Need a holiday – or just want one? The Finder has curated dreamy destinations within five hours of SG for every kind of traveller. Plus: how to turn that work trip into a legit vacay!
A little rustic, a lotta culture.
One of Thailand’s cultural capitals, this Northern city hosts many of the country’s most unique festivals, including the basket-floating Loy Krathong Festival and the Lantern Festival (both in November), the Chiang Mai Flower Festival (February) and the Thai New Year, or Songkran Festival (April).
If you prefer mild weather, visit between November and January. Those looking for a tan should come between March and June. Like it wet? Plan your travel during the “green season” between July and October.
Getting There: At press time, tickets from Singapore to Chiang Mai (three-hour flight) for a family of four cost $1,400 via Tigerair.
The simple, bungalow style Adventure Hotel is perfection if you have active, imaginative kids. Why? Each room has its own unique theme such as Underwater World, Caravan, Space and everyone’s favourite, Jurassic (because who doesn’t like dinos?). The hotel isn’t very close to town, which means it’s rather quiet after nightfall – you’ll need either a songtaew (boat), tuk-tuk (auto rickshaw) or rented vehicle to reach local attractions and dining havens. But the service is friendly and room rates start at $57 per night.
For Adrenaline Junkies
Find your natural high at Sukantara Cascade Resort & Spa. Surrounded by the hills and soothing waterfalls of Chiang Mai’s A. Maerim district, this ecofriendly resort (rooms start at $166 per night) is designed to leave a minimal carbon footprint. Go on a 90-minute hike along a wellmarked trail and end up at the nearby national park or the Taad Mok waterfall. You may even pass local Karen hill tribe villagers on their way to forage in the forest. For more of a rush, zoom over the trees the Maeram River with the Track zipline, which is minutes away from the resort. Or, try the ATV drive centre (eight minutes away) check out surrounding farms, plantations and remote villages. Tip: Opt for the luxury outdoor tented villa if fancy a spot of glamping from $135 a night).
The night skyline looks like a sparkling jewellery box.
Food, shopping, sights – there’s something for everyone in Hong Kong, which explains why it’s the world’s most visited city, according to Euromonitor International. Between October and February, the temperatures are cool and mild – and a great way to escape the Singaporean heat.
Getting There: At press time, flight tickets for a family of four from Singapore Airlines cost roughly $1,944.80 (flight time: 3 hours, 45 minutes).
Stay at the Ovolo NoHo, a cute boutique hotel near Sheung Wan MTR Station ($204 a night). The neighbourhood is full of glorious gastronomic finds. Try Duddell’s, which boasts some of the world’s finest dim sum. Or, pop into Tsui Wah Restaurant, a quintessential cha chaan teng tea restaurant for delish food and drinks 24 hours a day. Better still, sign up for the threehour Central & Sheung Wan Foodie Tour ($92.99 and up) by Hong Kong Foodie Tasting Tours.
Must visit: Hong Kong Disneyland – for thrilling rides and meet-and-greets with fave characters, from Frozen’s Elsa to those of Toy Story Land (“to infinity and beyond!”). Hit up Repulse Bay beach for a day of swimming and sandcastles, then head down to the Tsim Sha Shui waterfront by 8 p.m. to catch the nightly multimedia Symphony of Lights show featuring coloured lights and laser beams synchronised to music. Where to stay? Consider Hong Kong Parkview, in the lush greenery of Tai Tam. Its Family Suite ($15,611 for an entire month) comes with a fully equipped kitchenette, WiFi, a washer-dryer, mountain and garden views and daily maid service. There’s also an in-house babysitting service as well as a gym, pools and various sports courts to work up a nice sweat.
After you trawl the streets of Hong Kong all day (or night), come “home” to the Ritz-Carlton Hong Kong (from $674 a night). There, you can melt your aches and pains away with a visit to The Ritz-Carlton Spa by ESPA. Its 80-minute Lava Shell Body Treatment ($337 and up) uses heated lava shells, warmed aromatic oils andtherapeutic strokes to soothe your feet and body.
