Exotically different languages and cultures
A cruise of the region is the perfect way to explore
Food can sometimes be an area of concern. The food enjoyed locally is often very different from anything we are used to. The beauty of travelling to these destinations on a cruise is that you always have a choice of amazing restaurants back on-board.
Sometimes the language and cultural barriers that will be encountered in these countries can be a challenge. For example, women are looked upon differently in Asian countries, and when visiting certain sites, especially those of a religious nature, it is often required that woman do not expose their knees or other parts of their body. In certain countries a head covering is also required.
Without a guide, you may not find out about such requirements until it is too late and you may have to miss seeing something of significance simply because you did not dress appropriately. Taking one of the many shore excursions available as well as advice on board the ship can avoid this happening.
When in the Far East it is often best to travel in groups and remain under the “protection” of a qualified tour guide. This is because the guide can “run interference” if there are any problems encountered, and smooth the wrinkles that cultural and language differences naturally create.
The most important thing to remember when travelling in the Far East is that you are experiencing cultures that are totally different from your own, and it is best to keep an open mind when experiencing the different sights, sounds, tastes and smells. Go with an attitude of wanting to experience everything each country has to offer, and plan to reserve judgement at least until the end of your trip.
A cruise to Asia and the Far East is not your average voyage, and that is specifically what makes it so special and life-changing for anyone lucky enough to have the experience.
Exploring Asia can be a daunting challenge, not just because the continent is so vast but also because despite each country’s relative proximity, the region comprises places with exotically different languages and cultures. This is precisely what makes a cruise of the region a perfect way to explore.
Bali is just 153km wide by 112km long, and it is a mere 2km southeast of Java in the Indonesian Archipelago. A favoured location for cruise ships, it attracts tours from many operators, including Viking, Cunard and Star Clippers.
The ships dock either at Benoa Harbour or land passengers by tender at Padang Bay. Located on Bali’s southern Bukit Peninsula, Benoa is close to Nusa Dua, which is known for its clean, white beaches and clear water. It’s also near the thriving resorts of Sanur and Kuta.
Padang Bay, also known as Padangbai, is a small village where cruise passengers have access to tour buses, taxis and peddlers, as well as shops cafes and a beach.
Bangkok is the capital and largest city in the nation of Thailand. It is a modern vibrant city teeming with nightlife and culture. Bangkok has an estimated population of approximately 11 million people and is considered by many to be one of the most exciting and visitor friendly cities in Asia. While only established in the 18th century, Bangkok has a rich history beyond its years first as the centre of Siam and now Thailand. Bangkok is renowned for its exotic Buddhist temples, extraordinary palaces, and the Thon Buri canals.
Bangkok, located in central Thailand on the Chao Phraya River on 14 degrees north of the equator. This makes for some very hot weather. The average temperature rarely dips below 25 degrees even during the “cool season.” The temperatures during the summer months can routinely top 40 degrees with high humidity. The rainy season (May through October) can feature torrential downpours but they usually only last 1-2 hours in the afternoon.
Da Nang is located on the coast of the Eastern Sea by the Han River between Hanoi and Ho Chi Minh City. While not an enormously popular tourist destination, Da Nang does have a lot to offer in terms of sites with cultural and historical significance.
Da Nang is a tropical city with two seasons dry and rainy, though rain can be expected to fall year round. The true rainy season runs from about September through December. Monsoons are worst during this period but can and do occur through March. April is actually the driest month of the year in Da Nang making it a recommended time to visit. Temperatures generally range between 25 and 33 degrees year round.
With 30 kilometres of coastline, Da Nang has beautiful beaches and seashores including Nam O, Xuan Thieu, and Bac My An to name a few. Lined with white sand Da Nang’s beaches can be a great place for a getaway if you can avoid the rains.
Ho Chi Minh City
Ho Chi Minh City (formerly known as Saigon) is the largest city in Vietnam located near the Mekong Delta. Sitting on the banks of the Saigon River, Ho Chi Minh City is Vietnam’s major port and home to nine million people.
The weather in Ho Chi Minh City falls into two seasons, the rainy season which occurs between May through November sees frequent downpours and monsoons; this is definitely an off-peak time for tourism. The dry season from December to April is definitely the time you want to visit, with its limited precipitation and average temperatures of approximately 26 degrees.
