Thailand 17.11.2016 Gary
Southeast Asia has a delightful richness of waterways to rival any region in the world. Staying aboard a traditional cruise for a few nights is the most appealing way to visit these unique places, yet if you’re short on time or prefer to stay on land overnight, the options for day trips are still plentiful. To observe these atmospheric wonders directly, travelling on some of Asia’s most interesting transportation is a noteworthy approach to spending a morning, afternoon or even a full day.
Inle Lake, Myanmar
From aboard your private wooden boat on Inle Lake, gaze at the spectacular scenery and observe the high skilfulness of the local fishermen's leg-rowing technique to propel them around the lake. The Intha people live in unique man-made villages built on stilts directly upon the lake, working in their floating gardens of natural vegetation condensed into neat lanes.
The perfect way to stretch your legs is to visit a traditional lotus and silk weaving village, to watch in amazement at the full process of creating homemade bright and beautiful textiles.
Kinabatangan River, Malaysia
Delve deep into the protected rainforest as you cruise along the longest river in Borneo, the third-largest island in the world. With binoculars in hand and the trained eye of your guide, explore the magnificent foliage and riverbanks for rare and familiar wildlife and flora.
Observe the daily life of the proboscis monkey and orangutan, both endemic to the island, as they live alongside lively long-tailed macaques, predatory crocodiles and countless species of exotic birds. For the extremely fortunate onlookers, you may even witness a wild pygmy elephant emerging from the wondrous riverine forest.
The Klongs, Thailand
Traversing the pulsating beat of Bangkok is exhilarating, yet at times can be relentless. Ride the intertwined canals on a traditional boat – known locally as klongs, certain to relax and impress in equal measures. A tranquil pace of life appears, as the heart of the city is revealed. Leaving Chao Phraya (River of the Kings) behind to observe hidden vegetable markets, cannonballing children and an altogether different life emerging from this great metropolis.
Mekong Delta, Vietnam
A two-hour drive south of Ho Chi Minh City, and a place where daily life is purely conducted on water. The vast expanse of the Mekong Delta is integral to the people of both Vietnam and neighbouring Cambodia. Enjoy a day travelling along the backwaters, visiting lively fruit and vegetable markets, local villages and ultimately learning about the importance of this region to the rest of the country. Don’t miss out on tasting the delectable home-made treats on offer such as Keo Dua (coconut candy) and Banh Xeo (rice pancakes).
Flores Island Hopping, Indonesia
An 80-minute flight from Bali, the town of Labuan Bajo is a superb base to discover the other fascinating and bucolic islands of Flores. A full day excursion visiting some of these magnificent land masses will captivate you with untouched scenery and sights of its prodigious inhabitant, the Komodo dragon.
Cruise on the blue tropical waters, past endless barren islands, under the glistening Indonesian sunshine, before disembarking on Rinca and Komodo Islands, the best in the region. With the valued assistance of a local ranger, explore the wooded areas for dragons and other wildlife, before returning to Labuan Bajo aboard your boat.
Tonle Sap, Cambodia
Undoubtedly, a visit to Siem Reap will involve an up-close investigation of the majestic Angkorian temples, and rightly so. Nevertheless, a morning boat trip on Tonle Sap Lake - otherwise known as the Great Lake of Cambodia - is essential in understanding the modern reality of the local people. Witness how communities live, work and play directly on the water. An eye-opening scene to view shops, schools and even basketball courts floating alongside the busy channels of fishing boats.
Damnoen Saduak, Thailand
Whilst we enjoy highlighting the unknown and off the beaten track places in each of our destinations, sometimes the best is also the most famous. Damnoen Saduak, a 2-hour drive from Bangkok, is the preeminent floating village in the region.
Arrive early morning, when the market is at its colourful, bustling, active and memorable best, as vendors and buyers dance from boat to boat selling exotic fruit and vegetables and bountiful baskets of unfamiliar home-grown delights. Become part of the scene by riding one of the longtail boats through the waterway, before driving back to the capital, maybe visiting the evening city marketplaces for a comparison.
Si Phan Don, Laos
A short flight from the capital city, Vientiane, transports you to the southernmost point of Laos, a region which is subjugated by the mighty Mekong River. A serene way of exploring the area is by private boat amongst Si Phan Don – or 4000 Islands.
The islands of Don Det and Don Khone offer the best motive to cruise around, observing coconut and bamboo agriculture, along with waterfalls which the locals believe trap evil spirits. The two islands are connected by a 100-year-old railway bridge, built by French colonialists, the route was terminated during World War ll, yet the abandoned bridge survived and is now walkable between the islands.
Singapore River, Singapore
Although revered as one of the most innovative cities in the world, Singapore isn’t all about the modern. Relaxing on one of the distinctive boats travelling up and down the river will enlighten you to glimpses of its illustrious colonial past, whilst also providing an unspoilt view to truly appreciate the thrilling architecture along the riverside.
Several of the boat tours include an informative guide detailing the history of Singapore, the fortunes and misfortunes of its past residents, as well as highlighting the best of the visionary structures which form the striking skyline.
Phang Nga Bay, Thailand
Dramatic limestone islands surrounded by shimmering glass-like lagoons, this picture-perfect bay lies in Thailand’s gorgeous Andaman coast. A leisurely cruise around the bay aboard a longtail boat will reward you with staggering scenery of awe-inspiring islets - locally known as karsts – and a chance to drop anchor and take a swim or snorkelling session with a seemingly infinite extent of colourful fish in the crystal clear waters. The pièce de résistance of this extraordinary haven is Koh Tapu, a 20-metre high rock island - made famous in the film The Man with the Golden Gun - known as James Bond Island.
If we've inspired you to explore Southeast Asia by boat, browse our selection of cruising holidays.