If you have the urge to explore Asia, a river cruise is a great way to go. You’ll glide along on a floating hotel, enjoying a look at life along a historic and beautiful waterway. Not long ago, China’s spectacular Yangtze River was the main option for an Asian river cruise. Now, you have Vietnam’s Mekong River and Myanmar’s Irrawaddy River added to your choice of itineraries.
The Yangtze is Asia’s longest river, flowing from glaciers on the Tibetan Plateau to the East China Sea. In addition to rural life along the river, overnight stays in Beijing and Shanghai will give you a look at urban life in China. Your ship will sail through the stunning Three Gorges region; shore excursions may include visits to local schools, temples, museums and artisan workshops.
- Cruises are offered April to October; know that the weather can be rainy June through August.
- Most Yangtze cruises are part of cruisetour packages of seven to 20 nights, with the cruise portion being three to five nights.
The Mekong flows through six countries, but most cruises are contained within Vietnam and combined with overnight stays in Ho Chi Minh City; Hanoi; and Siem Reap, Cambodia, gateway to the Angkor Wat temple complex. Some itineraries include scenic Halong Bay, too. Your ship will sail through peaceful and beautiful scenery, but will also take you to places that show the effects of the Vietnam War. Local people will tell you that “the past is history” as they welcome you to museums, temples and workshops.
- Cruises are offered all year, including during the May to October rainy season; the air is cooler and drier from November to February.
- Mekong cruises are typically 14 days or more, including a week on the river.
The Irrawaddy bisects Myanmar, a country that was closed to tourism for many years under a military regime. Cruises visit some of Myanmar’s most significant cultural sites, including Bagan, where the remains of more than 2,000 temples and pagodas lie on a lovely green plain; and Mandalay, the former royal capital.
- As on the Mekong, the temperatures are coolest from November through February; expect some rain from June to October.
- A cruise from Bagan to Mandalay is three or four nights; seven-night cruises include the city of Yangon. Longer cruises explore gorges further up the river, or sail the Chindwin River tributary.
Once you decide which river to sail, you’ll have a choice of cruise lines, too. Get help from your Cruise Holidays personal cruise expert!