As Singaporeans, when deciding to go for a holiday, the usual litany of destinations inevitably passes through our lips: Batam. Bali. Bangkok. JB.
These are all great destinations in their own right, but there inevitably comes a time in every Singaporean’s life when they start to ponder: should we go somewhere else for a change?
If you’ve found yourself wondering this at any point in your life, try setting your sights a little further for a change. Why not give some of our northern neighbours a chance? You might find yourself pleasantly surprised.
For the outdoorsman: Chongqing
You don’t have to go to Zhangjiajie for breathtaking views: Chongqing has some of the most awe-inspiring rock formations and mountain ranges in the world.
Of these, the most famous are without question the Three Natural Bridges, located just 20km to the southeast of Wulong County. Qinglong Bridge, the highest of the three at 281m, is universally agreed to offer the most spectacular views. But that doesn’t mean that the other two should be overlooked by any means: the four springs of Heilong Bridge draw flocks of admirers from all over the world, as does the labyrinth of caves at Tianlong Bridge.
The ethereal stillness of the Longshuixia Gap also has its own fair share of visitors. Descending almost 500m into the earth, the canyon is characterised by the silver spray of numerous waterfalls and the soothing sound of bubbling brooks.
But you can’t visit Chongqing without going to the Three Gorges. One look will tell you why it’s been designated a AAAAA scenic attraction by the China National Tourism Administration — the highest rating attainable. Poems about the Gorges’ beauty have been written since the Han dynasty. Who knows? They might inspire you too.
For the historian: Xiamen
While the entire Fujian region is bursting with culture and history, Xiamen is perhaps the city most renowned for it, with a wealth of temples, oil painting villages and ancient Hakka tulou dwellings.
Even Gulangyu Island, Xiamen’s number one tourist destination, is full of rich heritage. Much like the Three Gorges, Gulangyu Island has also been designated a AAAAA scenic attraction, due to its beauty both natural and architectural. No cars are allowed on the island, but travelling on foot or by bicycle just makes the sights and sounds all the easier to appreciate.
Drop by the Piano and Organ Museums for a history lesson in world music and the development of these instruments across the ages. Then spend some time enjoying the serenity of Haoyue Garden and gorgeous vistas atop Sunlit Rock. These are dedicated to the Hokkien war hero and scholar Koxinga (also known as Zheng Chenggong), who liberated Xiamen from both the Dutch and the invading forces of the Qing dynasty.
There’s plenty of culinary history in Xiamen too. While you’ll find plenty of “standard” Hokkien food there, the more adventurous can try one of the region’s most famous dishes: sandworm jelly. Allegedly a last resort created by Chinese sailors to stave off starvation, it is now a popular chilled treat enjoyed in summer.
For the museum-goer: Hiroshima
The Hiroshima Peace Memorial Museum is a museum dedicated to the devastation caused by the atomic bomb dropped over the city in World War II. It is a must-visit for all visitors to Hiroshima — not just for its historic significance, but also for its beautiful architecture and the surrounding park’s serene ambience.
Next on your list should be the Hiroshima Museum of Contemporary Art. The museum features both permanent and rotating exhibits from the likes of Andy Warhol to Donald Judd and Frank Stella. A half hour’s walk away is the Hiroshima Museum of Art, home to some of the most iconic paintings to grace both the Western and Eastern canon of art, with Manet, Monet and Picasso sharing the same spaces as Seiki Kuroda and Ryusei Kishida.
All that museum-going can really work up an appetite, and there’s no better solution for an empty stomach than a piping hot okonomiyaki: a savoury Japanese pancake packed full of noodles, vegetables and eggs. Hiroshima’s Okonomi-mura is three floors of nothing but okonomiyaki stalls — an okonomiyaki enthusiast’s dream come true.
For the shopaholic: Shenzhen
A popular destination for day trippers from Hong Kong, the Hong Kong-Shenzhen border is home to several malls, packed to the gills with the latest fashions and electronic goods. Of these, the most popular is probably Luohu Commercial City, which has more than 700 stores packed into its five stories. Anything you can imagine, you can probably find in Luohu: from audio-visual equipment to tailored clothing to even massages.
Those with slightly more upmarket tastes will find themselves drawn to The MixC Shenzhen for its luxury brands. Its roster includes Hermes, Cartier, Prada, Jimmy Choo and many more. Even if you’re not interested in Gucci or Louis Vuitton, you might still appreciate the cinema — the largest one in Shenzhen, in fact — and the indoor ice-skating rink on the fourth floor.
You can easily spend a whole day wandering The MixC, especially if you’ve got deep pockets. But while it may be tempting to spend your entire Shenzhen itinerary there, don’t forget that Upperhills Futian and Coco Park Shenzhen are equally compelling options. Or for those who are really craving that taste of home, Raffles City Shenzhen brings some familiar sights, sounds and smells of Singapore to China.
For the night owl: Taipei
Few cities have as exciting a nightlife scene as Taipei. The city has plenty to offer in the day, but it really comes to life when the sun dips below the horizon.
The city’s star attractions, its legendary open-air night markets, are always filled to bursting. Of these, the most famous is Shilin Night Market, located in the heart of the Shilin district. While there’s plenty to eat and buy from the stalls at street level, it’s the underground food court section that gives Shilin its reputation. This clandestine cornucopia has the the widest variety of street food in Taipei, from colossal fried chicken cutlets, oyster omelettes, oyster mee sua, and of course, smelly tofu.
But Taipei is just as renowned for its numerous nightclubs, which regularly see a revolving roster of world-famous DJs grace their stages. Regardless of what your taste is, there’s bound to be a club for you. Fancy some cheap beer and rock and roll? Revolver is right up your alley. Those who just want to lose themselves in the beat should to check out Box Nightclub or Franny.
A holiday starts from the moment you get on the plane — so you shouldn’t settle for anything less than Singapore Airlines and SilkAir’s award-winning service, unparalleled comfort and delectable in-flight menu.
Singapore Airlines and SilkAir fly to each of the cities mentioned above, as well as to a bevy of other destinations in North Asia, including Beijing, Fukuoka, Hong Kong, Osaka, Seoul, Shanghai and Tokyo.
Sweetening the deal is the addition of the SingaporeAir Games, which gives players a chance to win attractive prizes on completion of region-specific achievements, including promo codes for flights to selected destinations all across North Asia.
Top the leaderboard for the North Asia region, and you could find yourself in a comfortable economy-class seat on a Singapore Airlines or SilkAir flight to the North Asia destination of your choice — at no expense.
All you have to do is log on to singaporeairgames.com and start playing for a chance to win. For all you know, you may not even have to open your wallet to finance your next great adventure.
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