Category: Cruising


Sometimes you have to leave home to truly appreciate it. That’s Eva Sihotang’s belief. And that’s why this Indonesia-based tour specialist is familiar with more than West Java, where she grew up.

“Being able to communicate with people from different parts of the country opens you up to experiences you wouldn’t otherwise get to enjoy,” she says.

Eva, who now resides in Bali but continues to explore the entire archipelago, thinks “living away from home has made me more enthusiastic and more culturally aware of the diversity of Indonesia, which has so many islands and so many dialects.”

Eva, an avid diver, likes to channel Jacques Cousteau and survey what’s underwater. Her favorite dive site is off the East Coast of Bali, around the USS Liberty shipwreck, the result of a Japanese torpedo strike during World War II.

“The marine life at Liberty is incredible,” Eva comments. “Especially at night. There’s something magical about it, just like traveling itself!”

As for exciting experiences on land in Indonesia, she recommends setting your compass for Gili Trawangan, the largest of Lombok’s Gili islands, about an hour by boat from Bali.

“One of the coolest things is to watch a movie at the beach cinema,” Eva adds. “The atmosphere is beyond imagination.” Do what you want there, but whatever you do, don’t miss taking a seat on the sand once the sun goes down, she says.


There was a time when honeymoons meant a week spent touring romantic Rome, or a beach in the South Pacific. Nowadays, travelers are looking farther afield.

Amanda Statham, travel editor of popular UK wedding magazine You & Your Wedding, recently revealed her ‘2012 Honeymoon Hot List.’ Among the eight trends she identified? Newlyweds’ interest in venturing East.

Who can blame them? There’s a lot to relish about celebrating your nuptials in Asia, from quiet island retreats in Thailand to luxurious ryokans (traditional inns) in Japan.

One of the most popular trips out there is Angkor for Two, which starts at three days in length and features a hot-air balloon ride over the ancient temples of Angkor Wat, a romantic champagne cruise of Tonle Sap Lake, a Buddhist monk blessing ceremony and soothing massages.

For those who’ve always been intrigued by Bali, the Island of the Gods itinerary for twosomes is a must. The adventure includes hands-on cooking classes with an expert local village chef, swimming in the crystal clear waters of secluded Pasir Putih Beach and experiencing a traditional dance performance at Uluwatu Temple.

But accommodation options could be the best part about traveling to an Asian destination as a couple. People want privacy, and in Bali and beyond, it comes in the form of stylish villas with amenities such as plunge pools and butler service.


When it comes to cruising, the best way to stimulate your appetite for the increasing-popular activity is aboard a small vessel, according to a recent Travel + Leisure article.

I couldn’t agree more. I’m all about exploration by boat. And not the deep-sea kind, either. River journeys actually. Trips that let you glimpse the daily life along rivers such as the Irrawaddy or Mekong from the quiet comfort of your cozy cabin. Or from the sundeck of a replica paddle-wheeler, as a tropical breeze blows soft against your face.

Got two weeks? Think about the Irrawaddy-to-Inle experience in Myanmar. The trip includes five nights aboard the RV Pandaw, whose staterooms are 170 square feet in size and beautifully finished in teak and brass. A featured pitstop is Ava, the capital of Burma between 1364 and 1841.

For a shorter — but no less extraordinary — adventure, consider a tour from Saigon (Ho Chi Minh City) to the Mekong Delta, a vast network of distributaries dubbed “a biological treasure trove” by World Wildlife Fund.

View of Vang Vieng, Laos

View of Vang Vieng, Laos

“I was born to Laotian parents, so I grew up hearing the language and listening to stories of the culture,” says Nouane Vorachak, a tour specialist in Laos. Six years ago she moved to Laos from France and says it was one of her best decisions ever.

Nouane now knows Laos like the back of her hand.

“I now get to introduce my beautiful country to travelers and to organize the perfect trip is my way of making dreams come true,” she reveals.

Nouane has experienced some splendid moments in this Indochina country. Her most unforgettable one was watching the sun set on the river in Vang Vieng after a long day of kayaking.

Nouane says she would next like to “cruise the majestic waters of the Malay archipelago,” Nouane says. “It’s the largest group of islands in the world and I know touring Indonesia by boat would be wonderful to see.”

Nouane is content to explore more of Laos until she is able to check that Indonesian journey off the list. She loves talking to others about what makes her home country so great.

“I always try to make the floating restaurant in Tha Ngone near Vientiane part of the itinerary,” Nouane adds. “There’s no better way to enjoy lunch than on a big raft cruising up the river.”

In addition to Vientiane, there are other stunning destinations to explore in Laos, such as Luang Prabang, widely considered the nation’s spiritual capital.

Cruising on Halong Bay, Vietnam

Ask Tran Minh Trung what his most amazing travel experience has been so far and there is no hesitation.

“Kayaking in Bai Thu Long Bay, which is just north of the more popular Halong Bay,” says the Vietnamese tour specialist. “Residents of the area’s floating villages welcome visits from kayakers, and we were invited into the home of a fishing family. The bay itself was so breathtakingly beautiful, I never wanted to leave.”

Like all Vietnamese, Trung goes by his last name, which is actually his first. (Confusing? Rather. But you get used to it.)

Trung’s passion for paddling is new, but his affection for travel can be traced to his university days, when the Ho Chi Minh City native developed an interest in assisting visitors to Vietnam’s commercial capital.

He has since traveled around the world to discover “how tourism can connect people and make life more beautiful,” he says.

Despite all that he has seen so far, Trung still has a lot on his bucket list, including the pinnacle of Vietnam’s trekking destinations.

“I would definitely love to climb Mount Fansipan, in Vietnam’s north,” Trung says. “At more than 10,000 feet above sea level, it’s Indochina’s highest peak. I think going all the way to the top would be incredible.”

Until then, Trung aims to provide travellers with highs that come with experiencing Vietnam on a level most tourists never see it from. It’s his home, and he knows it well, especially Saigon.

“Even to those who have grown up in Ho Chi Minh, like myself, it’s an endlessly fun and fascinating city,” Trung says. “And of course the food is phenomenal. I especially like BBQ Garden Restaurant. It’s a great place to mingle with the local Saigonese people.”