With the scorching hot weather in Singapore, the best way to escape from the heat is with a quick getaway! With both weather and sights to see, find your cool in these nearby Asian travel destinations, which are great for short or longer trips alike.
1. Sapa, Vietnam
Located in the north of Vietnam, rest your mind and soul while walking through Sapa’s lush green rice terraces amidst their traditional villages. Sapa is cool all year round, with temperatures ranging from eight to 20 degrees Celsius. The best time to visit Sapa is in September and October when the rice terraces are at their most splendid; or in April and May when the weather is ideal and skies are clear. Expect colder weather from November to March.
Sapa’s Mesmerizing Rice Terraces
Trek through the rice terraces and fields to admire the beautiful scenery which Sapa is famous for. When night falls, stay a night in a village house and continue your trail the next day. If the treks leave you yearning for more adventure, spend a short day trip hiking up Mount Fansipan, Vietnam’s tallest peak standing at 3,143km tall. If you are tired out from all that trekking but still want to catch the view on top of the peak, you can take a cable car ride up to the summit to enjoy the views as well.
Cultural Treasures of the Ethnic Tribes
There are various ethnic tribes in Sapa. From the brightly-colored embroidered clothes of the Hmong people to the silver headpieces of the Tay people, and the red turbans of the Dao women, each tribe tells their own story and has their own unique cultural identity. Visit the Bac Ha market on Sundays to get a taste of each tribe as traders from the Dao, Han, Tay and other tribes come fully adorned in their traditional garb, hawking their wares.
2. Chiang Rai, Thailand
Although many may overlook Chiang Rai while heading to Northern Thailand, the vibrant culture and views will make it worth the trip there to experience a part of Thai culture. Expect temples, waterfalls, and a night bazaar all packed in one city. Chiang Rai has a tropical climate and the average temperature is about 24 degrees Celsius.
Exploring the White Temple (Wat Rong Khun)
You can’t say you’ve been to Chiang Rai if you did not make a visit to Chiang Rai’s most renowned attraction, Wat Rong Khun. The temple is intricately designed and built and is completely white in colour—an amazing sight to behold for anyone.
An hour north of Chiang Rai is the border where Thailand, Myanmar, and Laos all meet—this meeting of three countries forms what is termed the Golden Triangle. Spend some time there and you can tell your friends you’ve been to three places at once—otherwise, visit some of the attractions around the area, such as the opium museum or the Buddha statue.
3. Genting Highlands, Malaysia
Genting Highlands is something of a family name in Singapore, housing a family-friendly theme park right across the Malaysian border. Being in a tropical country, Genting Highlands experiences much rainfall throughout the year like Singapore. However, it has a cooler average temperature of 22 degrees Celsius making it ideal for a quick getaway.
Indoor Theme Park
The Skytropolis Indoor Theme Park spans over 400,000 square feet in size, and houses 20 different rides within—it’s certain that everyone can get their type of fun there. While entrance into the theme park is free, you have to pay a fee to get on each ride in the theme park. Also, the theme park only accepts cashless payments.
Cable Car Ride
Enjoy the highlands by taking a cable car ride to soak in the views. There are two main routes that operate today, the Awana SkyWay and the Genting SkyWay.
4. Cameron Highlands, Malaysia
Well known for its tea plantations and nature, you can be sure of comfortable air-con-like weather at Cameron Highlands. However, as it is in the tropics, you aren’t spared from rainfall here too. The temperature ranges from 14 to 28 degrees Celsius, and the wettest months are April, October, and November.
Mossy Forest Exploration
The Cameron Highlands mossy forest is located at the peak of the Gunung Brinchang mountain (2,032m). Dive into the greenery of the mossy forest with its small crooked trees covered in moss, lichen, flowers, fungi and vines – unique sights you will never encounter in cities. To get there, you can either hike up, take a licensed jeep, or join a tour operator to go up.
Tea Tasting Amidst Scenic Views
Enjoy what Cameron Highlands is known for—have a cup of freshly brewed tea and a scone or two while admiring the view of the green valleys of tea leaves at the local tea houses. There is no shortage of tea houses to choose from; you can visit the different tea plantations and visit their tea houses, or travel to a tea house operating independently from the plantations. Different tea plantations produce different types and flavours of tea, so if you are a tea enthusiast, you can go stir-crazy tea hopping from tea house to tea house.
