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New season, new adventures - Pandaw welcomes two additions to our fleet

These are exciting days for Pandaw, as it's not often that we have two major new ship building and refitting projects running at the same time, both of them bound for pioneering new expeditions.

Just as we have waved off the all-new RV Champa Pandaw in her maiden 4-country, 14-day expedition from Vientiane in Laos to Jinghong in China, we are putting the finishing touches to the MY Andaman Explorer, in Pandaw's first time maritime adventure, ready to launch on 2 October.

Each of these expeditions, which are booking up fast, have involved highly complex and time-pressured preparatory processes. Although Pandaw has had plenty of practice in its 21-year history the reality is that Southeast Asia always throws up plenty of challenges to keep us on our toes, and we are proud to say we have conquered the obstacles, with any flare-ups along the way quickly forgiven and forgotten.

RV Champa Pandaw River Cruise Vessel

Like all the best vessels built in these parts, Champa Pandaw got off to a great start in her impromptu shipyard by receiving an early morning blessing by an 89 year old Buddhist monk/astrologer, kindly arranged by our wonderful Thai fixer Khun Pat. This was a key part of a construction process in the Golden Triangle and a final fit-out in Laos. The whole process took seven months and three days "from keel-laying to completion" an extraordinary feat, conducted by our talented multi-national team of technicians.

Ab Eland, Pandaw's tireless Operations Director, Thailand and Laos vividly describes the last seven days before Champa Pandaw was set to welcome its first consignment of passengers. "The place was really a building site, with clouds of sawdust going up while we were moving in furniture and putting up pictures, it was really quite funny, and of course everything came together in the end."

Ab also vividly describes his shock at seeing the "massive" size of her engines, which are perhaps Champa's major innovation, providing enough power to allow this stately 14-cabin queen of the river to conquer the treacherously fast currents that are a feature of the upper Mekong.

As we discovered to our cost - and to some passengers understandable disappointment - her predecessor on this route the Laos Pandaw did not have the juice to overcome these forces, which is why she is now happily re-assigned to less taxing duties in more benign riverine conditions.

We will be writing more about the glories of the From Laos to China expedition as we get more feedback from staff and passengers, including I hope some pictures of the spectacular scenery in those parts, so watch this space.

RV Champa Pandaw River Cruise Vessel

And watch this space also, for news of the exciting maiden voyage of the Andaman Explorer, Pandaw's fabulously-appointed new baby, with its 10 beautiful staterooms, the result of a comprehensive refit conducted in Singapore. On 2 October she will set off to the fabled Mergui Archipelago, described by those who know it, as like "The National Geographic come to life."

"It's just amazing" Ab tells us "These are incredible beaches and clear-blue water, and some of these islands are completely uninhabited. You have to see it to believe it."

We can't wait!

See more images of the RV Champa Pandaw here.

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