5-STAR CRUSOES – THEY’RE SEADREAMING
David Ellis with Frank Linn
Ask the all-knowing Mr Google how many islands there are in Asia, and you’ll get an answer akin to asking how long is a piece of string?
So when SeaDream Yacht Club decided to embark on a first-ever season in Asia with its luxury SeaDream II, and knowing past guests’ fondness for the serenity of remote islands away from the rat-race, they took to their charts and the tens of thousands of islands from India to Indonesia (plus for one itinerary across to Far North Queensland, PNG and the Trobriand Islands,) with a fervour akin to that of planning a Moon Landing.
For here they found islands with no more than a handful of subsistence farmers-and-fishers, others with a couple of thatch-roof “resorts” beachside for more-adventurous holidaymakers, plenty with flashy 4- and 5-star hotels, and some others simply devoid of any human life whatsoever.
“We had the perfect scenarios for all occasions,” says the company’s Director of Business Development in Asia, Richard Jones who was a driving force behind the decision for this first-ever venture, and who scouted-out the best of island offerings with the help of local tourism offices, tour guides, village chiefs, resort owners and anyone else who could give him input.
And their choices have proven winners with the hundreds of guests who’ve sailed so far on mega motor-cruiser SeaDream II, including colleague Frank Linn who, with a handful of fellow travel scribes, recently did a week from Phuket in Thailand to Yangon in Myanmar (Burma,) and another from there back to Singapore.
So this week it’s Frank’s turn to do the writing, and here’s his story:
While always a thrill to re-visit cities and towns across the region we’ve a fondness for from past meanderings – like frenetic Phuket, ever-delightful Langkawi, always-spotless Singapore, and Yangon (Rangoon) for a mind-blowing first-time experience – it was our days ashore on smaller and remoter islands that won our hearts.
For here were specks on the maps we’d in many cases never heard of, or if we had, never had the opportunity to visit previously: rarely-visited places like the Similan Islands in Southern Thailand, Nyang Wee and 115 Island amid the remote Mergui Archipelago of Myanmar, Ko Lanta Yai in Thailand…
And while there may have been only our fellow SeaDreamers and crew on their sands, rather than confronting on-the-knees picnic tucker for the day, we were ferried ashore by the yacht’s inflatable Zodiacs to find roaring gas barbecues under shady trees, prawns (and locally-caught lobsters on one occasion,) steaks, chicken, sausages and lamb chops already sizzling away, nearby trestles loaded with salads… and just off the beach, a surfboard “bar” from which crew were dispensing Champagnes, wines and caviar to guests thigh-deep in the water.
All this 5-star Robinson Crusoe stuff having been ferried ashore from SeaDream hours earlier.
And on tiny Nyang Wee the company’s first-ever Night-time Beach Party, complete with a serenading guitarist who had us toe-tapping the sands to John Denver and Beatles’ numbers as we tucked into a gourmet barbecue under flickering flares… the night ending with the lighting of traditional Lucky Lanterns that drifted heavens-ward with our secret wishes (apparently for most, for another week aboard SeaDream…)
Back aboard, the indulgences continued: 5-star dining with breakfast and lunch under shade on deck, no stuffy jackets or ties in the Dining Room for dinner (only “Country Club Smart Casual”,) no-charge drinks from the open bars, nightly cocktail gatherings, use of a 30-course golf simulator, a free state-of-the-art fitness centre, all staterooms with either a picture window or twin portholes…. and more crew (95) than guests (just over 70 on our sailing.)
And on two full-days at sea surprise midday poolside snack pass-around’s with Bloody Mary’s, afternoon movies (including The Lady, the story of Aung San Suu Kyi and her fight for Democracy in Burma….)
Subsequent sailings have taken-in Thailand’s Ka Tarutao, believed to have been a first by any ship to this-now National Park that in the 1930s was a penal settlement for political prisoners, and Ko Lipe with its extraordinarily sparkling green waters.