SUN-KISSED IS­LANDS, ASIA’S CALL­ING CARD

World Travel Magazine - - Inspire Me Sun-Kissed Islands - BY EANA MANIEBO

PALM TREES AND SEA BREEZE? CHECK. SAND ON YOUR FEET AND THE WARMTH OF THE SUN ON YOUR SKIN? CHECK. AN IS­LAND EX­PE­RI­ENCE AL­WAYS RELAXES THE SOUL AND RECHARGES THE MIND AND BODY. WE WHISK YOU AWAY TO EIGHT OF THE MOST MES­MERIS­ING IS­LANDS WHERE YOU CAN LET YOUR ADREN­A­LINE RUSH WITH ZESTFUL AC­TIV­I­TIES AND SIGHTS TO SPOT, RE­GALE YOUR TASTE BUDS WITH LO­CAL CUI­SINE, LAZE AROUND THE BEACH­FRONT, AND TAKE THE PER­FECT SHOT WITH THE MOST VIVID VIS­TAS IN THE BACK­GROUND.

Koh Sa­mui is on ev­ery beach lover’s bucket list for its charm­ing stretches of white and yel­low beaches

Bo­ra­cay PHILIP­PINES

• Among the Philip­pines’ more than 7,000 is­lands, Bo­ra­cay is ar­guably the most fa­mous. Its beauty and vibe fre­quently place it on top of the best is­lands in the world. Once there, the pos­si­bil­i­ties are end­less. Most vis­i­tors go to Bo­ra­cay to lounge at the White Beach, the worl­drenowned 5-kilo­me­tre beach of fine, white sand. But now that you’re on this in­cred­i­ble is­land, it would be blas­phemy not to en­gage in other ac­tiv­i­ties.

FUN SPREE There are the usual wa­ter sports like surf­ing, kayak­ing, and pad­dle­board­ing, but the lo­cals have some­thing more in­ter­est­ing: paraw sailing. Paraw is a na­tive dou­ble out­rig­gers sail­boat used by Visayan fish­er­men. Paraw sailing is an ex­hil­a­rat­ing ride with no mo­tor to pro­pel the ves­sel, only re­ly­ing on the wind. Let the wind ma­noeu­vre your paraw and have the time of your life. The Fly Fish is an­other adren­a­line-pump­ing wa­ter ac­tiv­ity where you will be asked to sit on an in­flat­able raft shaped like a big fish as a speed­boat pulls you along. As the boat launches you into the air, hang on for dear life or let loose and let your­self fall in the wa­ter. Go cliff div­ing at Ariel’s Point or ex­pe­ri­ence an aquatic im­mer­sion through Hel­met Div­ing (it’s ex­actly what it sounds like). De­scend ten feet into the wa­ter with your hel­met on, and you’ll find your­self in the midst of colour­ful fish and coral reefs. You can also ful­fil a life­long dream of styling one­self as a mer­maid at the Mer­maid Swim­ming Acad­emy. It’s the whole nine yards: wear a mer­maid tail and swim un­der­wa­ter like one. As you’ll be wear­ing a monofin, make sure your dol­phin kick is on point. Bars and pubs are in ev­ery cor­ner of the is­land, so get ready for par­ties that last all night long. PIC­TURE PER­FECT The beach, the sand, the lo­cals, the sun­set – ev­ery­thing is. Spi­der­house’s restau­rant and bar is one for so­cial me­dia, just be care­ful not to drop your phone while tak­ing self­ies as this restau­rant is on a cliff! PIED-À-TERRE Lose your­self in lux­ury at

Shangri-la’s Bo­ra­cay Re­sort and Spa. Its pri­vate beach and well-ap­pointed rooms and vil­las will make your stay as pleas­ant as pos­si­ble.

Koh Sa­mui THAI­LAND

• This is­land in the Gulf of Thai­land is a per­fect fu­sion of blues and greens – azure wa­ters, lush forests and hills. Koh Sa­mui is on ev­ery beach lover’s bucket list for its charm­ing stretches of white and yel­low beaches. You can lounge beach­front or if you’re feel­ing a bit of an ex­plorer, set out with lots of en­ergy and a fully charged phone be­cause you’ll en­counter a lot of snap-wor­thy at­trac­tions. FUN SPREE For a vi­brant so­cial scene, head over to Chaweng Beach filled with bars and lounges. You can be one with air and wa­ter as you ride a fly­board, or soak up na­ture deep in the for­est as you ride and bond with ele­phants. Thai­land is also home to 50 kinds of ven­omous snakes, and some 120 species that are not as dan­ger­ous! Take an up-close look at some of th­ese slith­er­ing rep­tiles at the Sa­mui Snake Farm with its in­for­ma­tive and en­ter­tain­ing daily shows. There are king co­bras and gi­ant pythons, as well as scor­pi­ons and cen­tipedes, so this is not for the faint of heart. Make sure to stop by the ac­tive night mar­kets, and if you still have time, hop over to the Ang Thong Na­tional Ma­rine Park where you can wit­ness ex­otic aquatic life leisurely swim­ming around you. PIC­TURE PER­FECT The Big Bud­dha Temple on the is­land’s north­east cor­ner is the cul­tural cen­tre of Koh Sa­mui and nearby is­lands. An­other en­chant­ing Bud­dhist temple is the Wat Plai Laem, an 18-arm statue of Guanyin, the God­dess of Mercy and Com­pas­sion.

