The waterways and seas in Southeast Asia are a joy to sail. From the magnificence of Ha Long Bay in Vietnam and Phang Nha Bay in Thailand to the evocative journeys along its major rivers, those who love a waterborne excursion as part of their visit are spoiled for choice, with a range of cruises.

VIETNAM 

A natural wonder, Ha Long Bay off the coast of northern Vietnam is undoubtedly one of the world’s most fascinating seascapes. A world heritage site, Ha Long’s strange and numerous rock formation twist through the imagination, and a cruise around the vast bay is inevitably one of the must do sights of any visit to, or including Vietnam. 

Most of the vessels operating Ha Long Bay are modelled on the historic imperial junks of the Vietnamese Royal houses of old. The popularity of Ha Long Bay has ensured the drive toward development, and every year local cruise ship companies vie with one another to provide ever more elaborate ships and sophisticated dining and suite choices. It is also possible to enjoy private luxury cruises in the capable hands of your very own crew. 

For most visitors, a cruise of 2 or 3 days is the most popular choice, with the longer sailings penetrating beyond the reach of day-trippers and into quieter waters. Inclusive activities will usually include visiting sandy coves for a swim, kayaking in the sea level caves that abound in the bay, and a wildlife walk on one of the islands. 

Vietnam also offers a variety of river cruises, including another firm favourite, the Mekong Delta. Drawn by its labyrinth of channels, floating markets, orchards and fascinating waterborne lifestyles, visitors have a choice of available cruises range from a single day to several to explore the backwaters of the delta. For those intending to include a visit to Cambodia in their journey, longer cruises penetrate the Mekong river all the way to Phnom Penh and the Tonle Sap to Siem Reap, and offer a relaxed alternative to flying. 

CAMBODIA  

There are a number of diverse options for a river cruise of the Mekong from Phnom Penh, some of which include a visit to Angkor in Siem Reap, The Lao border, or southbound journeys of various lengths which can involve travel as far as Vietnam’s Mekong Delta and even Saigon. 

LAOS 

A number of river-cruise itineraries ply the waters of the Mekong River in Laos, some of which can include also land based accommodation at specific destinations. 

3 day cruises from Pakse in southern Laos explore the area known as the 4,000 islands, and include a visit to the 10th century pre-Angkor temple Wat Phou. Other sites included are Don Khone island, Khone Pha Pheng waterfall, and with luck, a chance to see one of the few remaining pods of rare freshwater Irrawaddy dolphins. 

Another short cruise, from Houei Say, close to the Thai border, which combines water and land based travel, visits Pak Ou Caves, Luang Prabang and Kuangsi Waterfall, ending in Vientiane. This tour, which can also be done in reverse, offers an alternative to air route to or from Thailand.  

THAILAND 

There are currently 2 short sea cruise routes available within Thailand.  

From Ko Samui, a 4 day (3 night) cruise departs from Samui Yacht Club pier, visiting the nearby island of Ko Taen, before heading out to for a cruise of the beautiful, shapely and unspoilt archipelago of Ang Thong Marine Park, with a visit to the park headquarters at Ko Wua Ta Lap, before returning to Ko Samui. 

From Phuket, a 4 day (3 night) cruise takes in the beautiful Phang Nha Bay, reminiscent, though smaller, of the seascape found in Ha Long Bay in Vietnam, including its most famous island, ‘James Bond Island’ familiar from the film ‘The man with the golden gun’. The cruise continues to sail around the islands between Krabi and Phi Phi, with a visit to the cove made famous by another major film ‘The Beach’ on the uninhabited Ko Phi Phi Ley. The cruise ends on neighbouring Phi Phi Don, with a high speed ferry transfer back to Phuket included. 

It is also possible to do single day cruises of Phang Nha Bay from Phuket aboard a Chinese-style Junk. 

From Bangkok there are 2 day river cruises of the Chao Phraya River, which visit the magnificent ancient ruins of the former capital of the Siamese empire at Ayuthaya. Close by a visit to the summer palace of the Thai Royal Family is also included.

Another route leaving Bangkok, with a short overland transfer, sails the river Kwai, taking in temples, historic sights, Khmer ruins, waterfalls and hot springs, war cemeteries, and the famous bridge. 4 day and 7 day variants of this route are available.

Country: Laos
Type of holiday: Heritage, Cruising
Destinations: Northern Laos, Vientiane, Southern Laos
Duration: 9
Guideline price: US$ 2424     (per person for Superior accommodation)
Highlight: Sample travel plan only: for a ‘no obligation’ comprehensive itinerary within 24 hours, click here.

A combination cruise and overland tour of Lao’s highlights, with visits to the unique atmosphere and scenic countryside of historic Luang Prabang, Vientiane, and an exploration of the waterways and river-islands of the Mekong River in Champasak province.

Country: Myanmar
Type of holiday: Cruising
Destinations: Yangon, Mandalay
Duration: 9
Guideline price: US$ 800     (per person for Superior accommodation)
Highlight:
Sample travel plan only: for a ‘no obligation’ comprehensive itinerary within 24 hours, click here.

Step aboard the Amara River Cruise to trace the path of the Ayeyarwady River, exploring the remote reaches of Northern Myanmar. You will visit the incredible Mingun Paya just outside of Mandalay, and explore one of the country’s oldest capital cities at Tagaung. As you proceed up the Ayeyarwady, some of the riverside hills are still covered with teak forest. Stop by the town of Katha, straight from the pages of George Orwell’s “Burmese Days”, and disembark at Bhamaw, the northernmost point the cruise vessel can reach. Myanmar is an exceptional destination and there is no better way to experience it than a river cruise.


Country: Vietnam
Type of holiday: Cruising
Destinations: Hanoi, Ha Long Bay, Ho Chi Minh City, Mekong Delta
Duration: 10
Guideline price: US$ 2368     (per person for Superior accommodation)
Highlight: Sample travel plan only: for a ‘no obligation’ comprehensive itinerary within 24 hours, click here.

This 10 day tour features two private cruises, and sightseeing trips of Vietnam’s two premier cities, Hanoi and Saigon. In the north, you’ll feel like royalty as you sail into the pure majesty of Ha Long Bay aboard your wholly private luxury wooden vessel, sumptuously modelled after the Royal Court Junks of former Emperors, while in the south your beautifully crafted private river cruiser will glide into the lush waterways and swirling rural impressions of the Mekong Delta. 
Country: Vietnam
Type of holiday: Cruising
Destinations: Phnom Penh, Ho Chi Minh City, Mekong Delta
Duration: 9
Guideline price: US$ 0     (per person for Superior accommodation)
Highlight: Sample travel plan only: for a ‘no obligation’ comprehensive itinerary within 24 hours, click here.

This 9 day cruise of the waterways of the lower Mekong River, journeying from My Tho in Vietnam upriver to Phnom Penh in Cambodia and the area of Kampong Cham, before heading into Tonle Sap River and its vast lake, and culminating at Siem Reap. An excellent leisurely cruise in its own right, it also provides a relaxing and novel alternative to air travel to visit Angkor Wat.
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