View of Singapore from Mount Faber cable car. Image courtesy of Allan Wilson.
Southeast Asia is a marine region, with the South China Sea binding together its Asian mainland and archipelagic component parts. That’s why cruising in Southeast Asia could be the best thing that a traveler in the region can do: starting from popular ports of call like Singapore, consummate travelers (like the ones we’re about to quote here) can see far more than anyone who flies over these sights in a plane.
In Singapore, a Surprisingly Inexpensive Side Trip
Live Less Ordinary's Allan Wilson (Facebook|Twitter|Instagram) arrived in Singapore with just the right mindset: after stops throughout Southeast Asia and around the Indian Ocean, he was ready to explore the Lion City on his own. And he did: independently, and surprisingly on a budget:
While the [Singapore] city tour will always be the obvious excursion for cruise passengers (including the architectural marvels of Marina Bay), these sights I had already covered before.
So instead we decided to explore independently, which is very easy from the main International Passenger Terminal located near the southern coastal resort of Sentosa. (Sentosa is an island known for its theme parks, as well as being the Southernmost Point of Continental Asia.)
From the port there are many nearby attractions to explore, made easy by connecting malls and cable cars, and one of our personal highlights was the walking trails of Mount Faber Park. As despite Singapore's reputation for being built-up and high-rise, there really are some world-class green spaces to escape to in the city!
Pura Ulun Danu Bratan, Bali, Indonesia. Image courtesy of Brooke Thio.
In Bali, Indonesia, a Different Side of the Island
Roamscapes’ Brooke Thio (Facebook|Twitter|Instagram) sailed into Bali on a Genting Dream cruise from Singapore to Surabaya and North Bali – “never would I have imagined a cruise stop to be so culturally enriching,” she tells us...
I was signed up for the ship’s “Best of North Bali” shore excursion, and when we were tendered ashore I was greeted by a wonderfully friendly local guide who entertained my group throughout the 2-hour drive to explore the mountains of Bedugul.
During the excursion, I saw a different side of Bali. Ulun Danu Bratan Temple floated regally on the waters of Lake Bratan; Candikuning Market dealt out Bali’s prized salak gula pasir (sugar snake fruit) at a steal; rice terraces materialized out of the mist as I dug into a buffet spread of local Balinese dishes at a mountainside restaurant. It was all so tranquil.
I also experienced that legendary Balinese hospitality from my guide, who regaled us with stories about Bali’s history and traditions, like how Lovina Beach got its name. At the end of our excursion, I was deeply touched when he even thanked our group profusely for visiting this less-popular region of Bali. This is easily the most unforgettable cruise stop I’ve ever had.
Langkawi from a birds’ eye view. Image courtesy of Kathy Marris.
In Langkawi, Malaysia, a Birds’ Eye View of Islands
When 50 Shades of Age’s Kathy Marris (Facebook|Instagram) set off on a Southeast Asian cruise from Singapore with her husband, the beach-and-jungle destination Langkawi stood out among all the rest – here, she explains why.
At the beginning of 2016 my husband and I set off on a South East Asian Cruise out of Singapore. We cruised to many countries including Malaysia, Brunei, Vietnam, Cambodia and Thailand. However we found the standout stop was on the Malaysian Island of Langkawi.
This magical land of legends, Langkawi contains 99 islands on the north-western shore of Malaysia, situated where the Indian Ocean narrows down into the Straits of Malacca. Clad with jungles in the interior, Langkawi Island is fringed by lovely beaches scattered along its coast.
The island is still very much a rural landscape with villages and paddy fields. But it is also an extremely popular retreat for visitors.
One of the best ways to get a bird's eye view of the beauty of this island paradise is getting on the cable car to Langkawi's second highest peak at Oriental Village. Rising up to 2,000 feet you reach the top of Mt Mat Cincang, where you can see from Thailand in the north to Indonesia in the south-west.
Other Memorable Ports of Call in Southeast Asia
Sihanoukville, Cambodia. Named after the late King of Cambodia, the port and resort town of Sihanoukville is the country's only deep-water port. Completed in 1959, Sihanoukville welcomes both cargo and cruise passengers, with the latter coming for the area's pristine beaches and luxury beach resorts fringing the Gulf of Thailand.
Laem Chabang Port, Thailand. Thailand's largest port lies on Thailand's east coast, intended to be the country's main port. International cruise lines like Princess Cruises and Celebrity Cruises make regular stops here, exploiting its easy access to Bangkok and Pattaya. laemchabangport.com
Hon Gai, Vietnam. Hon Gai is the first port of call for seagoing cruises visiting Ha Long Bay, and many luxury cruises depart from its port to visit the picturesque bay and its islands. Less crowded than the Bai Chay Tourist Wharf, Hon Gai Port offers better access to tourist activities, restaurants and hotels in the area.