Friday, 28 November 2014

Beach Getaways from Singapore without flying

Despite the constant complaints of the immense heat we are suffering at home everyday, many Singaporeans are still beach lovers and could never get enough of them - sifting the powdery white sand through your toes as the blistering sun beats down on your back and the contours of your face - and are desperately in search of the best beach getaway.

As an advocate of ‘life is a journey, not destination’, I would sometimes prefer land and sea travels compared to the readily available and more convenient air travels. But to some, they just hate flying altogether. The islands and beaches featured on “10 weekend beach getaways from Singapore” would require some flying but this new list will only cover those don’t require the cumbersome 6,000 feet off the ground.

Batam, Riau Islands, Indonesia
70 kilometres South of Singapore.
2 hours ferry ride from Harbourfront Ferry Terminal.


Batam island is a popular getaway destination from Singapore that is highly sought after by different demographics. Offering more than just its alluring beaches and unique boutique resorts, Batam island has good eats and shopping opportunities inland. It is no wonder that many Singaporeans flock here to pamper themselves during weekends in the charm of the tropical beauty.

Bintan, Riau Islands, Indonesia
45 kilometres Southeast of Singapore.
45 minutes to 1 hour ferry ride from Tanah Merah Ferry Terminal.



Separated from Batam island by the Riau Straits, Bintan island remains as one of the top beach destinations for Singaporeans during holidays, threading behind Bali island. Its popularity among Singaporeans is so blatant that you can actually use SGD on this island.

Being the largest island in the Riau Archipelago, there are many activities you can take part in apart from lazing on the beach, gazing at the horizon aimlessly. Head inland for hiking, ATV rides or a stroll in the elephant park. There are also historical and cultural attractions such as Kota Piring palace.

Nikoi Island, Riau Islands, Indonesia
80 kilometres South of Singapore.
Approximately 2.5 hours ferry ride from Tanah Merah Ferry Terminal. (Ferry to Bintan island first, then take a 1 hours taxi ride from Bintan Ferry Terminal to jetty. Finally, a 30 minutes boat ride from Bintan Jetty to Nikol Island.)


For those looking for exclusive tranquility, Nikol Island, a private beach off Bintan would make your perfect stress-free getaway. With only 15 beach houses, you can be the lead actor in your own ‘Lost’ parody. Read: secluded.

Though laid back and lesser activities available as compared to aforementioned, what else do you need if you are surrounded by white fine sand and inviting blue waters? That was rhetorical; just strip to your bare minimums and frolic in the blurred lines of the shore.

If you’re getting a little restless, snorkelling, fishing and wildlife spotting might go into your itinerary.

Sugi Island, Riau Islands, Indonesia
30 kilometres Southwest of Batam Island.
3 hours ferry ride from Harbourfront Ferry Terminal. (40 minutes boat ride from Harbourfront Ferry Terminal to Sekupang Terminal. Then, traditional boat ride from Sekupang Terminal to Sugi Island.)



The entire place is connected by the wooden walkway, set on stilts over the sea, giving it a rustic ambience. The planks are set slightly apart, so you can steal peeks at the glistening turquoise waters beneath.

Good and bad news though, there is no internet connection on this island. Definitely an ideal place, by choice or not, to be disconnected with the stressful hustling reality back home. It is a rare chance for city dwellers like us to fully immerse and indulge in the finest beauty of nature without having our fingers all over our social media accounts.

Pulau Sibu, Johor Bahru, Malaysia
130 kilometres North of Johor Bahru and 75 kilometres South of Mersing.
No public ferries to this island. Some resorts will offer shuttle buses straight from Singapore with a total transfer time of 3.5 hours.


Off the East Coast of Malaysia is Pulau Sibu, 7 kilometres long and 1 kilometres wide. Pulau Sibu has its own desalination plant that provides unlimited fresh and clean waters, keeping up with the international environmental standards.

Apart from its impressive environmentally-friendly standards, you’ll be assured of a sanctuary, having your mind and body rejuvenated. Unlike those private beaches with top notch resorts, there are 4 beach resorts catering to varying budgets and preferences. Romantic lovers, adventure seeks or even kids can be in sync with nature at reasonable rates!

Tioman Island, Pahang, Malaysia
165 kilometres Northeast of Singapore.
3 hours bus ride from Singapore to Mersing, and 2 hours ferry ride from Mersing to Tioman island. (Alternatively, hire a taxi from Johor Bahru to Mersing for around RM 200.)


