There are many places to go on a short vacation without having to travel too far — simply look within South-east Asia to maximise your time. Moreover, the region’s cultural and natural diversity offers plenty of options to explore and enjoy.
Soaking in Hanoi’s old city charm, hopping on colourful jeepneys (or jeep buses) in Manila, savouring Sundanese cuisine in Bandung and exploring the Khmer culture in Phnom Penh are some of the interesting adventures awaiting you.
Immerse in culture
With hundreds of traditional cultures in the region, there are numerous historic sites, even for experienced travellers, to explore.
For example, Manila’s wall city of Intramuros preserves the old charm of the Spanish colonial era with its paved streets and horse-driven carts. At the 16th century Fort Santiago, you’ll find old dungeons, barracks and secret gates that will intrigue curious visitors. Don’t miss the crown jewel there, the Manila Cathedral that was first built in 1581.
In the charming old city of Hanoi, Vietnam, street vending is still very much part of the traditional lifestyle. A must-do activity is to have a meal of Vietnamese noodle soup by the road side. Start your visit from the Old Quarter, which is the centre of many attractions in Hanoi. This place itself is an eye-opening mix of French Colonial architecture and ancient temples.
A visit to the Royal Palace in Phnom Penh, Cambodia, is a good experience to learn about the blend of the Hindu and Buddhist cultures that had shaped modern Cambodia. If you visit the outskirts of the city, drop by at Tuol Sleng Genocide Museum which chronicles the genocide that happened during the infamous Pol Pot regime.
For nature lovers
Love the wonders of nature? Then you shouldn’t miss the various nature excursions in Medan, Surabaya and Bandung in Indonesia to escape the bustle of city life.
If the volcanic crater of Mount Sibayak in Medan doesn’t impress you, then Lake Toba — the world’s largest volcanic lake — certainly will. It would be ideal to spend a couple of days in the area to enjoy the pleasant rustic environment. The Sipoholon Hot Springs nearby not only make a pretty landscape with its vibrant blue-green waters, the site offers a spectacular view of Lake Toba.
Located in East Java, about four hours’ drive from Surabaya, Mount Bromo is an active volcano. While the breath-taking view at sunrise is the main reason to hike Mount Bromo, you can also see the unique Tenggerese houses and experience being caught in a sand storm at the “Sea of Sand” along the way.
And on the highlands of Bandung is Situ Cukul, a picturesque tea plantation with a European-style villa. Other places of interest to be enjoyed around Bandung include the Tebing Gunung Hawu limestone mountains, hot springs (more than 11 of them!) and Lodge Maribaya, an adventure nature camp.
Fun in the sun
With the countless islands around, the region is a haven for those who love the sun, sand and sea.
Thailand’s Phuket, already a magnet for travellers, is where you can take day tours to visit popular beach destinations such as the Phi Phi Islands, known for its spectacular coves and the beautiful Maya Bay. Similan Islands, which is about 80km from Phuket, draws scuba divers to explore famously beautiful underwater wonders.
While at Cebu, the Philippines, the sea surrounding Mactan beach teems with rich biodiversity. As scuba diving is a popular activity with visitors, there is a diving school there to assist beginners. Nalusuan, a tiny island off the coast of Mactan, is home to an amazing marine sanctuary and a picturesque resort where you can stay in bungalows on stilts above the turquoise water.