Southeast Asia in Depth
Day 1 Bangkok
Today is arrival day so there are no activities planned. You are free to relax, explore the city & adjust to the frenetic pace and humid heat of Bangkok. Please arrive at our start point hotel before 6pm for an important group meeting where you will meet you Chief Experience Officer (CEO) and the other group members. Please look for a sign on the hotel's notice board for the time and location of your group meeting. At this meeting you CEO will ask to sight your travel insurance and complete some other paper work. After your meeting, you may choose to head out for an optional dinner to further get to know your CEO and fellow group members. We spend this evening in Bangkok. Our hotel is located in China Town, next to the central train station and MRT (Subway), and is only a short USD2 taxi ride from Khao San road and the central shopping area of Siam Square, MBK, Siam Paragon, etc. All rooms are double or twin share with air conditioning and en suite bathroom. The hotel has a small pool and wifi is available at extra cost.
Day 2 Bangkok (1B)
Estimated Travel Time: 12 Hours (train) In the evening of day 2 we embark on an overnight sleeper train adventure, traveling with local Thais' to Surat Thani in the south of Thailand.
Day 3-4 Koh Phangan
Estimated Travel Time: 5 Hours (day 3) A short boat ride takes us to the small island of Koh Pha Ngan where we have the next few days to explore the islands waterfalls, swim in its lagoons or just relax. Options for snorkelling, hiking, visit waterfalls or simply chill out. With everything from yoga and meditation courses, natural beauty, waterfalls and its famous Full Moon Parties, Koh Pha Ngan has something for everyone.
Day 5-6 Koh Samui
Lying off of Thailand’s east coast in the Gulf of Thailand, Koh Samui offers everything you could possibly want in a tropical retreat: white sandy beaches, coconut palms, fresh seafood and warm, clear waters. With an area of 247 square kilometers, Koh Samui is the largest island in an archipelago of around 80 islands. We stay in a resort that is located a stone's throw away from the beach and has all the amenities that you may require, including a bar and swimming pool. All of our rooms are twin share and come with an en suite bathroom. Approx travel times: Transfer from hotel to pier: 15 min each way Ferry Koh Phangan to Koh Samui: 45 minutes
Day 7 Penang (1B)
You will have an early start from Nakhon Si Thammarat today. Take the option of a bicycle-rickshaw to meander through the streets and lanes of Georgetown. You can also see colourful bazaars, bargain at the night markets or visit numerous Chinese temples. If time allows, a visit to the Butterfly Farm on the north of the island offers a great insight into Malaysia's fascinating insects, Penang has something to offer everyone. Food is also a treat here, with an impressive variety from Chinese to Malay and Indian. Don't miss the waterfront night market that serves up excellent local food. Enjoy the first of two street food crawls with the group and CEO while in Penang. Bring your appetites and your wallets, and the CEO will bring you to the best spots and teach you a bit about the local street food. Approx travel times: Boat and private bus from Koh Samui to Satun: 6.5 hours (not including border crossing) Private bus from Satun to Penang: 4.5 hours
Day 8-9 Cameron Highlands (1B)
This morning we head for the hills (approx. 6 hours). The Cameron Highlands hill station is one of Malaysia's most famous. Established in 1885 by William Cameron, a British surveyor, the hill station is famous for its tea plantations and strawberry farms. The drive takes us from the flat lowlands through to mountainous terrain. In your free time you may want to take a walk along one of the many well marked trails, visit the tea plantations or just relax and enjoy the cooler temperatures!
Day 10-11 Kuala Lumpur
Arriving in Kuala Lumpur in the afternoon after a 5 hour bus journey, we have ample time to see the city's impressive architecture and experience the fascinating cultural mix that gives this city such a uniquely cosmopolitan feel. You might like to head out of town to visit the famous Batu Caves or the Orang Asli Museum, north of town. The evening is best spent at the night market sampling the different cuisine, some of the best in South East Asia and bargain hunting among the stalls of Chinatowns night market. How about starting the day with a visit the Petronas Towers,the tallest twin towers in the world.
