Many friends have been scratching their heads for ideas on short weekend getaways from Singapore. We are after all very fortunate to be next-door neighbors with the lush tropical beaches of Malaysia and Indonesia. But thanks to over-developed tourism, most of these ‘ex-paradises’ are now crowded and touristy. Forget Bali, Phuket and Bintan, let’s find somewhere new and refreshing. Here are some alternative spots in our vicinity,perfect for a short weekend escapade!
1. Pulau Rawa
This secluded island is just a short boat-ride away from Mersing, the port where many embark on boast to nearby islands. Unlike neighboring touristy Tioman, many are surprised to find the clear, turquoise waters and rare tranquility on this stunning island.
2. Port Dickson
Not many tourist/traveler visit this quaint part of Malaysia, so be sure to get some local taste. The Avillion is an amazing resort consisting of water villas built on stilts over water. Although the murky water is not the pride of Port Dickson, the Avillion still offers a great experience with its romantic settings – a 4-poster bed and opened-rooftop shower.
Divers alert! This amazing world heritage site situated in the Malaysian part of Borneo is packed full of outrageous dive sites and marine life. With tornadoes of barracudas, hammerhead sharks and hawksbill turtles, there is nowhere closer to haven then in Borneo. Diving is a little more expensive especially at Sipadan, but nearby islands like Mabul and Kapalai also have vibrant marine life.
4. Pulau Perhentian
Next door neighbour to the renown Pulau Redang, this island is still surprisingly rustic and quiet, away from the public’s attention. With some of the most beautiful beaches and marine life in Asia, it is perfect for dive enthusiasts. You get to see baby sharks and turtles while snorkelling. Try out small-scale cheap huts – the locals will assure you the best time.
5. Gili Trawangan
A tiny island off Lombok (a great alternative to touristy Bali), the Gili islands are like a god-sent. Sparkling clear waters, and hey, a very laid-back style with signs that say ‘Mushrooms for sale’ everywhere. Looks like that’s the best place to get literally high in Asia.
Now that budget airline AirAsia has new routes to Manado, divers and beachcombers have a new playground to frolic in. A hideaway that is only known amongst water sports aficionados, Manado has one of the 10 top dive sites in the world. What’s best, its geographical location at the Northern end of Sulawesi blesses it with Mount Mahawu.
7. Nikoi Island
Just 2.5hours away from Singapore, a stone throw from Bintan, Nikoi is almost unheard of amongst Singaporeans. A tiny island dominated by only 1 single rustic and luxurious resort, it is secluded and private. Perfect for a lovers’ hideaway. It comes with a price of course, at S$300 a night for a 1-bedroom bungalow(min. 2 night’s stay).
Most nature-lovers escape to Krabi, as a quieter option to Phuket. With waterfalls and hiking trails, it has more to offer than Phuket’s pumping music and party crowd. Rent a jeep to drive inland, and kayak through the limestone caves. Check out the exclusive Amari Vogue Krabi that has a zen decor and surroundings, putting your mind at ease.
9. Koh Lanta
Its close proximity to Phuket and Krabi (around 3 to 4 hours by bus or ferry) also means that you can easily find get here from Singapore for the weekend. A relatively quiet island that allows you to step away from the tourist trail and find some peace and tranquility on empty beaches and wild jungles. If you’re looking for somewhere quiet for your honeymoon or vacation, then Koh Lanta is the perfect island for you.
10. Koh Tao
As most of the thai beaches have been commercialised and dominated by tourists, this is an up and coming island that is yet to be tinted by tourists. Getting to Koh Tao can be complicating, but this also means a quiet and unexplored island. This island has a few excellent dive sites as well as well marked hiking trails that lead up to the top of the island.
There, all the best-kept secrets! Any other suggestions? Please feel free to share.