Borneo Experience by Michelle Maher

I have just participated in a trip to Borneo with Wendy Wu Tours. Wendy Wu Tours are very well known for tours to China and Vietnam but also offer Indo China, India and Borneo as destinations. Their philosophy is to offer fully inclusive tours with the best price, best inclusions and first class personal service. Our group flights were with Singapore Airlines and it was my first experience on the A380. The economy class cabin is very spacious, light and extremely quiet. After touching down in Singapore Airport it was off to find the group waiting in Terminal 2 for our connecting flight into Kuching. Our Wendy Wu representative Jenny made the introductions for our new Borneo family whom we would be spending the next 10 days with. What a great group. Our tour included 2 nights in Kuching, the capital city of the state of Sarawak, 1 night at a Longhouse, 5 nights onboard the Pandaw Orient and 1 night back in Kuching before flying home.

I last visited Kuching in 1992 and the city has grown and changed since then. Our group hotel was the newly built Pullman Hotel in the heart of Kuching and within walking distance to many of the attractions and the waterfront. The next morning our local guide Teddy met us in the lobby for our City Tour and visit to the Kuching Museum. Such an amazing place full of different cultures and traditions. In the afternoon we headed out of town to the Sarawak Cultural Village for an insight into the different tribes and cultures of Borneo and enjoyed a cultural dance performance and seeing the different house styles of the traditional people.

From Kuching we made a stop at the Semongoh Orang Utan Rehibilation Centre were we lucky to see 4 Orang-utans at the first feeding station. Wow what a highlight. After our visit we headed to Batang Ai about a 4.5 hour drive stopping along the way at a wonderful market in the town of Serian where some of us tasted the exotic fruit called Durian. Durian is grown around the area and is known for its horrible smell with the sweet tasting fruit inside. Also enroute was a stop at a local Pepper farm to see the Pepper trees and how the pepper is harvested. We arrived at Batang Ai Reservior where a local ferry service was required to get to our next overnight stop at the Hilton Bantang Ai Longhouse Resort. The resort is set into the wilderness and is an eco friendly resort. The Longhouse is set with a huge corridor space or enclosed verandah with rooms off the corridor. What an amazing place. Our Dinner setting was outside on the Verandah overlooking the lake just in time to see the sunset.

The next day we traveled to the town of Sibu to board the Pandaw Orient our home for the next 5 nights. Pandaw cruises are well known for the Mekong River cruises along with cruises in Mynmar. Our cabin had all the facilities you need and we settle in for our adventure. Over the next few days we experience life on the river, market towns, long houses, villages, visit a local school to meet the children and teachers along with the local doctor, enjoy a special picnic set up on the river bank, jungle walks, onboard lectures from our local guides, fabulous meals including local dishes, western style and vegetarian options. The locals are very friendly and we receive many waves and hello’s along the way. Every evening before dinner we gather on the Sun Deck for cocktails and the briefing for the next day’s programme. The Pandaw Orient can accommodate up to 60 passengers and we have 40 passengers including our group onboard this sailing. The other passengers are from all over the world including Germany, New Zealand and Thailand but the majority are from Australia and vary in age groups. We were lucky to travel with Connie a 94 year old who has made Thailand her home.

We celebrated 3 birthdays while on our tour. The staff onboard the Pandaw were wonderful and made the girls feel very special with cakes and gifts. Something they will treasure and remember fondly I am sure.

Our time onboard the Pandaw went very quickly with always something to see and do. We arrive back in Sibu a very busy town with one of the largest markets in the country. After a short city tour we boarded our flight back to Kuching. That afternoon we enjoyed a Sunset cruise on the Sarawak River. What an amazing sunset. Dinner was at Topspot a popular local hawker style restaurant. More fantastic food!

What a fabulous tour and experience we had. We all boarded our Singapore Airlines flight back to Australia with great memories.

Michelle Maher

Travelrite International

Call me if you are interested in Borneo or Pandaw Cruising (03) 9836 2522 or sales@travelrite.com.au