Day 12 Melaka
A bus journey (approx. 3 hours) takes us to the old port town of Melaka where we can wander the narrow streets and absorb the atmosphere of this historically important town. With the beginning of trade with China in the early 15th Century, Melaka rapidly became the most important trading port in South East Asia. Chinese traders were followed by those from India. With them came Islam and soon the Melaka sultans ruled the largest empire in Malaysia's history. Successively the Portuguese, Dutch and British arrived in search of trading wealth. While the effects of recent economic growth are apparent, Melaka remains one of Malaysia's premier destinations. The streets of Chinatown are lined with Peranakan (Straits Chinese) shophouses offering their traditional cuisine, Nyonya. There are temples, churches and mosques, museums and forts to explore.
Day 13 Singapore
In the morning we take a 4-5 hour bus journey to the Straits of Johore and onto the island of Singapore. Tonight you could visit the world famous night safari, take in a harbour cruise around Boat Quay or sample some mouth watering local food at one of the many hawker street stands. Whilst Singapore has few areas untouched by modernization, wandering the streets of Little India and Chinatown is a great way to see the old parts of the city.
Day 14 Medan (1B)
Arrive at any time. There will be a welcome meeting around 6 or 7pm on this evening with your new Chief Experience Officer (CEO) and some new group members. Please look for a welcome note upon arrival to the joining hotel for the exact time of the meeting. Medan is Indonesia's third largest city and is comprised of many different ethnic groups, contributing to a wide variety of mouth-watering foods.
Day 15-16 Bukit Lawang (2B)
Tour Medan in the morning of Day 2, visiting Maimoon Palace, the Great Mosque and the Vihara Gunung Timur temple. In Bukit Lawang, visit the orangutan viewing platform, and opt to go jungle trekking in Gunung Leuser National Park. An orangutan rehabilitation centre was set up in 1973 to help orangutans released from captivity to learn the skills they will need in the wild. Once they are released into the wild, they are monitored and still provided with some supplementary food until they're 100% ready to fend for themselves. We visit this feeding platform when they are being fed. Gunung Leuser National Park is located nearby and a great place to do some wildlife trekking in this large jungle park. Approximate distance: 100 km Estimated travel time: 5 hours (including stops)
Day 17-18 Tangkahan (2B)
Traverse bumpy roads to reach the small jungle community of Tangkahan. Opt to participate in an elephant feeding session or go hiking. This tiny, remote village was practically built on the logging trade in the 1980s and 1990s, because the people became aware of the damages by such activity. They collectively decided to stop illegal logging and transform the area into an functional, self-sustained ecotourism destination. So in April 2001 the community banded together to form the Tangkahan Tourist Institute (Lembaga Pariwisata Tangkahan - LPT) and fixed regulations prohibiting the exploitation of the surrounding rainforest. So the Conservation Response Unit (CRU) was born - a team of Sumatran elephants and their mahouts that helps safeguard the national park to protect it from encroachment. When its bath time at the elephant camp on the outskirt of Gunung Leuser National Park tourists are allowed to help. By joining the elephants by their afternoon bathing you will support this local initiative. Approximate distance: 50 km Estimated travel time: 3 hours
Day 19-20 Berastagi (2B)
Orientation walk upon arrival. Opt to hike a volcano or tour traditional villages. Originally developed around 1920 as a Dutch hill base in the Karo highlands, the cooler weather and surrounding smoking volcanoes make this destination ideal for weekending Medan residents and travellers alike. Berastagi is also known for their myriad flowers, fruits and vegetables piled high at the local markets. Explore further afield and check out examples of traditional Karo Batak architecture. On your free day, opt to hike up Sibayak volcano for sunrise and take in the stunning view of the valley. Free afternoon with the option to visit the local hot springs. Approximate distance: 160 km Estimated travel time: 8 hours (including stops)
Day 21-22 Samosir Island (2B)
Travel to the world's largest volcano lake, Lake Toba. Situated in the centre of Lake Toba, Samosir has all the features of a resort area but still retains a rustic charm and relaxed atmosphere. You have a free day here with options to relax or explore the area. Chill out and swim in the warm waters of the lake or opt for some culture by visiting local Batak villages to see traditional Batak houses and the tombs in Tomok. Approximate distance: 190 km Estimated travel time: 8 hrs (including stops)
