The longest river in south-east Asia, the Mekong rises in the Tibetan Plateau in China, and flows through Myanmar (Burma) and Laos into Cambodia and Vietnam, emptying into the South China Sea near Ho Chi Minh City.
The top itinerary is a seven-night cruise between Siem Reap in Cambodia and Ho Chi Minh City in Vietnam which is usually combined with Lime in both cities and perhaps a couple or nights in Hanoi, the capital of Vietnam.
There are also cruises on the remote Upper Mekong to and from Vientiane, the capital of Laos, visiting Laos and Thailand. Itinerary highlights include Luang Prabang, the Pak Ou Caves and Kuang Si waterfalls, as well as visits to local villages.
HO CHI MINH CITY
The city is home to around eight million people and nearly half ride scooters! Attractions include the Reunification Palace (formerly the Presidential Palace), the bright yellow colonial-style Central Post Office and Notre Dame Cathedral. Stop for cocktails at the Rex Hotel, used by foreign correspondents during the Vietnam War. Outside the city are the Cu Chi Tunnels where the Viet Cong lived and launched attacks on the Americans during the war.
Angkor Wat, said to be the largest religious building in the world, is the best-known attraction while the 12th-century Angkor Thom and the Bayon Temple, with its giant carved faces, are also included on tours.
The capital of Cambodia is a fast-growing city with a lively waterfront packed with restaurants and bars. There are tours to the central market and Royal Palace but visitors are also reminded or the horrors of the Khmer Rouge regime at the Tuol Sleng Genocide Museum and Killing Fields.
The city was declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1995 and features the exquisite temples Wat Visoun, dating to 1513, Wat Xieng Thong and the richly decorated Wat Mai. There are tours to the Pak Ou Caves, which house thousands of Buddha statues; guests can also go on jungle treks or elephant rides.
UK visitors can buy a visa on arrival in Cambodia and Laos, price approx £20 and £25 respectively. For Vietnam, a visa (£42) is best bought in advance. Information correct as of October 2015.
AYEYARWADY AND CHINDWIN
The Ayeyarwady, or Irrawaddy, rises in Northern Myanmar (Burma), at the confluence of the N’Mai and Mali rivers and flows south through the country, emptying after 1,348 miles into the Andaman Sea.
The Chindwin River rises in Homalin, the north-west of Myanmar, close to the border with India, and flows more than 700 miles south to join the Ayeyarwady between Mandalay and Bagan.
Most river cruises on the Ayeyarwady are for three to four nights. sailing from Mandalay, the last royal capital of Burma, to Bagan, which was the capital of the first Burmese empire from the 11th to 13th century. Seven to 14-night cruises sail between Yangon and Bagan or Mandalay.
Cruises on the Chindwin tend to be for one week but longer itineraries that start or end in Ayeyarwady are also available.
All cruises give passengers the opportunity to see the region ‘as Asia used to be’ – where life is unhurried and Westerners are still an oddity. Remember Western mobile phones will not work.
Passengers fly into Yangon (formerly known as Rangoon) and sail from there or take an internal flight to Bagan. There are no direct flights from the UK so transits are through Kuala Lumpur, Doha or Bangkok.
UK passport holders need a visa to enter Myanmar. Applications can be made online if visitors are entering via Yangon. Price £14, correct in October 2015.
The Ganges in West Bengal is the holiest river in India and river cruises offer culture, history and adventure.
Colonial-style vessels sail 0n a round trip from Kolkata, and in seven nights guests learn about the life and work of Mother Theresa, see the birthplace of the Krishna movement, and explore temples, mosques and palaces, as well as visiting markets to experience local life.
This fast-flowing river is top of the list for cruise passengers who want adventure. It rises in the Himalayas and flows east through Tibet, curling south through Assam, in India, to meet the Ganges in Bangladesh.
Seven-night cruises on the 46-passenger MV Mahabaahu, operated by Far Horizon India, sail from January to May 2016 and include excursions to temples, monasteries and tea plantations, or guests can choose an elephant-back safari to go in search of the elusive Bengal tigers.
The third longest river in the world, the Yangtze rises in the Tibetan Plateau and empties into the Yellow Sea.
All itineraries begin or end with two or three nights in Beijing or Shanghai and several include a night in Xian to see the thousand-strong Terracotta Warriors, built by order of Emperor Qin Shi Huang 2,200 years ago.
River cruises tend to be four to six days, sailing through the 1.4-mile Three Gorges Dam between Chongqing and Wuhan or vice-versa, packaged into holidays that also visit Beijing, Shanghai and Xian.
A visa is needed to travel to China before leaving the UK. Price from £30, correct as of October 2015.