Top 10 Reasons to Take a River Cruise
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It’s time you added Southeast Asia to your “Bucket List”!
Spread over a huge area, Southeast Asia is bordered on the north by China, on the west by India, and on the south by the Java Sea. Its eastern border is the Pacific Ocean. The region consists of countries connected to the rest of Asia — Thailand, Vietnam, Cambodia, Myanmar (Burma), and Laos among others — and island countries such as the Philippines and Indonesia which are comprised of literally thousands of individual islands, some very large and others mere specks, scattered hundreds of miles over the reaches of the Pacific, Indian Ocean, and the Java Sea.

The best time to take a river cruise in Southeast Asia.
At times, you may find the weather in Southeast Asia countries to be a bit warm, and there is a tendency for it to be moderately humid irrespective of when you visit. The best time to visit Vietnam, Cambodia and Myanmar (Burma) is November through early April. The best way to visit these countries, and for those a bit fussy about their accommodations and comfort, is on a Mekong River cruise through Vietnam and Cambodia, or on an Irrawaddy River cruise through Myanmar. Since so many people perceive the weather to be unbearable, maybe we can qualify this topic better with a simple analogy. If you’ve been to Hawaii or the Caribbean, the weather in most of Vietnam, Cambodia and Myanmar reflects those climates very closely. It is hotter and more humid in Summer and cooler and less humid in Winter, but in all cases, it really is very similar to those two destinations... so don't fret about it too much.

A Mekong River cruise through Vietnam and Cambodia along the Mekong River is truly a “sleeper.”
What are the first images that come to mind when you think of Cambodia and Vietnam (By the way, check out our destination overview of Vietnam's Ha Long Bay!)? If you're like us here at Premier you probably harken back to the days of the infamous Khmer Rouge and the killing fields of Cambodia, the Viet Cong, the Hanoi Hilton, the last Marine helicopter leaving the American Embassy in Saigon — images and scenes so chillingly recounted in the many documentaries and movies about that tragic period in our history — the Vietnam War.

Well, the conflict is over 35 years in the past and today's Vietnam and Cambodia, while still bearing some scars from that period, have moved forward much like Japan did after WWII. Today both of these southeast Asia marvels are enjoying a rebirth in many areas, particularly in travel, as people from all over the world redisccover this hidden gem, its warm and friendly people, their rich cultural heritage, and the beautiful natural scenery shared by both countries.

Today, we absolutely believe your Mekong cruise will become one of your most rewarding and enriching travel memories — one packed with diversity, a bit of intrigue, lots of relevant history, and some of the warmest and friendliest people you'll ever encounter. That said, it is not for everyone. This is a destination that is best suited for those who have already been fortunate enough to visit Europe and other major regions of the world. In other words, this should not be your first river cruise vacation unless you have a specific and personal reason for such a visit. We feel that way for two reasons: first, the language; second, Southeast Asia cruises tend to be a bit more structured and you'll be tied a bit more closely to the gifted and well educated English-speaking guides who accompany your river cruise. That is not to say you can't roam on your own through the very safe, and fascinating streets of Hanoi and Saigon, you most certainly can and will.

The very popular river cruise destinations of Vietnam and Cambodia have great diversity of scenery from their verdant tropical waterways to the pine forests and peaks of the mountains; from the sandy beaches of the coast to the cool tea and coffee plantations of the central highlands. Upon your vist to these two fascinating countries, you’ll also discover the 12th longest river in the world: the mighty Mekong which flows through several countries, too: China (where the river originates), Laos and along Thailand’s border. This destination is a photographers dream come true — a region that delivers a unique, dramatic and vibrant photographic story at each and every turn in the river.

Did you ever wonder why it seemed that many people here spoke French, enjoyed their café au lait, and lived in cities such as Saigon, Phnom Penh, and Hanoi filled with buildings and architectural landmarks that look suspiciously like Paris, albeit on a much smaller size? Surprised? Well it’s no wonder that there is such a heavy French influence in this part of the world. Starting in the mid 1800’s and lasting until 1954, the major western player in this part of the world was France. Cambodia, Vietnam, and to a lesser degree Laos, comprised what was known as French Indochina. There are still many reminders of France’s presence in the elegant French colonial capital of Phnom Penh in Cambodia and the graceful and intimate charms of old Hanoi in Vietnam. So don’t worry – you can have that French baguette to go with that delicious cup of morning coffee!

