Secrets of Asia 1
Laem Chabang’s sat on the southern coastline, overlooking the Gulf of Thailand, and is home to the country’s largest port. A gateway to the Chonburi Province, it’s got…ARRIVE IN PORT: 23:59 (DAY 1)
DEPART FROM PORT: 16:00 (DAY 2)
After this trip, you’ll know Bangkok’s standout sites like the back of your hand. Once you’ve boarded an air-conditioned bus, you’ll head into the city’s Chinatown neighbourhood for the start of your panoramic tour. You’ll clock the Wat Traimit temple first of all, and will also pass the rainbow-like bouquets of the Flower Market. The grand city hall, the crimson Giant Swing and the royal Wat Suthat temple are all worth keeping an eye out for, and you’ll make your first photo stop at the ‘iron castle’ – Loha Prasat. This towering monastery was built for a princess in the 1800s, and its exterior is peppered with spiky black spires. Democracy Monument and the colourful Grand Palace are the next sights you’ll see, and you’ll also pass the Wat Pho temple, which is home to a huge reclining Buddha statue. Hop off for a photo at the Ananta Samakhom Throne Hall to round things off, then board the bus for the return journey.
Temples are the order of the day on this trip, and we’ve got some of Bangkok’s best lined up for you. Things get started with a stop at one of the most eye-catching of the lot, Wat Benchamabophit – also known as the Marble Temple. Next, you’ll get to cast an eye over a huge reclining statue of Buddha at the Wat Pho temple, before stopping at a hotel for a spot of lunch. Stack your plate high from the buffet table, which will be filled with tasty Thai cuisine. Once everyone’s hunger pangs are taken care of, you’ll head to the Wat Traimit temple. This place is home to a solid gold Buddha which weighs more than five tonnes, and spent years undiscovered under a coating of unspectacular plaster. After you’ve grabbed a few pictures, you’ll head back to the bus for the trip back to the ship.
After you’ve left the port, you’ll travel beyond Bangkok on this culture-stuffed daytrip. It’ll take a couple of hours to reach this crop of temples, but they’re among the most historic in the region. You’ll see the Summer Palace first – a former waterside residence of Thai kings. Lunch is on the cards at the Krungsri River Hotel, where you’ll be able to tuck into traditional Thai cuisine. Next, visit the Wat Phra Sri Sanphet – a centuries-old monastery on the site of the country’s ancient capital, Ayutthaya. You can see a huge Buddha statue at Wat Phra Mongkhon Bophit. The final stop of the day is the ruined temple of Wat Yai Chai Mongkhon, where rows of long-standing Buddha statues are draped in sunflower-yellow robes.
Sihanoukville rests on Cambodia’s southwest coast, looking out across the Gulf of Thailand. It’s the youngest city in the country, and operates on a sleepy-day-and-lively-night…Time in port: 07:00 - 21:00
There’s plenty of variety on this trip, as you skip from sightseeing to strolling down one of Sihanoukville’s trademark beaches. You’ll start with a slice of culture, as the coach takes you to the Wat Krom Buddhist temple. Once you’ve cast an eye over the colourful architecture and ornate statues, turn your back on the place for panoramic views of the town. On your way to the next attraction, you’ll make a stop at the Golden Lion Roundabout. This larger-than-life feature does exactly what it says on the tin, with two huge glimmering lion statues crouching in the middle of the road. Snap a picture, then you'll drive past Phsar Leu Market – the biggest collection of traditional stalls in Sihanoukville, with everything from fresh seafood to souvenirs on sale. Check out the pagoda-style Wat Leu temple on your way to the final stop – this gold-tinted building’s one of the most-visited places of worship around. The white sands of Ochheuteal Beach cap things off, where you’ll have some time to stroll along the waterfront.
On this tour, you’ll whizz around the seafront town of Sihanoukville in the back of a four-man tuk tuk. This mode of transport’s nothing unusual to the locals – think of it as Cambodia’s version of a black cab. Once you’re all seated, you’ll set off on a tour of the town’s best bits. The central stomping grounds are pretty laidback by day, but it’s easy to clock the bevy of bars and clubs which are populated by backpackers after dark.
There’s plenty of variety on this trip, as you skip between Sihanoukville’s best bits in the back of a traditional tuk tuk. You’ll start with a slice of culture, by visiting the Wat Krom Buddhist temple. Once you’ve cast an eye over the colourful architecture and ornate statues, turn your back on the place for panoramic views of the town. On your way to the next attraction, you’ll make a stop at the Golden Lion Roundabout. This larger-than-life feature does exactly what it says on the tin, with two huge glimmering lion statues crouching in the middle of the road. Snap a picture, then you'll ride past Phsar Leu Market – the biggest collection of traditional stalls in Sihanoukville, with everything from fresh seafood to souvenirs on sale. Check out the pagoda-style Wat Leu temple on your way to the final stop – this gold-tinted building’s one of the most-visited places of worship around. The white sands of Ochheuteal Beach cap things off, where you’ll have some free time to stroll along the waterfront.
