On the 2015 Grand World Voyage, Amsterdam is taking a northerly route up to the Far East following an Australia exploration. Full of mysteries, wonders, ancient traditions and grand beauty, the ports in this part of the world offer an exceptional amount of magical experiences for our guests. From visiting UNESCO World Heritage Sites to seeing some of the most impressive architecture, Asia certainly is a feast for the eyes.
As previously showcased on the Holland America Blog, two of our regular guest contributors are on the Grand World Voyage traveling around the globe and sending in updates: Jeff Farschman, President’s Club member and “World Adventure” blogger, and Mariners Gary and Jeanne Frink. Cruise Critic members John and Diane are along for the cruise, and the ship’s Captain Mercer also is taking us on the journey through his own blog.
Here is a look into their Asian adventures. Perhaps they will entice you to book the 2016 Grand World Voyage or a Far East itinerary on one of our ships!
The first call following Australia was Benoa, Bali, in Indonesia, and it was an overnight visit. Known as a lush, beautiful island, and many call it paradise on Earth. Jeff, who has been to Bali before, said:
“It simply was the best single day I have spent in Bali…”
Through his photos, you can see why is was so spectacular. Jeff toured the island and visited Gitgit Falls, the Monkey Forest, Jitiluwih (where the largest rice terraces in Bali are located), and several temples including Pura Ulun Danu on Beratan Lake, Pura Taman Ayun temple complex, Pura Batuan and Pura Dalem Agung.
Captain Mercer also enjoyed time ashore, spending a quiet beach day in Sanur, a town a few miles south of Benoa.
It has lovely beaches, shopping and hotels. It was the Puri Santrian hotel that we stayed at for the day. — Captain Mercer
From Semarang, the most popular activity for guests is to make the trek to UNESCO World Heritage Site Borobudur. The world’s largest Buddhist temple, Borobudur consists of six square platforms topped by three circular platforms and is decorated with 2,672 relief panels and 504 Buddha statues. Built in the 9th century, it remains a mystery to this day as to how it was created without modern technology. Jeff explored Borobudur and captured it beautifully in his photos.
Guests John and Diane also are onboard, and posted this about Borobudur on Cruise Critic:
Since we’re fans of UNESCO World Heritage, this was our chance to add another to our list that we’ve wanted to see for some time. … The view from the top kept us up there for quite some time, as it is surrounded by several volcanoes and lush green agricultural fields. Our other activity at the top, in addition to gawking at the beautiful natural surroundings, was walking around the Great Stupa three times, silently, and then at the end making a wish. Of course I can’t tell you what I wished, or it wouldn’t come true.
Singapore is such a robust city that an overnight call is a must. From the famous Raffles hotel to the impressive and unique night safari, there’s so much to see and do. Everyone got out and about on different adventures, from visiting the famed gardens to China Town. Enjoy two days in Singapore with our guest bloggers!
We decided to take the MRT to the Singapore Flyer, the world’s tallest Ferris Wheel, and take it for an early morning spin. The views were fabulous! Next we went off and did some shopping before heading off to our next stop, the Gardens by the Bay, next to the Marina Bay Sands. We walked through the Gardens by the Bay and decided to go to the Cloud Forest first, leaving the Flower Dome for later in the day. — Jeff
Captain Mercer captured the famed laser light show that happens twice a night.
Here is the famous Singapore ‘Merlion’ and the surrounding area of the Bay is a mass of colour. — Captain Mercer
SINGAPORE DAY 2:
Jeff and his group visited China Town on the second day of Singapore.
The Frinks toured around Singapore on a hop-on, hop-off bus, also visiting China Town.
The iconic Raffles Hotel (Sir Stamford Raffles founded Singapore) was the only the only landmark I recognized from my solo foray into a much simpler Singapore in the 1990s; now the city is a booming, growing Asian financial center, squeezing out funky old neighborhoods. Jeanne and I disembarked from the top of the double-decker HOHO in Chinatown; there, drinks awaited in Chinatown Food Street.