An ecological paradise for nature lovers and sun seekers - warm beaches, rich marine life, and lush rainforests. Diving season starts in late January and lasts till mid-November. The closest dive site is only 10 minutes boat ride from the main island, and with the flourishing marine life, you can spot underwater pinnacles, coral bommies, small clown fishes, and even giant bump head parrot fishes, just to name a few.

Batu Batu @ Pulau Tengah, Mersing, Malaysia
15 minutes speed boat ride from Mersing.



A slice of paradise on this private island. Nestled amidst the swaying coconut trees, you will find yourself squinting against the tropical breezes and fine sand up your calves as you run towards the pristine waters.

Living an environmentalist dream, you can take a jungle walk to discover the more remote areas of the island, and if you’re lucky you can witness the migration of birds. Also, rent a kayak, go diving, snorkel in one of the reefs, or a day trip to the nearby islands!

More travel tips here.

Thursday, 27 November 2014

10 Weekend Treehouse Getaways From Singapore Around Southeast Asia

Ever gotten so inspired by ‘Tarzan and Jane’ and ‘George in the Jungle’ when you were much younger, that all you wanted to do was strip to your bare minimums and swing on the hammock extended from your personal treehouse? Well, at some point of time, we all had that as our childhood dreams.

While you let that dream fades back into time and be disappointed, take a look at these beautiful tree houses around Southeast Asia where you can let your dream become a reality over the weekends.

Bangkok Tree House Hotel, Samut Prakarn, Thailand



Think: Opportunity to connect with nature and provide an escape from the bustling heart of the city.

This environmentally friendly and uniquely designed hotel is only accessible by foot or boat. There are 11 cosy nests with picturesque view over the river, outdoor showers, and natural pond; a haven for nature lovers. One of the room options includes an open air bedroom, romantically surrounded by palm trees swaying with the rhythm of breezes, raised on a bamboo platform; you can fall asleep under the guardian stars. To cater to different preferences, you can choose from Treetop nest, Bee Hive, View with a Room, Family Nest, or River Nest (depending on tidal season).

Sovena Kiri Resort, Ko Kood, Thailand



On this 150 acres of beach and tropical rainforest where hues of blues meet the shades of greens, a dream destination for eco-friendlies. Featuring 42 resort villas and 21 private residences, the main attraction of this resort located in the remote Thai island of Kood is its dining experience. Though not all rooms are perched on a tree, you will be overwhelmed with a meal 16 ft off the ground, with a flying waiter serving all your food via a zip line.

The Gibbon Experience in the Jungle of Bokeo, Bokeo Province, Laos


A forest enclave hidden in Bokeo province of Northern Laos, this conservation project aims to preserve the Nature Reserve and protect its inhabitants. Guests live and sleep in the jungle canopy, only accessible by a network of zip lines; and wake up to the deep forest mist.

Though food and accommodation facilities are basic, you will be awed by the wonders of the nature - the wildlife and serenity as you gaze out from your cabin.

Laiya Coco Grove Resort, Batangas, the Philippines

Laiya Coco Grove Resort Philippines.jpg

Located in the municipality of San Juan, Sigayan Bay has 6 kilometres of beach and water frontage with preserved mangroves. Each tree house is unique with its own character, having varying designs that are dependent on the host tree. While you seek shady refuge in your covered patio, you can gaze out to the sandy beach against the mighty mountains while you drift in and out of your siesta.

Hang Nga’s Treehouse hotel, Da Lat, Vietnam


Also known as Crazy House, the Hang Nga’s Guesthouse was opened in 1990 in Da Lat - the brainchild of architect Dang Viet Nga. Unlike the usual tree houses that sit on trees, this tree house is literally a house in the tree. Its uneven windows and tunnel shaped stairways has it crowned the ‘fairytale house’. There are 10 themed guest rooms such as Tiger Room, Eagle Room, Kangaroo Room, Ant Room, each with matching handicrafted furniture.

Not only an accommodation choice, there’s also a museum for visitors price at VND 200,000.

