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River Mekong Sun

River Cruises in Laos

Mekong River in Laos

The lifeline of Laos is the Mekong River which runs the length of the country, making it the ideal vantage point from which to experience this once isolated nation. The mountainous upper stretches of the Mekong are the background for scenic cruises between Houaysay in Northern Laos and the ancient royal capital of Luang Prabang. In Southern Laos, travelers are able to explore the natural beauty of Champasak province and the region of the so called 4000 islands and the largest waterfalls in Asia.

Northern Laos (Upper Mekong)

Several cruise options are available for the northern stretch of the Mekong River, a shorter one on board the “Luangsay” and a longer one on board the “Mekong Sun” or ”Mekong Explorer”. The village of Houaysay in Northern Laos is the embarkation/disembarkation point for cruises on the Upper Mekong and easily accessible by a short transfer from Chiang Rai in Northern Thailand (2 hrs).

The “LUANGSAY” offers 2-day journeys through the remote mountainous stretches of the upper Mekong River. The cruise provides an ideal short river experience that can be combined with travel itineraries between Northern Thailand and Northern Laos. The “Luangsay” cruises downriver from the embarkation point at Houaysay (opposite the Thai border at Chiang Khong) until the city of Luang Prabang in Laos; upriver cruises are available on alternative days. The boat has a capacity of 30-40 persons. As the vessel does not feature on-board accommodation, overnight is at a comfortable teakwood lodge in Pakbeng, the halfway point of the cruise.

• From Houaysay to Luang Prabang on board the “LUANGSAY”
2 days/1 night cruise on board the “LUANGSAY” Down-river or up-river.

“Mekong River Cruises” is a Lao-German joint venture company that operates the only cabin river boats that cruise between Northern Thailand and the royal city of Luang Prabang, and further south to the Laotian capital Vientiane. Various itineraries are available on board its two vessels “MEKONG SUN” (built in 2006, 14 cabins) and “MEKONG EXPLORER” (built in 2008, 16 cabins and large sundeck).

• Mekong Cruise Golden Triangle to Luang Prabang
4-days on board “MEKONG SUN” or “MEKONG EXPLORER” From Houaysay to Luang Prabang or v.v. (down-river or up-river)

During this trip the “Mekong Sun”/”Mekong Explorer” cruises downstream from the Golden Triangle (Thai border) to Luang Prabang (or vice-versa). This newly scheduled tour includes visits to historic sites and traditional villages on the river banks while there is plenty of time for relaxing on deck and enjoying the marvelous landscape.

• Mekong roundtrip Cruise from/ to Luang Prabang
4-Days roundtrip cruise on board the “MEKONG SUN” or “MEKONG EXPLORER”

An ideal way to combine a visit to the UNESCO World Heritage town of Luang Prabang with a short river cruise on the Mekong. Relax aboard the comfortable cabin boat and enjoy the unspoiled nature along the river. During short tour breaks you get insight into the traditional way of life along the river banks. This cruise starts and ends in Luang Prabang.

• Mekong Cruise from Vientiane to Luang Prabang
6-days upriver on board “MEKONG SUN” or “MEKONG EXPLORER”

The fantastic scenery of the middle Mekong River is the background for the cruise from Vientiane to Luang Prabang, a unique cruise on formerly inaccessible segments of the Mekong. In between visiting the sleepy Lao capitol of Vientiane and the UNESCO World Heritage town of Luang Prabang, you will get an insight into the traditional way of life of the Lao people, relax aboard a comfortable river vessel and enjoy the unspoiled nature.

New Projects:

The largest and well known Southeast Asian river cruise company
“PANDAW RIVER CRUISES” will be opening a new cruise route on the Upper Mekong in 2011/2012. Details on this new project on request.

Southern Laos (Lower Mekong)

Southern Laos is a land with little known natural beauty and unspoiled rustic charm. River cruises on the southern stretches of the Mekong start in Pakse and cruise to the ancient Khmer temple of Vat Phou and further south to “Sipandon”, a region rich with tropical life, sprawling river islands and mighty waterfalls.

The lower stretches of the Mekong River are served by two boats, the “VAT PHOU” and the newer “MEKONG ISLANDS”. Cruises start and end in Pakse, the largest city in southern Laos. Pakse can be reached by daily flight from the Lao capital Vientiane. Alternatively, Pakse is easily accessible by a 2-hour road transfer from the Thai city of Ubon Ratchathani across the Thai/Laos border point at Chong Mek. There is also a direct flight by Lao Aviation 3 times weekly between Bangkok and Pakse.

The “VAT PHOU”, built in 1993, is a converted river barge with 12 air-conditioned teakwood cabins that offer two single beds and private bathroom, a restaurant serving Laotian, Vietnamese and Thai cuisine and a shaded upper deck for lounging.

• Mekong Cruise Southern Laos on board “VAT PHOU”
3-days / 2 nights cruise, from/to Pakse, downriver or upriver

The newer “MEKONG ISLANDS”, built in 2009 and operated by the Lao-German joint venture company “Mekong River Cruises”, features 2 decks with 11 cabins in two categories, all cabins twin bedded, with en- suite shower/WC and air conditioning: 8 Classic Cabins on the main deck (11 sqm), 3 Superior cabins on the upper deck (12 sqm). Restaurant & Sun Deck.

