Journeys through History in Georgetown

Silver Shadow docked today in Georgetown, Penang, Malaysia. Photo © 2016 Aaron Saunders

Silver Shadow docked today in Georgetown, Penang, Malaysia. Photo © 2016 Aaron Saunders

Another day jam-packed with exotic adventures awaited guests aboard Silversea’s elegant Silver Shadow today, as she arrived at her second port of call on this 12-day journey through the heart of Southeast Asia.

As I ate breakfast in my suite, the coastline of Georgetown, Malaysia came into view. Situated on the northeastern coast of Penang, its shoreline looks remarkably like that of Honolulu, Hawaii. With its tall, whitewashed skyscrapers, azure-blue seas and gently rising mountains that frame the city, Georgetown could double as Waikiki in a film.

Where Are We? The navigation channel tells me that we're nearing Georgetown...Photo © 2016 Aaron Saunders

Where Are We? The navigation channel tells me that we’re nearing Georgetown…Photo © 2016 Aaron Saunders

...and a peek out on the balcony confirms it. Photo © 2016 Aaron Saunders

…and a peek out on the balcony confirms it. Photo © 2016 Aaron Saunders

Penang Island itself is a UNESCO World Heritage Site, and to make the most of my time here, I chose to participate in one of the five shore excursions that Silversea offers: the 7.5-hour long Penang Highlights (PEN-B). At $159 per person, it is the most expensive tour that Silversea offers here, but also the most comprehensive.

Other available excursions:

  • Penang Island Overview (PEN-A). 4.5 hours, $49 per person
  • Georgetown Trishaw & Tea (PEN-C). 4.5 hours, $89 per person.
  • Penang Hill & Temple (PEN-D). 4 hours, $79 per person.
  • Penang Spice Trail (PEN-E). 4 hours, $89 per person.

Here’s why I try to do as many shore excursions as my budget allows on cruises like this where the majority of the ports of call are new to me: it provides you with an excellent overview of the local culture and history while, in most cases, taking you to places and sights that you otherwise wouldn’t know about. When I return to a port of call I’ve been to, I feel more comfortable doing the independent thing. On a first visit, however, I like locals to show me around.

Our sail-in this morning reminded me a lot of Honolulu, Hawaii. Photo © 2016 Aaron Saunders

Our sail-in this morning reminded me a lot of Honolulu, Hawaii. Photo © 2016 Aaron Saunders

Photo © 2016 Aaron Saunders

Photo © 2016 Aaron Saunders

I also appreciate how Silversea structures its excursions. You’re never crammed into a coach that’s filled to capacity. In fact, our coach this morning had so many empty seats that most couples chose to sit separately, each occupying one window. Guides speak excellent English (which may, naturally, be accented), and the transportation that is arranged is always the best available.

I always feel like Silversea’s excursions are a good value. Today was a perfect example of that: for $159, we were able to visit half a dozen different attractions spread throughout Georgetown and outside the city, along with an authentic Malaysian lunch at a local resort. If you break it down into hours, the entire tour only costs $20 per hour. That, to me, is a great deal.

Our guide to Georgetown and Penang: a funny man named Yap. Photo © 2016 Aaron Saunders

Our guide to Georgetown and Penang: a funny man named Yap. Photo © 2016 Aaron Saunders

Our guide today was an absolutely incredible man named Yap. Yap had a penchant for telling stories, belting out lines from musicals, and poking good-natured fun at guests and our Silversea escorts from the ship. Even my allergy to nuts became a topic of conversation. “Aaron has…no nuts!”, he said as he rattled off a list of guests’ dietary requirements before breaking out into uncontrollable laughter at the linguistic faux pas he’d just committed. “I’m sorry, Aaron” he said, “My English language just runs away from me!”

