The Mekong is one of the largest rivers on the planet; flowing through several South East Asian countries, it has had a tremendous impact on the culture of these countries and their people. A cruise along this great river can be the adventure of a lifetime and we’ve put together a quick guide to help you plan the perfect river cruise.
Why Visit the Mekong River
A cruise along the Mekong will take you on a journey that spans countries and cultures. You’ll encounter everything from ancient ruins to traditional fishing villages. What’s more, the Mekong river basin boasts an astounding degree of biodiversity – second only to the Amazon.
Taking a Day Tour
If you’re strapped for time, a day cruise might be ideal for you. If you’re visiting the Mekong via Laos, Luang Prabang is where you want to go. There should be many Luang Prabang cruise tours to choose from. For instance, Mekong Kingdoms offers sunset cruises with dinner, as well as visits to Pak Ou cave and Kuang Si waterfall. Alternatively, you can experience Cambodian culture via a day tour through Kampong Cham.
Visiting the Delta
Located in Vietnam, the Mekong Delta region is ripe with natural beauty and exotic wildlife – a cruise along this stretch of the river is guaranteed to be filled with spectacular photo ops. This option also lets you experience Vietnamese culture first-hand, and the chance to try out authentic Vietnamese cuisine.
A Luxury River Cruise
Choosing a luxury cruise lets you enjoy all the sites and experiences the Mekong relaxed, pampered and in quiet comfort. Most luxury cruises travel between Siem Reap and Ho Chi Minh City or Phnom Penh. Taking these routes means you’ll encounter everything from beautifully crafted pagodas and temples to endless rice fields and charming floating markets.
Have you seen dolphins playfully swimming or perhaps a majestic whale coming up to the surface? If not, you have a very good chance of doing so when in Kalpitiya, Sri Lanka!
Planning Your Visit
The island’s northwestern coast is where you will find Kalpitiya, around 170 km from the commercial capital, Colombo. This area has fast become a popular destination for both locals and tourists; with accommodation options, the likes of Dolphin Beach Resort also organising excursions out to sea, dolphin and whale watching has never been easier to do.
There is much to look forward to on your adventures in Kalpitiya; dolphin watching includes getting the chance to see huge pods of spinner dolphins as they swim, play and sometimes leap into the air! The great thing is, you may see other dolphin species too such as Risso’s, bottlenose, humpback, Fraser’s and spotted dolphins.
Giants of the Deep
Truly unforgettable is the chance to spot the largest animal to have ever lived on earth; the mighty blue whale. Whale watching in Kalpitiya even gives you opportunities to witness other kinds of such gentle giants as well; these include sperm, minke, dwarf sperm and melon-headed whales.
Picking the Season
While you are by no means guaranteed sightings (especially whales), there are seasons where your chances are greatly increased. For dolphin watching, the months ranging from October till March are best. When it comes to whale sightings, November to April is generally considered the best period in Kalpitiya.
Sri Lanka is renowned for its natural beauty, from its sprawling national parks to its picturesque hillsides, but perhaps the best example of this is the entrancing scenery seen along the Madu River.
One of Sri Lanka’s most fragile yet important eco-systems, the Madu River is around 70km away from Colombo. You can easily reach the area by taking the well-developed Colombo-Galle highway if you’re travelling from the capital. If you’re staying at a resort or boutique hotel in Galle – as an example The River House – you should still be able to get there in under an hour.
The History of the Wetlands
According to ancient historical accounts, the Madu River has played an important role in the country’s history. Most notably, the mouth of the river and the surrounding wetlands were once the sites of an epic battle in which the forces of King Parakrambahu II repelled an army of invaders from Kerala.
The river and the surrounding mangrove forest are a haven for a rich cast of wildlife. If you ever decide to take a boat safari down the river, you might just see some of these wonderful denizens – these include mugger crocodiles, over 50 different species of butterfly and up to 111 unique bird species.
The Local Industries
A trip down the Madu River will also provide the opportunity to observe some of the local industries that are based around the river. You can observe Sri Lankan fisherman expertly hunt for prawns in the water, or you can visit the aptly named Cinnamon Island to observe the traditional process of peeling cinnamon.
