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Daily Overview

Day Destination Activities
1 Vientiane EMBARKATION

Explore charming and colonial Vientiane

2 Ban Paklay Scenic cruising on the mighty Mekong
3 Pak Lai See Pak Lai, including the bustling market
4 Luang Prabang Explore UNESCO-listed Luang Prabang

Enjoy the city’s many bistros and cafés

5 Luang Prabang Observe the monks asking for alms

Discover Khuang Si waterfall

6 Pak Ou Caves Stop to explore Buddhist Pak Ou Caves

Scenic sailing through rapids and pools

7 Pak Beng Morning walking tour of Pak Beng

Take a longboat to a traditional Khmu village

8 Chiang Saen Cross the border into Thailand

Visit a Golden Triangle opium museum

9 Tachileik Cross the border into Myanmar

Discover local monasteries and pagodas

10 Cruising the Mekong Cruise between Myanmar and Laos

Stop in Laos to explore a jungle village

11 Muang Long Visit the Aka tribal villages in Laos

Potential visit to the Nam Ha Conservation Area

12 Into China Cross the border into China

In Gang Lei, go ashore for a walking tour

13 Menglun Botanical Garden Explore some of China’s most beautiful gardens

See rare and exotic plant species

14 Jinghong Excursion to the Mengfeilong Monastery

Visit a Chinese tea plantation

15 Jinghong Breakfast on board

DISEMBARKATION

Note: This program is also available in the opposite direction.

Note: Passengers booking in the low water season months of December to April should be advised that in the event that the ship’s captain decides the water is too low, it will be necessary to transfer passengers from as close to the China border as the ship can reach to Jinghong by speed boat. In the event of such as transfer, guests will stay at the four-star InterContinental Hotel in Jinghong or a comparable hotel for four nights in order to complete the Yunnan sightseeing.

Detailed Itinerary

DAY 1 / VIENTIANE / EMBARKATION* 

Join your luxury riverboat before noon, savouring lunch on board before an afternoon of exploration and discovery in the delightful capital of Laos, a former French outpost. Take in Vientiane’s inimitable mix of colonial and eastern architecture, and perhaps visiting landmarks such as Wat Sisaket, the President’s Palace, Haw Prakeo Temple, and the Patuxai war monument. Tonight, spend the evening in port, enjoying dinner on board the ship or in one of Vientiane’s many cafés, bistros, and restaurants.

 

DAY 2 / BAN PAKLAY 

Leave the plains of Vientiane, entering a dramatic environment featuring jungles, mountains, and the wide and fast-flowing Mekong. Take in the amazing rock formations straddling either side of the river, and moor overnight on a sandbank.

 

DAY 3 / PAK LAI 

A former French administrative town, Pak Lai boasts numerous colonial buildings and a vibrant local market. It’s also home to the largest elephant festival in all of Southeast Asia, typically taking place in February.

 

DAY 4 / LUANG PRABANG 

Located in central Laos, at the sacred confluence of the Khan and Mekong rivers, Luang Prabang offers much to see. Discover this well-preserved and distinctive UNESCO World Heritage Site’s gilded Buddhist temples, libraries, and sophisticated cafes, as well as the Royal Palace Museum. Enjoy dinner in one of the city’s many excellent restaurants or visit the buzzing night market. Mooring overnight.

 

DAY 5 / LUANG PRABANG 

Today, leave the ship in the early morning to witness an inspiring local tradition. Every morning, hundreds of monks fill Luang Prabang’s streets, collecting alms from city residents. You’re invited to join in before traveling inland to explore Hmong villages, swimming in deep jungle pools at the Khaung Si waterfall, or, if you’re up to the challenge, trekking the forest’s trails.

In the evening, you’ll have some time at your leisure to explore Luang Prabang, perhaps visiting some of the artisan workshops or shopping for handicrafts.

 

DAY 6 / PAK OU CAVES / NAM OU RIVER 

Cruise to Pak Ou, where you’ll set off by boat on a sightseeing excursion to the nearby Pak Ou Caves, a Buddhist sanctuary. The Nam Ou River boasts remarkable limestone cliff faces. Spend the rest of the day following the river through rapids and vast pools.

 

DAY 7 / PAK BENG 

Visit Pak Beng, a small Laotian market village on the banks of the Mekong. At Pak Tha, set off on a long tail boat excursion up the Namtha River to visit a Khmu village.

 

DAY 8 / CHIANG SAEN 

Arrive in Chian Saen, Thailand, at lunchtime. In the afternoon, you’ll take a coach to to explore Southeast Asia’s Golden Triangle, including a visit to an opium museum.

