Rainbow Cruises, Kochi
An easy drive from the airport, more than 2,000 kettuvallams (converted rice barges) ply Kerala’s fabled backwaters, a chain of brackish lagoons and lakes that extend virtually half the length of the southern Indian state. Among them is Rainbow Cruises, with its impressive fleet of luxurious floating homes.
Constructed from local anjali wood, woven palm and bamboo, the Elitaire (the most upscale boat in Rainbow’s fleet) embraces modern comforts. Bedrooms come lavishly-appointed with king-sized beds and spacious bathrooms. The sheltered deck – with comfortable sun loungers and scatter cushions perfect for admiring the lush surrounds – is the major wow factor.
Boats traverse the Vembanad lake, anchoring for a night at Munnatummugham before returning to Alleppey.
Guests can look forward to visiting Chavara Bhavan, the ancestral home of the holy Kuriakose Elias Chavara, a revered Carmelite religious priest. Other highlights include encounters with local shrimp fishermen and traditional dances. The backwaters are also a paradise for ornithologists, with kingfishers, cormorants, drogues, woodpeckers and pheasants among the resident bird species.
Gorge on home-style, coconut-tinged Keralan cuisine, such as sadhya (a variety of dishes served on a banana leaf) and fish molee (coconut stew).
Culture lovers and birdwatchers.
Indochina Junk, Halong Bay
180km from Hanoi, tranquil, karst-studded Halong Bay remains one of the world’s most beautiful seascapes. With a host of large, often impersonal, junks hosting large groups, it pays to choose a smaller boat, such as the Prince 1 from Indochina Junk, for your excursion out on the water.
The bijou Prince 1 has just two cabins, making it ideal for couples or small families. Modelled on traditional fishing boats, it’s fashioned from teak and oak, with large windows that afford guests panoramic outlooks onto the bay. The view gets even better from the junk’s deck, where sun loungers provide the perfect pew from which to drink in the scenery.
Eschewing the beaten path, the Prince 1 plies a course around Bai Tu Long Bay, which is the eastern part of Halong Bay.
Kayaking amidst the karsts and through the floating village of Vung Vieng is the highlight of the trip. Other memorable draws include the atmospheric Thien Canh Son cave and the beach on Hon Co Island – one of the few stretches of sand in the area. Animal attractions abound, too: from the boat, hawks, cuckoos and hornbills can be spotted, while at stops, guests will no doubt encounter the monkeys that reside on the islands.
Expect a succession of multi-course Vietnamese banquets, encompassing dishes such as fresh spring rolls, lemongrass chicken and claypot pork.
Honeymooners and adventurous families.
This article originally appeared in the January 2017 issue of Silkwinds magazine.