March 2015 - Viking Mandalay to Other (Asia/Africa/Middle East)
This trip began with a 2-night stay at the Shangri La Hotel in Bangkok, a gorgeous hotel with wonderful buffets in the dining room for breakfast (included) and dinner. The first morning included a visit to the Grand Palace/Temple which we did not take because we had been there twice. Other travelers complained about how crowded and hot it was, but they enjoyed the shopping.
Our boat was very nice - small and sort of "African Queen". The rooms were teak - pretty small but adequate with private bathrooms and access to the communal veranda with chairs. The boat could hold 58 passengers but we were a group of 12. This made for a nice "family" tour, but didn't provide the desired tips for the crew.
Burma has only been open to tourists for a few years and this is a good chance to see it while still relatively unspoiled. We saw many fascinating small villages and lots of beautiful temples and pagodas. All the shore excursions were rated 2 (moderate) but this did not take into account the fact that the river was VERY low, so that we had to climb to the river bank to get to where the busses could come. In the hot (102) and humid weather this was difficult - mostly a fairly high bank of sand into which the crew cut steps. Our tour guide was excellent, the crew was wonderful, and the food was exceptionally good. The excursions were just the right length, and any "down time" was appreciated. We appreciated the opportunity to pay a lump sum to include tipping for the crew and excursion expenses.
This is unlike other river cruises, as the boat is much smaller than most and does not offer a beverage package. The spots where we anchored are not conducive to leaving the boat unattended to look around although occasionally someone did. It is not dangerous - only difficult to climb up and pretty isolated. The nightly cocktail hour (drinks with local beverages were included) watching the beautiful sunsets were very pleasant.