Dip into the sea, markets and top food

MICHAEL FERRANTE mixes low-key activity with high-end cuisine on a Genting Dream hop around Asia

I like being off the beaten track when I’m travelling… bottling up those authentic moments and taking them away as memories to treasure. Asia is a great part of the world for this and I’m on Dream Cruises’ five-night Wonders of Asia cruise aboard Genting Dream, capturing more moments for the vault.

After an enjoyable first night aboard Genting Dream it’s time for a relaxing beach day at our first port stop, Pulau Redang (Redang Island), the biggest of nine islands off peninsular Malaysia’s north-eastern coast.

Disembarking the tender and a short stroll, we arrive at the beach and it’s buzzing with activity, stallholders under straw huts bracing for the influx of cruise passengers.

The island is not just a pleasant place to visit but a spot sought by divers for its rich array of coral and fish. The northern parts of the island are hotspots for nesting sea turtles and a sanctuary at the northern tip carries out important conservation and research work.

The party music and dancing competitions under the thatched stage directly behind the beach create a carnival atmosphere. Cold drink sellers along the boulevard can barely keep up with demand as hyperactive entertainers lure sections of a curious audience on stage. Lots of others prefer to meander along or take a shaded seat and watch on. A few hours pass and I decide to leave the party scene for the trip back to the ship.

As we sail slowly into the port of Laem Chabang, south of Bangkok near Pattaya, I pull open my cabin sliding door to catch the sunrise and I am shirtfronted by a burst of hot air — it’s a taste of what to expect for today’s trip into Bangkok.

After a two-hour bus ride into the city, we reach the Gaysorn Village shopping centre and head upstairs to the Michelin Star Thai restaurant, Paste, for lunch. It was hand-picked for our group by acclaimed Aussie chef Mark Best, who is accompanying us on the excursion today.

Today’s tasting menu is prepared by award-winning chef Bee Satongun and her team. After the amazing degustation lunch, there’s a round of applause from our table as chef Bee comes from the kitchen.

Now it’s time to hit the Or Tor Kor market to buy fresh produce for a Thai cooking masterclass with chef Best. It is full of exotic aromas — tropical fruits, spices, fish, curries and various barbecued meats. We shop for the finest fresh food as the locals do it, in bustling downtown Bangkok.

Chef Best is on a mission and with shopping list in hand, browses market stalls for ingredients for his interpretation of two traditional Thai dishes — crunchy prawn cake and larb gai — which he’ll cook for us on board…

This is an edited version of the original, full-length story, which you can read here.

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