Day 23 Sipirok (1B)
Take a boat across the lake then set off by private van towards Siporok. Stop off at local villages visiting weavers and a markets en route to this beautiful hilltop town surrounded by rice fields and mountains. Enjoy an orientation walk around Sipirok upon arrival. Approximate distance: 200 km Estimated travel time: 9 hrs (including stops)
Day 24-25 Bukittinggi (2B)
Orientation walk upon arrival after a long travel day with a few stops to break up the journey. Free day to go rafting, kayaking, visit Sianok Canyon or check out the Japanese Caves built during World War II. The Sianok Canyon is located just outside of town and offers breathtaking views of the canyon with Mount Singgalang in the background. Bukittinggi is a city of approximately 100,000 people located in the Minangkabau Highlands and is a good jumping off point for nearby activities. Approximate distance: 400 km Estimated travel time: 12 hrs (including stops)
Day 26 Maninjau (1B)
Transfer down to the beautiful crater lake of Maninjau. Enjoy the slow pace of life and do not miss the sunset! There are several small villages along the lake that are perfect for experiencing the rural lifestyle in Sumatra. A waterfall is located about a half an hour outside of town along a steep (and sometimes slippery) path. Approximate distance: 30 km Estimated travel time: 2 hrs
Day 27-28 Jakarta (2B)
Today a short flight takes us to Jakarta, capital of Indonesia and the economic heart of Java. Frenetically paced, the chaos is a far cry from the order of Singapore and the afternoon is free to relax into the different atmosphere that Java brings. You might choose to take a walk around the old Dutch colonial heart of Kota, or simply search out your first true cup of Java coffee! Enjoy the second of two street food crawls with the group and CEO while in Penang. Bring your appetites and your wallets, and the CEO will bring you to the best spots and teach you a bit about the local street food.
Day 29 Cianjur (1B,1D)
Day 16 begins with a bus journey (3 1/2 hours) south east to Cianjur. Along the way we visit the 100 yr old Gunung Mas or 'Golden Mountain' Tea Plantation where we learn how tea is hand picked and then processed continually throughout the year. Cianjur is the Capital of the Cianjur Regency and is also considered the capital of rice production in Java. The region sees very little tourism and you will be delighted by the reactions of the friendly locals. Experience local life by sleeping at a homestay while here. The homestay is located on the outer ring of CIanjur.
Day 30 Bandung (1B)
Depart the homestay and travel to the sprawling city of Bandung, Indonesia's third largest city. Enjoy an orientation walk led by the CEO, then have some time to explore on your own. A popular weekend destination for those in Jakarta, Bandung is surrounded by the beautiful Parahyangan mountains. With a strong food culture, the city has loads of varieties of both international and local cuisine. Try one of many local delicacies, such as Bakso Tahu, which is steamed meat served with soy sauce, lime and peanut paste, or martabak, a fried stuffed pancake that comes either sweet or savoury.
Day 31-33 Yogyakarta (3B)
We transfer by bus to Bandung on the morning of Day 19 and then board our train for a scenic trip to Yogyakarta. Once home to the Mataram Palace, Yogyakarta (or Yogya as it’s known locally) lies in the shadow of Mt Merapi, but is most famous for the nearby Buddhist Temple complex of Borobudur. Built in the 8th century, this stunning artistic and architectural marvel lay undiscovered under layers of volcanic ash until 1815 when Sir Stamford Raffles, then Governor of Java, ordered that the area be cleared. Further attempts at restoration were finally completed in 1983, and no visit to Java would be complete without a visit to this awe-inspiring World Heritage Site. Other options in and around Yogyakarta include the impressive Kraton, an 18th century palace built by the Sultans of Yogya and one of the finest examples of Javanese palace architecture or Taman Sari Water Castle, built around the same time as a pleasure park for the Sultan. Yogyakarta is very walkable and stroll around the fascinating bird market is always interesting, and if silver is of interest, then a trip to Kota Gede is definitely worthwhile to pick up a hand-beaten bowl or some fine filigree. Of course, being the home of arts, this really is the place to take in a Wayang (puppet) show, or a dance performance- usually based on the Ramayana story.