Sekeping Serendah, Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia


Tucked away in the lush rainforests 45 minutes outside of Kuala Lumpur, you will experience the meet between nature and modern architecture; finding peace and tranquility. The sheds are of open concept yet promising privacy between each shed. The different accommodation types - Glass Shed, Mud Shed, Warehouse, Timbre House - are suitable for big group gatherings, family getaways, or even romantic staycation. Be sure to book in advance, especially during the weekends.

Like any other tree houses, you will get to see all types of wildlife and insects. Also, check out Serendah Waterfall that is located near Sekeping Serendah. This is not a mere getaway that will rejuvenate nature lovers, but also an inspiration for interior designers.

Bunga Raya Hotel, Sabah, Malaysia



A secluded island enclave of simple luxury, the timbered resort is situated on a obscured bay with white sand beach on one side and century-old virgin jungle on the other.

Reflecting the traditional simplicity of Borneo architecture, each villa is handcrafted by local tradesmen with locally source materials from the natural environment, accommodating the comforts and needs of all travellers. Your jungle hideaway experience is completed with an intimate outdoor jacuzzi and private jungle plunge pool.

Nature’s Lodge Sen Monorom, Mondulkiri, Cambodia


Sitting atop the hillside overlooking the immense jungle, Nature’s Lodge offers 30 solid wood bungalows, boasting a balcony platform for communal dining and outdoor hammocks. Submerged in the natural land of finest views and misty hills of Mondulkiri highlands, you can spot Cambodia’s wildlife while sipping on local Mondulkiri coffee. Did I mention the romantic sunset scene?

Sharma Springs @ Green Village Bali, Ubud, Indonesia


You’ll be willingly trapped in this myriad of bamboos and begging not to leave after. 6 storey structure designed by architect Elora Hardy is made almost entirely of bamboo accompanied by furnitures made out of bamboos to complement the atmosphere, and houses a library and spa.

Set within a valley along the sacred Ayung River, this eco initiative blends in with its surrounding, not a blatant luxurious place in the Balinese village. Here, you can practise yoga with the morning sun.

Panchoran Retreat, Bali, Indonesia

resort spa treehouse bali.jpg

A soothing sanctuary, a basic haven that relaxes your mind while you communicate with the nature. In Panchoran Retreat, there are 6 well spaced out forest retreats - Waterfall House, River House, Modern Waterfall House, Coconut House, Bamboo Garden House - made from recycled and sustainable materials, blurring the dichotomy between the natural exterior and man-made interior. Other zen-mode activities that you can indulge in are Yoga at the Pavilion and Bamboo Meditation.

For more travel tips, click here.

Wednesday, 26 November 2014

6 Malaysian Roadtrips You Can Do This Weekend

Do you find yourself staring at travel pictures during weekends and hopelessly wishing you were there? Feeling exasperated as you try to find a parking lot in the mega malls or overcrowded cafes? The excitement for weekends have died down as soon as you finish the last drop of booze in your favourite bar on a Friday night.

Fret not, here is a list of road trips in Malaysia you might want to embark on, to once again bring back the zest for weekends!

  1. Kukup Laut, District of Pontian on Straits of Malacca
80 kilometres Northwest of Singapore, 40 kilometres from Johor Bahru
Approximately 1.5 to 2 hours drive


Tucked at the southwestern tip of the Peninsular of West Malaysia is a laid back century old fishing town built entirely on stilts. Kukup Laut is one of the world’s largest mangrove swamp island and is famous for its seafood, vast expanse of rubber, oil palm, and cocoa plantations. This little island is dotted with some fruit farms that boats 50 different kinds of fruits.

  1. Port Dickson, State of Negeri Sembilan
314 kilometres Northwest of Singapore, 90 kilometres from Kuala Lumpur
Approximately 3 to 4 hours drive

Usually a beach holiday destination for the locals but the beaches are nothing to rave about compared to the activities available inland. Port Dickson is a small port that is popular for sailing.

Ostrich Showfarm


Though Singapore has one of the best zoos in the world, Port Dickson’s Ostrich Showfarm is still very much something fresh and an unique experience. You will be able to get up close to the farms animals and besides ostriches, visitors can get to roam freely with peacocks, jungle fowls, turkeys, and goats, just to name a few. You can even race on the ostriches!

Cape Rachado

Also known as Tanjung Tuan, this hilly cape is 18 kilometres south of Port Dickson town. Perched at the top of a gazetted forest reserve is a historical lighthouse built by the Portuguese colonial forces in 1528; after conquering Malacca. At the summit, you can gaze down at the hues of blue crashing into the rocky hills.

