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The Best Nature Destinations For a Relaxing Holiday In Asia

Asia — the largest continent on Earth. Spanning the uninhabited wilderness of Siberia to the lush tropical rainforests of Indonesia, Asia is a hotspot for nature lovers as it has a climate as diverse as its geographic features. It houses some of the most stunning natural phenomenons of the world, including one of the seven natural wonders — Mount Everest.

With no dearth of natural destinations to visit, it can be hard to decide on just one. We rounded up some of the best places to kick back and relax in within the expansive continent.

Phu Quoc, Vietnam

With powder soft beaches and clear, turquoise waters, Phu Quoc (pronounced ‘foo-kwok’) is a gorgeous tropical paradise. Comprising 28 uninhabited islands, Phu Quoc offers unspoilt, secluded stretches of quiet and calm, a welcome reprieve from the crowds at more popular beach destinations like Phuket, Thailand.

Marine enthusiasts would enjoy Phu Quoc for the diverse wildlife it offers in its crystalline waters, while avid hikers can look forward to silken waterfalls within the larger UNESCO-listed Kien Giang Biosphere Reserve. Eclectic bars and cafes line the beachfront alongside luxurious resorts and private guesthouses, catering to all kinds of budget preferences for each type of traveller.

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Ubud, Indonesia

Perhaps best known as the place where Elizabeth Gilbert gained spiritual self-actualisation in Eat, Pray, Love, Ubud is a popular cultural and natural hotspot in Indonesia. Perched on the remote highlands, Ubud is especially iconic for its cascade of emerald green rice terraces (Tegalalang Rice Terrace) and showcase of the very best of traditional Balinese culture.

With an easygoing and laidback atmosphere, Ubud is a place where it’s easy to lose track of time — a few days can easily turn into weeks and months, even years. For the ultimate experience, get on the mat at one of Ubud’s yoga retreats — you’ll leave feeling re-energized and rejuvenated in mind, body, and soul.

Arugam Bay, Sri Lanka

If you didn’t already know, Sri Lanka has a trove of secluded, sandy beaches, and Arugam Bay is one of them. Located on the East Coast, it’s far enough from the capital and other tourist attractions to be less popular with visiting travellers. With just a single main road running parallel to the beach, there’s not much to the village itself, other than lots of chilling.

Featuring a famed point break, Arugam Bay is a surfer’s paradise, and is regarded as the best surf spot in the country. If you’re not into surfing, you can laze on the beach like the rest of the sun-seekers, or chill at one of the beachside restaurants offering fresh-from-the-ocean seafood.

Koh Kood, Thailand

Just five hours from Bangkok lies this stunning island getaway — Koh Kood. As reported by The Guardian in 2014, it is “Thailand’s last unspoilt islands”. Because of its remoteness, it is the perfect escape from a bustling lifestyle, instead offering tranquility amid the most idyllic of beaches.

Home to a population of less than 2,000, coconut plantations, and sleepy fishing villages, you can expect the pace of life at Koh Kood to be slow and unassuming. Under the lull of waves lapping against the shore and the hypnotic swing of beachside hammocks, it provides the rare opportunity to gently unwind, and temporarily disconnect from the world.

Siquijor, Philippines

While the spiritual side of Siquijor continues to draw tourists in, nowadays, it is best known for its beautiful corals, white beaches and sparkling waterfalls.

Every night, hundreds of green luminous fireflies light up the island, giving evidence to its name ‘Isla del Fuego’ (or ‘Island of Fire’). When these mystical creatures come out to play, it gives the tiny island a magical, almost eerie glow that lends to Siquijor’s reputation among many Filipinos as an ‘island of witchcraft’. As a wise philosopher once said, “Nature itself is the best physician”.

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Maldives

Finally, the pearl of South Asia. Maldives is beach luxury personified, and features the Indian Ocean in brilliant shades of blue, turquoise, and aquamarine. Colourful coral reefs host a diverse variety of marine wildlife, from striped clownfish to genteel sea turtles. Islands rimmed with the softest of pure white sand make for serene sanctuaries to luxuriate in, and let the worries of yesterday slip away.

While the Maldives comprises a whopping 1192 islands, only 200 are inhabited. At this nation of islands, island hopping is a way of life, and the best means to go about uncovering the hidden gems of the region.

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Unique Airbnb Experiences in Southeast Asia

Many of us are familiar with Airbnb by now and know it as the go-to online marketplace that connects homeowners with travellers, by offering their properties as accommodation for tourists. Today, there are over 7 million Airbnb accommodation listings around the globe. 

In 2016, Airbnb launched ‘Experiences’ as a way to elevate their travel services. This feature gives access to travellers who are looking for experiences that go beyond famous landmarks and well-known tourist destinations. What’s more is that these activities are curated and organised by local hosts themselves, which gives it a more authentic feel for tourists. 

Ever since they integrated ‘Experiences’ into the mix, this has definitely changed the game significantly for the travel industry.

Here’s a list of unique Airbnb experiences that you can encounter right here in Southeast Asia!

Cambodia: Discover the Hidden Gems of Angkor Wat on Bike

What’s better than discovering one of the largest temple complexes in the world than by bike? Visitors will come face to face with astounding structures that are full of history like the Elephant Terrace, Preah Khan, and Srah Srang, which is commonly known as ‘The Royal Baths’. 

Many tourists that have joined this historical bike tour have mentioned that it was refreshing to be able to explore the temples on bike, since it is typically visited by taxi or tuk-tuk.