5. Chiang Mai, Thailand
Chiang Mai, the better-known cousin of Chiang Rai, is chockful of history and culture to explore and engage with. Weather in Chiang Mai is hottest between March to May and coolest from November to February, with average temperatures in the cooler months being at 24 degrees Celsius.
Doi Suthep Temple: A Sacred Hilltop Experience
The Doi Suthep Temple is Chiang Mai’s most famous temple. Named after the mountain it stands upon, the temple stands high, overlooking Chiang Mai from 1,060 metres above. It is known as one of the most sacred temples in Thailand, and many visitors come to pay respects each year. Take in the beautiful views of the city, and also admire the mural paintings in the temple illustrating the story of Buddha and his followers.
Elephant Nature Park Encounter
The Elephant Nature Park in Chiang Mai is the first elephant sanctuary in Asia. Visit the park to see elephants and other rescued animals live freely in their natural surroundings. The park runs educational programmes for visitors to advocate for the endangered elephant species and other rescued animals.
6. Halong Bay, Vietnam
With its blend of pristine natural beauty and bustling city vibe, Halong Bay is made up of limestone islands located within the Gulf of Tonkin, in the city of Halong. January to April are the cooler months of Halong Bay, with temperatures ranging from 17 to 23 degrees Celsius. Avoid June to September if you are looking to escape the heat, with temperatures being the highest at an average of 29 degrees Celsius.
Cave exploration at Sung Sot Cave
Sung Sot Cave is well renowned for its natural beauty and stone formations. The cave is divided into two chambers; the first chamber, known as the “Waiting Room”, is adorned by mineral formations and lit by multicoloured lights positioned to complement the chamber’s structural beauty. The second chamber, known as the ‘Serene Castle’, houses many interesting rock formations which resemble animals.
Kayaking Amidst Limestone Karsts
Kayaking has become a popular activity to do in Halong Bay. Nothing sounds more appealing than paddling adrift in calm waters, watching the clouds float by and letting the waves rock you gently. Adding on to the appeal would be Halong Bay’s limestone formations and structures; Luon Cave or the Vung Vieng fishing village are popular places to kayak by to see these beautiful artefacts of nature.
7. Nara, Japan
Think of Nara, and you will think of furry four-legged friends curiously eyeing you on the sidewalk. Besides the deer strolling amok on the streets, you can find historical sights such as the Great Buddha and Todaiji temple. Visit during spring (late March to June) or autumn (October to November), for cool temperatures, particularly in the months of May, June and October, where temperatures range from 20 to 26 degrees Celsius. Avoid June to September, which are the summer periods for Nara.
Todaiji Temple and the Great Buddha
Todaiji Temple is one of Japan’s most famous and historically significant temples and a landmark of Nara. Its main hall, the Daibutsuden, was the world’s largest wooden building only until recently. One of Japan’s largest bronze Buddha statues is located in the Daibutsuden. Fifteen metres tall, the Buddha towers over with its presence, causing visitors to become silent in awe of its grandeur.
Peaceful Strolls amidst Friendly Deer
Stroll alongside deer at Nara Park, which has become a popular tourist spot due to the free-roaming deer. These animals are believed to be messengers of the gods in the traditional Shinto religion and are officially designated national natural treasures. Do take precautions when hanging out with the deers, though – some have taken to biting and attacking people who attempt to feed them, as they are used to being fed by tourists.
8. Ninh Binh, Vietnam
Ninh Binh got its name as ‘Halong Bay on land’ for its beautiful riverine landscapes, flanked by
limestone mountains. The temperatures in Ninh Binh are ideal from March to May (18 to 24 degrees Celsius) and September to November (19 to 24 degrees Celsius).
Bich Dong Pagoda and Scenic Cave Complex
Bich Dong Pagoda sits on the Ngu Nhac Mountain and is a three-tiered ancient pagoda constructed in 1428. The name ‘Bich Dong’ means ‘Green Pearl Grotto’, which is befitting of the area surrounded by mountains, waterways, and fields, all flanked by a sky tinted with green mist. To add to the charming beauty of this place, Bich Dong Pagoda is situated near the Tam Coc, otherwise known as ‘Three Caves’.
Boat Ride Through Stunning Landscapes
A good way to enjoy the scenery of Ninh Binh is to take a boat ride. At the Tam Coc and Trang An boat docks, sampans and boatmen are available for hire. Cruise down the rivers with the experienced boatman who paddle through the sights and scenes of Ninh Binh using the most special equipment—their legs, and not oars.
