Adventure, Relax, Repeat: Your Mantra for this Far East Cruise
With its ancient monuments, gilded shrines, tropical beaches, overgrown jungles and bustling cities, the Far East tops many a traveler's must-see list. But even for seasoned globe-trotters, the language barriers, perceived remoteness and sheer vastness of this part of the world can seem daunting.
Enter Silversea, a luxury cruise line that excels on both the ease and adventure fronts in the Far East, and covers a lot of ground (and, well, water) in the process. In fact, you'll have access to more than 150 ports across China, Hong Kong, Japan, Cambodia, Indonesia, the Philippines, Singapore, Thailand, Vietnam, Myanmar and Macau, thanks to Silversea's small (think 100- to 600-passenger) ships, sized to cruise and dock where others can't.
After trekking through rain forests, touring temples or zipping through megalopolises on floating trains, you'll return to a ship that doubles as a pampering retreat. Your butler, whose service is automatically included in your trip, will do everything from drawing your bath, to pulling your choices from the pillow menu, to bringing your late-night snack order to your Oceanview Suite (yes, you automatically get one of those, too). Then there's the Elemis spa, where hot stones, acupuncture needles and body-polishing crystals -- among other instant relaxants -- await. Factor in the line's beloved onboard destination experts, near 1:1 staff-to-guest ratio and gourmet chefs, and booking becomes all the more beguiling.
To seal the deal, picture yourself having any one of these eight experiences.
1. Hang with orangutans on shore in Borneo
Pull into the busy port of Kumai in southern Borneo, Indonesia, with a Silversea Expeditions cruise, and you'll find it hard to imagine that just 10 miles off lies a sanctuary for hauntingly humanoid, stirringly graceful and critically endangered orangutans.
Within Tanjung Puting National Park, a densely forested 1,174-square-mile swampland preserve, you’ll find the Camp Leakey research center, named for legendary paleo-anthropologist Louis Leakey. The short list of what you may see here? Red-tufted infants clinging to their branch-swinging mamas; hierarchically ordered groups feasting at banana buffets; and hulking, solitary males bellowing warnings at any potential rivals.
2. Canoe an underground river in the Philippines
Home to "one of the world's most impressive cave systems," according to the UNESCO World Heritage Centre, the Puerto-Princesa Subterranean River National Park is a haven for nature-lovers. As you paddle along the park's almost 3-mile river, past rippling rock formations and awe-inspiring chambers, prepare to trot out the occasional "Kamusta?" (Tagalog for "How's it hangin'?") should you come across any of the local bats.
If you're not a fan of flying mammals, or you are a fan of 20th-century history, opt instead for a landmarks tour of Puerto Princesa City, where you'll find -- among relics of competing colonial interests -- a Spanish-style cathedral and an American-established penal farm.
3. Tour a sake brewery in Japan
From Osaka, Silversea will escort you on a drive past botanical gardens, sheep pastures and -- fun trivia -- Japan's first golf course. Eventually, you'll reach the hive-like observatory atop Mt. Rokko, the region's highest peak, where you'll get panoramic views of Osaka Bay, the sprawling city and miles of lush mountain forest in between.
Then, find out how pure Rokko mountain water tastes once it's incorporated into the beloved local sake: At the Hakutsuru Sake Brewery and Museum, where life-sized dioramas illustrate the brewing process, you'll sample the 21st-century take on this ancient national beverage.
4. Wind through Chinese alleyways in a sidecar
For a city tour that feels more like a retro treasure hunt, hop on a 1930s motorbike for an expertly guided (and chauffeured) twirl through Shanghai's storied backstreets. You'll see everything from Cultural Revolution-era frescoes to the wedding market hidden near the People's Square.
If sidecar cruising isn't up your alley (pun intended), perhaps a 260-mph ride is, well, more your speed? If so, try the Maglev Train & New Shanghai excursion, and allow the world's fastest train to float you to the Shanghai airport on an electromagnetic cushion -- because wheels are so last century. Then tour the buildings that form the iconically eclectic skyline of the Pudong district -- much of which was farmland only a decade ago.
5. See temples and wrestling in South Korea
On a lushly forested mountain ridge outside the bustling port city of Busan lies Beomeosa temple, a Buddhist sanctuary that will take you back to the seventh century, when an eminent monk built at least some of what you'll see here (the rest is largely the result of 17th-century restoration work). Spend a morning wandering the compound's exquisite three-story pagoda, seven royal palace wings and golden Buddha-studded main hall, and you'll soon see why Beomeosa is one of the country's most renowned temples.
Then jet into the next millennium via a visit to the Nurimaru APEC House, a government hall built to resemble a space-age version of traditional Korean pavilions -- and set on the ruggedly handsome Dongbaekseom Island.
Having experienced the ancient and the modern, move on to the timeless: a stroll on the white sands of Haeundae Beach, one of the country's most famous stretches of shoreline. Venture into the Folk Square, where you may be lucky to spy a traditional round of sandpit wrestling, arrow throwing or neoldduigi (whereby athletes fling each other through the air from a seesaw).
6. Visit batik villages and rice gardens in Malaysia
Cruise into Langkawi, a dazzling 99-island archipelago on Malaysia's west coast, where a cable car will whisk you 2,300 feet up Mount Mat Cincang for breathtaking views of the Andaman Sea.
Next up? Atma Alam, a dedicated batik artists' village where locals use hot wax and vibrant dyes to beautify those trademark flowy fabrics.
Then, delve into another Malaysian tradition: rice cultivation. At the Laman Padi museum and rice garden, an interactive shrine dedicated to this hallowed staple, you'll be invited to do your own planting in knee-deep, water-logged rice paddies. Almost as fun? Tasting and sniffing your way through the on-site herb gardens.
7. Take a cooking class at a Thai resort, then unwind on the sand
On the dreamy shores of Koh Samui, where translucent aquamarine waters meet blinding white sands, you may be motivated to ... do little but soak in your idyllic surroundings. And Silversea can make that happen: Thanks to the line's partnership with a lovely local beach hotel, you can laze pool- or sea-side all day long.
If you're feeling a bit more ambitious (or just hungry), you can also opt to take a lesson with a resident chef, who will not only cook you an authentic Thai dish, but also give you the know-how to re-create the distinctive flavors in your home kitchen.
8. Add a tour of Mongolia by private plane, helicopter and horseback
If you're seeking a story that will one-up everyone at every dinner party you attend for the rest of your life, consider coupling your cruise with a land voyage from Silversea's new Couture Collection. (Oh yes, as in haute.)
Far East options include an eight-night escapade through Mongolia, where a private helicopter will fly you to hard-to-reach corners of the countryside -- for example, the Tsaatan lands, where the human population consists principally of reindeer herders. Or the Altai mountains, home to the famed Kazakh eagle hunters. (Perhaps you caught the recent, award-winning documentary "Eagle Huntress"? This is the star's backyard.) Or the mountain-ringed, utterly pristine Lake Khuvsgul -- the dreamiest dinner backdrop imaginable. This being a Silversea trip, of course, you'll be staying in luxurious camps and hotels throughout.
The price of these ultra-curated tours ranges from $14,000 (for a Tibetan trip that includes monk debates and ancient glacier sightings, just for starters) to $78,000 (for a private jet to Antarctica, where legions of penguins, seals and icebergs await, as does a lavish private camp). The resulting stories? Priceless.
Bottom Line: If you're looking for a boundary-pushing adventure across the Far East -- paired with uncompromising luxury -- Silversea is the cruise line to call.