• Mekong Cruise Southern Laos on board “MEKONG ISLANDS”
4-days / 3 nights cruise, from/to Pakse, downriver or upriver

>>> Detailed program and dates on request.

River Cruises in Cambodia

Mekong River and Tonle Sap River

After passing the border between Southern Laos and Northeastern Cambodia, the Mekong enters a broad floodplain to reach the capital Phnom Penh and eventually the huge Mekong Delta in Vietnam. While cross-country cruises between Laos and Cambodia are impossible due to mighty rapids and thundering waterfalls in the border area, the lower part of the Mekong River running through Cambodia offers an ideal way to combine the two tourist highlights of the country, Siem Reap and Phnom Penh.

In between Siem Reap and Phnom Penh is Cambodia’s “Great Lake”, the Tonle Sap. Tonle Sap is Southeast Asia’s largest freshwater lake and a prominent feature on the map of Cambodia. The lake drains into the Tonle Sap River, which eventually merges with the Mekong River in Phnom Penh. Tourist speed boats cross the Tonle Sap, from Siem Reap to Phnom Penh or v.v., in about 5 – 6 hours.

A much more comfortable and leisurely way is a 3- or 5-day cruise, across the lake and down river from Siem Reap to Phnom Penh, or upriver between Phnom Penh and Siem Reap. From Phnom Penh the cruise can be extended to include the Mekong Delta region in Southern Vietnam, or be integrated into a land-based itinerary that includes both, Cambodia and Vietnam. (see Cruises between Vietnam and Cambodia below)

Cruise options between Siem Reap and Phnom Penh or v.v.

The French-Cambodian company “Compagnie du Fluviale de Mekong” runs shorter cruises between Siem Reap and Phnom Penh and v.v. on board the “TOUM TIOU” (a smaller boat with 10 cabins), on board the “TOUM TIOU II” (14 cabins) or the newer “INDOCHINE” (24 cabins on 2 decks).

• Siem Reap to Phnom Penh
3 days / 2 nights downriver aboard “RV TOUM TIOU/INDOCHINE”

• Phnom Penh to Siem Reap
3 days / 2 nights upriver aboard “RV TOUM TIOU/INDOCHINE”


The largest and well known Southeast Asian river cruise company “PANDAW RIVER CRUISES” offers cruise options between Siem Reap and Phnom Penh, or v.v., as part of their longer cruises that operate between Cambodia and Vietnam (see below for details).

• Siem Reap to Phnom Penh
5 days / 4 nights downriver aboard “RV MEKONG PANDAW”

• Phnom Penh to Siem Reap
5 days / 4 nights upriver aboard “RV MEKONG PANDAW”

>>> Cruise dates, detailed programs and prices on request

River Cruises between Cambodia and Vietnam

The Mekong between Cambodia and Vietnam

There can be hardly a more striking cultural contrast as between the tranquility of Cambodia and bustling Vietnam. River cruises that connect the two countries make it possible to visit three interesting destinations on one trip: The magnificent World Heritage monuments at Angkor, the quaint Cambodian capital Phnom Penh, and Saigon, now called Ho Chi Minh City, the French-colonial influenced former capital of South Vietnam. In between you cruise on one of South East Asia’s most fascinating rivers, through the rich countryside of Cambodia and the vast Mekong Delta in the Southern part of Vietnam. Cruises start in Siem Reap (the gateway to Angkor) or in Phnom Penh for downriver journeys that end at the port of My Tho near Saigon; or vice-versa for upriver journeys.

Cruise Options between Siem Reap and Saigon or v.v.

In 2003 PANDAW CRUISES started to operate the first border-crossing cruises on the Mekong River between Vietnam and Cambodia. Meanwhile the European-managed Pandaw fleet operates 3 boats on that route. The Pandaw boats are replicas of colonial steamers once developed in Scotland in the early part of the last century for the historic Irrawaddy Flotilla Company in Burma. Its newly built fleet, built over the past 10-15 years in Rangoon and Saigon, consists of presently 6 vessels that ply various rivers in South East Asia. Each vessel is between 180 and 200 ft long and provides comfortable accommodation in brass and teak-finished cabins. The ships feature 28-38 cabins with private bathrooms and shower, saloon bar, dining room and observation deck. (no mini-bar, satellite TV, internet, or telephone in the cabins)

Built 2002, 38 cabins on 3 decks.

Built 2003, 32 cabins on 3 decks.

Built 2008, 28 cabins on 3 decks.

