One more reason to love living in Singapore is having Asia as your backyard. There are plenty of adventures only a ferry or short flight away, from lazing on palm-fringed sandy beaches to trekking through jungles. In some cases, you won’t even need time off from work – a weekend from Friday to Sunday will do. Plus, there are plenty of public holidays and long weekends in Singapore too! Here are some of the most popular destinations for expats and a few hotels and resorts to try.
There are an estimated 17,508 islands in Indonesia, of which only about 6,000 are inhabited. The main islands are Sumatra, Kalimantan, Sulawesi, Irian Jaya and, last but not least, Java, home to 70 percent of the country’s population.
For a relaxing beach holiday less than an hour away by ferry, pop over to the islands of Bintan and Batam or some of the smaller islands off them such as Telunas.
Elsewhere in Indo, head to Bali for beaches, terraced rice paddies, temples, ruins and jungle walks. Luxury villas can be very reasonable if you are sharing with a group of friends or family. After one visit you’ll soon see why Balinese food and hospitality is a favourite for Singapore-based expats.
Lombok is making a name for itself as “the Bali of 20 years ago” while the nearby Gili Islands are an idyllic hideaway. Perfect for scuba diving and snorkelling enthusiasts, Manado boasts stunning scenery and volcanoes.
Telunas Private Island
Tired of waiting around an airport during your travels? Telunas Private Island is a leisurely boat ride from Batam (itself only an hour by boat from Singapore); sip on a cold drink or two and you’ll be there in no time! The resort’s overwater rustic villas house a sitting room, bedroom, cosy loft and private veranda. Guests can indulge in a mix of delicious Western, Asian, and Indonesian cuisine whipped up by the resort’s executive chef at the Grand Lodge, located just down the wooden jetty. A perfect option for a short getaway.
Things to do
- Make the most of the sunny days by taking part in any number of complimentary activities, including mangrove kayaking, a waterfall hike and stand-up paddle boarding.
- Relax by the vibrant poolside Sand Bar that serves everything from Long Island Iced Teas to mocktails (which the kids will love!), while you enjoy the unblocked sea views.
- Pamper yourself with a spa session in one of the overwater pavilions or in the privacy of your villa.
Capella Ubud – Bali
Located 20 minutes north of Ubud, Capella Ubud, Bali offers a retreat from city life. Surrounded by lush rainforests, this luxury property features snazzy rooms with intricate wood carvings, hand-painted fabrics, copper bathtubs and private salt water pools. Choose to stay in a one-bedroom Tented Retreat or the exclusive two-bedroom Lodge. Dig into delicious Indonesian and international dishes and pamper yourself at onsite spa Auriga Wellness, offering a range of organic treatments.
Things to do
- Go on a culinary journey through the working farms of Keliki Village and explore the resort’s own honey farms, and coffee, tea and cocoa plantations.
- Witness sacred temple rituals at the Wos River or visit a local art school.
- Satisfy the adventurer in you with jungle boot camps, mountain bike ridge tours and workouts in nearby rice-paddy fields.
Colourful but busy Bangkok has amazing food, fabulous temples, numerous markets and malls, and interesting nightlife. Not far away are the stunning temples of Ayuthaya which are best seen by bicycle.
For a beach holiday less than two hours away by air, visit Phuket, Koh Samui or Krabi and take a boat trip around the breathtaking Ao Phang Nga National Park.
Up north, a jungle adventure involving elephants, teak forests and numerous hill tribes awaits you in the Golden Triangle’s Chiang Mai and Chiang Rai.
COMO Point Yamu
It’s not just the awesome views of the Andaman Sea you’ll enjoy when you stay at COMO Point Yamu in Phuket. The resort is located on Cape Yamu, a serene peninsula on the Thai island’s east coast, away from the busiest tourist areas. Overlooking Phang Nga Bay, the hotel’s contemporary rooms, suites and villas are the work of Italian designer Paola Navone, and they perfectly reflect the property’s seaside setting.
Things to do
- Dig into hearty Italian-inspired dishes at La Sirena or go local at Nahmyaa that serves Southern Thai cuisine.
