, I do understand that they have tried to put form little groups based on nationality and language, but still, it would nice to mix it up over 3 days.
There was a welcome cocktail party at 7pm before dinner, followed by a traditional Myanmar puppet show on the sundeck. Dinner was a set menu, for which we made our choice of main at lunchtime (on smaller cruises it is usual to make your selections earlier in the day so things can be more ‘tightly’ catered for and there is less waste). The food was lovely, and there was plenty of it. Our waiters were attentive, capable and a little bit cheeky, once you got to know them – delightful.
The Paukan 2007 is an Ayravata Cruises ship.
Our travel agent on this trip was Kyaw Khaing at One Stop Myanmar. He handled all of our internal flights, transfers and tours. We were very impressed with his efficiency, helpfulness, excellent advice, friendliness and price!