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EXC In-Depth Field Notes: Singapore & Malaysia

Our EXC In-Depth Voyage recently arrived in the mystic lands of Southeast Asia! EXC In-Depth Onboard Naturalist/Zodiac Driver Kristy King sent some Field Notes and excellent photos from Singapore and Malaysia. Enjoy this installment, and stay tuned as the ship continues on to visit Thailand & Sri Lanka.


Exploring Singapore with Maasdam whilst docked at the Singapore cruise terminal was something to behold. Centered in-between the bustling city-scape and the luscious leafy green Sentosa Island with its castles and theme park rides was a great place to start.

Singapore, an island city-state off southern Malaysia, is a global financial center with a tropical climate and multicultural population. Evidence of this can be seen throughout many tourist hot spots. Its colonial core centers on the Padang — a cricket field since the 1830s and now flanked by grand buildings such as City Hall with its 18 Corinthian columns. In Singapore’s circa-1820 Chinatown stands the red-and-gold Buddha Tooth Relic Temple, said to house one of Buddha’s teeth. Singapore’s Chinatown was a hive of activity with Chinese New Year preparations underway.

BeFunky Collage

Left: Chinese Garden inside Singapore’s ‘Flower Dome’ Gardens by the bay. Right: Gardens by the Bay, Singapore.

The leafy green urban areas that make up Gardens by the Bay was another highlight, with the huge towering tree structures serving as the centerpiece for this beautiful park. The famous Supertree structures offer an impressive sky walk over the gardens, and over-sized seashell-shaped greenhouses recreate chilly mountain climates where there are hundreds of trees and plants to discover. The best place to view the garden and the city-scape is from the top of Marina Bay Sands, which sits directly opposite the park. The space encompass 250 acres of reclaimed land on the waterfront.

Malacca, Malaysia

Malacca is a quaint city with an abundance of breathtaking sights and rich heritage, and serves as the unofficial historic capital of Malaysia. Malacca’s most prominent contribution to the Malaysian cultural landscape is the Baba-Nyonya or Peranakan culture.

This city is home to an eclectic blend of customs, traditions, food and lifestyle. One of my favorites is the well know sweet treat loved by many, the Pineapple tart. It is a dainty treat with a crumbly buttery pastry and a tangy jam that is adequately sweet to taste!

A’Famosa, Malacca - Kristy King

Built in 1511, Malacca’s A’Famosa used to sprawl across a whole hillside, but now only a lone gate — Porta de Santiago — remains.

Malacca is a Malaysian state on the Malay Peninsula’s southwest coast. The capital, Malacca City, has a colonial past which is seen in the town center, housing 16th-century St. Paul’s Church. It’s also home to Christ Church, built by the Dutch in the 18th century. Next to Christ Church in Red Square is the Stadthuys, the Dutch-era town hall now housing a museum of Malaccan history and ethnography.

Christ Church was built by the Dutch when they took possession of Malacca from the Portuguese. It is an instantly recognizable brick-red building with a huge white cross at the top. The fort located behind the red square was built in 1511. A’Famosa used to sprawl across a whole hillside but now only a lone gate, Porta de Santiago, remains. Originally constructed by Alfonso de Albuquerque, who led the Portuguese invasion on the Malacca Sultanate, the remains of the fort is now a preserved whitewashed gatehouse and is located downhill from St. Paul’s Church.

Penang, Malaysia

As Maasdam made her approach towards George Town, Penang, this morning we were greeted by local fishing vessels and a number of smaller bird species, namely swiftlets and one gorgeous White Bellied Sea Eagle (Haliaeetus leucogaster) soaring overhead.

Once alongside the Swettenham Pier Cruise Terminal guests quickly disembarked for their day ashore exploring this very interesting port. Penang Island is home to the state capital of George Town. It is home to landmarks such as colonial Fort Cornwallis, the ornate Chinese clan house Khoo Kongsi and the Kapitan Keling Mosque — all testaments to centuries of foreign influence.

Fort at Penang, Malaysia

Fort Cornwallis’, George Town, Penang.

Penang was once known, as Pulau Pinang or the “Isle of the Betel Nut,” and was listed as a UNESCO World Cultural Heritage Site in 2008. It also commonly gets nicknamed the Pearl of the Orient, famous for its soft sandy beaches, and is fondly regarded as the food capital of Malaysia.

Whist many guests indulged in some of the local delicacies found in Penang’s many markets, some also found their way to KOMTAR and the many modern shopping malls of George Town. The views from the summit of Penang Hill and the vipers in the Snake Temple were also a highlight.

The quaint nooks and crannies of Georgetown, the interesting street art, and the history here were all fascinating. Fort Cornwallis is the largest standing fort in Malaysia and was very close to the pier. Built in 1786, Fort Cornwallis was intended as a defensive structure against pirates, Kedah forces and even the French during the Napoleonic Wars. However, although it was initially built for the Royal artillery troops and the military, it served an administrative function rather than an actively defensive one. The fort stands on the site where Captain Francis Light first set foot in 1786 and took possession of the island from the Sultan of Kedah. He then established a free port to lure trade from Britain’s Dutch rivals.

If you’d like to join one of these amazing adventures, check out our EXC In-Depth itineraries. Stay tuned to the EXC In-Depth Field Notes as Maasdam makes way to Thailand.

All photos in this post are by Kristy King ©.

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