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LAOS & CHINA RIVER CRUISES

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Spectacular Laos and China Cruises

Our spectacular Laos and China river cruises allow you to discover the undiscovered as you travel on the Upper Mekong River.

The mighty Mekong River makes its way through six countries and a Pandaw river cruise allows you to explore remote parts of these countries that the average traveller ordinarily wouldn't get to see.

Our exciting cruise travels to or from Vientiane in Laos to Jinghong in Yunnan, South-West China. Passengers need to bring with them a real sense of adventure and flexibility as the itinerary of such a monumental cruise can change at any time. This Pandaw Laos to China and vice versa river cruise makes stops in Chiang Saen province of North Thailand and KengTung State in the Shan Hills of Burma.

Travelling between these South-East Asian countries can be logistically difficult, embarking on a China and Laos River Cruise takes away these stresses and takes you into the heart of these beautiful and fascinating countries. The native people are warm and welcoming and waiting to meet and educate you to their way of life. As well as immersing yourself in the culture you will be awe-inspired by the varying, stunning landscapes from lush jungle scenery to mountains, forests, gorges and rapids.

Visit working villages, local markets and experience the difference between the French colonial Laos capital of Vientiane, the temple city of Luang Prabang and the Menglun botanical gardens of Yunnan. Our incredible Laos and China cruises are pioneering, Pandaw really takes you off the beaten track to remote parts unseen by many tourists.

Step aboard a specifically designed Pandaw ship for our China and Laos cruise, purpose-built for sailing on the Upper Mekong with low draft and extra powerful engines. Your staterooms are spacious and come with fresh fruits and flowers on arrival. Our staff go above and beyond to make your stay as comfortable as it can be.

River Cruise itinerary for The Laos Mekong River Cruise map for The Laos Mekong

The Laos Mekong

10 NIGHTS

This is a 10 night Laos river cruise that explores 3 countries; Laos, Thailand and Burma Travelling both up and downstream, this cruise travels between Vientiane and Chiang Saen. You will pass stunning jungle scenery and tranquil, tribal villages. Explore the UNESCO World Heritage Site of Luang Prabang by tuk-tuk and visit its many Buddhist temples, libraries and royal palace. Take an excursion into the jungle and visit the deep pools at the Khaung Si Waterfall. Take a local boat and visit the Nam Ou River where you can see the incredible Pak Ou Buddha Caves. Enjoy cocktails on the deck of your Pandaw ship whilst the local's entertain you with their traditional dance.

Rivers: Mekong River

Ships: RV Champa Pandaw, RV Laos Pandaw, RV Sabaidee Pandaw

from US$3,924 per person

members from US$3,488 per person

Save up to 10% and No Single Supplement on selected dates

River Cruise itinerary for The Mekong: From Laos to China River Cruise map for The Mekong: From Laos to China

The Mekong: From Laos to China

14 NIGHTS

This is a pioneering 14 night journey on the upper Mekong River. You will travel between Laos and China passing through Thailand and Burma en route. This incredible river expedition allows you to explore parts of these countries that are relatively undiscovered. Tribal villages will welcome you and stunning scenery will take your breath away. Travelling either up or downstream between Vientiane and Jinghong this epic cruise encompasses everything you would hope from both Laos and China; seeing these countries from the river allows you to really immerse yourself in their way of life. Enjoy demonstrations onboard your ship, dine on the deck whilst taking in the scenery. Visit bustling markets, local villages, dense jungle and majestic temples. This really is a cruise of a lifetime.

Rivers: Mekong River

Ships: RV Sabaidee Pandaw

from US$4,708.80 per person

members from US$4,185.60 per person

Save up to 10%

River Cruise itinerary for Halong Bay, Red River & Laos Mekong River Cruise map for Halong Bay, Red River & Laos Mekong

Halong Bay, Red River & Laos Mekong

21 NIGHTS

Spend 21 nights on this fully immersive cruise. Embark on a journey of rich culture and stunning surroundings as you discover Halong Bay, the Red River and Hanoi in Vietnam. Take an internal flight to Vientiane where you will embark again on a cruise on the Mekong in Laos.

