In an age of high-speed travel and ambitiously packed itineraries, there’s something to be said for taking the foot off the pedal. In fact, one of the ultimate luxury trends of late is to take things slow—whether it be an around-the-world cruise or a revival of the grand tour courtesy of Aman. A leisurely river cruise in Indochina also ticks all of the trend’s boxes, and Mekong Kingdoms, a riverine-focused offshoot of the Minor Hotels Group, has just launched the ultimate vessel for such a journey: the aptly-named Gypsy.
Constructed of local hard timber and capped with thatched roofs in the traditional style of slow boats found in Luang Prabang, Laos, (another buzzy destination that has just welcomed a much-anticipated Rosewood resort) the intimate, two-cabin cruiser is designed by the Phuket-based architect Pascal Trahan for languid two- and three-night sails between Luang Prabang and the Golden Triangle in Thailand.
The sensation of stepping out of time is reinforced by the boat’s interiors, which designer Jiraparnn Tokeeree has swathed in a soothing mix of contemporary and traditional finishes such as polished timber and carved wooden furniture, alongside bamboo daybeds, dark leather, and Thai silk and fabrics. Like a floating TARDIS with its deceptively compact exterior, the nearly 135-foot-long boat cleverly fits in two surprisingly spacious en-suite cabins. A mid-ship lounge, bar, and dining room form the bulk of the shared spaces, while open sun-decks and an alfresco platform at the bow offer the ultimate place to settle in and watch the changing scenery of the Mekong.
As the boat is meant to accommodate just one or two couples (and the vessel is only available via charter), all of the excursions offered on board are completely tailored to guests’ interests and abilities. All are conceived to provide the best way to take in various villages and experiences along the river, including mountain biking through rural Laos, guided jungle treks to the karst formations of the Pak Ou caves, visits to the Lao and Hmong tribes at Khok-Ek, the village of Pak Beng, and the weaving workshops at Kamu village.
Back on board the Gypsy, the kitchen turns out imaginative feasts for lunches and dinners featuring locally-sourced produce cooked with Thai, Lao and French flavors. Think sous vide tilapia with galangal and chili, served with a grilled mushroom jaew (a traditional Lao dipping sauce) and basil oil, and a bouillabaisse brimming with Mekong River fish and river prawns.
The Gypsy plies a year-round itinerary, but really the best time to climb on-board is during the green season between May and September when warm temperatures and rains produce a riot colors in the local foliage and jungle. Rates start at $5,450 for a three-night, four-day cruise from Luang Prabang to the Golden Triangle.