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Daily Overview

UPSTREAM

Day Destination Activities
1 Vientiane EMBARKATION

Tour of Vientiane’s temples and palaces

2 The Mekong Morning presentation on Lao language

Upper deck cooking demonstration

3 Pak Lai See Pak Lai
4 Ban Park Bor Visit to a Kmutribal village
5 Ban Mouang Khai Morning spent cruising

Stop in village of Ban Mouang Khai

6 Luang Prabang Discover Khuang Si waterfall

Explore UNESCO-listed Luang Prabang

7 Luang Prabang Guided walking tour including National Museum

Free time to explore the city at your leisure

8 Pak Ou Caves Take a local boat to Buddhist Pak Ou Caves

Afternoon spent cruising

9 Pak Beng Morning walking tour of Pak Beng

Potential visit to a traditional village

10 Chiang Khong Scenic cruising en route to Thai border

Farewell cocktails and dinner on board

11 Golden Triangle DISEMBARKATION

Visit a local opium museum

DOWNSTREAM

Day Destination Activities
1 Golden Triangle EMBARKATION

Visit a local opium museum

2 Into Laos Cross the Thailand-Laos border

Potential visit to a traditional village

3 Pak Ou Caves Morning walking tour of Pak Beng

Take a local boat to Buddhist Pak Ou Caves

4 Luang Prabang Explore UNESCO-listed Luang Prabang

 

5 Luang Prabang Experience the customs of local monks

Traditional dance performance on board

6 Ban Mouang Khai Discover Khuang Si waterfall

Potential visit to an elephant camp

7 Xayaburi Dam Pass through the Mekong control lock

Late afternoon walking tour of local village

8 Pak Sao Morning visit to Ban Pak Hoang

Excursion to plantation village

9 Vientiane Scenic cruising en route to Vientiane

Evening is at your leisure in the city

10 Vientiane Tour of Vientiane’s temples and palaces

Farewell dinner

11 Vientiane Breakfast

DISEMBARKATION

Please note that this program is an expedition and 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.

Detailed Itinerary

UPSTREAM

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 see landmarks including Wat Sisaket, the President’s Palace, Haw Prakeo Temple, and the Patuxai war monument. You’ll set sail in the late afternoon, enjoying a welcome dinner on board and mooring outside of Vientiane overnight.

 

DAY 2 / CRUISING THE MEKONG

Cruise upstream, passing lush jungle scenery and small riverside villages. In the morning, attend a presentation on the Lao language, which serves as an important lingua franca in Laos, where over 80 languages are spoken. In the afternoon, there will be a cooking demonstration on the upper deck. Tonight, moor in Muang Xanakham.

 

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. After exploring the town, return to the ship at Ban Muang. Mooring overnight.

 

DAY 4 / BAN PARK BOR VILLAGE

Enjoy a guided tour of Ban Park Bor on foot. Set on the banks of the Mekong and surrounded by dense jungle, Ban Park Bor is a typical Kmu tribe village.

 

DAY 5 / BAN MOUANG KHAI VILLAGE

Cruise past the newly constructed lock, which forms part of the Xayaburi Hydro Electric Power Plant before continuing upstream to the village of Ban Mouang Khai.

 

DAY 6 / LUANG PRABANG

Set off by coach to see jungle pools and the dramatic Khaung Si waterfall en route to Luang Prabang. You’ll also explore a butterfly garden and elephant camp before we arrive in the capital of the Luang Prabang province. Located in central Loas, at the sacred confluence of the Khan and Mekong rivers, Luang Prabang offers much to see. Travel by tuk tuk to 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. In the evening, enjoy dinner in one of the city’s many excellent restaurants or visit the buzzing night market. Mooring overnight.

 

DAY 7 / 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 continuing the tour, with stops at the National Museum and morning market.

In the afternoon, you’ll have some time at your leisure to explore Luang Prabang, shop for local handicrafts, or simply sip a coffee and enjoy the laid-back pace of this city. Before dinner, take in a traditional Laotian dance performance on the upper deck. Mooring overnight.

 

DAY 8 / PAK OU CAVES

In the morning, set off by boat on a sightseeing excursion to the nearby Pak Ou Caves, a Buddhist sanctuary with remarkable limestone cliff faces. Later, follow the Mekong upstream towards Ban Bo and take in a cooking demonstration on the upper deck.

 

DAY 9 / PAK BENG

Visit Pak Beng, a small Laotian market village on the banks of the Mekong. Following lunch, if time permits you’ll also explore the charming village of Ban Pak Sip.

 

DAY 10 / CHIANG KHONG

Marvel at the stunning natural scenery as we approach the Laos-Thailand border at Huay Xai. After crossing into Thailand, explore Chiang Khong. Tonight, enjoy a farewell dinner on board the ship.

 

DAY 11 / GOLDEN TRIANGLE / DISEMBARKATION

Disembark in the morning in Chiang Sean to explore Southeast Asia’s Golden Triangle, including a visit to an opium museum. From here, take a transfer to set off on the next leg of your journey.