Rivers: Halong Bay & The Red River, Mekong River

Ships: RV Angkor Pandaw, RV Champa Pandaw, RV Laos Pandaw

from US$7,012.80 per person

Save up to 10%

Rivers in Laos & China

Mekong River

Mekong River

The Mekong River is the 12th largest river in the world flowing 4, 350km from SW China to discharge into the sea through a vast delta in Vietnam. Discharging 16, 000 cubic meters per second this great beast of a river actually flows through or marks the boundaries of six different nations: China , Laos , Burma , Thailand, Cambodia and Vietnam . Navigable approximately 3, 000km in high water from Saigon to Stuc Treng in Cambodia and again above the Cambodia Laos border formed by the impassable Khone Falls, the river is navigable from Pakse all the way to Jinghong in China. In French colonial times it was said that for officials taking up postings in Laos it took longer to sail up the Mekong from Saigon to Luang Prabang than it did to sail from Paris to Saigon. In fact, the French built a railway round the Khone Falls to connect steamer services above and below. Passengers of our famous Mekong river cruises experience enormous cultural and ecological diversity on this magnificent river. However, both ways of life and the biodiversity of this vast region will be affected by the construction of a number of new dams. Seven are planned for Laos alone, with one nearing completion. Our ship already passes through in a specially-constructed lock. Though flowing through six countries there is a far greater human diversity than merely six nationalities. Numerous minority groups and hill tribes have settled along the banks, from the Chams in Vietnam to Akas, Lisus, Shans, Dai and many others the further up you go into the Highlands. All of this makes for a truly fascinating ethnography. Pandaw operates three Mekong river cruise ships on the Lower Mekong and Tonle rivers through Vietnam and Cambodia and from Laos to China on the Upper Mekong.

Laos & China Ships

RV Champa Pandaw river cruise ship

RV Champa Pandaw

The Champa Pandaw, sister ship of the Laos Pandaw, began cruises on the Upper Mekong from September 2016. The ship has quality mountain bikes fo....
RV Laos Pandaw river cruise ship

RV Laos Pandaw

Seeing the quality of this ship it is hard to believe it was built in a hurry. There are no proper ship yards above the Khone Falls and we could....
RV Sabaidee Pandaw river cruise ship

RV Sabaidee Pandaw

The RV Sabaidee is our seventeenth ship to the Pandaw Flotilla which was constructed to meet demand on our very popular Laos to China route acro....

River Cruise Stops

Chiang Saen

Chiang Saen

According to an ancient chronicle the original city of Chiang Saen (Chiang: "offshoot", saen: "100, 000") was built in 545 CE in an area called Yonok by Tai migrants from the Chinese province of Yunnan, and was an important city of the Lanna ("million paddies") Kingdom. No reliable written history of the city exists until the arrival of King Mengrai in the 13th century. His grandson, Saen Phu, ruler of the Lanna Kingdom, founded Chiang Saen in 1325 or 1328. Once one of the major cities of the Lanna kingdom, it was originally called Wiang Hiran Nakhon Ngoen Yang and served as the capital before King Mengrai established Chiang Rai in 1262. The town was captured by the Burmese in the 16th century and sacked by King Rama I in 1803. Left as a ghost town for a hundred years, it was repopulated around 1900, but still hasn't really staggered to its feet. Traces of old double city walls and many other antiquities still remain in and outside the district town.
Cruising The Mekong

Cruising The Mekong

Continue up the Mekong with Burma on our left and Laos on our right.
Golden Triangle

Golden Triangle

The Golden Triangle is in Chiang Rai Province, in the far north of Thailand. The English name comes from the meeting of Laos, Myanmar and Thailand here, but to the locals it's Sop Ruak, since this is where the Mekong meets the Ruak River. Historically the Golden Triangle has been an area well-known for the growing of opium, and the name comes from a US State Department memo on the practice. These days, though, the place lives on the cultivation of tourists, and this is undoubtedly the largest tourist trap in northern Thai-land. The landscape is hilly, divided by the Ruak River that flows into the Mekong (Mae Khong) River. These rivers form a natural boundary between the three countries Laos (to the east of the Me-kong), Myanmar (to the north of the Ruak), and Thailand (to the west of the Mae Khong). The main area is the Thai riverside near the point where the rivers meet, which — in the dry sea-son, when the Mekong runs low — is even marked by a handy sandbar. This in itself is pretty anti-climactic, so a series of increasingly bizarre attractions have been erected by the riverside to make up for it: there's a giant golden Buddha on a ship, elephant statues where you can clamber to pose atop a palanquin (in exchange for a donation, of course), elaborate shrines to the royal family, half a dozen signs stating that yes, this really is the Golden Triangle and, inevitably, river cruise touts, souvenir shops and Western-style cafes.
Jinghong

