Launched in September 2016, the 146ft Champa Pandaw journeys along the Upper Mekong through Laos. This colonial-style riverboat is crafted in light-colored teak, which grows throughout the region, ensuring that the vessel blends with the natural environment. She accommodates 28 guests over two decks of panoramic staterooms providing an intimate setting of style and comfort, complete with sliding doors that open out to a shared exterior promenade deck and glorious riverside scenery.
Life On Board
Finished in teak and brass, each of the 14 staterooms measures 150 sq. ft, providing plenty of space for you to stretch out and relax. Twelve of the rooms are located on the main deck, and two are on the upper deck, with the advantage of elevated views out to the river. Each has air-conditioning, an ensuite bathroom, and twin beds (some converting to double) all with premium mattresses, quality linens, duvet, and two kinds of pillows. The ship offers Wi-Fi throughout but note that the connectivity is unreliable in this part of Asia.
All meals are served bistro-style in the dining room, which is located on the Upper Deck. The cuisine is regionally themed, with a delectable range of exotic creations filled with flavors from the area. Asian dishes dominate the menu but are nevertheless geared for international tastes; produce is fresh, local and seasonal. Breakfast is served buffet style, as is lunch, complete with soup, salad and a dessert table. Dinner comes with waiter-service. You can also look forward to free-flowing complimentary beverages and themed dinners.
The large, partially-covered outdoor deck is where you will probably spend most of your time, reading, relaxing with fellow guests, or enjoying a drink while taking in the spellbinding views of the Mekong. Onboard activities include Lao language lessons giving you the basics to interact with the local people on shore. Lectures, documentaries and captivating cultural performances are included in the main program. Special activities include a Sandbar Cocktail Hour and a Buddhist boat blessing. Quality mountain bikes are available for your independent exploration.
The beauty of the Upper Mekong is a simple one. Misty green mountains surround the river, on which the boat must sometimes sail in a crisscross fashion to circumvent the boulders and sandbars. Fishermen in longboats, hailing from Laos’ hillside tribal villages, are the only other vessels sharing the waterway.
When Champa Pandaw makes a stop, the caring crew will use shovels to dig makeshift stairs in the sand enabling you to disembark safely, but guests should be physically fit enough to negotiate climbing the muddy riverbanks and the often-uneven stairs and terrain encountered along the way. Excursions consist mainly of walks through the remote tribal villages, while your Laotian guide explains what makes one ethnic group different from another in terms of customs and spiritual beliefs. Stops at schools are a highlight, as classes break to say hello.
When not navigating the tranquil stretches of the ‘Mother of Waters’ as the river is known in these parts, the itinerary also includes exploration of the UNESCO World Heritage Site and city of Luang Prabang with its royal palace, Buddhist temples and libraries, plus a tour of the Pak Ou Caves − a Buddhist sanctuary with spectacular limestone cliff faces, and exploration of the country’s old French capital, Vientiane.
For couples, singles and friends seeking a quiet experience, focused on culture and education, a discovery cruise along the serene stretches of the Upper Mekong in Laos on board the Champa Pandaw won’t disappoint.
Itineraries & Prices
Transfers from airports or any city hotel in Chiang Rai (2 hours) and Chiang Mai (6 hours) including a visit to the Golden Triangle and the now infamous opium museum. Embark your ship by 16.00 and cruise up the river towards the Burma border for sunset.
Hotel pick-ups from city hotels in Chiang Mai can be as early as 06.00 or as late as 08.00. From Chiang Rai hotels can be as early as 08.30 or as late as 10.00. Timing varies according to the docking place of the Pandaw vessel. Our representative will call you on the evening before or leave a message with the hotel to reconfirm the exact pick-up time.
If your arrival is after the above-mentioned time we will pick you up from the airport Chiang Rai (arrival must be before 13.00) or airport Chiang Mai (arrival must be before 13.00) and transfer you to the ship. This transfer will not include any visits to Golden Triangle, Opium House, and Lunch due to the time limit.
Sailing to Laos
Pass through immigration formalities at the Thai/Laos border and rejoin the ship. Set sail downstream on the beautiful Upper Mekong River. After lunch, if time allows, sightseeing on foot in a Laos jungle village.
Morning walk in a Khamo village. Sail downstream on the beautiful Mekong then relax with evening cocktails on a sandbank.
Pak Ou Caves & Luang Prabang
Continue cruising downstream to Pak Ou, transfer to a local boat and enter the Nam Ou River to visit the extraordinary Pak Ou Buddha Caves. Admire spectacular limestone cliff faces in the Buddhist sanctuary.
In the morning explore by tuk-tuk this well-preserved and unique world heritage site with its many Buddhist temples, libraries, and royal palace. Visit the National Museum and have the afternoon free to explore the beauty and unique atmosphere of Luang Prabang. Traditional Laos dancing on the upper deck late afternoon. Moor overnight in Luang Prabang.
Khaung Si Waterfall
Early morning walking tour to observe the morning alms offered by local people to the hundreds of monks who walk around the city every morning. Drive to see the deep jungle pools at the Khaung Si Waterfall, the teak forest trails, and the butterfly farm.
