Asia is a beautiful and immense continent with a wide variety of terrains, landscapes and even cityscapes at every turn. How better to experience the full flavor of the region than by taking a lengthy Mekong river cruise that can run all the way from China to Vietnam, taking in breath-taking views, glimpsing hints of the real lives behind the tourist-driven economies and catching sight of the local wildlife coming to the riverside to drink and frolic?
A Bit About the Mekong
At 2,700 miles long, the Mekong is the longest river in South East Asia, the twelfth longest in the world and after rising in China flows through the Tibet Autonomous Region, then forms the borders between Laos and Myanmar (formerly known as Burma) and Laos and Thailand before emerging into the sea just south of Ho Chi Minh City in Vietnam. While there are clear and easily navigable stretches, the river is by no means a tamed river, with seasonal fluctuations and the many twists and turns of the river course creating obstacles to travel in some areas. Despite this, the Mekong has long been useful in the area for transporting heavy goods and cargo, and rivercraft throng the waterways.
What Will I See?
Cruises can take travellers from China to the Laos capital city of Vientiane, then onto the Cambodian capital Phnom Penh, and onwards to the historic delta that is home to Ho Chi Minh City in Vietnam. Travelling by any other means than by boat would mean multiple bus, train or car journeys, endless border checks and the accompanying bureaucratic headaches, or several rather expensive flights from one capital city to the next. With a cruise, a traveller can unpack their belongings and settle into their home away from home for the duration of the trip. There is the comfort of knowing that one will be sleeping in the same bed until the cruise is over, with the delight of seeing the countryside changing with every passing hour. Passport controls are generally handled by the boat’s staff. NB: Every traveller must ensure that they are aware of the entry requirements for each of the countries through which the boat will pass. While competent travel agents will ensure that all the paperwork is in order, it only takes one slip or omission to ruin a relaxing holiday.
Transformations Around Every Corner
Many of these craft pander to the tourist trade, offering everything from luxury cruises, complete with five-star cabins and room service, to day-tripper canoe tours, to authentic local fishing craft that offer a touch of exotic adventure for travellers who like to immerse themselves in the culture and traditions of the country they are visiting. The Mekong meanders comfortably through the land, the view transforming with every change in the terrain. One moment the river can be secretive and muddy, almost yellow and opaque, with the jungle foliage almost shutting out the sky overhear as tall, thickly leafed plants stretch out to meet over the water, and the next instant can see a crystal clear panorama opening up before the eyes of the traveller, revealing wild and craggy mountains, exquisitely laid out ancient temple complexes, such as Angkor Wat, or even the vibrancy of a modern city, while the river clears, allowing cruise passengers to glimpse the secret life of the fish and crabs that bustle busily about their lives beneath the surface.