Des­ti­na­tion Fo­cus:

Sin­ga­pore is close to so many amaz­ing des­ti­na­tions. Here, EL read­ers and staff share some of their re­cent get­away spots.

Expat Living (Singapore) - - Contents -

Su­per short breaks in the re­gion

THAI­LAND Vis­it­ing…

I went to Chi­ang Mai ear­lier this year with my fam­ily – in­clud­ing my brother and sis­ter-in-law who live in Bangkok. Get­ting there was easy; we took a di­rect three-hour flight via Scoot from Sin­ga­pore. To travel within the city, we rented a car, but you can also book Grab cars us­ing your app, which is the lo­cals’ pre­ferred mode of trans­port as it’s cheaper than reg­u­lar taxis.

We stayed in a small bou­tique B&B with an in­trigu­ing name: Arch 39.17 The Camp Nim­man, which is lo­cated along a quiet stretch of shop­houses on Nim­man­haemin Road. It was cosy and af­ford­able, plus there are fam­ily rooms avail­able for those trav­el­ling with kids. The lo­ca­tion is ideal as it’s a short drive to the mall, night mar­ket and air­port.

Chi­ang Mai is a re­laxed and laid-back town with many quaint cafés to dis­cover. The best way to ex­plore is to rent a car for a cou­ple of days, which we did. The pret­ti­est spots are al­ways the most out-of-the-way ones, but they’re def­i­nitely worth the travel time! I highly rec­om­mend Chic 39 Bed, Bar and Bak­ery, a rus­tic, vin­tage-themed café with de­li­cious desserts (try the af­fogato) and an amaz­ing view of a plan­ta­tion to match. – ANTHIA CHNG, SIN­GA­POREAN

SARAWAK Vis­it­ing…

I trav­elled to Kuch­ing in the Malaysian state of Sarawak on the is­land of Bor­neo. The Vil­lage House is a hid­den gem not far from the Sarawak Cul­tural Vil­lage and the big­ger ho­tels that sur­round the vil­lage. You can splurge and get the nicest room in the place and still pay less than the price of din­ner on a typ­i­cal Fri­day night in Sin­ga­pore!

The bou­tique ho­tel is built in the lo­cal ver­nac­u­lar ar­chi­tec­tural style, with an invit­ing pool stretch­ing through the mid­dle. There are 12 rooms in to­tal, with an on­site restau­rant of­fer­ing cock­tails and a week­end feast aptly named “A Taste of Bor­neo”, plus a li­brary, trop­i­cal gar­dens and ham­mocks.

The ho­tel pro­vides shut­tles to the Sarawak Cul­tural Vil­lage, but you can also hike at Bako Na­tional Park, sum­mit Mount San­tubong, take a morn­ing or sun­set cruise through Kuch­ing Wet­lands Na­tional Park, take a trip to see the orang­utans, play golf and col­lect seashells at the nearby beach. I highly rec­om­mend tim­ing your trip for the an­nual Rain­for­est World Mu­sic Fes­ti­val (RWMF) – we saw mu­si­cal acts from around the globe rang­ing from Bul­gar­ian folk singers to a Burk­ina Faso mu­sic and dance troupe.

The ho­tel doesn’t ac­cept kids un­der 12; I think the area it­self is best for older kids and teens. The RWMF would be a per­fect in­tro­duc­tion for teens to mu­sic fes­ti­vals as crowds aren’t too large and peo­ple are gen­er­ally pleas­ant and cour­te­ous.

I es­pe­cially en­joyed bike rid­ing through the lo­cal vil­lage dur­ing the evening ad­han (Mus­lim call to prayer) with kids chas­ing af­ter us want­ing to chat and play. – MONICA PITRELLI, AMER­I­CAN

VIET­NAM Vis­it­ing…

Af­ter get­ting caught in heavy rain dur­ing our first visit to Hoi An in 2014, my hus­band and I de­cided it was time to go back for this year’s Hari Raya long week­end.

It’s easy to get there from Sin­ga­pore: a di­rect flight to Da Nang air­port fol­lowed by a 45-minute ride to town. A friend rec­om­mended a small ho­tel out­side the cen­tre called Serene River Villa. Owned by a lovely lo­cal fam­ily and in a quiet lo­ca­tion, it of­fers great ser­vice (a spe­cial men­tion to the de­li­cious break­fast served along­side the river) and is only a 15-minute cy­cle from the city cen­tre (free bike ser­vice pro­vided!).

Hoi An is one of the most charm­ing old towns I’ve seen. It’s des­ig­nated a UN­ESCO World Her­itage Site, and you feel like you’ve stum­bled into some an­cient Asian fairy-tale as you walk along its small streets full of shops, gal­leries, tem­ples and cosy cafés, sur­rounded by beau­ti­ful silk lanterns. I loved wan­der­ing around Cen­tral Mar­ket and I have no words to ex­plain how yummy the Viet­namese food was! Try the banh xeo (savoury pan­cake) from Bale Well, the banh mi (baguette) from Hai Café and the cof­fee from Hoi An Roast­ery.

