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Riddled with atmospheric waterways and dotted with exotic isles, Southeast Asia is perhaps best seen by boat. These cruises help reveal the authentic OrientSecret sailsTales of the riverbankBoard a sampan on the Mekong and fl oat past local markets and palm trees

BOARD A PRIVATE SAMPAN ON THE MEKONG, VIETNAMBy Hannah Jones If being cocooned in an air-condi oned hotel on the water seems the perfect way to explore the Mekong (pictured above), then chartering a private sampan for a day or two is probably not for you! But for a more authen c view of Vietnam, there is no be er way to  avel.  ese converted rice barges o er one or two-night cruises along this bustling waterway where you can witness life along this unique s etch of river. e sampans are run with your own private crew and guide, stopping at key highlights along the way including the Mekong town of Sa Dec. Here, you can visit the former home of Marguerite Duras - the French writer lived here in the early 1900s and caused quite a scandal | AUDLEY TRAVELLER | 31by having an a air with a Vietnamese lover. Simple ac vi es, such as mee ng the locals that sell their  esh  uit and vegetables at the markets, were so memorable; in my case, this included the lovely wife of the captain of my sampan, who was determined to make me  y each of her products. My advice: stay away  om the durian! However, I returned to the sampan and found a terri c lunch wai ng, so the taste did not stay with me for long.As the sampan bobs along you can sit in a simple but comfortable living room towards the  ont of the vessel. Keep your eyes peeled - there's lots to watch, including the local  aders  anspor ng goods and livestock in boats that look like they might sink at any moment.  ere are also some fantas c opportuni es to stop o at local businesses including sweet factories, farms, even a brick kiln, where you can  uly understand how the local people live o the land. SOUTHEAST ASIAAnother exclusive and touching part of the cruise is the op on to have dinner in a local home, where three genera ons of the same family all live. Friendly faces and a lovely host made this a superb experience and a fantas c insight into family life in Vietnam, as well as enjoying a delicious home-cooked meal.  e  nal morning on board sees you heading to the largest  oa ng market on the Mekong, Cai Rang. Here there is  ue chaos as  aders sell their produce and the bartering ensues. Numerous boats, both large and small, are stu ed to the brim with goods - it is de nitely an astonishing sight.GET STARTEDA ten day tailor-made trip to southern Vietnam, with two nights aboard a private sampan, starts from £1,980pp. For more information please callHannah or our Vietnam team on01993 838 140.