The town boasts some of the most beautiful beaches in Sri Lanka. The graceful golden sands strewn with palm trees are perfect for sunbathing. However, water sports are a tourist’s main reason for visiting Wadduwa.
This is one of the most daring sports you can try in Wadduwa. The coming together of sailing and surfing, windsurfing is a must-try water sport – especially, if you’ve chosen a Wadduwa resort for your holiday.
Sri Lanka is known for frequent sightings of whales. Tourists staying at Taprobana Wadduwa are treated to whale watching excursions.
Waters around this small coastal town are ideal for snorkelling. Snorkelling is a popular pastime in Sri Lanka, and you must definitely give it a try.
For those who are drawn to the magic of the ocean, diving is the best water sport to try while in Wadduwa. You will be a few feet below the surface of the water and in direct contact with the enchanting marine life.
Located on the southern side of Sri Lanka, around 20km away from Galle, the Hikkaduwa Beach is one of the most popular shorelines in the country. Its popularity means that Hikkaduwa is generally more crowded than the island’s other beaches, but this does have its advantages and a trip to this charming coastal town isn’t likely to disappoint.
Getting to Hikkaduwa
If you plan on taking a taxi from the Colombo Airport to Hikkaduwa, you’re looking at 2 hour drive that will cost you around $45. You can, of course, take the bus or rail service there as well which will only cost you a fraction of the taxi fare. To experience the true spirit of Hikkaduwa you’ll want to book at least a 2 day stay – luckily there are plenty of Sri Lanka luxury resort options to choose from, consider the Aditya Resort for one.
Visit the Beach
Of course, Hikkaduwa’s main draw is its spectacular beach area – expect stretches of soft white sand that’s gently lapped at by the calm waves of the Indian Ocean. There are plenty of swimming spots to be found around here too, the perfect way to get away from the heat of the midday tropical sun.
Aside from the beaches, Hikkaduwa is also renowned for its lively coral reefs which make for excellent snorkelling opportunities. There’s plenty of tour operators to choose from, so be sure to take this chance to get up close and personal with the fascinating creatures that inhabit the reefs.
Explore the Streets
Believe it or not, there is excitement and adventure to be had even away from the ocean at Hikkaduwa. Consider a trek down the scenic railway tracks where you’ll be greeted by the signature hooting of trains passing by. Then there’s the famous Sri Lankan street food – an absolute must-try during your stay at Hikkaduwa.
An archipelago of 99 islands, Pulau Langkawi is situated off the western coast of Malaysia and is surrounded by the pristine waters of the Andaman Sea. It is a collection of adventurous wonder for every kind of traveller and here are some of the things you can do there.
1. Langkawi Skybridge
At 660 meters above sea level, this is the best place to get unhindered panoramas of Langkawi. It can be easily accessed from any of the Langkawi resorts so be sure to ask at your front desk.
2. Kilim Karst Geoforest Park
One of the most enjoyable things to do in Langkawi and highly encouraged by resorts such as Berjaya Langkawi Resort, the Geopark is a unique mangrove forest which is also home to the most magical-looking limestone formations.
3. Payar Island Marine Park
Consisting of 4 uninhabited islands, the Marine park is surrounded by a lush coral reef and is great for snorkelling.
4. Hiking in Langkawi
Take a jungle walk through the rainforests of Langkawi and get up close and personal with the wildlife.
5. Island Hopping
There are 99 islands and if you’re not island hopping around at least 10 of them, you’re not doing it right.
5. Telaga Tujuh Waterfall
The Seven Wells waterfall is a sight to behold, with seven natural pools formed by the cascading water. It’s okay to bathe in too.
There are only vestiges of it left in the town today, but Nuwara Eliya was once an uninhabited network of forests and meadows shaded by Pidurutalagala, the tallest mountain in Sri Lanka. Here’s the history you did not know.
Though now you would be finding all kinds of accommodation in Nuwara Eliya, the city was born completely of British influence after it was discovered to have climates that were comfortable and agreeable to the colonial planters.
The City of Light
The area, which was afterwards named Nuwara Eliya, or “city of lights,” was first visited by John Davy in 1819.
The English Influence
The English were pleased to discover that the climate agreed with growing English vegetables and began to grow strawberries, lettuce and other produce that were consumed by the colonists.
