Home Across Asia Top 10 river experiences in South and South East Asia

Top 10 river experiences in South and South East Asia

by Melissa Nicholas
Luang Say Boat on the river Mekong in Laos, a great river experience

No trip to Asia is complete without a journey down one of its atmospheric rivers. We compiled our experts’ pick of the best river experiences in South and South East Asia, which allow you to truly unwind, all the while encountering local life and awe-inspiring scenery.

Trang An Ecosystem in Ninh Binh, an alternative water based experience to Halong Bay
Rice farmers at work in the paddies of the beautiful Trang An Ecosystem

Trang An Eco-System in Ninh Binh, Vietnam

Trang An Ecosystem in Ninh Binh (UNESCO since 2014) is a fantastic alternative to the beautiful but exceedingly popular Halong Bay – in fact, it’s known as the ‘inland Halong Bay’. Trang An is easily accessible from Hanoi and only popular with domestic tourists who tend to travel at specific times of day, so they are very easy to avoid.

The Mekong Delta on a Bassac cruise, Vietnam

The Bassac Cruise is one of the most relaxing and stylish ways to explore the magnificent Mekong Delta region of southern Vietnam. For more journeys through the Mekong, have a look at our Vietnam Mekong cruises.

Keralan Backwaters in India
The quiet life of the central Keralan Backwaters

Keralan backwaters, India

The North and Central Keralan Backwaters are some of the biggest attractions in the state of Kerala, and for good reason: both offer fantastic experiences for travellers. Visiting the north and south of the region can provide surprisingly different experiences; why not check out our blog that compares the two?

Pandaw Cruises, across Asia

Luxury small cruise operator Pandaw offer a range of excellent river journeys across Asia, in Vietnam, Cambodia, Myanmar and more. For something a bit different, however, we are particularly excited that in 2019 they are launching three river cruise routes in India – do get in touch with a member of our team to chat through the available options.

Stilted village on the edge of Inle Lake, Myanmar
A stilted village on the edge of the serene Inle Lake

Inle Region, Myanmar

Exploring the lovely Inle region makes for a experience on a Myanmar holiday. You can pack plenty of unique experiences around Lake Inle into one day: private boat travel, a market tour, a delightful lunch and finally a vineyard visit, complete with wine tasting.

Irrawaddy river, Myanmar

The glorious Irrawaddy (or Ayeyarwady River, as it is officially named) runs from the North to South of Myanmar. Numerous boat trips operate down the river, passing through rural communities and wonderful sceneery. There is also a chance to spot the elusive Irrawaddy dolphin – this endangered species is rare to see, but makes a truly magnificent experience.

Nam Ou River experience in Laos
The dramatic Nam Ou river in Northern Laos

Private boat on the Nam Ou River, Laos

Whilst the boat journeys which cruise up or down the Mekong River have become a fixture on journeys through Laos, most visitors are unaware of a glorious and largely unknown alternative. The Nam Ou is one of the most spectacular waterways in Laos meandering through spectacular mountain valleys and remote villages from Northern Laos towards Luang Prabang.

Champagne cruise from Luang Prabang, Laos

Sail down the beautiful Mekong River from Luang Prabang offers spectacular views and an incredible insight into rural life. And how better than from your own private luxury boat charter? This is an ideal experience for those who love boats but hate the idea of a large and impersonal cruise.

Whitewater rafting is a great family activity with kids in Sri Lanka
Not for the faint hearted - white water rafting on the Kelani River, Sri Lanka.

White-water rafting, Sri Lanka

Something a bit different – here’s one for the adventure seekers. White-water rafting in Kithugalla, down Sri Lanka’s Kelani River, is a fantastic way to get your heart-racing. Ideal for intrepid families or thrill-seeking couples on a holiday to Sri Lanka.

The Kinabatangan river, Borneo

An incredible wildlife experience in Borneo, the leisurely river cruise down the Kinabatangan River in Borneo will have you spotting cheeky proboscis monkeys, orang-utans and pygmy elephants, or even the epiphytic orchid in the lowlands.


These are just the tip of the iceberg. Asia offers innumerable remarkable boat journeys for the intrepid traveller. Small boat cruises in Thailand are a fantastic experience, for example, or holidays around Indochina by boat.

For more information, please give us a call on 020 7924 7133 or make an enquiry here.

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