9. Mount Fuji, Japan
Mount Fuji is synonymous with Japan, and most people are not strangers to this mountain located 100km west of the Tokyo area located between the Shizuoka and Yamanashi prefectures. The mountain area is generally cold, so it’s recommended to go during August when average temperatures lie between three to nine degrees Celsius.
Of the five lakes near Mt. Fuji, Lake Kawaguchi is the most accessible from Tokyo. A popular getaway from Tokyo or Yokohama, you can expect to enjoy hot springs, museums, and fishing spots at Lake Kawaguchi. What’s more, if the weather is good, you can see Mount Fuji reflected in all its breathtaking glory on the lake.
10. Luang Prabang, Laos
Sitting at the Mekong River and the Nam Khan (Khan River), Luang Prabang is a historical and cultural gem of Indochine influence. Expect to see monks clad in saffron robes walking around, Indochinese villas reminiscent of Laos’ past history, and sample fusion cuisine bound to tantalize your taste buds. Climate and weather are generally cooler during January and December, as Luang Prabang is in a tropical region as well.
Kuang Si Waterfalls
The Kuang Si waterfall in Northern Laos is well famed for its milky turquoise blue waters and perfectly sculpted limestone-tiered pools. You can take a dip in the waters to cool off from the heat and enjoy nature’s beautiful creation while floating in the waters.
Alms Giving to Monks at Sunrise
At sunrise, the Buddhist monks in Luang Prabang have a special tradition of collecting food offerings from the townspeople at daybreak. The monks silently line up in the streets, and people place gifts of food into the bowls the monks are carrying. This practice helps to sustain the Buddhist monk community, which traditionally relies on offerings to ensure their survival. You can participate in this tradition by offering food during daybreak to these monks as well.
11. Seoul, South Korea
Seoul needs little introduction – the capital of South Korea is home to popular K-pop idols taking the world by storm, and its bustling city life. Yet, amid these metropolitan sights, Seoul is home to some important pieces of Korea’s heritage like the Gyeongbokgung Palace. Go during spring and autumn, which are during the months of March to May, and September to November respectively. Temperatures average about 7 to 13 degrees Celsius during spring, and 2 to 17 degrees Celsius in autumn.
Exploring Gyeongbokgung Palace
Gyeongbokgung Palace was the first and largest of the royal palaces built during the Joseon Dynasty. Built in 1395, Gyeongbokgung Palace served as the main palace then and was located at the heart of the newly appointed capital of Seoul. It is the largest of the Five Grand Palaces (the others being Gyeonghuigung Palace, Deoksugung Palace, Changgyeonggung Palace, and Changdeokgung Palace). Go back to the past by taking a stroll on the palace grounds, and you can even rent a hanbok from the shops nearby to take yourself back to the Joseon era.
Namsan Seoul Tower for City Views
Namsan Seoul Tower was built in 1969 as Korea’s first integrated transmission tower beaming television and radio broadcasts across the capital. Since opening to the public in 1980, it has become a much-loved Seoul landmark. The tower’s main attractions include multi-coloured digital art projected onto the tower at night, a digital observatory, a roof terrace, and various restaurants. Namsan Seoul Tower’s mountain surroundings on Namsan Mountain have made it a popular place to unwind for locals and tourists alike – take in the stunning Seoul nightscape while enjoying the breeze and have a drink or two on this romantic vantage point.
12. Taipei, Taiwan
Taipei is a bit of everything – from cheap good food at the night markets, to the high peaks of mountains and hills in the nearby vicinity. There is something for both city folk and country folk, making it a great travel destination. Weather-wise, Taiwan has cool weather almost throughout the year with an average temperature of 23 degrees Celsius, but do avoid the summertime months from June to September, where temperatures average from 28 to 30 degrees Celsius. Taipei is a fairly rainy city, so remember your raincoat or umbrellas when you go.
What’s a trip to Taipei without its many night markets? Abundantly filled with night markets, the top five night markets in Taipei are Shilin, Raohe, Ningxia, Tonghua, and Huaxi night markets. Each night market has different food offerings, and you can only get certain foods at certain night markets. Walk around the markets and stuff yourself silly with affordable crowd favourites like chicken cutlet, stinky tofu, oyster omelette and mee sua, and bubble tea.
Exploring Yangmingshan National Park
Yangmingshan National Park is located in northern Taipei City, and easily accessible from downtown Taipei. The area is home to numerous parks, hiking trails, interesting plants and wildlife, and the internationally famous hot springs. Enjoy highlights like the flower clock, or make a reservation at the hot springs nearby to soak up the atmosphere.