Jinghong

Jinghong is a beautiful place and one that you will get to experience if you take one of our Mekong River Cruises . It is a city in Xishuangbanna Dai Autonomous Prefecture which is in the Yunnan Province in South China. Jinghong is a famous destination and one that we highly recommend you see if you take a Pandaw river cruise ! Temple at Jinghong A History Of Jinghong Meng Bala Nax, which means 'ideal and magical paradise' are words that many people use to describe this place. It was founded in 1180, by the Tai King Phana Coyeng. It was originally named Chiang Hung but was later renamed to Jinghong. Jinghong has had its fair share of history throughout the Yuan and Ming Dynasty, making it a culturally rich destination to stop off at on your cruise. Attractions To See The Dai Water Splashing Festival is definitely something that you should experience. This is a New Year Celebration that takes place in Jinghong and is a beautiful spectacle for all those who behold it. This is not New Year as you know it, but rather this festival takes place on the 13th/15th of April every year to celebrate the Dai New Year. It is the most important festival in the Dai culture, and it is something that you are not going to want to miss if you happen to be in the area on these dates. As well as this, there are a whole host of small villages nearby that are full of people from different cultures. You can visit these places as many of them are not far from the river that you will be travelling on, and experience a completely different way of life to what you are used to. Obviously, you aren’t going to want to go too far from the boat, but you can consider heading to one of Jinghongs botanical gardens. There are at least three gardens in the city for you to explore! Jinghong also has multiple Buddhist temples that you can visit to experience the lives of the native population. Buddhist temple in Jinghong Why Is Jinghong Famous? There is a long history of the Dai Culture in Jinghong, but over the last few centuries, more people have travelled and settled here. Like we said above, you can visit some of the nearby villages to see the different ways of life that are now inhabiting this place. The Dai people have a long and rich history, with some of their dances being known throughout the world. Many Dai people live in bamboo houses, which is the traditional minority buildings in China. Best way to experience Jinghong The best way to experience Jinghong is on our Mekong: From Laos to China cruise where you get to visit the Tropical Plant Institute, Manting Park and experience a cultural show where dancers from 38 different ethinic groups.
Kuang Si Waterfalls

Kuang Si Waterfalls

Also known as the Tat Kuang Si Waterfalls and Kuang Xi, Kuang Si Falls is a breathtaking three-tier waterfall that is adored by every tourist that visits each year and is a location visited on our Mekong River Cruises . Featuring turquoise waters and incredible surroundings, it’s a popular destination for many visiting the area – particularly between December and May after the monsoon season has ended. Situated in Northern Laos, during your Laos Mekong or the Halong Bay, Red River & Laos Mekong river cruise you will be able to visit the falls by means of an exciting sightseeing minibus. A hidden treasure away from bustling Luang Prabang, you will want to return to the Kuang Si Waterfalls from the moment that you leave. Kuang Si Waterfalls Key facts about Kuang Si Waterfalls They have a 50m drop It is open every day between 8am and 5. 30pm It will take you 15-20 minutes to hike to the top It is 29km south of Luang Prabang (a UNESCO town) It is a popular tourist destination, visited by millions each year Top Things To Do While at Kuang Si Waterfalls Take a walk around the Kuang Si Falls Market As you walk towards the entrance of the waterfalls you will be greeted by the quaint Kuang Si Falls Market. Filled with delicious sweet and savoury treats, ice-cold beers and souvenirs (amongst other delights) it makes for a wonderful stop before you head to the waterfalls. Affordable and welcoming, it is a fabulous start to your trip to Kuang Si Falls. Explore the Tat Kuang Si Bear Rescue Centre On your way into the waterfalls you will walk through the Tat Kuang Si Bear Rescue Centre. Operated by the conservation foundation Free the Bears, the fascinating centre is home to over 20 Asiatic Black Bears which have been rescued over the years. A wonderful addition to your river stop, along with the market and butterfly garden, there is plenty to see and explore. Walk to the top of Kuang Si Waterfalls During your sightseeing trip you may have time to hike to the top of the waterfalls. Walking over a small wooden bridge, you will have unobstructed and awe-inspiring views of the main part of the waterfalls. With a lack of tourists and the beautiful sounds of nature around you, it’s a wonderful way to spend your time at the waterfalls. On a clear day you can even see out towards the Lao countryside. What Kuang Si Waterfalls is Famous For The perfect place to take incredible photos, your trip out to the falls will be unforgettable creating everlasting memories. Abundant with tropical greenery, extraordinary wildlife and boasting a sense of tranquility that showcases what the true Laos is all about, the Kuang Si Waterfalls will make you feel immersed into the surrounding nature the moment that you catch sight of it. Famous for its serenity and natural wonders, it is frequently voted as one of the top waterfalls to see in Laos and a must for anyone visiting Luang Prabang on their Pandaw river cruise. People swimming in the Kuang Si Waterfalls
Luang Prabang