Our first stop in Georgetown: the gorgeous Pinang Peranakan Mansion. Photo © 2016 Aaron Saunders

Our first stop in Georgetown: the gorgeous Pinang Peranakan Mansion. Photo © 2016 Aaron Saunders

The mansion exudes the styling of different cultures, from ancient China to colonial England. Photo © 2016 Aaron Saunders

The mansion exudes the styling of different cultures, from ancient China to colonial England. Photo © 2016 Aaron Saunders

Photo © 2016 Aaron Saunders

Photo © 2016 Aaron Saunders

If Yap was the entertainment between stops, the places we visited were equally as memorable. There was the Pinang Peranakan Mansion, showcasing over 1,000 antiques in a location that combines local Malaysian, Chinese and British influences. Numerous movies have been filmed here (so I have been told).

At the Tropical Spice Garden...Photo © 2016 Aaron Saunders

At the Tropical Spice Garden…Photo © 2016 Aaron Saunders

...our local guide explained the rich history of spices, many of which originated with medicinal use. Photo © 2016 Aaron Saunders

…our local guide explained the rich history of spices, many of which originated with medicinal use. Photo © 2016 Aaron Saunders

From there, we set out to the Tropical Spice Garden in nearby Teluk Bahang. This has some pretty uneven surfaces with very decent inclines that isn’t listed in the description on the Silversea website, and a few folks from our ship had a tough time negotiating the final climb to enjoy some refreshing tea in a gazebo nestled in the jungle. However, everyone did make it. Despite the jaw-dropping heat, I really enjoyed hearing about the medicinal properties of many of the plants at the spice gardens. Most spices weren’t used to flavour foods; they were used much in the same way as prescription drugs nowadays, designed to cure a variety of ailments and maladies.

Batu Ferringhi Beach. Photo © 2016 Aaron Saunders

Batu Ferringhi Beach. Photo © 2016 Aaron Saunders

Lunch was at a local resort overlooking the Batu Ferringhi Beach, and included numerous local specialties along with complimentary beer, wine or soft drinks. Those with dietary restrictions were accommodated remarkably well. In our group, we had allergies or intolerances to nuts, gluten, pepper, and a preference for no pork. The restaurant managed to come up with a set menu that would satisfy all of us – and it was delicious.

The giant reclining Buddha at Wat Chayamangkalaram, constructed in 1958, occupies almost the entire width of the building. Photo © 2016 Aaron Saunders

The giant reclining Buddha at Wat Chayamangkalaram, constructed in 1958, occupies almost the entire width of the building. Photo © 2016 Aaron Saunders

Our final stops were two Buddhist temples: one Thai, one Burmese. At Wat Chayamangkalaram – or Temple of the Reclining Buddha, for short – you can see the massive Reclining Buddha that was built in 1958 to celebrate the 2,500th anniversary of the birth of Buddha.

Across the street, the Dhammikarama Temple dates back 200 years. Photo © 2016 Aaron Saunders

Across the street, the Dhammikarama Temple dates back 200 years. Photo © 2016 Aaron Saunders

Literally across the street is the Burmese Dhammikarama Temple. Built in 1803, it is Penang’s oldest place of Buddhist worship, and serves as a great prelude to our own arrival into Burma – now known as Myanmar – in a few days’ time.

Some photos of our very enjoyable day ashore:

Photo © 2016 Aaron Saunders

Photo © 2016 Aaron Saunders

Photo © 2016 Aaron Saunders

Photo © 2016 Aaron Saunders

Photo © 2016 Aaron Saunders

Photo © 2016 Aaron Saunders

Before long, it was time to reboard...Photo © 2016 Aaron Saunders

Before long, it was time to reboard…Photo © 2016 Aaron Saunders

...the Silver Shadow. Photo © 2016 Aaron Saunders

…the Silver Shadow. Photo © 2016 Aaron Saunders

A rare sight: Star Cruises' Superstar Libra docked in front of us. Experienced cruisers might know her better as Norwegian Cruise Line's former Norwegian Sea of 1988. Photo © 2016 Aaron Saunders

A rare sight: Star Cruises’ Superstar Libra docked in front of us. Experienced cruisers might know her better as Norwegian Cruise Line’s former Norwegian Sea of 1988. Photo © 2016 Aaron Saunders

Tonight, Captain Alessandro Zanello hosted his Welcome Aboard Cocktail Party at 7:00pm in the Athenian Lounge, followed by the Captain’s Dinner in The Restaurant on Deck 4 immediately afterwards.

