Looking forward to Southeast Asia: our top excursion picks
Looking forward to our winter season when the Aegean Odyssey returns to South East Asia, Zoe Bromley-Fox – Land Programmes Manager, recalls her top tours ashore.
1. Evening visit to Shwedagon Pagoda (included)
When remembering our first Asia season, I must start with a personal highlight – the evening excursion in Yangon, Burma (Myanmar).
Visiting the Shwedagon pagoda as the sun went down was a fairy-tale experience that our passengers would never forget. Without the heat of the midday sun when most groups visit the pagoda, everyone could really appreciate the unique ambience of this sacred Buddhist site. Not to mention being able to stand on the ground quite comfortably with no shoes on! When on this excursion, admire the glimmering gold as the lights are turned on and ask your guide to show you the unique spot where you can watch the diamond change colour as you view it from different angles…
Cruises featuring this excursion in Burma in 2015 ›
2. Indonesia – Toraja Land and Borobudur excursions (included)
Indonesia is certainly a land full of mystery and intriguing ancient customs. One of the excursions that Voyages to Antiquity includes in the Southern Sulawesi area gives passengers a somewhat other-wordly experience. I will never forget one of the Indonesian bar waitresses staring at me fearfully wide-eyed as we headed off with the passengers to visit Toraja Land where the people practice a form of animism known as Aluk To Dolo.
The belief that animals, plants and inanimate objects possess a spiritual element is so fundamental to this region that many indigenous languages don’t even have a word for it. Operated from the slightly closer port of Palopo this season, but still with a scenic drive through the mountainous countryside, it also provides a fascinating insight into daily life as you pass through numerous rural villages.
From a more archaeological perspective, the UNESCO tongue-twister site of Borobudur on the island of Java is equally as captivating and compared in brilliance to the Parthenon by Arnold Toynbee. We visit the complex from the port of Semarang, and I also remember that the police escort service that cleared the Javanese roads to ensure the coaches arrived in good time was probably as impressive as the temple complex itself!
Cruises visiting Indonesia in 2015 ›
3. Vietnam: City Tour of Ho Chi Minh City (included)
Anyone who travels to South East Asia has Vietnam and Cambodia high on the list – and Voyages to Antiquity gives you a chance to visit two of Asia’s greatest cities – Ho Chi Minh City in Vietnam and Cambodia’s capital of Phnom Penh.
The excursion in Ho Chi Minh City was probably one of the most moving experiences for some passengers who were on board for our Vietnam cruise. The tour visited various city highlights, but the focus was the War Remnants Museum. Some argue that it is a one-sided propaganda attraction with the sentiment still being overwhelmingly anti-American. The visit was extremely thought-provoking and prompted heart-felt debates over dinner for days after. This tour will feature again this year as part of our ‘choice of’ excursions programme operated in Ho Chi Minh.
Don’t forget that Aegean Odyssey’s size means that she can sail right up the Saigon River, a truly memorable experience before we even go out on excursion! Anyone on board for this sailing should make sure they spend the morning out on deck. In some parts it is astonishing how close the jungle-like banks are from the side of the ship and as you get closer to the city itself you already start to sense the hustle and bustle of Ho Chi Minh City from the water. But nothing will prepare you for the number of motor scooters in this city…
Cruises visiting Vietnam in 2015 ›
4. Cambodia and Phnom Penh (included)
Calling into the Cambodian port city of Sihanoukville, some passengers opted to head off on a full day excursion to explore the capital Phnom Penh, still boasting evidence of the French Colonial times. We visited the city’s main attractions – the National Museum and the Royal Palace with an inside visit to the Silver Pagoda. The National Museum was the highlight for many passengers with one of the world’s largest collections of Khmer art, including sculptural, ceramics, bronzes, and ethnographic objects.
The exterior of the museum was as much of a draw as the artefacts inside – inspired by ‘traditional Khmer’ architecture, it is also described as a building enlarged from Cambodian temple prototypes seen on ancient bas-reliefs and reinterpreted through the eyes of George Groslier (1887-1945). A historian, curator and author, he was responsible for the revival of interest in traditional Cambodian arts and crafts and designed this quintessential building.
Cruises visiting Cambodia in 2015 ›
5. The sights and sounds of India (5-day tour included)
When thinking about the key attractions of our upcoming Asia season, our classic introduction to India’s Golden Triangle cannot go unmentioned. In 2015 the tour will feature an extra day, making it a 5 day adventure to the sights of Delhi, Agra and Jaipur either before or after your cruise. You’ll have the chance to explore both Old and New Delhi, the highlight undoubtedly being the UNESCO World Heritage Site of Qutub Minar – a masterpiece of Islamic architecture at over 236 feet tall. The theme of fascinating, architectural wonders continues throughout the tour as you visit the 17th Century Amber Fort in Jaipur, then Fatehpur Sikri – an architectural blend of Hindu, Persian and Indo-Muslim heritage, and of course the epitome of wonder and extravagant declaration of love – the Taj Mahal.
Cruises visiting India in 2015 ›
I’ll be off shortly on my final inspection trip to make sure everything runs smoothly in the New Year when we visit the region again – and I must say I can’t wait to see these wonders again!