We also ex­plored the Hoi An sur­rounds – the best way to do so is un­doubt­edly by bike. We en­joyed the paddy fields, vis­it­ing Tra Que vil­lage to learn more about small farm­ing in Viet­nam, and end­ing our trip at An Bang beach for a re­lax­ing drink at Soul Kitchen. – SORAYA ZARAIN ALONSO, SPAN­ISH

IN­DONE­SIA Vis­it­ing…

My friends and I de­cided to cel­e­brate our grad­u­a­tion in Bali. We stayed in an Airbnb – a two-storey, three-bed­room villa in Cen­tral Seminyak. This place was a great choice be­cause there were three dif­fer­ent con­ve­nience stores around the cor­ner and it was a sev­en­minute walk to Seminyak beach. The villa is spa­cious and quiet and has a pool for chill­ing in and en­joy­ing our home­made cock­tails.

Get­ting around Bali was time-con­sum­ing be­cause the traf­fic is so bad. It also didn’t help that the places we wanted to visit weren’t any­where near our villa, so we spent most of our time on the road. We vis­ited Te­galalang Rice Ter­race in Ubud, and we weren’t dis­ap­pointed. The ter­races are so well-main­tained and there are so many van­tage points for pho­tos. It did take a lot of ef­fort to get around though, due to the un­even steps and foot­paths, so a good pair of walk­ing shoes is rec­om­mended. We also checked out Taco Beach Grill, a resto known for serv­ing great Mex­i­can food in Bali. I or­dered the steak taco and was thor­oughly sat­is­fied.

On our last night, we headed to Jim­baran Bay Seafood Restau­rant for din­ner. We got a ta­ble that was lo­cated on the beach it­self. The view of the sea and the planes fly­ing in the dis­tance was breath­tak­ing. We caught a glo­ri­ous sun­set too – some­thing Bali’s renowned for, and one of the best I’ve seen! – JAYME CHONG, SIN­GA­POREAN

We were look­ing to take ad­van­tage of the mid-term break and go away for three nights, but weren’t keen on get­ting on a plane. We’d heard good things about Telu­nas Re­sorts in the Riau Is­lands through friends, and thought we’d give it a whirl. It’s a two-boat trip to get there, 45 min­utes to Bin­tan and an­other one-hour boat ride to the is­land.

We’d opted to stay at the more ex­pen­sive Telu­nas Pri­vate Is­land, which has the swim­ming pool, kids’ club and spa. The beach re­sort is just across from where we stayed – we vis­ited the low ropes course there on day three.

Each stilted over-water villa has a mas­ter bed­room down­stairs and an­other up­stairs. There’s also a liv­ing area, bal­cony and well-equipped bath­room. The food, in­cluded in the ac­com­mo­da­tion costs, was re­ally very good, with plenty of choice for the chil­dren. There’s a well-stocked bar on the is­land, but you can also bring your own al­co­hol with no cork­age fee.

Our ten- and seven-year-old daugh­ters had a ball dur­ing their stay, and we did too. The staff are amaz­ing with chil­dren, whisk­ing them away to fish off the jetty and toast marsh­mal­lows in the evening. Many hours were spent jump­ing off the jetty into the water (just be­ware of the cur­rent). There’s also an al­fresco games area with ta­ble ten­nis, darts and a corn­hole game on the lawn. We also tried out the spa, which was a huge hit in my books, and I can hon­estly say that three nights’ stay was just not long enough. – AMY BROOK-PARTRIDGE, BRI­TISH

MYAN­MAR Vis­it­ing…

There is never enough time – es­pe­cially when trav­el­ling in such a mys­te­ri­ous, beau­ti­ful and cul­tur­ally rich place as Myan­mar. For this fam­ily trip with our two chil­dren (four and nine years), we fo­cused on Man­dalay, Ba­gan and Inle Lake. Our 14-day round trip in April started around Man­dalay, ex­plor­ing lo­cal mar­kets, watch­ing gold leaf pro­duc­tion and vis­it­ing stun­ning tem­ples. An overnight trip led to Pyin-oo-lwin, where we took a lo­cal train north over the shaky Gok­teik Viaduct.

On day six, we reached an­cient Ba­gan via water taxi. The whole area is cov­ered by bushes, trees and a mind-blow­ing en­sem­ble of more than 2,200 tem­ples, pago­das and monas­ter­ies. We ex­plored the area on elec­tric bikes, the only al­lowed trans­porta­tion. The chil­dren en­joyed the day we spent on a long­boat, get­ting a glimpse into lo­cal life around Inle Lake – mar­kets, danc­ing fish­er­man and stilt houses; they also tried their hands at lo­tus weav­ing.

We opted for a pri­vate tour with Back­yard Travel as we felt this would give us the best ex­pe­ri­ence for the fam­ily. We saw as much as pos­si­ble with­out the chil­dren get­ting bored or too tired; the level of per­sonal in­volve­ment of our guides was im­pres­sive, par­tic­u­larly the one in Man­dalay who took us to cel­e­brate the water fes­ti­val with his friends.

On my daugh­ter’s birth­day morn­ing, we took a hot-air bal­loon over Ba­gan and en­joyed breath­tak­ing views of the dawn. – MERTEN FOERSTER, GER­MAN

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