Slow travel enthusiasts can look forward to a fascinating, heritage-rich journey through the countryside of Cambodia and Vietnam.
Barely a month after resuming its multiday cruises on lower Mekong River for the first time since early 2020, Pandaw has announced a brand-new extended itinerary between Saigon and Siem Reap that aims to take guests “deeper and further” on the fabled waterway, with voyagers traveling most of the way aboard the aptly named Mekong Pandaw. Equipped with an on-board spa, library, and gym, the teakwood vessel has just 24 staterooms, as well as a sun deck. The shallow draft allows the Mekong Pandaw to navigate stretches larger cruise boats can’t reach.
Guests will board the ship at My Tho for a three-day romp through the fertile Mekong Delta. Highlights include the floating market at Cai Be, a small town whose skyline is dominated by the steeple of a century-old Catholic church; the bird sanctuary at Gao Giong and the nearby “plain of reeds;” and the city of Sa Dec, where acclaimed French novelist Marguerite Duras lived as a teenager when she had a love affair with Huynh Thuy Le, the scion of a wealthy Chinese merchant family. That relationship was recounted in her 1984 autobiographical novel The Lover (L’Amant), and Pandaw guests will have the chance to step inside the ornately decorated former home of Huynh himself.
The Cambodian portion of the journey showcases nature and local heritage in equal measure. The Mekong Pandaw will sail up the Tonle Sap River to the mouth of Southeast Asia’s largest freshwater lake for a birdwatching excursion in the wetlands around Kampong Chhanang. The vessel will then head back downstream to Phnom Penh, where half a day is spent taking in the main sights on a cyclo tour. Depending on seasonal water levels in the Mekong, guests may get to sail onward to Kratie, the jumping-off point for a small boat tour to spot the area’s endangered Irrawaddy dolphins. Also included is an afternoon visit to the hilltop temple of Wat Hanchey, home to an eighth-century red-brick sanctuary dating back to the Chenla (Pre-Angkorian) Period.
Dates for the inaugural 10-night cruise are from October 15–25, 2023, with full-board accommodation, entrance fees, and transfers priced from US$4,800 per person, twin sharing. Pandaw Club members are eligible for a discounted rate of US$4,320.