BANGKOK, 18 September 2017: A new double-deck river boat, RV Sabei Pandaw, will set sail shortly on the Mekong River offering trips through Laos to Yunnan province in China.
The 45-metre vessel has been specially designed to navigate the shallow waters of the Mekong River and the navigational challenges of narrow gorges strewn with massive boulders.
Its owner, Pandaw River Expeditions claims the shallow draft will enable it to offer year-round cruises to and from Yunnan China passing through Laos.
This year’s rainy season, now entering its last month, has seen record high water levels in the Mekong River, but as the dry season set in levels can be unpredictable due proliferation of dams in China. Historical water level charts are no longer reliable indicators with dramatic changes in water levels experienced from one month to the next from November through to May.
The new river boat, Pandaw Sabei, will sail between Vientiane, the Laos capital and Jinghong in China.
Travellers on this four-country expedition will visit Laos, Thailand, Myanmar and China. Highlights include the ancient Laos capital of Luang Prabang, visits to tribal villages, national parks and the river itself, which is intensely dramatic and wild.
According to VP sales and marketing, Marco Rosa “we have seen considerable demand for Laos and this current year both our ships are more-or-less full. This new vessel will really help satisfy that demand”.
Passengers can use the vessel as a base for shore expeditions, trekking or even mountain biking.
Meals on board are a mix of Lao and Thai dishes, but international dishes are available on request.
Last year, 45% of Pandaw’s independent bookings came from repeat visitors.
The Sabei will have just 12 classic Pandaw cabins and an open-plan deck saloon with flexible indoor or outdoor dining.
Pandaw Founder, Paul Strachan, believes that of all the Pandaw river cruise options, the upper Mekong is the most exciting “there can be no waterborne experience to match sailing through Laos.
He talks about the “fast river with its continual spate of white water, the jungle clad peaks and gorges” but there is also the distinct possibility that the vessel will struggle to reach its port of calls in China if dams further north cut the water supply to the river.
There have also been security issues in the past that resulted in Thai/China joint-river patrols after a vessel carrying Chinese tourists came under fire with some fatalities.
Due to the heavy rainfall this year with most of the dams north of Jinghong at full capacity the outlook for a river running high and fast looks good. But it can always change and revert to unpredictable levels as the year progresses.