Looking to get away from a cold European winter or overcrowded Med this Christmas? Then it’s time to explore a trip to the sun-kissed islands of South East Asia. Celebrations vary among each region, and each is represented with a collection of practices by different religions during the festive season. Worried you won’t feel Christmassy enough? Fear not, as there is plenty of Western influence to make Christmas-time more fun and exciting in the east.
Here is a sample of places to celebrate the Christmas holidays while cruising South East Asia:
Singapore has a lot to offer during the Christmas season, from grand decorations and Christmas-themed presentations at Gardens by the Bay to the fancy decorations along Orchard Road. To experience a festive kind of Christmas with the bonus of snow falling from the skies, visit Universal Studios Singapore, or for shopaholics, it’s a capital of amazing world class shopping with many interesting local attractions. Five of the world’s best bars are located in Singapore, solidifying its reputation of having a wonderful nightlife!
Langkawi has some of Malaysia’s best beaches. Pantai Cenang is one of the island’s liveliest beaches with plenty of restaurants, bars and live music venues alongside a host of watersports activities. If you want to spend Christmas day in a more peaceful and quiet location, then look to Pantai Tengah with its beautiful white sandy beach. Telaga Harbour Park is a stunning bay is another great option with crystal clear turquoise sea surrounded by heavily forested mountains and limestone caves, while the secluded Tanjung Rhu is a beautiful spot with white sand and a backdrop of dense jungle.
A fantastic place to relax and have fun among ninety romantic resort islands sprinkled across the Maldives, several with superyacht anchorages, the Maldives, located in the Indian Ocean, is noted for its extensive reefs, white powdery beaches, tall palms, crystalline white sands and crystal clear waters.
The essence of the yuletide seasons has crept into the Balinese culture over time, so it’s easy to enjoy a Bali Christmas. Locals adorn traditional clothing and erect a Penjor outside of their homes and buildings, while visitors can view colorful culture such as the traditional kecak dance while visiting ancient Hindu temples, volcanic terrain, rainforest jungles and black beaches. Be sure to cruise on to the Raja Ampat archipelago - a sparsely inhabited group of islands that are a diving and snorkelling paradise alive with bird watching, sea caves and small villages. "APS Indonesia is looking at a busy Christmas client program with boats in four differing cruising locations in the country, the most adventurous of these being what is called the Forgotten Islands and the Banda group”, reports Captain Jimmy, who will be on this four week trip.
Sri Lanka might seem an odd choice to celebrate Christmas, but there is much to do here, from the tea plantations of Kandy to the Safari at Yala National Park to the relaxing beaches of Galle, Bentota and Mirissa. As such, a cold yet summer-ish Christmas vibe in Sri Lanka is surely fantastic.
Sanuk! The Thai people love any excuse to party and Sanuk is a fundamental part of the Thai culture, with the holiday widely celebrated across Thailand. Expect to see festive decorations around the resorts, hotels and shopping malls, with holiday music playing and Thai school children singing ‘Jingle Bells’ as part of their English lessons. Many of the five-star resorts and fine dining restaurants in the ‘Superyacht Hub’ of Phuket or the island on the eastern Gulf of Siam, Koh Samui offer gala holiday dinners and special evening receptions.
A voyage from Phuket to Myanmar during the cool, dry season promises the perfect weather for cruising. On land, you can take in the city of Mandalay then head to the remarkable Inle Lake to explore the villages that live over the water. Make sure to visit Sagar to marvel at the stupas sunken into the shallows of the lake. Cruising the Mergui Archipelago and stopping at a Sea Gypsy village is a memorable experience.
Do a ‘foodie tour’ of Cambodia, feasting on local seafood. With its idyllic beaches, deserted islands, sleepy coastal villages and crumbling colonial architecture, the Cambodian coastline serves up one beautiful scene after another, and one amazing meal after the next. Seafood is one highlight of your travels here, while the distinctive Kampot pepper brings fresh zing to Kep’s famous crab. Explore one of the world’s most incredible ancient sites, Angkor Wat, and make time to catch a bit of local contemporary culture such as the incredible Phare Circus Troupe.
Cruising the east coast of Sabah will lead you to Sipadan, one of the best dive spots in the world with a plethora of flora and fauna endemic to the area. Changing pace, a family visit to the jungles of Borneo will have you spotting macaques, proboscis monkeys and their primate friends – orangutans. When not drifting down a rushing jungle river, you can visit the intriguing ‘cat city’ of Kuching, where larger-than-life cat statues watch over the streets and a visit to a cat museum is on offer.
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