 

DAY 9 / TACHILEIK  

In the border town of Tachileik, Myanmar, visit the Shwedagon Pagoda, which bears the same name as the famous temple in Yangon but is only one-fifth of the size. Here, you’ll also visit the local market and the Two Dragon Monastery, a Chinese Buddhist temple. Bright colours and ornate carvings make the temple complex an enchanting place to visit. Finally, visit the Chinese Monastery. Built in 1999, this is one of the largest and most beautiful monasteries in the city.

 

DAY 10 / CRUISING THE MEKONG 

Continue up the Mekong, with Myanmar to your left and Laos to your right. Today, stop to explore a jungle village on the Laos side of the border, and set off on a possible hiking trek into the jungle.

 

DAY 11 / MUANG LONG  

Moor at Xiang Kok and travel inland by car to Muang Long, Laos, where you’ll visit Aka tribal villages. Here, find yourself on the edge of the Nam Ha Natural Biodiversity Conservation Area which you’ll explore if time permits.

 

DAY 12 / INTO CHINA 

After exploring a local village, leave Laos to cross the border into China. Here, the Mekong River turns a beautiful shade of emerald green. Continue to Gang Lei, where you’ll go ashore for a walking tour.

 

DAY 13 / MENGLUN BOTANICAL GARDENS 

Enjoy a lovely morning visit to the renowned Menglun Botanical Gardens. Built in 1959, this is one of the most significant centres for botanical research in all of China. Discover the impressive gardens, which are home to many rare, exotic, and endangered plant species, including the dragon tree, the poisonous upas tree, the “clock flower,” which opens and closes in time with the sunrise and the sunset, and the “dancing grass,” which is responsive to sound.

After lunch, sail upstream and stop at Mengzhan, where you’ll explore the Mangza temple.

 

DAY 14 / MANGFEILONG MONASTERY / TEA PLANTATION 

Sail to Jinghong, China, where you’ll embark on a morning excursion to the striking Mangfeilong Monastery. Following lunch, visit a Chinese tea plantation and enjoy a tasting before exploring the Manting Park Temple, one of the most important Buddhist temples in the Yunnan province. After a farewell dinner on board the ship, enjoy a traditional dancing show in Mengbalanaxi Theatre.

 

DAY 15 / JINGHONG / DISEMBARKATION 

Following a relaxing breakfast on board the ship, disembark and prepare for your onward journey.

 

*Note: This program is also available in the opposite direction.

Please be advised that this is an expedition which travels to remote areas. As such, there will most likely be changes to the itinerary and timing. This cruise is therefore only suitable for travellers with a sense of adventure and who are flexible in their expectations.

Dates & Prices

Itinerary Code
(Name of Itinerary)
 Itinerary Start Date  Ship Name  Route Duration (Nights) Main Deck Pricing PP Upper Deck Pricing PP
RRAS-13
(The Mekong: From Laos to China)
9/7/2017 RV Champa Pandaw (Yunnan Pandaw) Vientiane/Jinghong 14 $8,190 $8,970
9/21/2017 RV Champa Pandaw (Yunnan Pandaw) Jinghong/Vientiane 14 $8,190 $8,970
10/5/2017 RV Champa Pandaw (Yunnan Pandaw) Vientiane/Jinghong 14 $8,190 $8,970
10/19/2017 RV Champa Pandaw (Yunnan Pandaw) Jinghong/Vientiane 14 $8,190 $8,970
11/2/2017 RV Champa Pandaw (Yunnan Pandaw) Vientiane/Jinghong 14 $8,190 $8,970
11/16/2017 RV Champa Pandaw (Yunnan Pandaw) Jinghong/Vientiane 14 $8,190 $8,970
12/14/2017 RV Champa Pandaw (Yunnan Pandaw) Vientiane/Jinghong 14 $8,190 $8,970
12/28/2017 RV Champa Pandaw (Yunnan Pandaw) Jinghong/Vientiane 14 $8,190 $8,970
1/11/2018 RV Champa Pandaw (Yunnan Pandaw) Vientiane/Jinghong 14 $8,190 $8,970
1/25/2018 RV Champa Pandaw (Yunnan Pandaw) Jinghong/Vientiane 14 $8,190 $8,970
2/8/2018 RV Champa Pandaw (Yunnan Pandaw) Vientiane/Jinghong 14 $8,190 $8,970
2/22/2018 RV Champa Pandaw (Yunnan Pandaw) Jinghong/Vientiane 14 $8,190 $8,970
3/8/2018 RV Champa Pandaw (Yunnan Pandaw) Vientiane/Jinghong 14 $8,190 $8,970
3/22/2018 RV Champa Pandaw (Yunnan Pandaw) Jinghong/Vientiane 14 $8,190 $8,970

Inclusions

  • Entrance fees
  • Guide services (English speaking)
  • Gratuities to crew
  • Main meals
  • Locally made soft drinks, local beer and local spirits, jugged coffee and selection of teas and tisanes, mineral water
  • Transfers from Vientiane or Udon Thani to ship in Vientiane or v.v.

