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Eight of the most popular destinations among Singapore expats

When talking to people back home about why we love living in Singapore, one thing that always gets a mention is the island’s proximity to so many fantastic Asian destinations. There are countless adventures only a plane-hop away, from lazing on one of Thailand’s palm-fringed sandy beaches to mountain biking through the archaeological wonders of Burma’s Bagan plain. In some cases, you won’t even need time off from work – Friday night to Sunday night will suffice. Here are some of the most popular destinations among expats in Singapore.

The Miri Caves in Malaysia are worth a nose
The Miri Caves in Malaysia are worth a nose

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”) is okay for the occasional shopping and eating experience (get there by car, taxi or bus), if Orchard starts to feel too glitzy.

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. East Malaysia has Kota Kinabalu and off Sabah are Mabul and Sipadan.

Elsewhere, there is Penang and Malacca for history, Taman Negara , world’s oldest rainforest, the Cameron Highlands and tea plantations on the spine of the peninsula; orangutans in Sabah.

Our tips:

  • A spicy breakfast in the Indian enclave of Brickfields is a great way to start the day in KL.
  • Climb all 4,095 metres of Mount Kinabalu – “but don’t underestimate the physical hardship involved!” adds Expat Living’seditor-in-chief, Rebecca Bisset.


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 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 .

Head to Bali for stunning beaches, terraced rice paddies, temples, ruins and jungle walks. Luxury villas can be rented for a great price, particularly if you travel with a group of friends. In all, there’s little wonder it’s a favourite among Singapore-based expats.

Lombok is making a name for itself as “the Bali of 20 years ago”. Perfect for scuba diving and snorkelling enthusiasts, Manado boasts stunning scenery and volcanoes.

Our tips:

  • Nikoi, off the east coast of Bintan, is perfect for a big group get-together – in fact, you can book out the whole resort and have an island to yourselves.
  • In Bali, stay at Canggu, where the island starts to relax a bit, or on the southern coast of the Bukit Peninsula, with amazing cliff views.


Buildings steeped in history, sweeping landscapes and a cultural revolution still in motion: China is one of the most exciting travel destinations in Asia. Highlights undoubtedly include the Great Wall near Beijing, the famous Terracotta warriors of Xi’an and the cutting-edge city of Shanghai.

Other popular destinations include Hangzhou, a pretty lake city mentioned by Marco Polo, Chengdu , whose bamboo forests are the last strongholds of the endangered giant panda, and Hainan Island , with international resorts, sandy beaches and golf courses.

Harbour cruises, gourmet food, museums, culture and heritage make Hong Kong a wonderful city break.

Over the last few years, Macau has evolved from a sleepy city of Portuguese forts and food into Asia’s Las Vegas.

Our tips:

  • May and October are the best months to travel in most of China, though be wary of busy national holiday periods at the beginning of both months.
  • Yunnan Province offers a window into the lives of China’s minority cultures, along with majestic scenery.
  • There is some brilliant hiking to be done on the various islands that make up Hong Kong.
  • On Macau, escape the casinos and explore the rustic corners of Coloane Island.

Colourful but busy Bangkok has amazing food, stunning temples, numerous markets and malls, and interesting nightlife.

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.

A jungle adventure awaits you in the Golden Triangle’s Chiang Mai and Chiang Rai.

Our tips:

  • Convenient flight times to destinations in Thailand – especially Phuket – can make a two-night getaway a breeze. Sometimes it’s all you need.
  • There are dozens of great sights in Bangkok, but one of our editors swears by the often-overlooked Ananda Samakhom Throne Hall
  • If you’re a runner or budding triathlete, the Laguna Phuket hosts events in June and November each year


Cruise along the Mekong Delta and visit the incredible Cu Chi tunnels just outside Ho Chi Minh City for a reminder of the war years.Soak up the colonial French atmosphere of Hanoi, then leave the city for a boat trip around picturesque Halong Bay.

Our tips:

  • The rural area around Sapa, in the northwest, is currently a hot destination for everything from village retreats to rugged cycling trips.
  • Wherever you go, order the pho! (Vietnam’s famous noodle soup)


No trip to 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 tragic history remembered at the Tuol Sleng Genocide Museum.

In Laos, visit charming Luang Prabang for its tranquil riverside ambience, stunning temples, crowds of friendly monks and excellent French fusion cuisine.

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.


Our tips:

  • In Siem Reap, ask your tuk-tuk driver to take you to some of the more distant temples in the Angkor Wat complex to escape the hoards.
  • It’s best to fly domestically between destinations in Burma – flights are cheap; bus travel, on the other hand, really eats into your travel time.


Other destinations that are close enough to Singapore for a relaxing break or a short-haul adventure include India, Sri Lanka, Japan and the Philippines.

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