Cruises on board the PANDAW boats

• Mekong Exploration: Downriver, between Siem Reap and Saigon
8days/7nights aboard “RV TONLE PANDAW”/”RV MEKONG PANDAW”

• Mekong Delta: Downriver, between Phnom Penh and Saigon
5days/4nights aboard “RV TONLE PANDAW”/”RV MEKONG PANDAW”

• Mekong Exploration: Upriver, between Saigon and Siem Reap
8days/7nights aboard “RV TONLE PANDAW”/”RV MEKONG PANDAW”

• Mekong Delta: Upriver, between Saigon and Phnom Penh
4days/3nights aboard “RV TONLE PANDAW”/”RV MEKONG PANDAW”

Starting in 2010, the
R/V “TONLE PANDAW” will make a number of extended cruises exploring the little visited region of the Upper Mekong towards the Laos border. The downriver cruise starts in Siem Reap and makes its way to the dolphin sanctuary between Kratie and Stung Treng, stops at small towns and villages to discover Cambodian rural life, stops at the rarely visited temples at Sam Bor, visits Phnom Penh and cruises through the Mekong Delta before ending in Saigon.

• Kratie Explorer Cruise: 4 departures, upriver or downriver

10 nights downriver aboard “RV TONLE PANDAW” Siem Reap – Kratie – Phnom Penh – My Tho/Saigon

10 nights upriver aboard
“RV TONLE PANDAW” Saigon/My Tho – Phnom Penh – Kratie – Siem Reap

The “LA MARGUERITE” is a 46 cabin French colonial-style vessel that offers an upgraded cruise experience between Saigon and Siem Reap. Launched in 2009, the 72 meter long river boat features 4 decks with a choice of 38 staterooms (21 sqm) and 8 larger suites on the top deck (26 sqm & 41 sqm) as well as a main restaurant and two lounges. A second vessel, the 62 cabin “Amalotus” is planned for launch in late 2011 for the same route.

Cruises on board the R/V “LA MARGUERITE”

• 8-days/7nights cruise on board “LA MARGUERITE”
Downriver Siem Reap to Saigon (Sunday to Sunday)

• 8-days/7nights cruise on board “LA MARGUERITE”
Upriver Saigon to Siem Reap (Sunday to Sunday)

The “R/V JAYAVARMAN” made its maiden voyage in 2009 as new boutique-style river cruiser that depicts itself as “a floating sanctuary of style and space”. Inspired by the French cruise liner “Normandie”, the 700-ton ship is the largest to cruise the Mekong (58m long/11m wide), aiming to offer luxury in a style reminiscent of the Indochine/French Colonial period. The ship features 27 spacious and well appointed air-conditioned staterooms on 4 decks and in 3 categories, all with en-suite shower and balcony: Superior rooms (21 sqm), Deluxe (24 sqm) and Junior Suite with Jacuzzi (26 sqm). Combining Vietnam and Cambodia, the “R/V JAYAVARMAN” offers a classic 8-day journey cruising through the Mekong Delta and on the Mekong River, between Saigon (Ho Chi Minh City) and Phnom Penh. Also available are three-, four- or five day options with shorter cruise itineraries.

• 8-days/7nights cruise on board “R/V JAYAVARMAN"
Downriver Siem Reap to Saigon

• 8-days/7nights cruise on board “R/V JAYAVARMAN"
Upriver Saigon to Siem Reap

>>> Cruise dates, detailed programs and prices on request

New Projects:

Heritage Line, the Vietnam-based cruise company which offers luxury Mekong River sailings on “R/V Jayavarman” is launching its new ship “The Jahan” in 2011. The new liner will feature 22 cabins, including two 50sqm Jacuzzi Suites, as well as a boutique, spa, library with laptops, iPods and DVD players, an observatory, pool deck, gymnasium and steam room. The 70m-long vessel will complement the itineraries of its first vessel “R/V Jayavarman” and adding additional capacity to the popular cruises between Ho Chi Minh City (My Tho) and Siem Reap, resp. v.v.

River Cruises in the Mekong Delta

The Mekong in Southern Vietnam

After a journey of 4,500 km (3,000 miles), the Mekong reaches the South China Sea. Its estuaries form the Mekong Delta, one of the greatest ever growing deltas in the world (40,000 km2). Thousands of waterways form a labyrinth of major channels and secluded canals, lined with lush vegetation, mangrove swamps and verdant rice fields. More than 13 million people live by the timeless rhythm of the river in small fishing villages and boats. The benign climate, an abundance of river life and the welcoming mentality of the people make the Mekong Delta one of the most exotic destinations for a river cruise.


The 39m long and 8.5m wide “RV MEKONG EYES” river cruiser was built out of a traditional rice barge and now features 15 beautifully furnished twin and double rooms that can accommodate up to 30 passengers. Each cabin has a private bathroom with shower, air-conditioning and fan. There is a large dining room on the lower deck, an inside sitting lounge on the upper-deck and an open sitting area and sun deck on the top.

• 2-days/1-night cruise on board “RV MEKONG EYES”
Cruise the waterways of the delta and visit a Floating Market.

• 3-days/2-nights cruise on board “RV MEKONG EYES”
An extended cruise through the waterways of the delta, with visits to two floating markets and riverside villages. The Mekong Delta cruise can be combined with onwards journeys to Phnom Penh (by speedboat) or the tropical island of Phou Quoc (by local ferry).

>>> Cruise dates, detailed programs and prices on request