On most mainstream ships, the Captain’s Welcome is a chance to get some free (cheap) champagne. On a Silversea ship, it is an opportunity to get to know the Officers and Crew of the Silver Shadow, and to mingle with and get to know your fellow guests.

On the menu in The Restaurant tonight:

FROM THE ‘CRUDO’ BAR

Palm Heart Tartar

Green Apple & Blue Swimmer Crab

APPETISERS

A Study of Artichokes

Foie Gras & Black Truffle Terrine

SOUPS

Porcini Veloute

Oxtail Consommé

SALADS

Silversea Mesclun Salad

Fire-roasted ‘Mediterranean’ Vegetable Salad

PASTAS

Penne alla San Remese

Risotto all’Albese

FROM THE SEA

Grilled ‘Maine’ Lobster

Grilled Fresh Local Grouper

FROM THE FIELDS

Tender Steak Rossini

Ballotine of Corn-Fed Chicken ‘Viroflay’

GRILL SPECIALS

Grilled Venison Medallion on Lemongrass Skewer

Grilled Fish of the Day

FROM THE GARDEN

Quinoa Arancini

Clear Stew of Garden Vegetables

 

Do you have to order one dish from every column? Certainly not! But you can order as many or as few as you like. You can also specify that you would like one to be served as a starter size, or one served as an entrée. Silversea just introduced this new menu style this year, and it takes a bit of getting used to. I am, however, managing to control my wide-eyed culinary lust a bit better than on my Silver Spirit cruise this past fall, where I felt like I was constantly overeating.

Click here to read our Voyage Report from onboard Silver Spirit in the Mediterranean!

I have to admit: I’ve been having some difficulty staying awake past about 9:00pm lately. To help that along, I made myself an afternoon espresso using my in-suite Illy Espresso machine. Because of that, I made it to the ripe hour of 10:00pm tonight before returning to my suite and turning in for the night.

As we departed Georgetown...Photo © 2016 Aaron Saunders

As we departed Georgetown…Photo © 2016 Aaron Saunders

...I made an effort to stay up later into the evening by making myself an in-suite Espresso. Photo © 2016 Aaron Saunders

…I made an effort to stay up later into the evening by making myself an in-suite Espresso. Photo © 2016 Aaron Saunders

There’s still plenty happening out and about on the ship tonight, but my suite on the Silver Shadow is so inviting that I’ve been making a special effort to spend more time enjoying it than I normally might on other voyages. And tonight, with some music playing on the in-suite audio system, a glass of scotch on the go, and the motion of the ocean underneath my feet, I wouldn’t change a thing.

If I ran a cruise line, it would look a lot like Silversea – the line that fits my style and personality like a glove.

It's not the world's greatest picture, but this image shows the warm coziness of a Silversea suite at night. Photo © 2016 Aaron Saunders

It’s not the world’s greatest picture, but this image shows the warm coziness of a Silversea suite at night. Photo © 2016 Aaron Saunders

Our Live Voyage Report aboard Silversea’s elegant Silver Shadow continues tomorrow from Phuket, Thailand! Be sure to follow along on twitter by following @deckchairblog.

DAYPORTARRIVEDEPART
October 31, 2016SingaporeEmbark1800
November 1Port Klang (Kuala Lumpur), Malaysia08001900
November 2Penang, Georgetown, Malaysia08001800
November 3Phuket, Thailand08001400
November 4At Sea
November 5Yangon, Myanmar0600Overnight
November 6Yangon, MyanmarOvernightOvernight
November 7Yangon, MyanmarOvernight1900
November 8At Sea
November 9 At Sea

November 10Langkawi, Malaysia08001500
November 11Malacca, Malaysia13001900
November 12Singapore0700Onward Journey Home
 

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