More commonly referred to as KK but those in ‘the know’ the city is surrounded on the west side by the South China Sea and to the east, lush tropical rainforests.
Known for blazing sunsets and an up and coming music and arts scene the modern city of Kota Kinabalu is powering its way towards the 21st-century with sleek modern hotels, upmarket apartment complexes and fashionable new malls.
The city of Keelung (sometimes called Jilong) is a large port city located in northeast Taiwan and it has a population of roughly 350,000 people. The weather in Keelung is warm and mild in the summertime with regular short bursts of rain, while the winter months can be very wet and overcast.
Keelung has numerous military forts of varying historical significance that are popular attractions for tourists. One of these is the Ershawan Gun Emplacement also called Haiman Tiansian, which is Mandarin for “very dangerous gate to the ocean.” Built in 1840 by the Ching government, this fort was strategically utilized during the Sino-French war from 1884-1885.
Also built during the Ching Dynasty, Gongzih Liao Gun Emplacement is another fort of military significance. Famous for its architecture as well as its history, it only ceased from being an active military facility a few years ago. Because of its relatively recent use, the fort though old, is in very good condition.
Once sleepy and undeveloped, the locals made a living from coconut farming and fishing until it was discovered by backpackers in the 1980s. It now has both budget and luxury resorts and a thriving tourist industry.
Surrounded by 80 smaller islands, this Thai gem is a hugely popular cruise destination with many operators, with Holland America Line, Viking Ocean Cruises and Costa including it in their itineraries.
Cruise ships put in at Nathon, the island’s old commercial centre and ferry port, and due to its size, most require tenders. For a relaxed local visit from the ship, you can spend an afternoon wandering around and see the old Chinese shophouses, restaurants and shops, and maybe try some Thai Massage to get the visit off to a relaxing start.
Further afield, there are plenty more intriguing and interesting sights to see.
Langkawi is an archipelago that consists of 99 islands in the Andaman Sea approximately 30 kilometres from the coast of northwest Malaysia just south of Thailand. It is part of the state of Kedah in the nation of Malaysia. The islands of Langkawi are teeming with culture and beautiful natural scenery.
The weather in Langkawi is quite mild compared to other parts of Malaysia. Daytime temperatures range between 30-35 degrees and the islands are generally shielded from significant winds. Suffering only limited rainfall; the islands of Langkawi are suitable for visiting all year round.
While most of the Langkawi islands are desolate and uninhabited the few that are occupied have been developed and are well suited for tourists. One of these islands is Pulau Payar, which is famous for its marine park where visitors are regularly wowed by majestic coral reefs and numerous native fish species such as moray eels, black-tip sharks, and clown fish. The clear water is perfect for swimming, diving, or snorkelling. If you prefer to stay above water, glass bottom boat tours are available as well.
Cruise ships to Nha Trang dock at the commercial Cau Da Port Pier. This is close to the Oceanographic Museum and it also includes some shops. The city Nha Trang is seven miles from the pier, and to reach the city, you can either use the free shuttle, or a taxi or trishaw. Smaller cruise ships will be able to dock at the terminal, but large cruise ships tend to dock further out, and passengers are ferried into the port by tender boat. Nha Trang itself is a busy resort city with popular restaurants and beaches. There are lots of activities on offer, including water parks, amusement parks, bike trails, diving, snorkelling, fishing, and much more.
In high season - November to April - cruise ships tender at Patong beach, and in the Monsoon season from May to October, they dock at Phuket Deep Sea Port located at Ao Makarm. The tender boat ride is around 1.5 kilometres. Cruise ships dock at the Port of Phuket, and from there it is a 20-minute drive into town. Bemos or taxis are generally available at the pier.
The top cruise companies, such as Princess Cruises, P&O, and Royal Caribbean, offer cruises that include a stop at Phuket. These may be short cruises which cover Malaysia and Thailand, and passengers will often need to fly to Singapore to embark. Longer cruises will include stops in Australia, where passengers typically join the cruise, and other destinations within Asia such as Bali. All the cruise companies offer excursions at the various ports, and if you only have a brief time available in Phuket, you may want to consider booking one. If you have more time available you may want to explore at your own pace.
Port Kelang (also known as Port Klang) is the busiest port in the nation of Malaysia. It is situated on the Strait of Malacca and is considered part of the metropolitan area of the larger city, Kuala Lumpur. Though sightseeing options for tourists are very limited, many people use Port Kelang as a base location to visit the surrounding area.
