Spend a week on the rivers in Southeast Asia, including Myanmar, in one of these great floating hotels.

Abandon land for Southeast Asia's best 'floatels'

Merritt Gurley, CNNPublished 12th July 2017
(CNN) — When it comes to adventure travel, in terms of accommodation options lazy is the new crazy. In Southeast Asia alone there are dozens of hotels that offer the chance to relax, ride the tides and, in the immortal words of Modest Mouse, "float on."
Floating hotels and stilted resorts over water can be found across the Greater Mekong subregion, which encompasses areas of Vietnam, Thailand, Myanmar, Laos, Cambodia and the Yunnan Province of China.

1. The River Kwai Jungle Raft Floatel: Kanchanaburi, Thailand

Relaxing on the river bed at River Kwai Jungle Raft Floatel.
The River Kwai Jungle Raft Floatel is a rustic floating village in Kanchanaburi that's been around since 1976.
Just two and a half hours outside of Bangkok, its bamboo rooms roped together in a long row line the banks of the River Kwai. Accommodations are "cozy" at 28 square meters, but create a community vibe with hammocks slung close enough together to encourage conversation.
There's no electricity so things are definitely quiet at night. During the day the resort's dock is lined with sunbathers and the river fills with swimmers. The current is strong enough to pull swimmers at a steady clip, so the favorite sport for guests is to jump off the pier, float the length of the resort, grab onto the last ladder, climb back out and repeat.
Essential info: There's no convenience store around the corner from the Jungle Raft Floatel, so food and boat transfers are included in the price.

2. The Float House River Kwai: Kanchanaburi, Thailand

The inviting Float House Resort.
Each room at the Float House River Kwai spans an airy 90 square meters and is constructed from local materials. Decor is best described as "folksy Thai." Technophiles can breathe easy. The Float House has WiFi, a DVD player and a 32-inch LCD screen as well as a private pier and balcony over the water.

3. Hotel Sala Phae: Pakse, Laos

This two-star guest house is a wallet-friendly choice for budget travelers exploring Laos. There are eight simple rooms supported across four rafts. From the Hotel Sala Phae guests can arrange a trip to see the Irrawaddy dolphins, a snub-nosed oceanic breed found in Southeast Asia. For hikers, the Li-Phi waterfall is only a 1.5-kilometer walk from the banks of Sala Phae. It's one of the most beautiful waterfalls in Laos.

4. Rivers Floating Lodge: Koh Kong, Cambodia

The 4 Rivers Floating Lodge on the Cambodian section of the Mekong River is only an hour's drive from the Thai border.
For a high-end "floatel" option, there's the 4 Rivers Floating Lodge. It has 12 luxury yurts floating on the Cambodian section of the Mekong River, only an hour's drive from the Thai border. The rooms are 45 square meters and each is outfitted with a flat-screen television, Wi-Fi and mini-bar.
The "villas" may just be tents erected on a wooden pier, but the decor is so rich it feels like you're inside a sultan's secret lair. The lodge was designed to marry luxury with ecology, offering a top-end experience with minimal impact on the surrounding environment. Part of this initiative includes using only eco-friendly materials, rationing the use of wood, ensuring responsible waste water treatment and educating locals and tourists on the importance of conservation and preservation.

5. Sala Don Khone: Ban Khone Tai, Khong District, Laos

Floating among the "4,000 islands" off the coast of Don Khone, Sala Don Khone offers three room types. Floating studios are the most basic accommodations, followed by large suites furnished in a French colonial aesthetic. At the top of hierarchy are traditional Ban Lao rooms with private balconies and a cozy cabana atmosphere.

6. Mekong Floating House: Ben Tre, Vietnam

Mekong Floating House is situated on the water at Ben Tre.
Each Mekong Floating House cabin is built on floats with wood from a variety of local plants, including palm and bamboo. This family-owned guest house was built in a garden of coconut palms by the banks of Ben Tre's Turtle Island. The owners pride themselves on the eco-minded facilities, with solar panels powering electricity across the property and a bio-digester that treats wastewater. The cuisine at the floating restaurant represents a range of Vietnamese delicacies. The only drawback is river traffic. A steady flow of boats passes in front of the timber terraces and keeps things rocking.

7. Shwe Inn Tha Floating Hotel: Inle Lake, Myanmar

Located in the heart of Inntha tribe territory, the Shwe Inn Tha Hotel opened in 1995. This little prize sits on Inle Lake, surrounded by the mist of the Blue Mountains. There are 33 standard rooms, five deluxe rooms and two junior suites to choose from. If you have a competitive itch, schedule your trip in October when you can take part in the annual Inle Lake boat races. The race pits two boats against each other, with more than 100 leg rowers per craft.

8. Golden Island Cottages: Inle Lake, Myanmar

Spend a few days on the gorgeous Inle Lake.
Also on Inle Lake, Golden Island Cottages sits directly in front of a bird sanctuary, making it a choice spot for bird watchers. The 25 basic cottages are built on stilts, a style common throughout the region. The resort is legendary for its friendly staff and spectacular musical welcome for guests as they sail up to the front desk. There's one drawback. Early morning fishermen paddling to where the prey is biting create more noise than you'd think. If you're planning to sleep in, you may want ear plugs.
Essential info: It can get cold on the lake, so bring layers.
Editor's note: This article was previously published in 2012. It was reformatted, updated and republished in 2017.
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