  1. Selangor
362 kilometres Northwest of Singapore
Approximately 3.5 to 4 hours drive

Selangor is colloquially known as the ‘Abode of Sincerity’ and is one of the 13 states of Malaysia. Being one of the most populous state in the nation, it is home to top attractions such as Sunway Lagoon, Batu Caves, and Grand Mosques. Selangor will feed the interests of all visitors with activities ranging from nature to urban to religious.

Fruit Farms

Selangor is a fruit paradise, having several fruit farms that are fun for both kids and adults alike. Visitors are welcomed to enjoy feasting on fruits and shopping for other fruits related produce. Stand in one of the fruit lanes as if you are trapped in a natural maze of mangoes, rambutan, guava, papaya, gosapine, or pineapple. It is best to visit during April to July where trees are fruiting.

Batu Cave


Cavernous interior that are said to be around for more than 400 million years, Batu Caves is one of the top tourist attractions in Malaysia; serving as a spot for religious pilgrimage for the Hindus and adventure-seekers.

There are 3 attractions. The Temple Cave, which is also the main cave, accessed by the almost-vertical flight of 272 steps serves as a Hindu Temple devoted to Lord Muragan. Witness the world’s tallest statue standing at 141 feet tall.

The second attraction is Dark Cave, catered to the active visitors; and are only allowed to enter if you have a guide. This cave is home to one of the world’s rarest spider, Trapdoor Spider, an ancient animal that dates back to 100 million years.

The third, Cave Villa, is at the foot of the limestone hill where a courtyard overlooks a little pond and statue of a five legged bull.

  1. Taman Negara, Titiwangsa Mountains
600 kilometres Northeast of Singapore
Approximately 7 hours drive

taman negara.jpg

No holiday in the tropics is done until you visit a tropical rainforest. Taman Negara is the largest national park in Malaysia and the oldest jungle covering 4,343 sq kilometres, spenning across Kelantan, Terengganu, and Pahang; with flourishing flora and fauna that evolved naturally over 130 million years.

Unwind in the nature’s setting and engage in activities such as rock climbing, fishing, camping, jungle trekking, and be rejuvenated at the end of your trip.

  1. Lake Kenyir, State of Terengganu
600 kilometres North of Singapore
Approximately 8 to 9 hours drive


More commonly known as Tasik Kenyir among locals, this is the largest man-made lake in Southeast Asia. A showcase of 340 islands, fed by 30 rivers, home to 25 waterfalls and lush rainforest, this lake was built between 1978 and 1985 to generate electricity for Sultan Mahmud Hydroelectric Power Plant.

Here, you can find an incredible biodiversity - 8000 species of flowers, 2500 of plants and trees, 300 of fungus, 1000 of birds, and 200 of other animals. Also, be sure to visit the 5 tiered Lasir Waterfall.

  1. Kota Bharu, State capital of Kelantan
737 kilometres North of Singapore
Approximately 10 to 11 hours drive

Sharing border with Thailand in the west Peninsular Malaysia, Kota Bharu is home to many local traditional treasures, waiting to be unearthed. Many ways to experience its local culture is through their varieties of food.

Pasar Besar Siti Khadijahpasarbesarsitikhadijah.jpg

Located in Jalan Hulu, this local wet market is a food, both raw produce and ready-to-eat, haven. Selling usual fresh produce like seafood, vegetables, and fruits, you can find Ayam Percik, Nasi Kerabu, and other noodle soups alongside. This 4 storey high market has all of the authentic taste of Kelantan. Fun fact: the name was changed as a sign of respect for the working women that reign this market.

Lake Temenggor
temenggor lake.jpg

Yet another article lake of 15,200 hectares, this large body of fresh water is the second largest lake in Malaysia and is home to many species of fishes.

What’s more interesting is Belum Eco Resort, a privately owned, which is built to preserve this island’s natural eco-system in the largest rainforest in the Malay Peninsular.

Batik Factory

Kota Bharu’s fame extends beyond its food to the highly skilled artisans and lovely textiles. Batik is an art and craft for centuries in Malaysia, especially in Kelantan, for its distinct and unique pattern and eye-catching yet soothing colours. The Batik in Kota Bharu is hand-made from scratch.

More travel inspiration here.