This evolved into growing coffee which was later switched to tea. Both of these experiments were extremely successful. And resulted in the upcountry being dubbed “The Tea Capital of Sri Lanka.”
The Plantation Connection
Since the local populace refused to work on the plantations, the British brought labour over from India and settled them in slums on the estates. Today their descendants make up the demographics of upcountry Tamils who are different from the Tamil population in the North and East of Sri Lanka that was native to the country.
Today, Nuwara Eliya grows vegetables and tea but has evolved into a quaint and beautiful resort town. Resorts like Galway Heights are great places to spend a vacation.
The capital city of Qatar- the rich country of Doha has now become a great tourist destination due to its availability of multiple attractions, luxury accommodation options, and good infrastructure.
Doha International Airport
If you spend your Doha holiday in a resort the likes of Souq Al Wakra Hotel Qatar by Tivoli, why not go and visit the 27th busiest airport- the Doha International Airport? It is just a 15-minute ride from the hotel.
The Rumeila Park
All 5-star hotels in Doha offer you the same experiences sometimes. This is the moment you will need a change and at the Rumeila Park, you find a good diversity. It has an art gallery; an outdoor theatre and a kids’ play area too to make your moments amazing!
Doha Heritage Village
The heritage village hosts several events that are well-loved by tourists all around the world. And here, you can also explore several historical monuments like the Al Koot Fort and the Clock Tower.
The Al Zunara Fort
This is an archaeological center, that you should visit especially if you would love to see Arabic books and a collection of many other books as well.
Whether it’s for a weekend getaway or a brief excursion, Doha is the perfect destination for a 48-hour romp in a cosmopolitan setting. Here are some of the best things to do during a sojourn in Doha.
Regarded as one of the world’s leading shopping destinations, it should come as no surprise that most of one’s time in Doha will be spent exploring its exclusive boutiques and mammoth department stores. Some of the best shopping venues in the city of Doha include The Villaggio where local designer boutiques and globally renowned brands all share space. A shopping spree in the Souq Waqif traditional market is also a must as one can find everything from handicrafts and spices to bronze work and clothing in this maze of a marketplace.
Wine and Dine
Revered as a foodie’s paradise, wining and dining is a serious affair when in Doha. Offering visitors an array of restaurants serving up nearly every cuisine known to man, exploring the local culinary treats such as hummus, baba ganoush and tabbouleh is just the tip of the iceberg. Al Mourjan, Ard Canaan and Parisa are arguably the best eateries in the city in addition to the fine dining establishments at Souq Al Wakra Hotel Qatar by Tivoli and other similar 5 star hotels in Doha are also excellent.
No two day trip to Doha would be complete without enjoying an adventure in the desert such as a safari across the arid landscapes bordering the city. A half a day desert safari includes a camel ride and opportunities to go dune bashing like a pro.
There’s plenty to see and experience if one has a mere 15 minutes in the capital of Qatar. Here are some of the most enjoyable ways to spend half a day in Doha city.
Explore Souq Waqif
Those who want to experience a crash course in Qatari culture should spend a few hours exploring the labyrinthine web of alleys at the Souq Waqif. As one of the most extensive and traditional retail spaces in the city, the exquisite architecture, the conventional wares for sale and the merchant shops allow visitors to truly experience local culture and enjoy a shopping spree at the same time. The venue is also home to a host of food stalls selling traditional sweets and other meals so one can also dine one’s way through this ancient marketplace.
Relax at the Doha Corniche
Tipped to be one of the most popular recreational hotspots in the city, the Corniche looks out over the breathtaking Doha Bay and is a seaside promenade lined with shops, food vendors and other leisure facilities. A trip to the Doha Corniche also allows visitors to pop by the Museum of Islamic Art which is situated nearby.
Tour the Al Zubarah Fort
Regardless of the time available, a tour of the iconic Al Zubarah Fort is a must for all first-time visitors. Located inside the Al Zubarah town which is one of Doha’s best known UNESCO World Heritage Sites, the beautifully preserved defence fort is a prime example of an 18th-19th-century structure. Those who secure a room at Souq Al Wakra Hotel Qatar by Tivoli or any other 5 star hotels in Doha can visit the site before their departure time.