City Nomads for The Travel Insider
New year, new getaways! Nothing soothes our stressed corporate souls like a short retreat every other month – and for 2020, we’ve got quite the windfall of long weekends to max out our holiday time. Whether it’s retail therapy in Malaysia, street food feasting in Indonesia, or beach bumming in Thailand, we’ve got you covered with some of the best Southeast Asian destinations.
Image credit: Schristia
The underrated little sister of Bali, Lombok is perfect for your dose of sun, sand, and sea. Soak up that Vitamin D goodness on Selong Belanak‘s white sands, or if you’re feeling adventurous, go snorkelling in the teeming waters off Pink Beach and surf the steady winds at Kaliantan Beach. For a change of scenery, trek up the iconic Mount Rinjani; it’s worth planning a detour for a dip in Aik Kalak Hot Springs, as well as the stunning Tiu Kelep Waterfall.
When to go: Keep this beach gem on your radar for your April to October long weekends – Labour Day, Singapore’s
There’s never a dull moment in the Land of Smiles’ capital. Plunge into its sprawling maze of markets – Chatuchak Market, Talat Rot Fai, and Talad Neon are must-visits – to snag yourself everything from savoury snacks to vintage threads, antiques to homeware. To recharge, grab an artisanal cuppa at the city’s many coffee joints, or dine in style at modern Thai restaurants like 80/20 and Paii. Barflies certainly won’t go thirsty in Bangkok’s buzzy nightlife scene – think #FindTheLockerRoom or The Iron Fairies for imaginative tipples.
When to go: Bangkok gets gloriously cool from November to early February. Enjoy a spectacular Chinese New Year and Christmas there, or jet down during the Deepavali break to beat the bulk of the holiday crowds.
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The cradle of Malaysia’s famed white coffee, Ipoh also houses a scrumptious smorgasboard of hawker eats. Hit the streets bright and early for a kaya toast breakfast at Sin Yoon Loong – an 83-year-old pioneer of Ipoh’s iconic cuppa. Head to Jalan Sultan Iskandar for piping-hot curry mee at Restoran Xin Quan Fang, hop further down for a bowl of springy delights at Hakka Mee Restaurant Paris, or tuck into bean sprout chicken at nearby Lou Wong. Not ready for cendol yet? Go on a hunt for street art pieces along the Ipoh Mural Art Trail or explore historic colonial architecture in the Old Town.
When to go: Ipoh is lovely throughout the year, so avoid the peak summer season in order to savour its sleepy charms.
Hua Hin, Thailand
Hua Hin brings together the best of sea and city in one laidback package. The waters off dreamy Hua Hin Beach attract plenty of kitesurfers and jet skiers, while further inland, Vana Nava Water Jungle offers a different brand of water thrills. If you’re up for a two-in-one holiday, check out the town’s many quirky theme parks. The Venezia is a Venice-themed shopping village complete with gondola rides and a 3D art gallery, while Santorini Amusement Park offers a slice of Grecian paradise. Come evening, chill out to live music at Cicada Market, a weekend bonanza of cool crafts and street grub.
When to go: Want all that sun and surf to yourself? Seize the off-peak season between March and May to work on your bronze glow over the Labour Day and Hari Raya Puasa weekends.
This tiny island playground packs massive amounts of fun, thanks to a plethora of amusement parks and dining destinations. Adrenaline junkies can get their fix with thrill rides at Universal Studios Singapore and Adventure Cove, while sun worshippers can lounge back with booze and bites at Sentosa’s many stylish beach clubs. There’s plenty of indoor adventure to be had as well, from zany museums like Madame Tussauds and the Trick Eye Museum, to world-class dining spots such as Spanish restaurant FOC Sentosa and plush steakhouse SKIRT.
When to go: The little red dot is truly a year-round destination. Explore its museums and dining gems during the rainy December and January period, then hit the beaches the rest of the year.
The gateway to picturesque Lake Toba – the world’s largest volcanic lake – Medan is the perfect green getaway for weary urbanites. Medan’s outskirts are lush with rugged hills, with hot springs and stunning waterfalls nestled in their folds. That’s not all that Medan is renowned for, however – this North Sumatran capital is also a prime foodie spot. Get your fill of chicken rice, Mie Tiong Sim, and satay along the famed Selat Panjang food street, or traverse the city in search of the best martabak (pancakes) and durian.
When to go: The sunny, off-peak months of May and June make great times to hike or trawl the food streets – Labour Day getaway, anyone?
Image credit: Christopher Harriot
Penang is another of Malaysia’s hawker food havens – think sinfully good char kway teow, oyster omelette, and Teochew chendol from the likes of Joo Hooi Cafe, or prawn mee and crisp crepe-like apom from Padang Brown Food Court and Apong Guan. Its burgeoning bar scene means you won’t be short of great nights out too. Take a break from feasting in Penang’s small but scenic nature escapes, including Penang National Park and Penang Hill.
When to go: The cool, dry months between December and March are ideal for hiking. It’s also when Penang is at its busiest and brightest – head down for lively Chinese New Year or Christmas festivities, or over the Magha Puja weekend for the Thais.
Yogyakarta – or Jogja, as it’s fondly known – is arguably Indonesia’s cultural heart. The city thrums with heritage treasures, from the millennium-old Prambanan Temple to the glorious pavilions of Taman Sari Water Palace. Kraton Palace today remains the seat of the royal sultan, and traditional arts come alive there with public performances of Javanese poetry, classical dance, and wayang golek. If your thirst for adventure isn’t quite quenched, enjoy some spectacular cave tubing at Goa Pindul or go ziplining across Kalibiru National Park.
When to go: July till October is a prime period for Jogja travel, and we’ve got a rich crop of long weekends around this time – from Hari Raya Haji to Singapore’s National Day, Indonesia’s Independence Day, and Thailand’s Chulalongkorn Day.
Koh Samui, Thailand
Koh Samui is that postcard-perfect beach paradise of which we all dream – palm-fringed sands, crystal waters, and luxe resorts. Laze the day away at pristine spots like Maenam Beach and Chaweng Noi, then party all night amidst the hopping bar scene of Chaweng Beach. It’s certainly worth venturing through the island’s lush rainforest as well – you’ll find zipline adventures, splendid waterfalls, spa experiences, and more.
When to go: With the rainy season coming to a close in November, Singaporeans can turn their Deepavali break into tranquil beach time here. Alternatively, jet over for a sunny (if more crowded) Christmas.
Genting Highlands, Malaysia
This hilltop resort-town offers endless amusement options – get your legs wobbling with intense thrills at Skytropolis Indoor Theme Park, or explore the zany 4D Trick Art Museum. Get high with glass-bottom gondola rides up the scenic hillside, and make a pit stop at Chin Swee Station to explore the breathtaking Chin Swee Caves Temple. And of course, no Genting trip is complete without some retail therapy at Genting Premium Outlets, a shopaholic’s hotspot for luxury labels and fantastic deals.
When to go: Genting is another year-round destination, but steer clear of Singapore and Malaysia’s school holidays to beat those lengthy theme park queues.