Fun in the sun for posh people.
Often considered an escape for the wealthy, the Maldives is pretty much paradise on earth. You’ll fly into the capital, Malé, before taking a ferry or boat to your hotel on one of the 26 atolls. Sunbathers should visit between December and April. Book at least six months ahead because most resorts will be at max capacity. May to November are the low season, so expect lower prices, smaller crowds and optimal scuba and surf conditions.
Getting There: At press time, flights (4 1/2 hours) via Tigerair cost $815.28 for two adults.
Velaa Private Island has primo family-oriented packages. Get a nanny for a day for kids aged 4 and under, while Mum hits the spa or plays tennis and Dad enjoys a round of golf or squash. Or, let kids between 4 and 12 enjoy the Lha Velaa (Baby Turtle) Club, where they can run around at the indoor play area and enjoy activities like coral painting. Once everyone’s had a little “me” time, bond together as a family over banana boat rides, coral adoption sessions, pizza-making classes and more. Packages are priced from $2,666.
Barefoot luxury is at its best at the Conrad Maldives Rangali Island (from $595). Its Over Water Spa experience is set on stilts over the Indian Ocean. Sip on herbal tea and gaze into the colourful coral reef below while your masseuse goes to work. Want to explore a deserted island? Charter a resort boat to get there – along with a picnic table, gourmet food and a mobile phone. Call the hotel once you’re done and the boat will pick you up.
For Adrenaline Junkies
The Residence Maldives (price on request) is ideal for diving enthusiasts, thanks to its proximity to some of the world’s rarest, unspoilt coral reefs and dive sites. Water sports lovers should try the complimentary sailing, snorkelling, kayaking or windsurfing beginner’s lessons, plus jet skiing, knee boarding and more.
Maldives for All!
If you’ve struck it off your travel bucket list because you think it’s too expensive, think again. Airbnb let’s you stay in someone’s home – and eat, drink and live life like a Maldivian. At press time, single rooms were available for rent for as low as $35 a night; entire homes went for $92 a night. Alternately, look for lower-priced, reputable inns and lodgings at www.tourism.gov.mv/facilities/guest-house.
Experience old and new in one bustling place.
This 300-year-old metropolis is known for its night markets, architecture, food, advanced technology (like the landmark Taipei 101 skyscraper) and warm people. Taipei sits at Taiwan’s northern tip and the best weather comes between November and February, when temperatures are cool with little rainfall. You will also be avoiding the typhoon season from June to October.
Getting There: At press time, a flight to Taipei for two via Scoot (4 hours and 40 minutes) cost $1,069.72.
For Culture Vultures
If you check in at the Hotel Eclat ($252 a night and up), you will be surrounded by French art. Visit Sanxia Old Street, an area filled with Baroque-styled walkways, Chinese architecture and little shops selling everything from old-fashioned fabrics and Chinese herbs to mouth-watering delicacies, then head to the nearby Yingge Ceramics Museum to explore the history and art of pottery since antiquity. Swing by Tonghua Night Market afterwards for an abundance of delicious street eats at great prices.
For Nature Lovers
Taiwan lies on tectonic fault lines, and hot springs are bountiful around the island. Stay at Tsuwu Hot Springs Hotel ($370 a night and up) and ease your sore body with a dip in the hotel’s hot spring pools. You must also visit the Yangmingshan National Park, famous for its cherry blossoms (typically between January and March, or sometimes later) and hiking, biking and nature trails.
Calling Budget Travellers!
You can now search and book the best available airfares from eight low-cost regional carriers in a single transaction. Called the Value Alliance, the newly formed group includes Cebu Pacific (including subsidiary Cebgo), Jeju Air, Nok Air, NokScoot, Scoot, Tigerair Singapore, Tigerair Australia and Vanilla Air.
By Hazel Joanne Vincent De Paul, The Finder, June 2016