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 true 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.