- At COMO Shambhala Retreat, take your pick from a wide range of holistic treatments and therapies in beautiful mosaic-tiled rooms overlooking the sea.
- If you want to head out and enjoy nature, there are hiking, yoga and watersports options available. Or, spend the day at COMO Beach Club on Naka Island (40-minute transfer), where you can chill by the restaurant and pool, while the kids are kept entertained at the Play by COMO activity centre.
Deal! Stay three nights or more and enjoy exclusive room rates and daily breakfast. Find out more now.
InterContinental Koh Samui Resort
The first thing that will strike you at this beachside resort located on the quiet southwest coast of Koh Samui are the ocean views over the Gulf of Thailand. Astonishing! Take advantage of the current “Family Pleasure Offer” and enjoy a stay in a luxurious Club Two Bedroom Residence Villa or Club Napa Reserve Three Bedroom Residence Villa. Perfect for two adults and two kids, the package (with a minimum stay of three consecutive nights) includes complimentary two-hour babysitting, a body massage for two and complimentary kids’ meals designed by the in-house chefs.
Things to do
- Indulge in a relaxing afternoon at Thai Spa by Harnn, and pamper yourself with a soothing massage or a refreshing scrub.
- Drop the kids off at the Planet Trekkers kids’ club that offers fun activities for little ones aged four to 12. They can enjoy everything from beach soccer to nail painting.
- Go kayaking, snorkelling or diving, or visit nearby islands on the Luxe Marine Excursions programme.
The Pavilions Phuket
Offering views of Layan Beach, The Pavilions Phuket is just 20 minutes from the popular Thai island’s airport. The resort houses private pool villas and has just introduced new spacious suites. Guests can enjoy gourmet eats at the two signature restaurants, The Plantation Club and Firefly; then, as the sun sets, head to 360 Bar for drinks and panoramic views. Take advantage of the Romance Destination Offer (Until 31 December 2019) and indulge in a stay in a spacious Spa and Pool Pavilion that has an in-villa spa room with a steam room and sala. The package includes a candlelit three-course set dinner and daily afternoon tea at The Plantation Club.
Things to do
- Choose from traditional Thai healing therapies and soothing Western rituals at the spa.
- Dig into delicious eats with the resort’s new Lazy Sunday Lunch concept, featuring made-to-order dishes including New Zealand tenderloin beef and Canterbury lamb chops and pork chops.
- Hop on the complimentary shuttle bus to Layan Beach just five minutes away.
Cruise along the Mekong Delta and visit the astonishing Cu Chi tunnels just outside Ho Chi Minh City for a reminder of the war years.
In the north, soak up the colonial French atmosphere of Hanoi, then leave the city for a boat trip around picturesque Halong Bay. The middle of the country boasts culturally significant Hue and the photogenic, sleepy Hoi An, a must-visit for a step back in time. The rural area around Sapa, in the northwest, is highly recommended as a destination for everything from village retreats to rugged cycling trips. Do yourself a favour and take a cooking lesson; you’ll bring your holiday experience home.
Meliá Ho Tram Beach Resort
Opened in 2019, Meliá Ho Tram Beach Resort in Vietnam is a seaside getaway located southeast of Ho Chi Minh City. Enjoy stunning ocean views and take your pick from the resort’s wide range of rooms, suites and villas. Fancy a private pool? Each of the villas comes with one – plus you can enjoy a floating breakfast in it! For larger groups, there are two- to three-bedroom villas that are spacious enough to house everyone comfortably.
Things to do
- Chill at Breeza Beach Club and enjoy a drink or two at the cocktail bar. You can even try your hand at whipping up your own cocktails at a mixology class!
- Get the young ones excited with a movie under the stars at the outdoor cinema. The resort’s Kids Club will also keep little guests busy with a variety of activities, including yoga and hula hooping.
- Besides treating yourself to a relaxing treatment at YHi Spa or lounging by one of the hotel’s three pools, you can head out on excursions to Vung Tau city, Binh Chau hot springs and other attractions nearby.
