Pandaw Cruise – The Mekong: From Laos to China

For the first time it is possible for Pandaw Cruise passengers to sail on the mighty Upper Mekong River from Laos to China. This will be an incredible, pioneering 14-night river expedition discovering charming villages, stunning scenery, pristine jungle, the Golden Triangle and the very different emerald green Mekong in China’s Yunnan province. Our journey also includes overnight stops in Luang Prabang, Chiang Saen and Jinghong.

The river recces sail aboard a Pandaw, specifically designed and built for sailing on the Upper Mekong with low draft and extra powerful engines.

Planning your holiday is easy, and speak to your friendly Consultant for availability, latest offers, pre and post cruise touring options and flights.

Day 1: Luang Prabang

Embark by noon for a lunch followed by an afternoon walking tour of this World Heritage Site with its delightful traditional Laos wooden houses and many gilded monasteries. Return to ship for drinks and dinner and a welcoming Lao baci ceremony.

Day 2: Luang Prabang

Further visits in Luang Prabang: The Royal Palace was built in 1904 during the French colonial era for King Sisavang Vong and his family. After the death of King Sisavang Vong, the crown Prince Savang Vatthana and his family were the last to occupy the palace.

We will visit the Buddhist temples Wat Xienthong and Wat Mai, the latter being the biggest and most decorated temple.

Afternoon at leisure for individual exploration. In the evening visit Luang Prabang’s lively night market and savour the buzzing café life.

Day 3: Kuang Si Falls

05.30am walk to the town centre to watch the alms giving and ceremony. Visit the morning market before returning to the ship for breakfast.

Our bus will take you to the butterfly park, founded by a Dutch couple in 2014 as a research and preservation centre of Laotian butterflies. After a brief journey we reach our next stop, the stunning Khaung Si Waterfalls with stunning jungle pools and scenery. Don’t forget your swimsuit!

This afternoon we will sail upstream towards Pak Ou.

Day 4: Pak Ou Buddha Caves

Visit to Pak Ou, a Buddhist sanctuary and one of Laos’ most respected holy sites with spectacular limestone cliff faces. Packed with over 4,000 Buddha icons, the caves which are a shrine to the river spirit and Lord Buddha, are set in a dramatic limestone cliff at the point where the Mekong joins the Nam Ou River.

We continue upstream and visit a village by small boat known locally as the “Whisky Village”. Learn how they produce their alcohol.

Day 5: Sailing The Mekong

An exciting day spent sailing through dramatic scenery with lush jungle and forest punctuated by tiny villages clinging to the river bank.

Pause for a walk ashore at Ban Huay La village with wooden houses and women at work weaving. Later presentation by the guide on Laos language and culture.

Day 6: Pak Beng

The scenery becomes even more dramatic and the river faster and more treacherous. This passage can be very exciting and most passengers sit spellbound on deck. Morning cooking demonstration of favourite Laos dishes by our Pandaw chefs. Afternoon walk around the market town of Pak Beng. Jungle mooring.

Day 7: Sailing The Mekong

A long sailing day covering a considerable distance but punctuated by a morning walk around Ban Pak Sit village, a traditional riverside village full of charm and life, and an afternoon walk around Pak Tha village. Village mooring.

Day 8: Into Thailand

After an afternoon visit to the local pagoda, we proceed to Lao and Thai Immigration, joining the Pandaw ship again in Chiang Kong. Sail further into Thailand in the late afternoon and moor overnight in Chiang Kong.

Day 9: Chiang Saen

This morning we visit a Thai hill-tribe village to appreciate a very contrasting culture from Laos.

After lunch on board we explore Chiang Sean and the Wat Phangao Pagoda. In the evening traditional Thai dancers perform on deck. Overnight in Chiang Saen.

Day 10: Golden Triangle

In the morning transfer by bus to the smuggler city of Tachilek in Burma where we will visit the “extraordinary“ market (essentially one massive duty free area), Chinese temples and the Tachilek Shwedagon Pagoda.

After lunch a visit to the Hall of Opium. The Golden Triangle used to be infamous as one of the largest producers of opium. Various Thai organizations led by the Royal Project and Doi Tung Development Project have spent decades battling this trade. As part of this campaign, the Hall of Opium was built to educate people about the dangers of the drug through an entertaining exhibition which traces opium’s history from its first use 5,000 years ago to current issues of drug abuse and addiction.

To end the day we will reunite at the Buddha Statue at the Golden Triangle to take in the view over the three bordering countries Thailand, Laos and Burma.

Overnight in Chiang Saen.

Day 11: Ban Dom Moon

Leaving behind the bustle of the Golden Triangle we return to a Mekong that is now narrower and faster than anything encountered so far on this journey. Afternoon walk around the Pok Lok village followed by a talk by our guide on the region’s ethnography.

Day 12: Sob Luoy Province

Visit Ban Pak Keo, its villagers and walk up a small hill adorned with a pagoda and enjoy the beautiful view over the Mekong.

Stop at Ban Na Kor (Sob Luoy Port) in the afternoon and sail on to a remote sand bank to moor for the night. Canapés and cocktails are served on the sundeck followed by local Laos folklore stories and traditional floating fire lanterns.

Day 13: Guan Lei

Crossing into China at Guan Lei Port in the morning, we are free to take a walk and explore before passing immigration. Sail the final stretch of the scenic and dramatic Mekong in China to Jinghong where we moor overnight.

Note: In the event that water levels are too low, too high or the flow too fast, we may not reach Jinghong. In this case you will be transferred for the final stretch by speed boat and lodged in the best available four or five star hotel.

Day 14: Jinghong

Jinghong was founded in 1180 by Tai King Phanya Coeng. Its turbulent history has been influenced by Thai, Burmese and Chinese occupations, which can be seen in its buildings and the local language.

In the morning we will visit the fascinating Tropical Plant Institute, a vast garden with over 13,000 plant species and 35 exhibits. We then continue to Manting Park, the oldest park in Xishuangbanna, dating back 1300 years. Previously a Dai Imperial Garden, the park’s attractions include the opportunity to learn about the culture of the Dai people. Manting Park is also called ‘Chunhuan Park’ which means the place where people can have relieve their mind and soul of all earthly worries.

On our final evening in Jinghong, experience an evening cultural show at Maxmumbani, where dancers from 38 different ethnic groups display their traditions with acrobatics and fascinating story of China and its people. Moor overnight in Jinghong Port.

Day 15: Jinghong

Disembark after breakfast and transfer to the airport or hotel

Meals: All meals & locally made soft drinks, local beer and local spirits, jugged coffee and selection of teas and tisanes, mineral water.
Transfers: Transfers from Vientiane or Udon Thani to ship in Vientiane.
Transfers from Jinghong airport/hotel to ship in Jinghong.
Accommodation:14 nights on-board the Pandaw Cruise
Guide: English Speaking Guide
Gratuities: Gratuities to crew on board the Pandaw Cruise
Entrance Fees & Touring: Entrance fees & activities as per itinerary
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