Luang Prabang

Luang Prabang, or Louangphrabang, is a city located in north central Laos, at the confluence of the Nam Khan river and Mekong River about 300 km north of Vientiane. It is the capital of Luang Prabang Province. Inhabited for thousands of years, it was the royal capital of the country until 1975. It’s known for its many Buddhist temples, including the gilded Wat Xieng Thong, dating to the 16th century, and Wat Mai, once the residence of the head of Laotian Buddhism.
Pak Beng

Pak Beng

Sitting midway between Luang Prabang and Huay Xai lays Pakbeng on the Mekong. The river used to be the one major route for transport in the country, and over the years, Pakbeng has developed massively as a stop for both cargo and passenger ferries. If you want scenery, you should sit here where the Nam Beng flows freely into the Mekong. When you are on a Mekong river cruise from Chiang Khong on the Thai border on the Mekong, you're treated to spectacular views of Pakbeng. If you want to explore Pakbeng, start on the boat journey down the Mekong. The town is flourishing right now, and it's gaining more tourism and popularity as time goes on. The one thing to remember is that Pakbeng is not just somewhere to transit to Thailand. It's a corridor to so many different places, and it's for this reason that the hotels and guesthouses are so popular. They get very full in the higher seasons, and while arrival by boat can be a little busy, there isn’t as much to do or see than other places, but it still makes for an interesting stop-off! Elephant opposite Pakbeng Places To Visit When you come to Pakbeng, you want to have a list of things to do while you are off the boat. However, it's a small place to visit, and the reason it’s so popular is that it's where all the boats stop on the way from Luang Prabang to Huay Xai. There is a sleepy charm to Pakbeng, and it's the arrival of tourists in the evening that makes it so. There are some temples that are definitely worth seeing, but there are some things that you can see and do in the neighbouring villages, too. Head to Wat Koh Koh, a nearby town for excellent views over the town. See the skies around Pakbeng in the evening as the sun sets and enjoy the view from one destination to the other. There isn't much in the way of infrastructure in Pakbeng itself, but there are a lot of tours that are becoming more and more popular alongside the river cruises that stop in Pakbeng. There are a handful of restaurants and bars in the town, too, so you can always stop off at the Hive Bar for a drink overlooking the river. There may not be much in the way of shopping malls in Pakbeng, but there are local market stalls along the main road serving up baguettes stuffed with local ingredients, and you can stock up for getting back on the boat home. When you head on one of the Pandaw river cruises through Pakbeng, you get a little taste of life with the locals, and they will be able to greet you and show you some of the local charm available to you. The best way to experience Pakbeng is on our Mekong: From Laos To China cruise where you’ll stop off for a quick visit and a look around. Sunset on the Pakbeng waterfront
Pak Lai

