Summary : Cross ancient empires through primeval forests on a journey through the world’s most mysterious continent. Eleven spectacular new destinations mean that you can bask in the shadows of the pre-Akorian ruins, barter at Phsar Leu Market and cruise the Tian River by zodiac. Expert lecturers will teach you of the plight of the famous orangutans of Sumatra during an overnight on the island.
Activities : Birding, Culture, Hiking, Snorkeling, Triple/Quad Cabins
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Embark the ship and meet your Expedition Team. Enjoy time to familiarize yourself with your new home away from home, and meet fellow travelers.
Phang Nga Bay covers an area of 400 square kilometers and is home to some 100 islands. One in particular was featured in the 1974 James Bond movie, “Man with the Golden Gun,” and has been an attraction ever since.
This morning a local guide will meet you to head to Ko Panyi Village by zodiac, which was built on stilts about 200 years ago at the feet of a giant limestone cliff. Only a very small part of the village rests on solid ground, the rest slowly continues to grow outwards supported on a handmade framework out over the water. Upon arrival be welcomed by resident musicians. Following the concert have the chance to walk through the village to a local school to meet the school children and see a Thai dance show before leaving from the village to explore the mangrove forest and a transfer back to Silver Discoverer.
This afternoon, discover a unique and hidden world by canoe. Together with the Expedition team and local guides explore Hong Island in local canoes. Weave your way through a network of brilliant crystalline limestone caves. These “hongs” are actually collapsed cave systems in the interior of each island. They can only be accessed using the tough, purpose-designed inflatable canoes that permit access through sea-caves at low tide. Open to the sky and filled with jungle flora and fauna, the hongs conceal a unique ecosystem.
Today venture into areas seldom visited by cruise or expedition ship travelers. The Ko Tarutao Marine Park was established in 1974, and the roughly 50 under-developed and jungle-covered islands are well off the beaten track. Make your way by Zodiac to the island of Ko Ra Wi, where local guides will be waiting to introduce the island. Your goal this morning is a viewpoint called, “Pha Chado,” which was an observation point for pirates in the past. Nowadays, this stunning overlook requires about 40 minutes of walking to reach the top. Well worth the effort, the view from the Chado cliff overlooks lines of trees and the white sandy capes of nearby islands. Gratified by the view, return to the beach where a selection of seasonal fruits awaits you. If time allows following the hike, the marine park offers excellent snorkeling and swimming.
By lunchtime, bid farewell to Thailand and board Silver Discoverer as she crosses the Malacca Strait headed south for Indonesia. Enjoy a relaxing afternoon and take in a lecture presentation to prepare you for our time in Sumatra.
Sumatra is the fourth largest island in the world and offers magnificent natural landscapes. Belawan is the gate to Gunung Leuser National Park located in the interior of Sumatra and running along the Barisan mountain-ridge.
The park covers roughly 9000 square kilometers and is one of Indonesia’s oldest and possibly least visited parks. It is also part of the prized UNESCO World Heritage site known as the, “Tropical Rainforest Heritage of Sumatra.” The mountainous reserve is home to more than 660 species of mammals, reptiles, amphibians, and birds. Over 4,000 plant species, including the fascinating corpse flower (Rafflesia arnoldii) and titan arum (Amorphophallus titanum), can be found here.
At the Bukit Lawang Visitor Center be briefed by a ranger about your visit and planned hike in the park, hoping for a chance to see orangutans in the wild. In addition to the Sumatran orangutan, there are eight other primate species to watch for in the verdant forests.
Silver Discoverer will anchor early this morning off the ancient port city of Malacca with its intriguing blend of culture, languages, festivals, lifestyles and food.
Today, plan to explore the historic city with its streets and buildings that illustrate a prosperous trading heritage. The excursion begins with visits to Dutch fortifications and buildings dating back to the 1600s. Continue on to the ruins of St Paul’s Church, originally built by the Portuguese. Visit the Sultanate Palace, a replica of the original 15th Century wooden palace, which is now the Cultural Museum. For a panoramic view of the city, ride up to the top of the modern Menara Taming Sari viewing tower where you can overlook the city from a height of 110 meters. Carry on to Malacca’s Chinatown where you can see 19th Century Baroque-style homes of wealthy Chinese families. Temples, antique and curio shops line the streets.
After being immersed in the rhythms and colors of the ancient city of Malacca, return to Silver Discoverer for a relaxing afternoon at sea as you make your way for the Tioman group of Islands.
Both islands you will visit today fall within the Babi Besar, or Tioman, group of islands. Pulau Sibu, your destination for the morning, was once a haunt of pirates, but is better known today for it beaches and beauty and is favored as a getaway for Singapore’s expats.
Meanwhile, Rawa Island is home to one of the first resorts built in the area, owned by a nephew of the Sultan of Johore. This island in particular is not hard to identify, as its name is carved into the rocky elevations. To the north of Rawa are a number of small islets and exposed rocks that offer snorkeling around their bases.
Using the Zodiacs for remote landings and snorkel excursions, explore the islands throughout the day, taking advantage of all they have to offer in terms of beaches, snorkeling, nature walks, birdwatching and more.