PIED-À-TERRE Thai ele­gance is para­mount at the Bel­mond Na­pa­sai where you can have ut­most pri­vacy in its stand­alone vil­las that open up to bal­conies over­look­ing the ocean. You’ll catch a wa­ter buf­falo or two lazily roam­ing around the gar­dens.

The Phu Quoc Na­tional Park takes up a sig­nif­i­cant por­tion of the is­land’s north-east re­gion cov­er­ing both land and sea ar­eas

Langkawi MALAYSIA

• The quiet An­daman Sea is home to many hid­den trea­sure is­lands. Amongst them is an ar­chi­pel­ago of 104 is­lands called Langkawi the Jewel of Kedah in Malaysia. Crys­tal clear wa­ters, wa­ter­falls, and hot springs abound, mak­ing this is­land a one-stop des­ti­na­tion.

FUN SPREE Don’t look down. A trip to Langkawi is not com­plete with­out a visit to the

Langkawi Sky Bridge, a ter­ri­fy­ing 700-me­tre bridge above sea level that gives a stun­ning view of the is­land’s rugged moun­tains, wa­ter­falls, and even the islets sur­round­ing the main is­land. At the Kilim Karst Ge­o­for­est Park, you will be de­lighted at the amaz­ing lime­stone for­ma­tions as well as nav­i­gate man­grove forests. The Air Han­gat Vil­lage of­fers a unique salt­wa­ter hot spring, one of only four coun­tries that have th­ese gift from na­ture. PIC­TURE PER­FECT The Te­mu­run Water­fall is a mes­meris­ing pocket of na­ture, a mere half an hour hike from Jalan Datai. There are no marked trails, and you will likely meet macaque mon­keys along the way. PIED-À-TERRE Stay in over­wa­ter vil­las with a fan­tas­tic view of the An­daman Sea at the St. Regis Langkawi or a sun­set villa to wit­ness the ma­jes­tic sun­set. With six gourmet res­tau­rants, your palate will be pleased too.

Phu Quoc VIET­NAM

• With an is­land as big as Phu Quoc, it’s al­most im­pos­si­ble to ex­plore its en­tirety in two days. Aside from the main is­land, Phu Quoc also spans 21 smaller islets. The area is some­times re­ferred to as the coun­try’s Pearl Is­land due to pearl farms that pro­duce some of the best irides­cent pearls in the world.

The Phu Quoc Na­tional Park takes up a sig­nif­i­cant por­tion of the is­land’s north-east re­gion cov­er­ing both land and sea ar­eas and is part of the Kien Giang Bio­sphere Re­serve. In 2010, it was de­clared a UNESCO des­ig­nated site and a bi­o­log­i­cally sen­si­tive area, cov­er­ing 314,000 square me­tres of unique flora and fauna and rare or vul­ner­a­ble an­i­mals. Al­though you can visit the Na­tional Park, a large sec­tion is off-lim­its to the pub­lic.

FUN SPREE Walk around the Phu Quoc Prison where Northern Viet­namese soldiers were jailed dur­ing the Viet­nam War. You won’t hear screams of ter­ror any­more as the prison has now been con­verted into a mu­seum with dis­plays of old tor­ture in­stru­ments and pho­to­graphs from the days best left in his­tory books. Nes­tled in the moun­tains of Ham Ninh, a small fishing vil­lage, is the Suoi Tranh Water­fall, sur­rounded by rock pools and caves. The stream leads to Hang

Doi (Grotto of Bats), a grotto 200 me­tres in height and home to bats and unique for­ma­tions of sta­lac­tites. PIC­TURE PER­FECT Phu Quoc is the birth­place of Cao Daism, the preva­lent re­li­gion in Viet­nam. Visit The Great Temple of Cao Dai in the town of Duong Dong, built be­tween 1933 and 1955. The colour­ful and sa­cred temple fea­tures paint­ings and ar­chi­tec­ture rem­i­nis­cent of a cathe­dral and rep­re­sents the di­verse be­liefs of the re­li­gion. About nine kilo­me­tres from the town cen­tre is the Paint­ing Stream, named so be­cause it is so re­splen­dent and pic­turesque that it looks like a paint­ing. PIED-À-TERRE East meets west at the La Ve­randa Re­sorts with its French colo­nial dé­cor and ar­chi­tec­ture. Pri­vate vil­las make for a lux­u­ri­ous and pri­vate stay with scenic views of the beach and gar­den.