 

DOWNSTREAM

DAY 1 / GOLDEN TRIANGLE / EMBARKATION

Explore Southeast Asia’s Golden Triangle, including a visit to the region’s infamous opium museum. Embark your ship in the evening and set sail towards the border as the sun is setting.

 

DAY 2 / INTO LAOS

Cross the Thailand-Laos border, marvelling at the stunning natural scenery of the Upper Mekong River. If time permits, after lunch you’ll embark on a sightseeing excursion in Huay Xai, the capital of the province of Bokèo on the Laos side of the Thailand-Laos border.

 

DAY 3 / PAK OU CAVES
Visit Pak Beng, a small Laotian market village on the banks of the Mekong. Continue cruising downstream to Pak Ou, where you’ll set off by boat on a sightseeing excursion to the nearby Pak Ou Caves, a Buddhist sanctuary with remarkable limestone cliff faces. Later, follow the Mekong upstream towards Ban Bo and take in a cooking demonstration on the upper deck.

 

DAY 4 / LUANG PRABANG

Arrive in the capital of the Luang Prabang province in the morning. Located in central Loas, at the sacred confluence of the Khan and Mekong rivers, Luang Prabang offers much to see. After breakfast, travel by tuk tuk to 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. In the evening, 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 continuing the tour, with stops at the National Museum and morning market.

In the afternoon, you’ll have some time at your leisure to explore Luang Prabang, shop for local handicrafts, or simply sip a coffee and enjoy the laid-back pace of this city. Before dinner, take in a traditional Laotian dance performance on the upper deck. Mooring overnight.

 

DAY 6 / BAN MOUANG KHAI VILLAGE

Set off by coach to see jungle pools and the dramatic Khaung Si waterfall. You’ll also explore a butterfly garden and, if time permits, an elephant camp before enjoying a cooking demonstration on board and scenic cruising on the Mekong.

 

DAY 7 / XAYABURI DAM

Cruise past the newly constructed lock, which forms part of the Xayaburi Hydro Electric Power Plant. In the late afternoon, explore a local village.

 

DAY 8 / PAK SAO

In the morning, see Ban Pak Huoang, a unique local village on the Thailand-Laos border.

 

DAY 9 / VIENTIANE

Cruise upstream, passing lush jungle and mountain scenery where the river carves a path through rock. You will see the plains of Vientiane. After arriving mid-afternoon, debark the ship for independent exploration in the delightful capital of Laos, a former French colonial outpost. Mooring overnight in Vientiane.

 

DAY 10 / VIENTIANE

Take in Vientiane’s inimitable mix of colonial and eastern architecture, and see landmarks including Wat Sisaket, the President’s Palace, Haw Prakeo Temple, and the Patuxai war monument. In the afternoon, explore the city’s cafés and bistros on your own. Tonight, enjoy cocktails and a celebratory farewell dinner on board the ship.

 

DAY 11 / VIENTIANE / DISEMBARKATION

Your adventure ends in Vientiane, where you’ll disembark after breakfast to prepare for your onward journey.

Dates & Prices

Itinerary Code
(Name of Itinerary)
 Itinerary Start Date  Ship Name  Route Duration (Nights) Main Deck Pricing PP Upper Deck Pricing PP
RRAS-02
(Upper Mekong)
9/20/2017 RV Laos Pandaw Vientiane/Chiang Saen 10 $5,010 N/A
10/1/2017 RV Laos Pandaw Chiang Saen/Vientiane 10 $5,010
10/12/2017 RV Laos Pandaw Vientiane/Chiang Saen 10 $5,010
10/23/2017 RV Laos Pandaw Chiang Saen/Vientiane 10 $5,010
11/3/2017 RV Laos Pandaw Vientiane/Chiang Saen 10 $5,010
11/14/2017 RV Laos Pandaw Chiang Saen/Vientiane 10 $5,010
11/25/2017 RV Laos Pandaw Vientiane/Chiang Saen 10 $5,010
12/28/2017 RV Laos Pandaw Chiang Saen/Vientiane 10 $5,010
1/8/2018 RV Laos Pandaw Vientiane/Chiang Saen 10 $5,010
1/19/2018 RV Laos Pandaw Chiang Saen/Vientiane 10 $5,010
1/30/2018 RV Laos Pandaw Vientiane/Chiang Saen 10 $5,010
2/10/2018 RV Laos Pandaw Chiang Saen/Vientiane 10 $5,010
2/21/2018 RV Laos Pandaw Vientiane/Chiang Saen 10 $5,010
3/4/2018 RV Laos Pandaw Chiang Saen/Vientiane 10 $5,010
3/15/2018 RV Laos Pandaw Vientiane/Chiang Saen 10 $5,010

Inclusions

  • Transfers from Chiang Rai / Chiang Mai to ship v.v. and ship to Vientiane / Udon Thani v.v.
  • Entrance fees
  • Guide services (English speaking)
  • Gratuities to crew
  • Main meals
  • Drinks include locally made soft drinks, local beer and local spirits, jugged coffee, mineral water and selection of teas and tisanes

Ship Details

RV Laos Pandaw

BuiltLengthDecksCabinsPassengersCabin Size
201544.5m2102017m²More 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