Close to the equator, Port Kelang is tropical with daytime temperatures ranging between 29-35 degrees and going down to 26-29 degrees at night. Precipitation is common year round with the peak rainy season coming between October and March and a drier period from May through July. Shielded from the winds of the monsoon season by the deep valleys around its borders, there is no bad time to visit the region.
One place of interest near Port Kelang is Pulau Ketam which means Crab Island. A fishing community off Port Kelang’s coast, this mangrove covered isle holds the entire local village built on stilts one to ten metres above sea level. As one approaches the island by ferry, the buildings give the appearance of floating on the water.
The Republic of Singapore is an island nation located at the southern tip of the Malay Peninsula. While it is the smallest nation in Southeast Asia, there is no shortage of fun things to do and exciting sites to visit.
Singapore’s close proximity to the equator causes extreme weather conditions much of the year. The first of two monsoon seasons occurs between December and early March and the second begins in June and lasts through September. The peak times to visit Singapore are late March-May or October-November. These are considered the “pre-monsoon seasons” and the weather is milder during these periods.
Halong Bay is Vietnam’s best known natural wonder. Located in north-east Vietnam, in the Gulf of Tonkin, Halong Bay is comprised of 1,969 islands of varied sizes and shapes. 989 of the islands have been given names. Many of the islands are limestone while some are formed from Schist. In 1994, the Committee of World Heritages of UNESCO (an agency of the United Nations) officially designated Halong Bay a natural heritage site of global significance.
The weather of Halong Bay is marked by two distinct seasons. The hot and wet summer season runs from May through October. During the summer, the temperatures average between 24-33 degrees with rainfall averaging approximately 238mm. The cool and relatively dry winter season begins in November and lasts through April. Winter temperatures range from 16-23 degrees and precipitation only averages approximately 41mm during this period.
Kuantan is the capital of the state of Pahang on the east coast of peninsular Malaysia. Home to approximately 500,000 people, Kuantan is the largest city on the east coast of the peninsula and has several sites of interest popular with visitors.
Kuantan has a tropical climate with temperatures ranging between 27 and 35 degrees year round. The northeast monsoon season begins in November and lasts through January, during this time the area is subject to daily heavy rains and high winds. It is best to avoid visiting during this period.
Kuantan has beautiful beaches along the peninsula’s coastline. One of the most popular beaches in the region is Cherating. Found 50 kilometres north of Kuantan, it is highlighted by its fine white sand, peaceful water, and casuarina trees the beach is a favourite of tourists and locals alike.
Probolinggo is a city on the north coast of East Java, Indonesia, a 1.5 km walk south of the port. Its harbour, on the Java Sea, is used heavily by brightly coloured fishing vessels. There are no taxis here, but plenty of Becak/Pedicap to reach the city centre.
Tucked in the north-western corner of land-locked Cambodia, Siem Reap is predominantly recognised as being the gateway to the magnificent Temples of Angkor. Lying close to Tonle Sap Lake, the city was formally a collection of villages built around pagodas and rice paddies. Today the city has transformed into the chic cultural hub. Everything from back packer hangouts to hip hotels, fantastic shooing, luxuriant spas and world-renowned dining can be found in modern Siem Reap.
The city has previously been referred to as Elopura and now is the second largest city in Sabah and is the capital of the district of its name sake. A major port for the exportation of oil, tobacco, coffee and timber products the city is otherwise generally utilised as a gateway for tourists wishing to visit the nearby Sungai Kinabatangan, Sepilok Orang Utan Sanctuary and Bornean Sun Bear Conservation.
Located in the idyllic waters of Gulf of Thailand, Koh Mak lies just 40km of the Trat shoreline. A picture-perfect paradise and a relatively unknown entity when it come to Thai island escapes. With very few vehicles on the island due no car ferry connection and at just 16 square kilometres, Koh Mak is easily explored by bike. It has remained a hidden gem, flying under most visitors to Thailand’s’ radar, thus meaning it is not overrun with package tourists and crammed with brash bars and flashy restaurants. The island is home to small local family-run eateries, a handful of minimarkets and a dusting of accommodation options. Koh Mak is for anyone seeking a tranquil escape, a slower pace of life and spectacular natural beautiful. You will find long deserted beaches, tropical hiking trails and well-preserved marine life in the nearby marine park.