Phu My is the gateway to Vietnam’s largest city. Drive an hour and a half north from the port and the new expressway will lead you into the hustle and bustle of Ho Chi…Time in port: 07:00 - 18:00
You’ll leave the hustle and bustle of Ho Chi Minh City behind today, as you head out on a tour of the Mekong Delta. This place is a maze of rivers, swamps and tiny islands, where floating markets and villages are the norm. It’s known as Vietnam’s rice bowl, since it produces over half of the country’s grain. Boats are king around here, so you’ll hit the water in a traditional sampan. As you glide along, you’ll pass villages built along the river’s edge, as well as locals going about their daily business. You’ll stop off on Thoi Son Island, where you can tour a family-run coconut candy factory and a local bee farm. At the latter, you can meet the bees and sample the honey they produce, along with exotic jackfruit and dragon fruit. You’ll stop for lunch here, too, before returning to the ship.
You’ll tick off all the Ho Chi Minh City rites of passage today. After lunch, you’ll start a coach tour of downtown, which checks off the colonial-style Central Post Office and the Notre Dame Cathedral. You’ll also get to snap photos of the Reunification Palace – where the Vietnam War ended in 1975, when north Vietnamese troops captured Saigon. You’ll get to delve even deeper into the country’s past at the Museum of Vietnamese History, which houses artefacts spanning from the prehistoric period to the 19th-century Nguyen dynasty. While you’re here, you’ll watch a traditional water puppet show – expect to see puppet people, dragons and fairies dance across a stage of water. Then it’s off to take in more culture in Chinatown. You’ll make a pit stop at Thien Hau Pagoda – a pretty, Buddhist temple dedicated to Chinese sea goddess, Mazu. And then it’s on to a lacquer workshop, where souvenir-shopping is top of the agenda.
Ho Chi Minh City might be a modern metropolis, but it excels in the history stakes, too. Today, you’ll visit one of the city’s most popular attractions – the War Remnants Museum. This place sheds light on the Vietnam War, with its sobering displays of photos, artefacts and stories. Outside in the museum’s courtyard, you’ll find military equipment like a UH-1 Huey helicopter and a full-sized tank. Next, you’ll board the coach for a panoramic drive around downtown. Here, you’ll pass reminders of the city’s time under French rule, like the canary-yellow Central Post Office and the Notre Dame Cathedral, which is modelled on the famous Paris landmark. You’ll also get a chance to see underneath the pavements with a visit to the Viet Cong’s secret, underground arsenal. After, there’s time to stop at a local market, before heading back to the ship.
Malacca – which is also known as Melaka – started out as a pint-sized fishing village before the 15th century. Although it’s grown since then, and has earned itself UNESCO…Time in port: 07:00 - 14:00 | Tender to shore
Malacca’s nicknamed ‘The Historic State’, and this tour reels off a bunch of the region’s most iconic sights. To kick things off, you’ll drive through the city to the aptly named Dutch Square. The colonial architecture here’s a deep shade of red, and a windmill and bright flowerbeds are a nod to the former European settlers. Next, you’ll learn about a different set of predecessors at the ornate Baba Nyonya Heritage Museum – which tells the story of Chinese-Malay ancestors. Pay a visit to the Cheng Hoon Teng temple – the oldest temple in the country – in Malacca’s old town. Things wrap up with a final dose of culture, courtesy of the Villa Sentosa – a living museum which offers a snapshot of how a Malay family lives. Once you’ve had a good nose around, you’ll head back to the port.
Age-old architecture’s the starting point for this trip, as you pay a visit to Malacca’s berry-red Dutch Square. Pose for pictures in front of the colonial ring of buildings, and bag a souvenir or two from the surrounding shops. Next, you’ll take to the water on a boat trip along the Malacca River. Hop off a little way along, and you’ll have a chance to visit one of the city’s highest points – the Menara Taming Sari. When you reach the top of this needle-like tower, you’ll have panoramic views across the rooftops. Back at ground level, you’ll make a stop at the ruins of A Famosa – an ancient fort built by the Portuguese. And we’ve saved the best for last – a chance to see the modern Malacca Straits Mosque. When the tide comes in, this orange-domed structure looks like it’s floating on the surface of the water.
This tour’s topped and tailed by a couple of major religious landmarks, with traditional stop-offs wedged in between. You’ll start with a visit to the white-and-green Al Azim Mosque in the city’s northern reaches. After you’ve snapped a photo or two of the grand exterior, you’ll make tracks for Mini Malaysia – a cultural park that celebrates the country’s 13 states. Different houses showcase the various styles and traditions of each region, so you’ll get a flavour of life outside Malacca. The nation’s oldest Chinese temple, Cheng Hoon Teng, is next on the to-see list, before you head to the remnants of an ageing Portuguese fort. To finish off, you’ll plot a course for St Paul’s Church. This hilltop relic has stood tall for centuries, and offers sweeping views of the skyline.
