Plans to Cruise Entire Mekong River 'Within Two Years'

Teresa Machan, The Daily Telegraph, September 23, 2014

Paul Strachan, founder of the expedition company Pandaw, said he is looking forward to the day when all the countries the river runs through - China, Burma, Laos, Vietnam, Thailand and Cambodia - can be seen in one trip.

"You can't do it on one ship due to waterfalls and other obstructions but within two years we hope to have boats on all these stretches," he said.

The 5,000-mile journey from Saigon, in Vietnam, to Harbin in China, would take around three weeks in total.

In the meantime, Pandaw is launching a new 10-night river cruise in Laos. Billed as a luxury cruise, the Laos Mekong sailing on the line's newest ship, Laos Pandaw, will be available from November next year.

The Mekong river flows through over 1,000 miles of the landlocked country, from north to south, and Pandaw is the first river operator to cross it.

A stay in the Unesco World Heritage city of Luang Prabang with time to explore its Buddhist temples and Royal Palace, and the chance to travel into the mountainous north are among the highlights. Excursions will see passengers traversing rapids and gorges, swimming in jungle pools and visiting tribal villages and Buddhist temples along the Mekong river to observe the morning alms.

Pandaw currently operates cruises in Burma, Vietnam and Cambodia and more recently the Brahmaputra in northeast India. "We are always looking for new cruising territory," said Strachan. "We were the first on the Mekong (in Indochina) the Irrawaddy and Chindwin (in Burma), the Ganges (in India) and on Borneo's Rajang river.

Earlier this month Pandaw announced a new cruise to Halong Bay in Vietnam that takes in the Red River, a key tributary of the Mekong.

Highlights of that voyage include the Tonkinese Alps and a visit to hill tribes near Sapa, in north Vietnam and cruising on the Da, or Black river. "It's tribal, mountainous and fast," said Strachan. "There are also coastal plains, pretty villages and plenty to see and do."

Prices on the Laos Pandaw start at £1,791 per person for 10 nights including excursions and gratuities, non-premium drinks and airport-to-ship transfers (020 3287 6113; Book before January 5, 2015 for a 10 per cent discount.

Reader offer: Tour or cruise the Mekong from £1,899 per person. Includes return flight. Various departures available.

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This article was written by Teresa Machan from The Daily Telegraph and was legally licensed through the NewsCred publisher network.