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Ship Shape on <i>Norwegian Bliss</i>
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Ship Shape on Norwegian Bliss

Porthole Cruise Magazine - December 14, 2018
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Five Fave Adventure Tours in Southeast Asia

As if travel to Southeast Asia isn’t exciting enough, there have been enormous strides to develop shore excursions that appeal to the adventurous spirit of both young and old intrepid travelers.  Entrepreneurs from around the globe have created ingenious activities deviating from traditional, “follow me” guided sightseeing tours.

If the mind is willing and the body is able, these five adventure tours are my favorite ‘off the wall, not on the rack’’ excursions in Southeast Asia.

Flight Of The Gibbon – Chiang Mai

I’ve been on zip lining tours in several locations around the globe but I’ll go out on a limb (literally) and say that Flight of the Gibbon stands out as the most authentic engagement with the jungle’s wild side. Set deep in the heart of Thailand’s tropical rainforest this cable connected flight consists of several segments of varying lengths and heart pumping action.

Southeast Asia

Flight of the Gibbon | Photo: Steve Leland

Operating out of Chiang Mai, Thailand, guests are picked up at their hotels and transferred by van to the beautiful village of Mae Kampong, where everyone is fitted and strapped into safety harness gear.  A short hike upward into the dense canopy and you arrive at the first and longest expanse of zip line cable in Southeast Asia.  Stomach butterflies are tamed with the encouragement of the experienced Sky Rangers that assist throughout the experience.

Zipping into the first platform at full speed, any fear tendencies quickly dissipate and its bravely onward to the next segment.  We are obviously the visitors here, as high above us a pair of Gibbons take advantage of nature’s tree top grandstand and curiously look down on crazy humans attached to wires, floating across their tropical domain.

Following several stages and midway through the course, there is the opportunity to play out your inner Tarzan urges and try an alternative method with the line attached to a loop behind your neck.  With one long animalistic scream, guests leap from the platform and almost magically fly into a net at the next platform. Rope ladders, rope bridges and rappelling from tree tops to lower positions are all integral parts of the experience. To cap off the day the tour package includes an authentic lunch complete with live music.

Chiang Mai also serves as an embarkation/debarkation point for popular Laos River Cruises.

Food, Pho and Fun

Southeast Asia

Never miss a chance to taste something new | Photo: Steve Leland

While eating may be a routine necessity in life, I take it as an adventure.

Southeast Asia is ground zero when it comes to the challenge of eating street food but in no way would I ever suggest it as a DIY adventure. Experiential travel is one thing but experiential grazing on foreign street food demands some degree of guidance, a local knowledge of what and where to eat.

RELATED: 5 Faves: Must-Try Cambodian Street Foods

A Chef’s Tour was created for foodies with one aim, to create a food extravaganza good enough for chefs. The concept of the guided tour is designed to expose an understanding of regional food, its history and the ingredients used. Chill with the locals in Thailand, India and experience a true all you can eat adventure.

Southeast Asia

Vespas line the streets | Photo: Steve Leland

Combining street food with a local road warrior experience, Vespa Adventures tackles the streets of Cambodia and Vietnam with gusto. Taking it to the street, participants are seated behind cautious driver/guides on authentic vintage Vespa scooters merging into the sea of seemingly aimless street scooters. The concept integrates the street food scene, the color of the city and insight into local culture competently organized by exceptional guides. It’s not only food related, the trip through the city is a tour in itself and the night of characteristic engagement ends at an insider only, sizzling hot nightclub.

RELATED: 5 Faves: Hanoi Highlights

Time Out For Temples

In compiling a high profile destination bucket list there are specific components that would be considered obligatory. The Taj Mahal, the Great Pyramids, and cities like Rome and Athens are generally assumed to be A-list destinations, but to ignore the temple complex of Angkor Wat in Cambodia and Bagan in Myanmar would be a misfortune. Granted, they fall more under sightseeing than real adrenaline adventure, but for eye popping excursions they are second to none.

RELATED: The Secrets of Siem Reap 

Shanghai’d On The Side

I’ve done more than my share of guided bus tours, museums and cathedrals, so excuse me if I sound a little jaded.  I like things a bit different, unique travel options that show me the must see sights but spare me climbing aboard a bus. Shanghai Insiders offer the perfect alternative. A private tour with English speaking local as the chauffeur/guide on a classic war era, vintage motorcycle complete with side car.  It’s an adventure that goes where no motor coach can go and takes participants to insider only locations making it a must do on any visit to Shanghai.

RELATED: Shanghai on the Side 

Sea-zing The Day in Indonesia

While technically a multi-day cruise more than an excursion, a sailing cruise with Sea Trek out of Bali, Indonesia is a six day, non stop adventure. Imagine snorkeling over pristine reefs, giant manta rays, green turtles and thousands of colorful fish add on a trek up the side of a volcano, paddle boarding on a crater and up close encounters with the Komodo Dragon. Call it a cruise or an extended excursion. Either way it offers daily adventures that add up to a thrilling alternative to a land based trip.

Sea Trek Ship

-Steve Leland 

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