Cruising Asian rivers is really about picking your time. The peak cruise season started in October as rivers like the Mekong and Irrawaddy go into cooler temperatures and the monsoon season ends.
The rewards are many: you will get to see how the locals live along the riverbank, meet artisans and soak up the atmosphere of the markets – and try the local cuisine.
Here are nine of the best sights and activities you get to experience in Vietnam, Cambodia and Myanmar.
Halong Bay, Vietnam
You can enjoy the iconic natural wonder of Vietnam in a number of ways. Getting onto a boat tour is the most common option but guests can also explore Halong Bay in other ways.
Adventure seekers can seek out Day and Night Cave in Halong Bay which is only accessible on a kayak or bamboo raft. The entrance of the Dark Cave is covered in fig trees and orchids. Paddle in low light for about 100 metres before the sun shines through and the Bright Cave begins.
Another activity that will raise your heart rate is a 400-step climb to the peak of Ti Top Island to be rewarded with panoramic views of Halong Bay.
Local workshops in Vinh Long, Vietnam
In this town, you get to visit different local workshops to see how rice paper, rice wine, traditional candy, conical hats and boats are made. See how the Vietnamese conical hats “Non la” are made in the home of a local family with palm leaves and bamboo.
Vinh Te canal and Sam Mountain in Chau Doc, Vietnam
In Chau Doc, at the waterfront of the Vinh Te canal you’ll get to view floating houses. The town is also home to the Sam Mountain, a sacred place for Buddhists with dozens of pagodas and temples, many of them set in caves. The peak of the Sam Mountain sits a great Buddha statue and also offers sweeping views of Chau Doc.
Silk weaving in Chong Koh, Cambodia
Chong Koh is a typical Khmer river community and their younger generations are taking to the loom to keep the craft of silk weaving alive. You can see the rich fabrics around the village. Guests can observe the operation of hand looms and the skill required for dyeing and spinning as you stroll around the village.
Phnom Penh, Cambodia
The capital of Cambodia is home to French colonial architecture and also overlooks three waterways, the Mekong, Tonle Sap and Basaac. Explore the waterfront in a cyclo (pronounced see-cloe), a Cambodian bicycle rickshaw, visit the Royal Palace and see the Silver Pagoda or explore the bitter history of the Khmer Rouge regime at the memorials like Tuol Sleng detention centre and the Killing Fields of Choeung Ek.
Angkor Wat in Siem Reap, Cambodia
The Angkor Wat temple is one of Cambodia’s most celebrated attraction. It is the world’s largest religious monument at a sprawling 162.6 hectares. It was originally constructed as a Hindu temple before it was gradually transformed into a Buddhist temple later. Discover the intricate decorative details carved into the sandstone blocks. You’d need at least three hours to explore the whole complex. Modest attire is also advised when visiting the religious site sacred to the Khmer people.
The city was once the capital of the Pagan Kingdom and it is dotted with Buddhist temples, pagodas and more than 2,200 stupas. After exploring the archaeological wonders of Bagan, head into the bustling Nyaung U Market and mingle with the locals while you discover their local produce.
Pottery village of Yandabo, Myanmar
The village is known for their terracotta pottery like water pots, steamers, rice pots and horseshoe-shaped stoves. You’ll find plenty of pottery lying out in the sun as you explore the village. Watch as clay is delivered onto the river bank, how the pots are thrown and shaped and how they create a kiln with sand, straw and wood.
Inle Lake, Myanmar
The Inle Lake is famed for its scenic beauty and it is nestled between two mountain ranges. Take in the sight as you tour the lake on a long tail boat, visit the lake’s main market which moves every five days or the Phaung Daw Oo Pagoda and Royal barges. See if you can spot the floating gardens where farmers tomato grow crops on bamboo rafts which are anchored to the lake bed with bamboo poles.