Cruise Critic posters John and Diane visited Sentosa Island:
This morning we decided to do something different: travel to Sentosa Island, just across the bay from our ship. The entire island is a huge amusement park, but like the rest of Singapore, there isn’t a bit of trash – not a gum wrapper (gum is illegal in Singapore), not a bit of anything – I’m amazed that the trees have the nerve to drop leaves on the ground! Sentosa Island contains all kinds of attractions: the only Universal Studios in Asia, a large casino, three pristine beaches, a couple of hotels, all kinds of eateries, from McDonalds to Guy Savoy and Joel Robuchon (each with two Michelin stars), a massive aquarium, a maritime museum, and tropical landscaping that is out of this world. We loved our visit.
PORT KLANG (KUALA LUMPUR), MALAYSIA:
Kuala Lumpur is Malaysia’s capital and the main attraction from the port of Port Klang. Despite it’s locale about 1/5 hours from the port, most guests make their way in to explore its many attractions. It’s a city of juxtaposition, with mosques and temples living harmoniously alongside the steel-clad skyscrapers. The most famous of these are the Petronas Towers, the tallest twin towers in the world at 1,483 feet and 88 stories.
The Batu Caves were an amazing place, aside from the 272 steps that you have to climb to get into the caves. There are giant statues of Hindu deities. Just amazing! We spent a lot of time there checking out all the temples, the ceremonies and yes, even the monkeys. It was simply magnificent! This was the highlight of the day for me. — Jeff
Jeff also went to the Royal Palace, and it is a most impressive structure.
Following calls at Penang, Malaysia, and Phuket, Thailand, the ship called at Rangoon, Myanmar, for two nights. Jeff, John and Diane, went overland to explore Myanmar and India. Here is a glimpse into their time in Myanmar.
It was time for the highlight of the day, the Shwedagon Pagoda, the #1 attraction in Yangon and a 2,600-year-old series of structures that just take your breath away. The enormous stupa in the middle is covered with gold leaf and is crowned by a 76-carat diamond at the top. It’s surrounded by dozens and dozens of intricately decorated buildings, smaller pagodas, and statues. The shrine covers over 35 acres, and it was crowded with people from all over the world as well as many people from Myanmar. There were also dozens of Buddhist monks and nuns, some as young as 5, since every good Buddhist is supposed to serve at least a short period in this service. Moe, our guide, spent 2-1/2 months as a monk in his early 20’s, and his 7-year-old son has already done a three-day stint – which he loved. The Pagoda area itself was just amazing – it was almost like a Buddhist Disneyland, with all kinds of buildings, lots of gold, people-worshipping and/or sightseeing, and it just blew me away. I think it’s on my top 10 list of places I’ve ever visited. — John and Dianne
Captain Mercer also had time ashore to enjoy the sites.
First, off to the Sule Pagoda and then a walk around the Bogyoke Market and surrounding streets, then, after lunch, to Karaweik, a beautiful lake area with tended plants and shrubs and then finally, to the Shwedagon Pagoda, the grandest of them all. — Captain Mercer
After Yangon, Jeff and his group traveled to Bagan where they planned a hot air balloon ride over the temples on day two of their visit. However, day one came with some surprises.
Bagan has 1000’s of temples and I did my darndest to photograph them all. Our first formal visit was to Shwezigan Temple, considered the prototype for all later Myanmar temples. We climbed to the top and my trip was complete right then. The panoramic view of temples across the landscape was unbelievable. If we never got to take our balloon flight on the second day, I still would have been fulfilled on my visit to Bagan. — Jeff
The next day, they set off on their hot air balloon ride. The breathtaking photos speak for themselves.
The ship heads to India and then through the Suez Canal before traveling around the Mediterranean. Before too long, the Grand World Voyage will come to an end. But until then, stay tuned to the blog for an update on the adventures of our world cruisers.