Daily life can seem frenzied at times, and we all look forward to getting away from it for a while on a dream holiday. A leisurely cruise along one of South-East Asia’s rivers lets you slow down and enjoy the moment, the journey being just as much a part of the adventure as the destination. We’ve picked out six of our favourite river cruises through Asia to inspire you to try a little ‘slow living’ and see things from a different perspective.
Imagine waking up to a dawn chorus of rainforest birdsong and orangutan calls as you glide along the winding waterways of the Sekonyer river… This three-night cruise aboard a converted klotok provides front-row seats for wildlife watching within the protected region of Tanjung Puting National Park. From your unique vantage point on the open deck, you’ll have the chance to see orang-utans, proboscis monkeys, vibrant birdlife and pygmy elephants amongst many other fascinating species, with the comforts of simple, snug accommodation and warming home-cooked Indonesian cuisine at hand. With an added stop at Camp Leakey to see the orang-utan conservation in progress, this cruise is just right for anyone who loves to get close to nature.
If you enjoy being spontaneous and want the flexibility to explore wherever the mood takes you, then a tour of Vietnam’s Mekong Delta region by private sampan is ideal. These flat-bottomed, narrow vessels can navigate the winding channels and backwaters that larger boats can’t manage, letting you discover hidden beauty spots or take the less crowded routes to some famous sights. Just decide each day whether you want to explore ancient temples, exotic gardens, or even the chaotic bustle of the Cai Rang floating market, and your crew will take you there. The boats’ traditional design incorporates a surprising level of luxury while evoking a sense of nostalgia; there is even on-board bike storage, so you can ride off wherever you moor up. Together with the discrete and professional crew, this cruise is ideal for couples who want to travel free from the restriction of set schedules.
Bagan, as with so many settlements throughout history, is right on the river, and a riverboat cruise along the Ayeyarwady towards this sacred valley is a great way to avoid the rush and the crowds. Stopping at some of the many temples that are dotted throughout Myanmar’s dense, green countryside is fascinating; they feel fresh and sincere, untroubled by decades of tourists searching for trinkets. From the river, you catch a glimpse of the traditional Myanmar life which so often remains unseen – the everyday comings and goings of those who live on the banks of this vital waterway. Watch a spiritual sunrise over Sagaing Hill, explore King Bodawpaya’s unfinished pagoda and marvel at the scale and beauty of Bagan itself.
Sometimes, all you want to do is to cut yourself adrift and experience total peace and quiet, undisturbed by the pings and beeps of technology or the roar of traffic. Having crossed the border from Thailand, a two-day cruise through the forested Mekong river valley must be the most chilled-out way to arrive in Laos. Your boat is a compact wooden cruiser in the traditional Lao style, with open decks where you can put your feet up and enjoy the details of the landscape. You’ll gently wind downstream, stopping at the Pak Ou caves to see the Buddha images and a traditional Kamu village where rural traditions still thrive. An overnight stay in a cosy chalet at the charming Luang Say Lodge means you’ll be well-rested to continue your gentle journey along the river. By the time you reach Luang Prabang, you’ll feel blissfully relaxed and ready to enjoy this stunning city.
If, on the other hand, you like to travel a bit quicker but still want a taste of the river-cruise experience, a condensed day trip over the Cambodia-Vietnam border is ideal. Overlooking a bustling stretch of the Mekong Delta, the Victoria Chau Doc hotel operates a daily speed-cruiser shuttle to bring you into Vietnam from the heart of Cambodia’s busy capital, Phnom Penh, or indeed vice versa. Taking things at a faster pace, you’ll feel the wind against your skin as you the boat carves a path towards your destination. The reduced journey time gives you the option of stopping at the floating markets and small villages too, where you can chat with the locals and really get a sense of the heart and soul of these riverside communities.
The Chindwin river curves down the north-western edge of Myanmar into a rugged, unspoilt region of teak-forested mountainside where protected tigers roam free. The RV Kalay Pandaw - a sleek, Colonial-style vessel with Art Deco elegance – will be your home for a week-long cruise through these wild waters. The teardrop domes of Myanmar’s many temples dot the landscape, and towns which can only be reached by water appear suddenly as you round the riverbends, like snapshots of another era. With a maximum of ten guests, this cruise is a sociable experience where you can sit out on the open-sided leisure deck and discuss the day together over a drink while the sunset turns the river gold.
If these vignettes of river-life have sparked your interest, have a look at our full range of cruise experiences and chat to one of our travel specialists who can arrange your perfect itinerary. Meanwhile, you can get back to daydreaming about where you’ll sail to first...