Over the course of two days, the Silver Discoverer will ply the waters of the Gulf of Thailand northward to cross from the Malaysian Peninsula, to the shores of Cambodia. While at sea, take some time to enjoy the exemplary service onboard. Perhaps this is your opportunity to enjoy a late breakfast in the privacy of your suite. Later, you may choose to join the expedition team on deck, attend a lecture, connect with new friends for a long leisurely lunch, or savor a sunset cocktail around the pool as the sun slips below the horizon.
The early morning will find Silver Discoverer alongside in bustling Sihanoukville. From here, after clearing into Cambodia, visit the Preah Sihanouk National Park. The park was established in 1993, inaugurated in March 1995, and encompasses 21,000 hectares of coastal area including sandy beaches, mangrove forests, the Prek Teuk Sap estuary, off-shore coral reefs and two islands (Koh Thmei and Koh She). Though rarely seen, the park provides refuge for such species as macaques, sun bear, mouse deer, pangolin, and over a hundred species of birds. After arriving at the park by motor coach enjoy a relaxing boat ride through the jungle and mangroves out into the ocean.
Silver Discoverer will relocate during lunch to Koah Rong Sanloem, owned by the Cambodian Navy.
Koah Rong Samloem is a world away from Sihanoukville, with just a few paths crossing from one side of the island to the other. These access points offer us a chance to see some of the resident wildlife on the island, including macaws, toucans, fishing eagles and a variety of reptiles. Starting from the heart shaped Saracen Bay, there is a path to the old lighthouse at the southwestern corner of the island and also paths through to Lazy Beach, Robinson Bungalows and Huba-Huba Bungalows on the sunset side of the island.
At sunset this evening experience a real highlight of the voyage, a chance to see Apsara dancing, and a practice that dates back to the 8th century. The dancers train for many years to achieve their graceful postures with arched fingers and feet. In addition, the ancient art of shadow puppetry will be demonstrated, telling folktales with comic characters. Enjoy both performances, relaxing on the beach, whilst being served drinks and canapes. As the evening winds down, return to Silver Discoverer by Zodiac for a stunning dinner aboard.
This morning investigate more of Cambodia from the hub of Krong Kampot, a provincial capital composed of 19th century French colonial architecture and known for producing high quality pepper.
One outing this morning will focus on nearby Kep National Park, protecting low land tropical forest. This is the perfect place to stretch your legs with an 8 km circuit winding through thick forest, passing temples and spectacular viewpoints. Upon completing the natural history walk within the park, drive to the seaside resort of Kep. In 1908, Kep was a favorite with the French elite. Today, it is famous for its splendid seafood, and especially crab. Now that you have worked up an appetite, it is time to stop by one of the local crab shacks where the crab meat is sweet and comes straight from the sea. Sit back, relax, and enjoy your crab with a refreshing cold drink.
Kampot pepper is regarded as the best pepper that one can buy. During French colonial times most restaurants used Kampot pepper due to its unique sweet flavor. However, in the early 1970s, the Khmer Rouge destroyed all the pepper plantations and it was only years later that seedlings were found again in Kampot. To learn more of this story, travel by coach to a pepper plantation to see the beautifully arranged pepper plants stretching far into the distance. You will learn how pepper is grown and prepared for export, and have an opportunity to take some of this highly prized spice home with you.
It is also possible to travel on to Kep after your visit to the pepper plantation to sample the famous fresh crab of the region at one of the local crab shacks where the crab meat is undeniably delicious. Perhaps try it with Khmer sauce – salt, pepper and lime.
Return to Silver Discoverer as you chart a course for Vietnam with an afternoon at sea. Lectures from the Expedition Team will prepare you for the coming days in Vietnam.
Sleep in today and perhaps attend a lecture presentation as you enjoy a morning at sea. Around lunchtime, Silver Discoverer will anchor outside of Con Dao, an area that had a reputation as a labor camp. Today, it is a place for the Vietnamese to remember and express their gratitude to fallen soldiers.
Once ashore, use the afternoon to visit the Con Dao historical museum, where black and white photographs present a chilling reminder of the past. Next, visit the historical pier no. 914 where it is said 914 prisoners died while constructing the pier. Continue to Phu Hai and Phu Son prison, dating back to 1862 and the largest of the 11 jails on the island. Meet a local war veteran who will give you a personal insight into those trying times. Your final stop before returning to Silver Discoverer for the evening is Mrs. Phi Yen temple.
Return to the ship by Zodiac as the sun sets on this historical reminder of a difficult time in the past.
Today enter the Mekong River Delta of southwest Vietnam. This nearly 40,000 km2 area drains lands from China southward all the way to the South China Sea. After a morning spent watching the commerce on the delta and working your way up the Tien River (The Upper Mekong River), Silver Discoverer approaches Cai Be, a small town of Tien Giang Province. There are several options lined up for your day in this region.
Upon arrival you may choose to board a local boat and glide through the waterways of the Mekong Delta passing the floating market that sells everything from seasonal fruits to rice noodles for breakfast. Disembark at a local village where you will be able to visit one of the ancient houses. Enjoy refreshments while spending time with the owner of the property. The final stop will be at a local primary school where you can teach the children some English words while you brush up on your Vietnamese before returning to the ship at anchor.
