Asia is an amazing continent – vibrant, inscrutable, thrilling, relaxed, exotic and homely all at the same time. To experience the real Asia – the villages, the rainforests, the paddy fields – you have to travel by river. Threaded like veins through the continent, the Yangtze, Mekong, Irrawaddy, Ganges, Red River and Brahmaputra can take you on the journey of a lifetime.
The longest river in Asia and the longest in the world to occupy a single country, the Yangtze drains one-fifth of China’s entire land area and its basin is home to a third of the Chinese population. It is also home to an amazing spectrum of wildlife, including endangered species such as the Chinese alligator, finless porpoise, Yangtze sturgeon and the fabled baiji or freshwater dolphin, which may or may not still exist.
Deeply sacred to Hindus, the Ganges flows through both India and Bangladesh, stretching for more than 1500 miles (2500 kilometres). Rising in the western Himalayas and emptying into the Bay of Bengal, it is one of the world’s most significant waterways, passing by numerous former provincial or imperial capitals, including Pataliputra, Kara, Patni, Murshidabad and Kolkata – each an endlessly fascinating place to explore.
Meanwhile, the Mekong links China, Myanmar, Laos, Thailand, Cambodia and Vietnam, making a river cruise the ideal way to discover the hidden history and hideaways of these six amazing nations. With countless names in many languages, the Mekong is the major trade route between China and South East Asia, flanking numerous settlements both large and small. Its aquatic diversity is the second highest in the world, after the Amazon, with an astonishing array of marine life. Witness constant animal and human activity throughout your cruise, watching the world bustle by from the air-conditioned comfort of your stateroom. If you want to see the real Asia close up, this is the holiday you’ve been craving.