Had a close look at the 2018 calendar yet? If not, here’s the good news: the first half of the year is top-heavy with public holidays, and many of them conveniently fall on a long weekend day! If you’re not involved in events or celebrations surrounding these special holidays, they’re the ideal time for scheduling a short getaway. Here are some ideas of where to go and what to do.
Chinese New Year
When: Friday 16 February & Saturday 17 February
Where: Bangkok, Thailand
How: 2 hours 25 minutes by plane
Why: Shopping, shopping, shopping!
- Head to Sukhumvit, the entertainment and retail hub of the city. Here, you’ll find mega malls, great restaurants, funky bars and a huge range of hotels. You can easily get here – and to lots of places across the vast metropolis – by riding the BTS Skytrain.
- Floating markets like Damnoen and Amphawa don’t always get great reviews, and they can be a long haul out of town, so you might prefer to explore a night market instead. We like Rod Fai Train Night Market for picking up everything from clothes and shoes to food and souvenirs, and also the Chatuchak Weekend Market.
- Need a break from shopping (never!)? Take a long-tail boat along the Chao Phraya and up into the klongs (canals), stopping to see some of the city’s less-visited wats.
What else? If you’re planning on doing lots of flying (and shopping) this year, then consider applying for a credit card that gives you the best rewards. The DBS Altitude Visa Signature Card, for example, offers 3 air miles for every S$1 spent on certain online hotel and ticket reservations, plus 2 air miles for every dollar spent overseas and other benefits.
When: Friday 30 March
Where: Melaka, Malaysia
How: 3 hours by car; slightly longer by bus
Why: Fab food and heritage architecture
- Learn more about the history of this Dutch colonial town in the various museums across town. There’s plenty of interesting, iconic architecture to admire for a short getaway, including Christ Church with its distinctive red façade.
- Melaka is home to the ethnic Chinese-Malays (also known as Peranakans and Nyonyas), and their traditional food is a must-try for any visitor. Try the assam fish (a sweet and sour stew) or ayam buah keluak (chicken and fermented nut stew), before ending your meal with a bowl of cendol (shaved ice dessert).
- This small town is also famous for the night market on Jonker Street in Chinatown. As the sun sets, stalls crank into action selling souvenirs and tasty morsels like chicken rice balls.
When: Tuesday 1 May (pro tip: take the Monday off and give yourself a four-day break from work!)
Where: Siem Reap, Cambodia
How: 2 hours 25 minutes by plane
Why: Terrific temples and a top little town
- There’s one chief reason to go to Siem Reap for a short getaway: to visit the breathtaking ruins of the Angkor temples. Don’t spend all your time at iconic Angkor Wat, though. Instead, ask your tuk-tuk driver to take you to some of the farther-flung sites. The whole complex stretches over 400 square kilometres, so it’s not difficult to find a little corner just for you. Wear your best walking (and temple-climbing) shoes!
- Pub Street is the place to head to quench your thirst after a long, hot day exploring religious ruins. Go bar-hopping (drinks are cheap) and try some local food in one of the many restaurants; fish amok is our go-to dish.
- Kids and adults alike will enjoy a night at Phare, an animal-free Cambodian circus featuring young acrobatic artists from a school in Battambang that provides free public education and arts training to disadvantaged children. It’s 15 minutes out of town by tuk-tuk.
When: Tuesday 29 May (don’t forget to ask for the Monday off!)
Where: Halong Bay, Vietnam
Why: Asian nature at its best
How: 3 hours 25 minutes by plane
- The postcard-hogging scenery of Halong Bay in Vietnam’s northeast corner includes 1,600 small islands of towering limestone. Don’t bother with a day trip from Hanoi: stay a night or two on one of the boats that ply the bay’s waters. (These vary in quality, so do plenty of research – and read the fine print!)
- Explore the caves and the coves. Though May is a relatively ‘low’ tourist season, you won’t be alone if you go to Thien Cung Cave – and the lighting’s a little tacky. But there are plenty of other interesting nooks and crannies to explore in the bay.
- After a brief ban in early 2017, kayaking on Halong Bay is back, and it’s well worth trying. But you’re better off doing so as part of a one- or two-night trip, so you can get further way from the crowd. Many companies offer rental canoes and kayaks (as well as full kayaking tours) that will take you right up to the area’s steep cliffs and impressive caves.
Hari Raya Puasa
When: Friday 15 June
Where: Bintan, Indonesia
Why: A bit of sun-and-sea worship
How: 50 minutes by ferry
- Bintan offers a wide range of resorts for a short getaway, from high-end luxury retreats like The Sanchaya and Banyan Tree (or you can go further afield to Nikoi, off Bintan’s east coast) to more laidback abodes like Nirwana Beach Club. Whichever you choose, you can check into your room and head straight to the pool for some rays.
- Prefer a dose of ocean over a session by the pool? Bintan has some pretty decent sandy strips, including popular Trikora Beach in Lagoi Bay.
- One thing Bintan definitely has going for it is its countless water-sports opportunities. You can try scuba-diving or snorkelling in the ocean itself, or visit Treasure Bay Bintan’s Crystal Lagoon, a man-made saltwater lagoon as big as 50 Olympic swimming pools where you can sail, kayak, strap on a jetpack and more.
Looking for more ideas for a short getaway or two in the region? Read on!