There’s a paradisal quality to Langkawi, which is anchored off the west coast of Malaysia, in the Andaman Sea. Things are pretty laidback in the island’s premier town,…ARRIVE IN PORT: 06:00 (DAY 8)
DEPART FROM PORT: 18:00 (DAY 9)
The main attraction on this trip is Langkawi’s mountain-scaling cable car. To start the day, though, you’ll spend time at the Rice Garden Museum. View the traditional tools that are used to tend paddies, and learn about the island’s history of rice cultivation. Next, you’ll visit the Oriental Village – an entertainment and shopping complex that’s themed like a local settlement. It shares the same postcode as the cable car’s base station, so you won’t have to walk far to start your ascent. Take a seat in one of the gondolas, and you’re ready to begin the steep climb up Machinchang Mountain. The sweeping panoramas are only bettered by the views from the top, so remember to pack your camera. You’ll be able to see the tree-blanketed hills melt into the Strait of Malacca from up here, and when you’re back at ground level, there’s a wedge of free time to grab a bite at the Oriental Village.
From soaring statues to tapping trees, this trip takes in an armful of Langkawi’s best bits. You’ll start with a visit to Dataran Lang – or Eagle Square in plainer terms. This star-shaped platform juts out into Kuah Bay, with a 40-foot statue of a flapping eagle perched on top. The whole thing’s a nod to Langkawi’s name, which is an old Malay mixture of the words helang and kawi – which mean eagle and reddish-brown. Next, you’ll head to a museum that’s packed with thousands of gifts and awards that were heaped on Malaysia’s longest-serving prime minister. Things get rural after this, as you visit a rubber plantation on the outskirts of the town. Watch as incisions are made in the bark of rubber trees, and latex is extracted in a process known as ‘tapping’. Last up, you’ll pop to Atma Alam – an art village where pretty batik fabrics are designed and printed.
You won’t set off until mid-afternoon on this trip, which will take you out to sea in time for sunset. After boarding a smart catamaran at Awana Porto Malai, you’ll plot a winding course around the islands of the Malacca Strait. Hit the onboard bar for a chilled beer or a cocktail, then pick a spot on deck where you can soak up the scenery as the light starts to fade. There’ll be a buffet spread to tuck into while you sail, with options like Malay chicken curry, barbecued fish, and rice noodles. The main attraction of the trip comes when the sky turns a burnt shade of orange, and the scenery takes on a whole new look. Snap a few pictures, then kick back with a drink as your captain steers you back to port.
Colombo is a city in transition, where classic architecture is learning to share the streets with modern, cloud-piercing arrivals. The Fort neighbourhood blends skyscrapers…Time in port: 07:00 - 21:00
On this trip, you can enjoy a tour of Colombo’s highlights, followed by a buffet lunch featuring traditional Sri Lankan dishes. Like many capital cities, Colombo is a patchwork of modern skyscrapers and age-old monuments. As your coach weaves through the Fort and Pettah neighbourhoods, you’ll see colonial buildings like the Town Hall and the Old Parliament, interspersed with colourful markets and green gardens. You can hop out at Asokaramaya Temple to take a closer look – this Buddhist shrine is teeming with brightly coloured statues. You’ll also have the chance to spend a few rupees on local crafts, before tucking into a buffet lunch. The menu includes dishes like seafood salad, Singapore noodles with chicken, and freshly caught fish
This tour gives you a glimpse of Sri Lanka’s past and present, thanks to Colombo’s varied architecture. Newly-built skyscrapers rub shoulders with colonial relics – you’ll start your day with a drive-by of the whitewashed Clock Tower, the grand Old Parliament, and the tranquil Gangaramaya Temple. The Cinnamon Gardens and Independence Square are on the list, too. But the highlight is Sri Subramaniya Kovil. Covered with statues of Hindu deities, this intricate temple’s the most impressive in the city. After your tour of Colombo’s busy streets, find out more about its history at the National Museum. Open since 1877, this treasure trove’s home to ancient art and sculptures, as well as weapons and paintings from Colonial times. Round off the morning with refreshments at the Taj Samudra Hotel.
Take in the charming sights of Sri Lanka’s capital city on this fascinating walking tour. You’ll start off in the Pettah neighbourhood, famous for its busy market and the eye-catching Jami Ul-Alfar Mosque. Also known as the Red Mosque, this statement building’s one of a kind, with striking brickwork and soaring minarets. Next, you’ll be driven to Gangaramaya Temple, where your walking tour continues past the Town Hall and Viharamahadevi Park. You’ll also see the curling Nelum Pokuna Performing Arts Theatre, designed like a birds nest. Your tour finishes in Independence Square, where you’ll have time to grab a photo before heading back to the ship.