Pak Lai

Our Mekong River Cruises can take you to many magical destinations, one of the most stunning of those is Pak Lai. Pak Lai is a stunning administrative French town with a plethora of colonial buildings and a small yet bustling local market that can itself be a wonder to witness. This town boasts the largest elephant festival in South East Asia, and this festival is usually hosted in February. The town stretches five kilometers of route four that is joined by an east road that is very sparsely dotted with buildings in the French-colonial and Lao style. The clamouring Mekong waterway port of Pak Lai is a practically unavoidable stop on one of our river cruises on the Mekong. Pak Lai sits prettily among Sainyabuli and Loei in Thailand. The town pursues a 5km twist of the river, paralleled further east by a smaller riverside cut-out that's sparsely sprinkled with historic structures in both Lao and French-colonial style. Pak Lai is popular with tourists for its free walk opportunities through some incredible rainforest. It even boasts a considerable number of elephants, so if you have never experienced a ride on an elephant before, this could be your chance. Forest Walks in Pak Lai Many residents of neighbouring towns such as Vientiane or Sainyabuli arrive in Pak Lai by bus as it people often travel to visit the famous market. Of course, one can not mention visiting such a wonderfully beautiful place without talking about how we get to it. The journey itself via the Mekong should be appreciated alone for its glory of being the twelfth longest river in the world. Apart from the famous market, there are also some fantastic restaurants to sample some of the finest local cuisines. School children in Pak Lai One place that everybody should also make an effort to visit is Wat Sisavang. Wat Sisavang is a Buddhist temple in Pak Lai that lies on route 4. Wat Sisavang sports some ancient monks' quarters and now has a new bell tower and gateway. Within a short 500 meter walk of Wat Sisavang, you will pass the main guesthouse and a river port. At this point, you will cross a picturesque wooden bridge where you will arrive at a quaint village-like area. All in all, any trip to northern Laos will be one that will surely stay with you for the rest of your life. If it wasn't for this colorful history, Laos would not play host to some of the incredible beauty that it does today. The best way to experience Pak Lai is on our Laos Mekong cruise, where you will visit colonial buildings and a bustling market.
Vientiane

Vientiane

Vientiane is the capital and largest city of Laos, situated on the Mekong near the border with Thailand. Vientiane became the capital in 1563 due to fears of a Burmese invasion. Of the many temples and Stupas, highlights are: Sisaket Temple Wat Si Saket was built in 1818 on the order of King Anouvong (Sethathirath V. ) Si is derived from the Sanskrit title of veneration Sri, prefixed to the name of Wat Saket in Bangkok, which was renamed by Anouvong's contemporary, King Rama I. Wat Si Saket was built in the Siamese style of Buddhist architecture, with a surrounding terrace and an ornate five-tiered roof, rather than in the Lao style. This may have kept it safe, since the armies of Siam that sacked Vientiane following Anouvong's rebellion in 1827 used the compound as their headquarters and lodging place. It may be the oldest temple still standing in Vientiane. The French colonial government restored Wat Si Saket in 1924 and again in 1930. Phrathat Luang Stupa Pha That Luang according to the Lao people was originally built as a Hindu temple in the 1st century. Buddhist missionaries from the Mauryan Empire are believed to have been sent by the Emperor Ashoka, including Bury Chan or Praya Chanthabury Pasithisak and five Arahata monks who brought a holy relic (believed to be the breastbone) of Lord Buddha to the stupa. It was rebuilt in the 13th century as a Khmer temple which fell into ruin. Wat Pra Keo Temple Haw Phra Kaew was built in 1565–1566 on the orders of King Setthathirath after he moved the capital from Luang Prabang to Vientiane. The temple was built on the grounds of the royal palace to house the Emerald Buddha figurine, which Setthathirath had brought from Chiang Mai then the capital of Lanna to Luang Prabang. The temple was used as Setthathirath's personal place of worship, and because of this, there were no resident monks in this temple unlike other temples in Laos. The Emerald Buddha stayed in the temple for over 200 years, but in 1779, Vientiane was seized by the Siamese General Chao Phraya Chakri (who founded the current Chakri Dynasty of Thailand), the figurine was taken to Thonburi and the temple destroyed. The Buddha now resides in Wat Phra Kaew in Bangkok, and is considered the palladium of Thailand. Patouxai Monument Patuxai is a compound word, 'Patuu' or 'patu' meaning a "door" or "gateway" and 'Xai', derivative of the Sanskrit ‘Jaya', which means "victory". Thus it means “Victory Gate”. The Patuxai was built during a turbulent period Lao history. It was built when Laos was a constitutional monarchy and was originally known simply as the "Anousavali" ("memory"), dedicated memory of the Laotian soldiers who died during World War II and the independence war from France in 1949.

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