Sail on the untamed waters of S-E Asia
Pandaw allows guests to explore remote rivers and coasts in luxury small ships
Over the horizon, the setting sun streaks the sparkling Mekong River's lush vistas with gold.
This is one of many astonishing views you can enjoy on board the newly unveiled 14-stateroom Sabei Pandaw, the latest addition to the Pandaw fleet, which was specially designed to combat tough river rapids.
Be it mingling with the local people in Chiang Saen, Thailand, or exploring caves, river cruise brand Pandaw from Myanmar aims to rekindle the wanderlust of colonial explorers who braved uncharted territories.
Sailing on Nov 11 next year, the 10-night Laos Mekong from Laos to Thailand and Myanmar costs US$4,200 (S$5,700) a person, based on twin-sharing and will include a two-night stay at the Unesco World Heritage Site of Luang Prabang.
The Pandaw experience allows guests to explore remote and often hard-to-navigate rivers and coasts in luxury small ships, and the atmosphere is informal and friendly.
Mr Marco Rosa, Pandaw's vice-president of sales and marketing who was in town last month to promote its expedition routes, told The New Paper: "We are not floating hotels like ocean liners. Instead, our passengers desire danger and unpredictability, not just luxury."
Each of Pandaw's 17 handcrafted brass and teak ships sports a wooden vintage look, taking tourists through the Brahmaputra, Chindwin, Mekong, Irrawaddy and Tonle rivers, as well as Halong Bay and the Mergui Archipelago.
Varying water levels, hitting sandbanks and rough rapids are all part of the adventure.
Mr Rosa said a ship was once stuck due to unfavourable river conditions and those on board were ferried on speedboats to the cruise's final destination.
He said: "That excited passengers because it was unusual and different for them."
However, it may take guests a while to get used to the deliberate lack of Wi-Fi on board.
"Take in the scenery, have a drink or meet like-minded tourists. Don't fly to a location only to spend time on your smartphone," he said, adding: "We don't go to crowded landmarks but visit local villages and markets. Tourists can even ride on ox carts in Cambodia and Vietnam."
On South-east Asian rivers, cultural immersion and natural wonder take centre stage.
Kayaking, snorkelling, dolphin-watching, visiting tribal villages and ancient temples are some of the activities on offer during Pandaw escapades.
Unlike Europe's waterways, which are quieter, the ones in Asia are melting pots of culture, said Mr Rosa.
He added: "(One of our routes) can be completed within four hours by car.
"We don't sail to cover distance, but to experience cultural immersion at riverside stops."