Fab­u­lous beaches can be found in the coastal city of Da Nang. a thriv­ing area filled with tex­tile, ex­cel­lent beaches, and hints of Western in­flu­ence.

Sanya CHINA

• Sanya isn’t called the “Hawaii of the East” for no rea­son. It has miles of white sandy beaches, a vibe per­fect for those look­ing for a trop­i­cal getaway and a fan­tas­tic city ex­pe­ri­ence all bun­dled up into one des­ti­na­tion. Lo­cated in the south­ern tip of Hainan prov­ince, Sanya is dubbed as a “Nat­u­ral Oxy­gen Bar” for its lovely sun­shine and fresh air, a con­trast to the coun­try’s big­gest cities. For tan­ning and loung­ing in lux­u­ri­ous pri­vate beaches, head over to the Ya­long Bay. To ex­pe­ri­ence a bustling and cheer­ful vibe full of shops and bars, the Dadong­hai Bay is your go-to zone.

FUN SPREE For a 360-de­gree stun­ning vista of the en­tire is­land, drop by the Luhuitou Park lo­cated on top of a hill. Leg­ends have it that a young hunter was chas­ing af­ter a deer that, when cor­nered, turned into a beau­ti­ful woman who he fell in love with. This story is com­mem­o­rated by a 12-me­tre tall statue of a hunter, a deer, and a woman. Roam freely amongst more than a thou­sand en­dan­gered macaque mon­keys at the Mon­key Is­lands, just be sure to hide your food or drinks, be­cause the mon­keys will sniff them out and make a run for the ed­i­bles. PIC­TURE PER­FECT

The Tianya Hai­jiao (The Edge of Heaven) is an ex­tra­or­di­nary place with un­usu­ally beau­ti­ful rock for­ma­tions. It is known as one of the south­ern­most parts of main­land China. You can also find one of the tallest stat­ues in the world here, the Guanyin of Nan­shan in Nan­shan Temple, tow­er­ing at 108 me­tres. PIED-À-TERRE The 50-acre The Sanya EDI­TION is a horse­shoe-shaped ho­tel with a pri­vate ocean and two pools. All of its 17 ho­tel vil­las are on hill­side ter­races with in­di­vid­ual in­fin­ity pools.

Da Nang VIET­NAM

• Fab­u­lous beaches can be found in the coastal city of Da Nang, Viet­nam, a thriv­ing area filled with tex­tile, ex­cel­lent beaches, and hints of Western in­flu­ence. Da Nang is the first Viet­namese land that the Euro­peans stepped on in 1535, and it has con­tin­ued to be one of the cen­tres of com­merce and tourism in the coun­try.

FUN SPREE Just be­cause it’s a city doesn’t mean most ac­tiv­i­ties are on land. Da Nang’s wa­ters suit adren­a­line junkies’ passion for recre­ational wa­ter sports, with many surfers and stand-up pad­dle­board­ers fill­ing the beach. There is also the Mar­ble Moun­tains. Leg­end has it that a dragon from the sea laid an egg on the beach. The egg hatched and out came a beau­ti­ful woman, and the eggshells evolved into the Mar­ble Moun­tains. The five mar­ble and lime­stone hills are named af­ter the five el­e­ments. Tun­nels and Bud­dhist tem­ples, as well as caves scarred by bul­let holes from the Viet­nam War, can be seen here. To ex­plore Da Nang with a twist, it is rec­om­mended to rent a four-wheeler for an off-road ad­ven­ture that will take you on a jun­gle trail scat­tered with tra­di­tional vil­lages and rem­nants of the war that tore this coun­try in two. Half an hour out­side Da Nang is the Son Tra Moun­tain, a na­tional park sit­u­ated 693 me­tres above sea level with beau­ti­ful caves and a stun­ning Lady Bud­dha statue in the mid­dle. PIC­TURE PER­FECT Drive up the Ba Na Hill that fea­tures a replica French pro­vin­cial town, en­tirely out of place in Asia with gor­geous views of hills shrouded by white blan­kets of puffy clouds. You can also take pho­tos while rid­ing one of the longest and high­est ca­ble cars in the world. Back down at the city, wait un­til night­fall when the Dragon Bridge over the Han River gets il­lu­mi­nated with lights. PIED-À-TERRE Vin­pearl Da

Nang Re­sort & Vil­las is the per­fect lodg­ing for a Da Nang getaway. Rooms range from 54-square me­tre units to pri­vate vil­las as large as 628-square me­tre spa­ces for big­ger par­ties.