Day 34 Tawangmangu (1B)
Begin the day with an easy 2.5 hour drive. On the way we have the option of stopping at Prambanan to explore the largest Hindu temple complex in Java by foot. Built between the 8th and 10th century, these temples stand as one of the most outstanding works of Hindu art, with a wealth of intricate design, particularly on the Shiva temple. The optional visit allows for approximately 1.5 hours of exploration, and anyone who chooses not to visit the temple can visit an art market located near the temple. We can also opt to visit the Sukuh Temple, known to be a fertility temple with erotic carvings. From there, walk approximately 3 hours through small villages and along agricultural land, finsihing up at a waterfall. A walk up a staircase finishes in the village of Tawangmanggu, where the evening is free to enjoy.
Day 35 Malang (1B)
Our 4 hour bus journey today takes us eastward to Malang, the second largest city in East Java. Dating back to at least AD760 Malang has been a regional center of government for successive dynasties eventually being enveloped by the Mataram Kingdom in 1614. Owing to it's altitude (476 meters) the climate here is cooler then the lowlands and therefore became very attractive to European settlement during Dutch colonisation. Spend the afternoon checking out the gorgeous parks, the bird and flower market, Singosari temple, Jago temple or Kidal temple or just relaxing with a cup of local tea.
Day 36 Mt Bromo (1B)
Today's drive takes us through the tropical winding landscape of Eastern Java, climbing ever upwards and further out of the heat towards the grandeur of Mt Bromo- part of the Tengger Caldera, the largest volcanic range in the area. Bromo is only one of many peaks, but is distinct in appearance, having blown its top completely off and is constantly smouldering with white smoke.
Day 37 Kalibaru (1B)
A pre-dawn trek across the “sea of sand” to watch the sunrise over the crater’s rim is a must-see, popular with both tourists and the local Buddhist Tenggerese alike who can be seen giving offerings of food to receive blessings from the Supreme God Hyang Widi Wasa. After this wonderful start to the day, a 6 hour drive takes us to our overnight accommodation in the coffee plantations of Kalibaru. Brought to Java by the Dutch, Indonesia is now the world’s fourth largest coffee grower and the name “Java” is recognized in coffee houses all over the world.
Day 38-39 Pemuteran (1B)
Following a picturesque 2 hour drive through the rolling hills and plantations down to the coastal lowlands, we board our 1 hour ferry trip and bid farewell to Java. Arriving in internationally acclaimed Bali we continue with a short drive to Pemuteran. Pemuteran lies on the quiet North West coast sandwiched between National Parks containing pristine coral reefs and luxuriant tropical rainforest. 14kms offshore lies Menjangan Island, one of the best snorkel and dive sites in Bali with rich marine life and protected coral reefs. You may also wish to snorkel the reef directly off the beach at Pemutaran and explore the intriguing Bio Rock Structures, wire frames through which low voltage electric current is run to encourage fast coral regeneration. Wander up the beach and past the rural countryside for magnificent coastal views and ornate traditional temples inhabited by tribes of cheeky monkeys. For the energetic explorer set out on an optional guided hike through the West Bali National Park in search of deer, pigs, macaques or the elusive Bali Starling. The natural beauty of Pemuteran will astound and enchant you.
Day 40 Sanur (1B)
Today's drive is a journey, highlighting the spectacular natural diversity and intense cultural wealth that makes Bali such a sought after destination. We commence by traveling along the exotic northern coastline before heading up into the emerald carpeted hills, stopping at the Banjal Hot Springs and perhaps visiting nearby Brahmavihara Arama, Bali's only Buddhist monastery. We continue towards Monduk and have the chance to view the impressive Gitgit waterfall as we rise higher, eventually climbing over the lip of an enormous caldera surrounded by the peaks of extinct volcanoes and elegantly adorned with turquoise mountain lakes. Our journey proceeds southwards down through the rich tropical jungle, passing by idyllic terraced rice fields, quaint scenes of local village life and eventually passing through the thriving metropolis of Dempasar before arriving at our overnight destination on the magnificent beaches of Sanur.
Day 41 Sanur (1B)
You are free to depart at any time today.