Pass through the Mekong water control lock at Xayaburi Hydro Electric Power Plant (itself an interesting and perhaps controversial tourist attraction). Late afternoon walking tour of a local village.
Morning visit to Ban Pha Leab with its beautiful limestone mountain. Continue to Pak Houng-Thai Lao Border for an excursion to a plantation village and meet the local people.
Pass through a dramatic landscape of jungle and mountain where the river flows fast and wild. Amazing rock formations straddle the river banks. Here we enter the cultivated plains of Vientiane province. Arrive mid-afternoon in Vientiane to moor overnight. Opportunity for independent exploration of this delightful, French-influenced city.
Morning exploration of the delightful French city including visits to the golden Pha That Luang Stupa, Sisaket Temple, the President’s Hall, Watt Prakeo Temple, and the Phatouxay monument. Opportunity for independent exploration and experience the many cafes and bistros in this charming little corner of L’Indochine. Farewell cocktails and dinner.
Disembark in Vientiane after breakfast and transfer to airports or hotels in Vientiane or Udon Thani in Thailand (1.5hrs, just across the river).
Embarkation 12.30, followed by lunch and afternoon exploration of the delightful French city including visits to the golden Pha That Luang Stupa, Sisaket Temple, the President’s Hall, Wat Prakeo Temple, and the Phatouxay monument. Set sail late afternoon, enjoy a welcome dinner on board, and overnight near Vientiane.
Transfers are included from the airport or hotel in Vientiane. We suggest an early morning arrival. Any late arrivals will also be transferred to the ship but you might miss lunch and/or the afternoon excursion. If staying at a city hotel in Vientiane you will be picked up between 11.00 and 12.00. Our representative will call you on the evening before or leave a message with the hotel to reconfirm the exact pick-up time.
Cruising the Mekong
Cruise upstream on the Mekong, passing lush jungle scenery and tiny riverside villages. Morning presentation on the Lao language. Afternoon cooking demonstration on the upper deck. Arrive in Ban Xanakham to moor overnight.
Afternoon visit to the French administrative town of Pak Lai with many colonial buildings and a bustling local market. This town boasts the largest elephant festival in South East Asia, usually in February.
Ban Park Bor Village
Morning visit and walking tour to Khamo tribal village, a typical village, set on the banks of the Mekong amidst lush jungle. In the afternoon pass through the Xanyaburi Hydro Electric Power Plant.
Ban Mouang Khai Village & Luang Prabang
In the morning visit a Hmong village and continue upstream to the village of Ban Mouang Khai. Afternoon sightseeing by minibus visiting the jungle pools and dramatic Khaung Si waterfall then on to a butterfly garden. Arrive in the heart of the temple city of Luang Prabang where there is a buzzing night market and many great cafes and some good local restaurants.
In the morning explore by tuktuk this well-preserved and unique world heritage site with its many Buddhist temples, libraries, and royal palace. Visit the National Museum and have the afternoon free to explore the beauty and unique atmosphere of Luang Prabang on your own. Enjoy traditional Laos dancing on the upper deck late afternoon. Moor overnight in Luang Prabang.
Pak Ou Caves
Early morning walking tour to see the alms offered by the local people to hundreds of monks who walk around the city every morning. Passengers are invited to join in with offerings we provide for the almsgiving. Morning sightseeing by local boat exploring the unique Pak Ou Caves, a Buddhist sanctuary with spectacular limestone cliff faces. Evening cocktails on a sandbank. Sail upstream on the beautiful Mekong towards Ban Bo.
Morning visit to a local Khamo village. Sail upstream on the Mekong passing Pak Beng towards Pak Sit.
Early morning walking tour in a Khamo village then cruise through stunning scenery to the border of Laos and Thailand. The night is spent on the Lao side in the Huayxay area where we take a late afternoon village walk.
Cross over into Thailand via the Thai-Laos Friendship Bridge before rejoining your ship in Chiang Khong. Farewell cocktails and Thai traditional dance on board for your last evening.
Disembark by 8.30 in Chiang Khong and group transfer to the hotel/airport. En route, explore the Golden Triangle including a visit to the opium museum. Continue to airports or city hotels in Chiang Rai (2 hours) and Chiang Mai (6 hours).
Suites & Cabins
These ample-sized rooms feature various amenities to ensure guests have a comfortable stay. The beds can be set up as double or twin configurations. The rooms also feature unlimited mineral water for guests to stay dehydrated at all times, kimonos, slippers, a hairdryer, and spa-branded amenities with a private ensuite bathroom.
Identical in configuration and amenities to the Lower Deck cabins, the equally spacious Upper Deck cabins are more exclusive, boasting both a privileged location higher up for better views of the passing scenery and closer proximity to the action of the neighboring saloon.
- Air conditioning
- Lecture room
- WIFI available
- Kosher Meals
- Medical staff
- Souvenir shop
- Hot showers
- All inclusive
- Charging areas for electronic equipment
- Yoga mats
- Flash lights
- Water canteen/bottle
- Insect repellent