Ship Details

RV Champa Pandaw

BuiltLengthDecksCabinsPassengersCabin Size
201644.5m2142817m²More Details

Travel Tips

Upper Mekong

Travel Documents / Visas

1. Passport

Canadian citizens must have a passport that is valid for at least 6 months after the last date of travel to Thailand, Laos, China and Myanmar.

Citizens of other countries should consult with their travel agent or our office.

2. Visas

Laos: A valid tourist visa is required for Canadians. It can be obtained upon arrival at Vientiane or Luang Prabang airports provided you have 2 passport photos and the current fee.

Thailand: No tourist visa is required for stays of up to 30 days.

China:  A visa is required for citizens of Canada. Details on how to obtain a visa can be obtained here.

Myanmar: Canadians require a tourist visa to enter Myanmar. Visas can be obtained online in advance by visiting the Myanmar Department of Immigration website.

 

Packing List

A handy checklist of what to bring on your trip can be downloaded here.

 

Insurance

We very strongly recommend the purchase of appropriate travel insurance for any trip outside of Canada. Information on travel insurance options can be found here.

           

Smoking

Not permitted anywhere indoors. There are designated areas on the outside decks.

 

Weather

January/February and December: Temperatures during the day in the low to mid 20s. Evenings can be cooler in the high 10s.

March/April and August/September: Daytime temperatures are typically in the upper 20s. Night time seldom gets cooler than 20.

May – July: The hottest time of the year with temperatures in the 30s. Not much relief at night with temperatures in the mid to upper 20s.

The rainiest season is from June to September when you can expect rain, very heavy at times, almost every day (although usually not throughout).

 

Arrival / Departure

Upon booking, we will provide detail instructions on where your pickup point is on embarkation day. If you have not made any pre or post tour arrangements with us, you will have to arrange your own transportation to and from this pickup point (typically a hotel in the centre of Vientiane, Jinghong, Chiang Mai or Chiang Rai). We are happy to provide advice or to assist in arranging transfers.

The cruise will finish in the morning (usually around 8-9am) on the final day. It is necessary to have settled your onboard account well before this time as instructed by the cruise director on the day before. You will then be transferred by coach to the designated point for your onward journey.

 

Money

The currency in Thailand is the Thai Baht (THB).

In Laos, the currency is the Laotian Kip (LAK).

In Myanmar the currency is the Burmese Kyat (MMK).

The currency of China is the Yuan or Renminbi (RMB).

Credit cards are acceptable for larger purchases in retail shops, but usually not in restaurants or cafés other than in hotels in the larger cities.

ATM’s accepting most international debit and credit cards can be found in the major cities but will be few and far between in the smaller towns. Take an adequate supply of local currency with you for shopping or snacks along the way.

Gratuities (Tipping)

Gratuities for the ship’s crew are included in your cruise fare. If you feel the desire to reward specific members of staff for extraordinary service, you are at liberty to do so. In this case, please put the funds in a small envelope and hand it to the person discreetly.

Tips for services provided onshore are at your discretion. Typically USD$1 or 2 per service rendered (i.e. Taxis, pedicabs, porters, etc.) would be considered very fair.

Laundry

A laundry bag is provided in each stateroom for your laundry needs. Laundry is collected each morning when your room is made up and will be returned to you by the following day. We regret that dry cleaning services are not available.

 

Excursions

Most of our programs include a full complement of excursions. Some additional excursions may be available on board at an extra cost. Please check with us or consult the purser onboard for additional information.

Excursions will usually involve a lot of walking, often on dirt roads and on stone steps. If you have difficulty walking any distance, please let us know in advance and we will advise how best we can accommodate you.

Etiquette

South-East Asians are generally tolerant and easy going, however discussions about politics and religion are probably best avoided.

