Four weekends in a month, 52 weekends in a year: that’s 104 days, folks, and that’s not including public holidays. Where do you go for your precious days off? Bespoke tour operator Lightfoot Travel has an inspiring portfolio of short-haul, big-experience breaks – here are their top mini-trips.
1. Margaret River, Western Australia (Best for: Wine-tasting)
If time is at a premium but you’re gagging for an inspirational escape, a quick trip to the magnificent Margaret River could be just the ticket. With just a few days to spare you can nip off to swig Sauvignon Blanc amongst beautiful green vineyards, where grapes are plumped up by the blazing Aussie sun.
And, fortunately for us, these stress-busting shores are easy to access from Singapore. Take a five-hour flight to Perth and drive south through picturesque scenery (worth the trip alone) to reach Cape Lodge. Sitting next to its own secluded vineyard, this boutique luxury hotel has native forest, gardens and lakes at its feet. There’s a great cookery school (and sheep-shearing for the brave), but the main draw is the superb wine tasting you can experience on tours of the surrounding vineyards. There are long sandy beaches a short drive away and a rugged limestone coastline for going walkabout; June to December is whale-watching season. You’ll feel a million miles away from the city.
2. Hội An, Vietnam (Best for: Pampering)
A quick flight to Da Nang and a short transfer in a private car will deposit you at the romantic Unesco-protected town of Hội An. This ancient fishing port is a storybook scene, decorated with colourful markets, picturesquely crumbling buildings, and museums and temples.
Poke around former merchants’ houses and stop in at traditional tailor shops where you can have something special knocked up in a day. At night, lanterns light up the town in an atmospheric glow.
For a dose of extreme pampering, the latest additional to the stylish GHM hotel collection, the Nam Hai, is just 15 minutes down the road. Set on a white-sand beach, the resort’s huge split-level villas are designed in Vietnamese style, each with a landscaped garden and outstanding sea views.
Put the kids to work painting traditional Vietnamese hats at the kids’ club while you head for the lotus-pond spa. Or tuck into some delicious “white rose” dumplings, a Hội An speciality. At night, kick back at your gorgeous villa and watch traditional boats winking in the distance. Luxury beachfront living at its best.
3. Java, Indonesia (Best for: Serenity)
If you want to immerse yourself in ruggedly beautiful scenery and exotic cultures, Java is just the place. Cut a path inland to its rural heartland – one of the most peaceful spots in the world – to stay at the ultra-Zen Amanjiwo resort.
A cultural landmark in its own right, the resort is built from intricately carved limestone, with 36 suites set in a moon shape around the central rotunda. It overlooks the world’s largest Buddhist sanctuary, the ancient Borobudur Temple (a magnificent shrine to Lord Buddha and a pilgrimage hotspot), which in turn is framed by four jungle-clad volcanoes.
Luxury pool suites have outdoor stone baths to complement the resort’s 40-metre green stone pool. Unwind with traditional Javanese spa treatments, head off on an early-morning elephant trek to watch the sun rise over blushing Borobudur, or hike through the area’s famous coffee plantations. Java promises a generous dose of natural beauty, culture and luxury – the perfect short-break cocktail.
4. Langkawi, Malaysia (Best for: Families)
When you only have a few days off, sometimes what you really want to do is snooze by the beach and recharge your batteries at the spa – activities that kids don’t understand.
Langkawi is home to the perfect luxury family retreat: cocooned in forest and powder-soft sands, the Four Seasons comes with five-star service and activities catering to guests little and large. Set on the island’s best beach, chic Indonesian-style villas and pavilions come with oodles of space, private verandahs and sunset views over the Andaman Sea.
Kid-friendly quirks include child-sized bathrobes, juice before bedtime, and music and storytelling performances at the kids’ club – there’s even kids’ yoga! Adventure-lovers can kayak through mangroves and go on jungle walks, and there’s golf, go-carting, horse-riding and water-sports galore.
Head out to Gunung Raya, the highest peak on the island, to see the hornbills at sunset, before dinner at a buzzing local market. And there’s no better place for cocktails and a tropical sea breeze than the balcony of the Four Season’s Reading Room.
5. Hong Kong (Best for: Partying)
If you’re searching for the hottest clubs, clothes and culture, Hong Kong is ideal. There’s a heady mix of urban glitz and grime, with little streets chock-full of cheap and cheerful markets and designer shopping malls.
Hop on the Star Ferry for a nostalgic journey across the “fragrant harbour” or take the tram up Victoria Peak for a panoramic view. And, of course, the cuisine: expensive fine dining at one end of the scale; cheap, delicious street food at the other. Tuck into a steaming basket of dim sum to gear up for a night of partying behind the velvet ropes of Hong Kong’s ultra-exclusive nightclubs. To nurse the inevitable hangover, nothing beats a day on a traditional junk, exploring the secret beaches of the New Territories. Back on dry land, hit the shops of Gough Street, Soho and Noho for an array of quirky designer boutiques and Chinese antique shops.
For a hip base, stay at the swoon-worthy W Hotel, part of the W chain, with its sizzling restaurants, sensual lounges and a jaw-droppingly sexy pool hovering 700 feet above street level.
6. Ankor Wat, Cambodia (Best for: Temples)
For a rich dose of Indochine charm, spend a weekend in the magical world of Siem Reap, the cultural heart of Cambodia. Alive with colourful markets, French colonial cafes and friendly locals, it promises an instant hit of atmosphere. Hotel de La Paix is the town’s most stylish boutique hotel. A hip combination of art deco and Khmer design, it houses an Arts Lounge with a great collection of modern and traditional Cambodian arts.
Better yet, just 10 minutes drive away is the UNESCO World Heritage Site of Angkor Wat. A century has passed since explorers rode elephants through the jungle and stumbled upon this ancient complex of intricately carved temples. Head off before dawn to follow in their footsteps, soaking up the eerie silence while other tourists sleep. Go with a private guide or hop on a bicycle to navigate the gnarly ruins in private.
Back at the Hotel de la Paix, unwind by the pool before hitting the town. The elegance of the French colonial era still lingers in Siem Reap. The FCC is a particularly classy establishment and, with its piano bar and sexy terrace overlooking the main street, it a great place for drinks and people-watching.
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