Tuesday, 28 October 2014

10 idyllic weekend beach getaways in Southeast Asia

Singaporeans are internationally-known workaholics for our notorious (lack-of) work-life balance. It is almost impossible to shed that label with the endless, piling work, but that does not mean you cannot get away momentarily and have fun during the weekends.
Do you feel that inertia when you think of mushroom-infested Bali, party crowd at Phuket or sudden influx of travellers at Boracay, and just want to escape all these chaotic human traffic altogether? Here’s a list of beach weekends getaways from Singapore:
Rawa Island, Malaysia
Just a short boat ride from mainland Mersing, you’ll be enthralled by the beauty of Rawa Island. Rawa is a private island owned by the family of the Sultanate of Johor; perfect for a rejuvenating getaway. Clean beaches filled with nothing but powdery, white sand; occasionally enveloped by the inviting blue waters.
With its abundant marine life, this is one of the best places in Malaysia to snorkel through clown fishes, sea urchins, and giant clams. For those who are craving for a more adventurous yet romantic activity, canoe around Rawa Island and discover the cliffs and caves on its eastern coast.
Sabah Islands, Malaysia
Though Borneo is more famously known for its dense rainforest, wildlife sanctuaries and Kota Kinnabalu, the highest mountain in Southeast Asia, it is endowed with an array of wondrous islands off its eastern and western coastlines.
This protected stretch of water between the Philippines and Malaysia is a paradise for divers. With the flourishing coral reefs and marine life, 3000 species of fishes can be spotted - leopard sharks, marbled stingrays, giant groupers, tuna, whale sharks, just to name a few.
These are a few islands, each with its own character, that you might want to consider: Kapalai Island, Sipidan, Mataking, Mabul, and Lankayan.
Koh Tao, Thailand
With a turtle-silhouetted mountain, Koh Tao is also known as Turtle Island. Well, also the fact that green turtles can be spotted during dives.
Koh Tao that retains tranquility, serves as an ideal place to escape the forever-drunken crowd or nurse your hangover from too much partying in sister islands, Koh Samui and Koh Phangan. Koh Tao is blessed with hilly landscapes where you can hike up to different viewpoints and be mesmerised by the natural phenomenon of the sky and sea conjoining into one, as you squint against the setting sun.
Just like the ambience of the island, the waves are milder and the waters calmer; it is the most popular spot in Thailand to learn diving. Also, zigzag-walking patterned drunkens will be less of a common sight when you hunt for fresh seafood and small bites further inland. This island is suitable for all, offering both budget guesthouses and luxurious hotels.
China Beach, Vietnam
Expecting a name you can barely pronounce? Well, China Beach was named by American and Australian troops who visited during the Vietnam War for their R&R.
This area has more historical stories than it being a surfing paradise of Da Nang. What’s not to love when it is just a 10 minutes bus ride from Hoi An and 25 minutes from the International Airport? So accessible yet retaining its composure of secludedness.
Phu Quoc, Vietnam
Phu Quoc is the largest stand alone island of Vietnam. However, fret not about accessibility. Since 2012, there is an International Airport standing, or simply catch a 50 minutes flight from the honking and bargaining madness of Ho Chi Minh City.
Expect to be spoilt for choices between the National Parks and its protected marine environment. Have I mentioned the hypnotising power of the swaying palm trees? At Phu Quoc, you will finally understand the true meaning of zen even as you lay bare backed and get mercilessly sun kissed.
Coron Island, the Philippines
Due to the several Japanese shipwrecks during World War 2, Coron Island is eminent as a dive spot for its stupefying underwater war relics.
Rocky terrains pocketed with lakes and a mere 5% of flat land, Coron Island is rather inaccessible compared to over-populated Boracay. However, its breathtaking landscape of limestone cliffs, pristine white beaches, emerald coloured lagoons, and unpolluted lakes (Lake Kayangan and Lake Barracuda, with the former crowned as the cleanest lake in the Philippines for 3 consecutive years) will lure you through its inaccessibility.
Pagudpud Ilcos Norte, the Philippines
As you worry about when the next ripen coconut will fall, you’ll be distracted by the effortless blending of sapphire-blue waters from the deeper end with the turquoise-green salted waters that are threatening to drench your tanning-creamed legs.
Tucked in the northernmost settlement on Luzon island, Pagudpud makes a destination for road tripping as well. Think: Tallest lighthouse in the country, Cape Bojeador Lighthouse in Burgos. Heritage activities such as understanding the different ethnic groups at Museum De Laoag, visiting Batac, Sinking Bell Tower, and St William’s Cathedral.
Togean Island, Indonesia
Togean island.jpg
A successful beach holiday would be one that stays dry and sunny throughout. Due to its proximity to the equator, you can expect a sweltering getaway at Togean Island! Hidden along the archipelago of 56 islands and islets, Togean Island remains an undiscovered gem where magic and romance will happen.
Aquaphobias, you don’t have to worry about spending your entire weekend on a hammock with your favourite book as your friends experience this world-class diving spot. You can trek at nearby active volcano, Una Una, or explore the villages of the different ethnic groups. Not only is Togean Island suitable for the travellers with different interests, it is also made for those with varying budgets. Accommodations range from communal hostels to private villas.
Nihiwatu @ Sumba Island, Indonesia
A continental fragment that broke off from either Africa or Australia has become part of Indonesia’s many islands since. Twice the size of overly-heard-of Bali, Sumba Island is only ⅙ its population.
This is an unspoiled region that promises an exclusive retreat with the utmost privacy. Facing the majestic Indian Ocean, forget about time and have a real connection with Mother Nature that you longed. Experience inner peace when you detach from the hustle and bustle of city life, especially if you check in with Nihiwatu. The hotel restricts number of visitors to 10 at a time.
This island is surrounded by rice terraces and tropical forests, home to 7 species of fauna found nowhere else in the world.
Song Saa Villas, Cambodia
Saving the best for the last, Song Saa Private Island in undisturbed Koh Rong Archipelago.
Like the Khmer translation, ‘The Sweetheart’, Song Saa will capture your heart, and make you fall in love boundlessly and senselessly. The lack of paved roads and cash machines will be compensated with its Au-Naturel beauty. As the sun fades into darkness, the stars will regain its majestic reign in the night sky and light planktons in the pitch black waters. You once again restore faith in darkness. You are in a fantasy land.
The good news is, this place actually exists. A mere 30 minutes boat ride from Sihanoukville and you’ll be here at an eco-conscious beach out of a fairytale book. 11 jungle villas, 5 beach villas, and 9 over-water villas, take your pick!

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