Myanmar has recently been opened to Western tourism and river cruises on the Irrawaddy River.
"Sgwe" is Burmese for "golden," and that's the opportunity you will enjoy if you're looking for a more adventurous river cruise. Myanmar (previously known as Burma) and cruising the Irrawaddy has only recently opened up to visitors from the west. There's no doubt that a river cruise along the Irrawaddy is for those who crave a more expeditionary-type of river cruise (similar to the Mekong), but with all the creature comforts of a fine floating resort.

There was a recent article in the LA Times Travel Section which implied that travel to Myanmar should not be attempted on your own. Not because of saftey concerns, but for two other reasons. The first, because English is not widely spoken in Myanmar and secondly, because transportation and accommodations for tourists can be a bit minimalist. We provide this insight to encourage you to realize that the best way to visit this extraordinary destination is on an exciting river cruise through Mynamar.

Though Myanmar has had a somewhat turbulent past, the Irrawaddy River has always been a constant, celebrated by many in song and literature including Rudyard Kipling’s poem, “The Road to Mandalay,” which actually refers to the Irrawaddy, rather than an actual road. Today, Myanmar is quite a more peaceful place where life and time move at a much different, slower pace. It is a land of immense natural beauty, hidden wonders and the warmest, most genteel people found on earth. After almost 50 years of self-imposed isolation, Myanmar has re-emerged to welcome visitors with open arms and a big, big smile. Enjoying this remarkable country and its wonderful people while cruising the Irrawaddy will undoubtedly be one of your best travel experiences and is a must for your "bucket list."

During your 7 to 15 night cuise/tour you’ll stop in such exotic ports of call as Yangon (Rangoon), the “Garden City”; Mandalay, the capital of Myanmar; and, experience such stunning sights as the Shwedagon Pagoda, a 2,500 year-old temple considered the most beautiful religious monument in Myanmar and marvel at the gold, diamonds and other precious stones that adorn it, and Mt. Popa (a dormant volcano), with its stunning shrine perched on top. The countless temples, holy sites, colorful and vibrant markets, shops, and street vendors selling delicious local cuisine are simply too numerous to recount here! Please read our Burma review to find out more about this country long-closed to western visitors, but now welcoming the world with open arms and an extremely friendly and smiling populace.

River cruise lines sailing the Mekong and the Irrawaddy rivers.
Not all the major lines go to Southeast Asia, but the selection of those who do provide a delectable array of great choices. In Vietnam and Cambodia on the Mekong River, premium river cruise lines such as: AmaWaterways offers the elegant, intimate AmaDara to 124 lucky guests. AmaDara is the ultimate in a Southeast Asia river cruise experience, with guests being treated to some of the most spacious and comfortable staterooms and suites of any river ship in the world. Her fully air-conditioned rooms range in size from a very comfortable 226 square feet up to the apartment-like 452 square feet found in the AmaDara&rsquos; suites. The exquisitely decorated accommodations are accented with traditional Colonial touches and furnished with many regional Khmer artifacts. Most (90%) of her outside staterooms and suites feature balconies and the best of room amenities including writing desk, lush bathrobes and slippers, a mini-bar and of course, a great hairdryer. For those moments when your on the go, the AmaDara also has elegant public areas: Colonial-inspired lounges, a full library, fitness center and even an outdoor whirlpool… she’s something special.

Also serving the Mekong River in equal style and comfort are the award-winning river cruise lines: Uniworld, Avalon Waterways, Viking, Scenic, Emerald Waterways, and Pandaw.

Pre- and post-cruise land stays are a definite must!
As someone famous once said, “you’ve come a long way baby!” and we think that’s something you need to remember as you plan for your exciting and rewarding Southeast Asia River cruise. You have come a long way and you may not go back very soon. Therefore, like other cruise/tour programs available in China and Egypt, spending time before and after the actual river cruise should be an integral part of your visit to this part of the world. As you have come such a long way, it would be a shame not to experience as much as possible of all the travel options that Cambodia, Vietnam and Myanmar have to offer. Trust us, in Vietnam and Cambodia, you really don’t want to miss such sights as Ha Long Bay, a UNESCO World Heritage Site with over 1600 spectacular limestone islands and islets, China Beach (remember the acclaimed television series?), and cities such as Hue, the old Imperial Capital with its wealth of palaces, pagodas and temples. And in Myanmar, you definitely want extra time to visit the myriad of fascinating sites and temples in Mandalay or Rangoon.

We have one other post-cruise suggestion you should seriously consider! We urge you to round-out your Southeast Asia vacation with a 3 to 4 day stopover in fabulous Hong Kong to enjoy all of the sights, sounds, food and shopping that abounds in this cosmopolitan city. Even though Hong Kong as been returned to China, it is still a fantastic place to shop with incredible values to be found on all types of merchandise.

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