By Jana Jones, Cruise Critic contributor
Built in the colonial style of boats in the Irrawaddi Flotilla, a Burmese operation that began in 1865, the two-deck, open-air RV River Kwai provides visitors to Thailand the opportunity to see the inland regions along the River Kwai from a perspective that few get to experience.
On this 156-ton, 120-foot-long boat, the emphasis is on cultural immersion. Lecturers and guides provide background information for the maximum 20 adventurers, who then get to explore the historic sites along the river, from Bangkok (Kanchanaburi) to Daowadung.
The boat has only 10 cabins. All are lined with teak and have twin beds, in-suite baths and showers, air conditioning and room safes. All rooms are entered through outside passageways.
The second deck consists of the vessel's "public rooms," functioning at once as a dining room, lecture hall, lounge, sun deck and observation platform. Meals are served buffet-style.
The itinerary, both upstream and downstream, is the star of this voyage. Passengers can choose between four- and seven-night cruises, all of which start on Mondays. Traveling upstream from Kanchanaburi (about 80 miles from Bangkok) or downstream (from Daowadung along the Kwai Noi), highlights include visits to Khmer ruins and temples, waterfalls and hot springs, elephant camps and remote villages.
Two highlights of the cruise are a visit to The Bridge on the River Kwai, made famous in the Alec Guinness film of the same name, and a new "elephant driving" program, during which passengers can learn how to (literally) drive elephants.