Anantara Quy Nhon Villas
Anantara Quy Nhon Villas has opened on Vietnam’s south central coast, and we love the sound of the one- and two-bedroom abodes at this all-villa property. They come with infinity-style pools, in-room villa host services, spacious sundecks and oversized bathtubs. You can choose a preferred room scent, enjoy Anantara’s signature natural soap collection, and enjoy the offerings in the in-villa wine cellar and delicatessen, including a selection of charcuterie, cheese and locally-made ice cream. There’s a swim-up bar that’s great for sampling premium cocktails, Vietnamese craft beers and Cuban cigars. And you can tuck into local seafood and regional eats at Sea.Fire.Salt, the resort’s signature restaurant.
Things to do
- Treat yourself to an Anantara’s signature Dining by Design experience. From picnic-style to fine dining, choose which experience suits your taste.
- Go on a guided Quy Nhon Explorer tour where you’ll enjoy traditional food and culture, including as Vietnamese coffee and banh mi.
- Head to the Anantara Spa and enjoy massages and more in the nature-inspired treatment suites.
Right on Singapore’s doorstep, Malaysia has plenty to offer as a holiday destination: bustling cities, beautiful beaches, historical towns and delicious food.
Across the causeway, Johor Bahru (“JB”) can be good for the occasional shopping and eating experience (get there by car, taxi or bus). Kids will love Legoland here too, which is barely an hour’s drive from home.
The Malaysian capital Kuala Lumpur has areas of historical and cultural interest, fabulous views from the Petronas Towers, and buzzing nightlife in Bangsar. The nearby Batu Caves are worth visiting.
For beaches, Langkawi off the peninsular west coast and Perhentian and Redang islands off the east coast are among the highlights. Tioman, Sibu and Rawa are close to Singapore. Kota Kinabalu in Borneo (East Malaysia) is a stepping-stone to Mabul and Sipadan.
Elsewhere, Penang and Malacca hit the spot for history; Taman Negara has the world’s oldest rainforest; the Cameron Highlands and tea plantations are located on the spine of the peninsula; and don’t forget the orangutans in Sabah.
Enjoy a peaceful retreat at Cove 55, a boutique resort at the foot of Mount Santubong in Sarawak. The seafront property is a scenic 40-minute ride from Kuching airport, which itself is a short flight from Singapore. Overlooking the South China Sea, the hotel has various rooms to choose from, including ones with balconies and private courtyards. There are also spacious suite rooms that are perfect for families – they each come with a luxurious king bed and a double sleeper sofa. Guests can enjoy quality amenities including a rainshower and toiletries from Acqua Di Colonia. The hotel also houses a gym and library, and it organises sunrise and sunset yoga sessions.
Things to do
- Have a dip in the 30-metre saltwater infinity pool or enjoy a leisurely lounge with a drink from Cove Bar.
- Look forward to meals whipped up using fresh organic produce and herbs from Chef’s Garden, the resort’s kitchen garden. At Kechala, dig into modern cuisine made from local ingredients.
- Head to Semmengoh Nature Reserve where you can spot orangutans, hike up Mount Santubong or visit national parks and villages close by.
Deal for EL readers! Stay three consecutive nights and get your third night free when you quote “EXPATLIVINGSG” when making your reservation via phone or email. The offer is valid for a minimum stay of three consecutive nights and a maximum of seven nights, and for stays in Garden or Balcony Rooms for two adults. It includes daily breakfast for two. Available from 2 January to 30 June, and 1 September to 20 December 2020.
Laos, Cambodia & Burma
No stay in Asia is complete without a trip to Cambodia’s Siem Reap to see the incredible ruins of Angkor Wat. Phnom Penh is also worth a visit for the Royal Palace, the Silver Pagoda, and the reminder of the country’s tragic history at the Tuol Sleng Genocide Museum.
In Laos, visit charming Luang Prabang for its tranquil riverside ambience, beautiful temples, crowds of friendly monks and excellent French fusion cuisine. If you can spare the time, take a cruise on the mighty Mekong.
Of Burma’s “big four” destinations – Yangon, Mandalay, Bagan and Inle Lake – we recommend the final two. Bagan is little short of mind-blowing: picture Angkor Wat and then turn the dial up to 11. Inle Lake has floating veggie gardens and villages on stilts.
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