In Myanmar, any form of disrespect for the national religion, Theravada Buddhism, is inappropriate. Unlike many faiths, Buddhists make their temples open to foreigners, permitting the taking of pictures (not always!) and general invasion of their sacred space. They ask only one thing: that we take our shoes and socks off.  In addition please pay particular attention to the following:

  • Do not point with your feet.
  • In the company of monks or elders never cross your legs.
  • Do not touch people on the head or upper body.
  • When beckoning someone to come over do not flap your hand in the standard Western ‘come over here’ motion; instead turn your hand around so that your palm points down towards yourself.
  • Do not attempt to shake hands with monks or nuns. Note that people in general rarely shake hands here but rather smile and nod.
  • Women should never sit down next to a monk.
  • Shorts and skirts must cover the knees for both men and women. Arms can be exposed by shoulders should be covered. (i.e. No tank tops or sleeveless blouses)

 

Activity Level / Strenuousness

Light to Moderate – The ship will often dock on a riverbank with a gangplank. It is necessary to be reasonably sure-footed as walking will be on dirt roads and paths. Temples often have many stairs which are mostly not obligatory to climb, but for the full benefit you will need to. Note that the high temperatures and humidity in summer may also make participation on this trip more strenuous than you may be accustomed to compared to the climate at home.

Regrettably, we cannot accommodate guests in a wheelchair on this program.

Food

Breakfast, lunch and dinner are all included in your cruise fare so you shouldn’t be too hungry. It is worthwhile to sample the local cuisine though.

Thai cuisine is familiar to most Canadians and so trying any of it there is highly recommended. It is suggested to avoid the classic Pad Thai dish and be a bit more adventurous. Note that local spice levels are much hotter than westerners are accustomed. The phrase “Mai Phet” (pronounced ‘my pet’) meaning, ‘no chili’ would be well worth memorizing.

In Laos, “Laap” (similar to “Lab” in Thailand) is a spicy meat salad from beef, pork or chicken that is marinated in lime juice. “Oh Lam” stew which is native to the Luang Prabang area is a delicious, usually vegetarian mix of beans, eggplant, mushrooms seasoned with cilantro, chili and lemongrass.

Among the more interesting dishes in Myanmar is “Mohinga”, which is a bowl of rice noodles in a fish soup. You’ll often find it on the breakfast menu which takes some getting used to, but is well worth the try. Burmese curry, particularly the fish curry has a flavour which is quite different from those of its neighbours, but also to be recommended.

In this region of China, you may well wish to give one of the many variations of “Hot Pot” a try. It comes from nearby Chongqing.

It perhaps goes without saying that there are no local wines from this region that will be suitable for a western palate. Beer in all of these countries is well worth sampling !

Language

Your shipboard staff all speak English of course, but when you are wandering through the shops in small villages, the local folk will likely not understand you. Phrasebooks or translation apps would be very handy.

Medical Facilities

There are no medical personnel onboard the ship. However, the purser can contact onshore medical people for emergency and non-emergency situations and rapid evacuation can easily be facilitated in the most urgent cases.

Phone & Internet

There is a phone in each cabin. As is typical, the charges for overseas calls are relatively high.

Free Wi-Fi is available in the main public areas of the ship but not necessarily in all cabins. As internet is provided through a mobile network, bandwidth (speed) will vary depending on the number of concurrent users, the proximity to a cell tower and other factors.

If you would like to have regular data and phone connection, we suggest either arranging an overseas roaming plan with your mobile operator, or pick up a local SIM card if you have an unlocked phone.

 

Health / Vaccinations

We recommend being in good health prior to any long distance travel.

Although, there are no vaccinations required to travel to the countries on this itinerary, we highly recommend that you consult your physician or a travel medical clinic with any specific questions. Malaria is prevalent in some areas at some times of the year and you may wish to consider a prophylaxis.

Safety & Security

The general situation for tourists visiting these countries is good.

Crime is generally limited due to harsh penalties, particularly when tourists are affected. However, petty theft and pickpocketing is definitely something to be aware of, particularly in the larger cities and around large groups of people.

It is always prudent to be constantly aware of your surroundings and to not take unnecessary valuables with you. Leave your passport, extra money and any other belongings you do not need during the day in the safe in your cabin.

Please refer to the following information for specifics:

https://travel.gc.ca/destinations/laos

https://travel.gc.ca/destinations/china

https://travel.gc.ca/destinations/myanmar

Suggested Reading

Notes of  a Journey on the Upper Mekong, Siam

Bamboo Palace: Discovering the Lost Dynasty of Laos

The River’s Tale: A Year on the Mekong