13. Langkawi, Malaysia
Langkawi, in the west of Malaysia, offers enough to see and do for the ever-curious traveller—be it hiking, snorkelling, or even island hopping. Langkawi is in the tropics, so the average temperature ranges between 25 to 31 degrees Celsius. Cool off by jumping into the pristine clear waters of Langkawi.
Cable Car Ride to Langkawi Sky Bridge
Take a cable car to catch a panoramic view of Langkawi from great heights. At the top station on Machicang Mountain, visitors get a wonderful view of Mount Machicang, with all its deep chasms, overhanging cliff walls, and isolated pinnacles.
Although we usually think of Langkawi as one island off the west coast of Malaysia, Langkawi is but one out of 99 islands in the Langkawi Archipelago. And out of these almost 100 islands in the chain, just four are inhabited. The most beautiful, unspoiled destinations are in the islands located in the south, east, and west of Langkawi. Take a boat ride out and go island hopping around the islands to explore the natural beauty of the tropics; some noteworthy sites are the Singa Besar and Dayang Bunting islands.
14. Kyoto, Japan
Kyoto, Japan’s former capital, is one of the country’s ten largest cities with a population of 1.5 million people. Kyoto has exceptional historic value and is well valued for that – even being dropped from the list of target cities for the atomic bomb to fall on during World War II. Expect to see many shrines and temples, and other historical artefacts in this town rich in Japanese history. January to March is Kyoto’s winter period, and temperatures fall between an average of 5 to 9 degrees Celsius, while April to June is spring and temperatures are between 14 to 23 degrees Celsius. If you are looking to see the cherry blossoms, spring is a good time to go Sakura viewing.
Arashiyama Bamboo Grove
The Arashiyama Bamboo Grove is one of Kyoto’s most iconic and most well-visited sights. Take a walk through the bamboo forest paths. With sunlight filtering through the trees and the thick bamboo groves, it will be as though you have been transported to another universe. You can visit Okochi-Sanso villa at the top of the grove as well, a quieter alternative to Kyoto’s imperial villas with gardens and picturesque views of the city.
Geisha Experience in Gion District
The Gion district in Kyoto is known as a charming historical district rich with scenes and artefacts of traditional Japanese arts. Here, you can witness geisha and apprentice geishas, known as maiko, going about their daily duties walking about the streets. Parts of the district, like the Hanami Lane, are preserved as cultural artefacts so you can see them in their original state. Stop by a tea house to sip on a cup of tea, and savour the flavours and sight of olden-day Japan with your tongue and with your eyes.
15. Hong Kong
Hong Kong—many may remember the old commercial in the 1990s which goes ‘Shop and eat, shop and eat, shop and eat in Hong Kong!’. This is very true of the bustling city, with its high-rise architecture, steeply inclined sidewalks, and alleyways chock full of fashion and food stores. Though similar to Singapore in terms of city life, Hong Kong boasts a few natural sights like the Dragon’s Back, and Lantau Island. Of course, there is the ever-famous Disneyland in Hong Kong as well. The climate of Hong Kong is subtropical, with a very mild, relatively dry—just bring a jacket with you and be on your way. Avoid May to September as that is the summer period, and Hong Kong summers are hot and rainy.
The Peak, Hong Kong’s most popular attraction, is as its name suggests, located on a peak. Besides the stunning views at the top, enjoy a variety of activities such as shopping, dining, or visiting museums and attractions there. Don’t miss the chance to take the tram up the Peak, and view some of Hong Kong’s city sights on the way, such as the Bank of China building, St John’s Cathedral, and Cheung Kong Centre.
Teahouses and food galore
Teahouses, otherwise known as cha chaan teng by the locals, you can’t say you’ve been to Hong Kong unless you have had some local fare at these establishments. Some must-eat foods are egg tarts and pineapple buns, all washed down with a cup of Hong Kong milk tea. Try Australian Dairy Company or Kam Wah Cafe, which are some of the city’s most popular cha chaan teng even with locals. If you want to explore more of the higher-end food scene in Hong Kong, the city has many Michelin-star restaurants to choose from—from fusion, to Asian, to Western cuisine. Stuff yourself crazy!
Whether you’re simply looking for the right destination to go to to spend time with your family, or travelling to take a break from your caregiving duties or work, we hope that this guide to Asia’s best travel destinations has been helpful for you.
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