The charming 20-passenger RV Laos Pandaw cruises Laos’ Mekong River all the way from Vientiane to the fabled Golden Triangle or vice versa, discovering the charming villages, stunning scenery, pristine jungles, natural wonders, and emerald green waters of this spectacular waterway.
A former rice barge custom built to withstand the fast-flowing upper extremes of the Mekong River—and amazingly still skippered by her previous owner and captain—the RV Laos Pandaw, having once transported its wares all the way from Laos to China, has now swapped transport for tourism, exchanging grain freight for great Laotian river expeditions.
Now traditionally styled to reflect the river’s rich colonial history, with teak and brass found throughout the vessel’s interior, her boutique design and attentive crew provide an informal and intimate experience with personalized service to match, creating a truly authentic atmosphere on board.
She features just ten en suite staterooms, each located on the Main Deck and offering 14 square meters (150 square feet) of living space, plenty of closet and under-bed storage, and panoramic sliding doors which perfectly portray the peaceful views of the passing riverine landscapes. Essentially an outdoor experience, guests can also meditate on the unfolding bucolic bounty and panorama of people and wildlife thriving along this great river from the spacious promenade and observation areas of the Upper Deck.
The saloon and al fresco lounge can also be found here, the location for indoor or outdoor dining—including ample semi-buffet breakfasts and lunches, and delicious served themed dinners—and a series of cultural performances, educational talks, and cooking classes which are held throughout your voyage.
Learning about the region’s culture and past first hand, both on board and ashore, is a key part of your journey. During excursions—both active walks and cycling opportunities thanks to the vessel’s quality mountain bikes—your expert guides will convey a Laos steeped in history, natural beauty and filled with wonderful sites seldom seen by tourists.
Pandaw Laos cruises explore one of the most scenic stretches of the mighty Mekong where its banks are lined with lush jungles, cliffs and caves, and hidden tribal villages only accessible by boat. Technically a three country expedition, your voyage will traverse Laos as far as Thailand and Burma at the once notorious Golden Triangle.
Navigate through dramatic mountainous scenery, rapids and stunning gorges. Witness the spiritual Pak Ou Caves’ myriad miniature Buddhas, and marvel at the traditional ways of life along the river as they are brought to life, a fascinating contrast to the up and coming city of Vientiane, the old French capital.
A highlight for many will undoubtedly be the mountainous sprawl of Luang Prabang, a UNESCO World Heritage Site home to dazzling wood carved monasteries and saffron-robed monks, the sunrise recipients of alms of rice whose chants can be heard echoing from temple to temple.
As with all Pandaw vessels, solo travelers will be pleased to hear that single supplements are waived on several select sailings throughout the year. For intrepid travelers looking for remote adventure, intimate small ship cruising, and rich cultural discovery, look no further than the RV Laos Pandaw.
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 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
Main Deck Cabin
All of RV Laos Pandaw's Main Deck cabins are identical, finished in teak and brass, accessible via panoramic sliding doors, and featuring convertible double or twin beds fitted with premium mattresses and imported quality linens. The private ensuite bathrooms include kimonos, slippers, a hairdryer, and spa-branded amenities. Guests also benefit from complimentary evening canapés and unlimited mineral water.
- 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