Top 10 Canal and River Cruising Vacations in Asia and the Far East
Asia’s rivers are somewhat of a lifeblood for the communities they serve and even worshipped like God’s like the Ganges in India. Take the passenger journeys for epic cultural encounters and an experience of vast transport routes, some which are fast disappearing.
- Mekong River, Cambodia, Laos, Myanmar, Thailand, Vietnam and China
The pace of life and travel on the Mekong is best described as “lounging”. It is the heart and soul of Indochina and courses through six countries for 2,610 miles. It’s also one of its last travel frontiers and the twelfth longest river in the world. Attractions include the floating villages, fishing boats and river life plus ancient monuments, royal capitals and even UNESCO sites like Angkor Wat and Luang Prabang.
- Yangtze River, China
Now is the time to cruise this river before its dramatic gorges, craggy peaks and terraced fields are lost to the Three Gorges Dam; the world’s largest hydroelectric power generator. The three spectacular gorges include Qutang, Wu and Xiling and feature steep cliffs, plunging valleys, forested mountains and rich canyons.
- Li River, China
This river in the southern province Guangxhi is famous for its exquisite fairy-tale landscapes and conical peaks swathed in mist. These dramatic limestone peaks are surrounded by iridescent green fields, small villages and men plowing with buffaloes. On the river fishermen boat on bamboo rafts using tethered cormorants to catch fish. It’s a complete picture of tranquility but if you can’t make it, treat yourself to the scenes on the back of the 20 Yuan note.
- Ganges River, India
The Ganges or Ganga River is sacred to Hindus and worshipped as a God. It starts in the Himalayas in the north of the country and runs past the famed holy cities of Haridwar and Rishikesh, eventually squirming past the bathing ghats of Varanasi and finally drains 1,560 miles away into the Bay of Bengal through its vast delta in the Sunderbans. Visiting more than one area will help you understand just how much the river is a lifeblood to the sub continent.
- Kerala backwaters, India
A 560 mile network of lagoons, lakes, canals, estuaries and river deltas make up the palm-fringed backwaters of Kerala. These waterways are best explored in a luxury houseboat, a converted rice boat known as a ketuvallom. Ashtamudi Lake is the second largest of the backwaters and offers the longest ride past paddy fields, small villages, fishing nets, water lilies and coconut groves.
- Chao Phraya River, Thailand
The network of canals in Bangkok are the best way to explore the city dubbed “Venice of the East”. Particularly because they are a cool option for a city that is often baking hot. They also feature colorful floating markets and add a different perspective to exploration of the city’s premier attractions. Old temples are scattered along the canals as are traditional Thai houses and markets with exotic fruits, local food and refreshing drinks.
- Si Phan Don, Laos
These 4000 islands in southern Laos are largely uninhabited and fewer still are open to tourism which makes exploration just that much more attractive. Keep an eye out for the rare Irawaddy dolphin or go ashore on populated islands that feature remnants of prior French occupation including railway lines, ancient locomotives and decaying villas.
- River Kwai, Thailand
This river, or rather the bridge of the Burma Railway, was made famous by the novel and subsequent film “The Bridge on the River Kwai”. The bridges lie at the end of cruises on the Khwae Yai River, a 236 mile passage in western Thailand.
- Ayeyarwady river, Myanmar
This river bisects the country neatly from north to south and in colonial times was known as the “Road to Mandalay”. Over the centuries the country has developed along the river banks making it the best place from which to view its monasteries, ancient temples, village children and farming.
- Srinagar, India
Srinagar in the state of Jammu and Kashmir lies on the Dal Lake and Jhelum river. Three lakes grace the city and famed houseboats or Shikara’s (long boats) explore their intricate waterways, vegetable gardens, islands and lotus plantations. The Jhelum river runs from Srinagar into the valley of Kashmir creating a great waterway into which lakes, fountains, streams and rivers drop.