The mes­meris­ing corals of this heart-shaped atoll are the only ones in the Mal­dives that were not af­fected by the un­der­wa­ter heat­wave that struck in 1998

Sumba IN­DONE­SIA

• With big sis­ter Bali a cou­ple of is­land hops away, Sumba is a dream getaway with far fewer crowds and abun­dance of nat­u­ral beauty. The is­land is rich in birdlife, many en­dan­gered, and a tan­ta­lis­ing wealth of ma­rine life stretch­ing hun­dreds of miles in all direc­tions into the Savu Sea. Charm­ing pock­ets of na­ture can be found ev­ery­where, whether trekking or div­ing.

FUN SPREE At the Watu Man­do­rak Cove, serene white sand plays hide and seek amongst the cliffs perched above crys­tal clear wa­ter. The man­groves at the Walakiri Beach, team­ing with life, are best ex­plored on a slow boat. The Nihi Sumba, a 5-star re­sort co-owned by fash­ion mogul Chris Burch, of­fers deep sea fishing or spearfish­ing, with your catch hot and ready for eat­ing in the next meal. Nihi Sumba is also home to Oc­cys Left, one of the most cov­eted and exclusive waves in the world. Surfers are limited to 10 per­sons per day, so bet­ter sign up early. PIC­TURE

PER­FECT The Tanggedu and Lapopu wa­ter­falls are a sight to be­hold with jagged rocks be­fore the wa­ter cas­cades down to­wards a clear, turquoise la­goon. The Weekuri Salt Lake, with cool wa­ters and a sandy bot­tom, is a great place to swim and splash, prefer­ably a visit timed with the tides. PIED-À-TERRE Nihi Sumba ranked 20th in our an­nual ‘The 100 List, 2017’ is the place to call home when fall­ing in love with the lost world of Sumba. Its com­mit­ment to give back to the com­mu­nity cou­pled with de­light­ful ac­com­mo­da­tions make the ho­tel fully-booked all year long. Guests can stay in pri­vate vil­las with di­rect ac­cess to the beach or in two-storey tree houses.

Addu Atoll MAL­DIVES

• No two Mal­dives atolls are alike. Each main­tains its own al­lure that en­tices tourists to visit ha­bit­u­ally. The Addu “Seenu” Atoll is the south­ern­most atoll of the Mal­dives and is home to the coun­try’s sec­ond largest city, the Addu City. The mes­meris­ing corals of this heartshaped atoll are the only ones in the Mal­dives that were not af­fected by the un­der­wa­ter heat­wave that struck in 1998, dubbed as the first global coral bleach­ing. Thus, Addu is home to one of the most abun­dant coral reefs in the world. Gan Is­land, the lo­ca­tion of Gan In­ter­na­tional Air­port and the for­mer Bri­tish air­base, can also be found here. FUN SPREE Rent a bike or a scooter and leisurely ride along the cause­ways that link the ma­jor­ity of Addu. This cause­way was built by the Bri­tish and con­nects Gan Is­land all the way to Hithad­hoo. In­dulge in the re­lax­ing art of is­land hop­ping and im­merse in the lo­cals’ way of life in the sim­ple is­land of Fey­doo, visit the Koa­gannu ceme­tery in Meed­hoo, the old­est grave­yard in the coun­try, ex­plore the man­groves and marshes of Hithad­hoo, or lose your­self in the brightly-coloured build­ings of Marad­hoo. The en­tire range of wa­ter­sports, from deep sea div­ing, scuba div­ing, snorkelling, wa­ter ski­ing, wind­surf­ing, paraglid­ing and fishing are very much pos­si­ble al­most through­out the year. Addu’s world-fa­mous large manta rays, sharks and tur­tles cre­ate am­ple op­por­tu­ni­ties that keep novices and ex­perts alike oc­cu­pied. PIC­TURE PER­FECT Dur­ing low tide, you can see the corals with­out dip­ping your head into the wa­ter, and you can even walk amongst this frag­ile ecosys­tem. In Hithadoo, the shal­low beach of Queen’s Pond and the seren­ity of the en­tire place is as lovely in per­son as it is on a photo. No fil­ter needed! PIED-À-TERRE Shangri-la’s Villingili Re­sort & Spa in Addu houses the only golf course in the coun­try.

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from Hong Kong

© PressReader. All rights reserved.