Perhaps you will be keen for an offering that gets you moving, in which case transfer by bus from the landing jetty to the small village that is home of the coveted, “Hoa Loc mango.” Ride bicycles to explore beautifully intimate roads that reveal traditional houses and the rhythms of daily life. Next, enjoy a boat cruise to An Binh Island to take a small rowboat deeper into the peaceful countryside on small canals. A short walk will bring you to a local house for a taste of some local snacks with hot tea.
In several Mekong Delta provinces the local people preserve a traditional way of fishing in which they manually drain ditches to catch fish. Today you will have the option to work alongside local farmers who will teach you the art of “Bailing ditches – Catching Fish.” After boarding local boats, cruise to a nearby canal where the floating market of Cai Be takes place. Here you will visit a local house and be given a “bà ba” – a southern Vietnamese traditional dress – to wear. It is here, under the guidance of the locals that you will learn to bail ponds and catch fish. After your hard work, enjoy a well-deserved cup of tea and snacks, while listening to folk music. In this peaceful land, friends and neighbors often gather together to share moments like this.
However you spend your afternoon, return to Silver Discoverer to exchange stories of the day with your fellow travelers over a delicious dinner in The Restaurant, as we get underway for Ho Chi Minh City.
Ho Chi Minh City (or Saigon as it is locally known) lies on the Saigon River, a tributary of the massive Mekong River delta. Take in the river system from start to finish out on deck as the ship steams towards her berth in the city. Mangrove forests along the shore contain nipa palms, red mangroves, and swiftlet condominiums for the cultivation of lucrative birds’ nest soup. The morning’s passage upriver will bring both small local fishing boats and large cargo vessels.
Several options have been arranged for you in Ho Chi Minh City and once alongside, you will have the choice to set out on a tour exploring the highlights of one of the most vibrant cities in Southeast Asia from the back of a motor scooter to travel just like the locals do daily. This afternoon scooter ride will visit attractions such as flower market, Ho Thi Ky, and the atmospheric Ong Bon Pagoda in Chinatown. Your driver will then zip you back to the city center to visit the Notre Dame Cathedral, passing by the Chinese medicine street on the way. Next to the cathedral is the Grand Central Post Office, designed by Gustav Eiffel it has been beautifully preserved and offers visitors a chance to imagine life in the time of the Indochinese Empire. Change to motor coaches for your final stop at Ben Thanh market, where you will enjoy a glass of Vietnamese coffee. The rest of the afternoon is yours for independent exploration of this fabulous city.
Alternatively, see the city highlights in a more traditional way – by coach – to visit the History Museum and the Reunification Palace built on the site of the former Norodom Palace. Continue to Notre Dame Cathedral and the classic 19th century French colonial Post Office. Explore Cholon, “Chinatown,” and a prosperous area that has been engaged in trading activities since the 17th century. Known for its Chinese delis, ancient quarters, old temples and pagodas, the area reflects original architecture and age-old rituals.
In one final afternoon offering for Saigon, learn the fundamentals of delicious Vietnamese cuisine at the GRAIN cooking school. Founded by local celebrity chef Luke Nguyen, GRAIN offers visitors a unique culinary experience. Transfer from the port to the lively Ben Thanh Market where your guide will help you pick out the exotic vegetables, spices and herbs that will be used in today’s cooking lesson. After exploring the market, drive to the GRAIN cooking studio for your hands-on four-course cooking classes. Once you’ve finished your menu, savor each dish as you sit down to feast on the fruits of your labor.
However you opt to spend your afternoon in the city, this evening turn your attention to the cultural highlights. Attend a show in the elegant Saigon Opera House, a prominent building in Ho Chi Minh City. It is a perfect venue to watch the locally famous ‘A O’ show, a unique blend of bamboo cirque, acrobatics and theatrical visual. After enjoying a welcome drink in the foyer of this impressive building, settle down and enjoy the show. After the performance, chat with the director and cast. From here, continue to one of the best restaurants in Ho Chi Minh City, Cuc Gach, where a six course dinner of Vietnamese delicacies awaits.
Following breakfast, disembark Silver Discoverer.
This itinerary is subject to change. ExpeditionTrips is not responsible for itinerary changes.
Suite accommodations; onboard meals and entertainment; snorkeling gear; butler service; gratuities aboard ship (except spa); complimentary beverages aboard ship (including select wines, champagnes, spirits, soda, water and coffee); 1 hour of internet access per guest/per day for passengers booked in Explorer and View Suites; unlimited internet access for passengers booked in Vista, Veranda, and Medallion Suites. Subject to change without notice.
Airfare; transfers and luggage handling; optional shore excursions; government fees and taxes; passport and visa expenses; some champagne, premium wine and spirit selections, caviar, cigarettes and cigars; laundry or valet services; items of a personal nature such as boutique purchases, medical care, and spa services; fuel surcharge may apply.
Photo Credit: © Creative Services at Silversea Cruises, © Bruno Cazarini (orangutan mom and baby)