Angkor Bike Tour Discovery: From S$78/person 

Indonesia: Immerse Yourself in The Balinese Culture and Witness the Uluwatu Kecak Fire Dance 

Bali has been ranked as the most-visited destination for foreign tourists in all of Indonesia is loved by many for their world-class surf spots and stunning beaches. But beyond all of that, Bali’s cultural roots run deep and can be felt everywhere around the Island, and is something visitors should not miss. 

The Uluwatu Temple is dubbed by many as the best sunset spot in Bali with a breathtaking view of the Indian Ocean from atop a cliff. What makes this spot special is their famous Kecak Fire Dance, which is a portrayal of the historical Ramayana. Visitors will surely be mesmerised by the dancers’ movements and the burning bright flames. 

Uluwatu Kecak Fire Dance & Sunset: From S$49/person 

Laos: Try Your Hand at Traditional Weaving with Katu Sisters

Traditional weaving has been a long-standing tradition in Laos for many years. Weaving emerged in Laos due to the cultural contact of different ethnic groups in the country and has birthed a beautiful and intricate art form that many locals take pride in. 

In this experience, tourists will be able to make their own crafts from headbands, bracelets, camera straps, coasters, and even bookmarks, as well learn the history of weaving from the locals themselves. 

Traditional Weaving with Katu Sisters: From S$64/person 

The Philippines: Taste and See the Real Manila 

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The Philippines is home to some 7,100 islands and has some of the world’s best beaches like Boracay, El Nido in Palawan, and world-famous surf spot, Siargao Island. But what many don’t know is that the streets of Manila hold such a rich history. 

Discover the hidden gems of this Philippine capital on this AirBnb experience with activities ranging from eating local street food, visiting the historic Stanta Cruz Church, the oldest apartments in the city, and your typical Filipino markets. You’ll also have the chance to ride on a jeepney, which is one of the most common modes of transportation for many Filipinos that many tourists find unique. This Airbnb experience is perfect for travellers who are strapped for time and have a day or two to spare on their short layover in the Philippines. 

Hidden Gems of Manila: From S$51/person 

Vietnam: Cruise Through the Mekong River Just Like The Locals 

If you even just one day to spare outside of the city when in Vietnam, you should definitely spend it at the Mekong River when in the South. The Mekong River is the 12th longest river in the world and winds itself around five other countries: China, Myanmar, Thailand, Laos, and Cambodia. 

In this tour, tourists will get first-hand local experience through a range of activities from enjoying a boat ride to Thoi Son Island, visiting a bee farm, indulging in a Southern local lunch on a riverside restaurant, as well as watching traditional folk music performances. 

Explore Mekong River Delta Day Trip: From S$46/person 

We have yet to uncover all of the hidden treasures of Southeast Asia and we’re just getting started. In the meantime, try adding these unique experiences to your list on your next adventure! 

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Adventure Asia Bali Indonesia Lifestyle Philippines

Adrenaline-Packed Adventure Sports to Try in Southeast Asia

Southeast Asia is a slice of heaven truly. Deep cerulean oceans fringed with luxuriant verdant forests, atavistic temples and colossal skyscrapers — old yet new, if I may be pardoned for the paradox. The possibilities are endless, and I personally consider Southeast Asia as the best destination spot to have some incredible adventures,without damaging your pockets too much. 

Here are five amazing adventures you should not miss on your trip to Southeast Asia.

1. Rock Climbing in Vang Vieng, Laos

Vang Vieng was previously well known for drunk-tubing across the river. People would consume a lot of alcohol from riverside bars and jump on an inflatable tube to drift across the river.

However, that questionable scene has changed and the focus has now shifted to an array of exhilarating sports, ranging from kayaking to zip-lining. Surrounded by towering limestone mountains, it seems like a no-brainer to opt for a climbing tour! 

Adam’s Climbing School is the most well known company in the area to provide several set routes and climbing courses that range from half-day to even three days. Personally, rock-climbing the magnificent karsts in Laos with Adam’s has been a truly unforgettable experience for me.

2. Quad biking in Siem Reap, Cambodia

Imagine racing into the beautiful Cambodian sunset on your ATV. If you do not mind getting a little dirt on yourself, you could ride down muddy terrains to explore the province’s paddy fields, sacred waterfalls, secret temples, and the quiet countrysides for as low as USD 30. It is a one of a kind experience indeed!

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3. Surfing, Indonesia

I would go as far to say that the Disneyland of surfing is Indonesia. Located in the Indian Ocean, the Indonesian archipelago has one of the best wave-rich zones in the world, with thousands of reef passes, reef points and beach breaks scattered across its many islands. With consistent swells year-round, it offers world-class waves to anyone who’s brave enough to ride it. 

The first surf spot that comes to my mind is Bali, of course. Kuta serves the beginners, but if you want a challenge, go for the massive swells of Padang Padang or left-hand reefs in Uluwatu. 

4. Parasailing in Boracay, Philippines

Always wanted to fly? How about getting a bird’s eye view of the pristine, white sandy beaches of Boracay island? This is your chance. Get strapped to a parachute dragged by a speedboat, and soar up high. You have fifteen minutes to make your aviation dreams come true, and you could extend it if you don’t mind spending a little more.

5. Kayaking in Ha-Long Bay, Vietnam

Serene waters, tranquil waves, and peaceful scenery. What more could you ask for? Imagine kayaking through the clear water, rowing past magnificent cave systems, and trailing your fingers across stone stalactites! There are various kayaking services available, but make sure you check the safety and quality provided by them to avoid potential scams!

Overall, Southeast Asia is a wonderful melting pot with people from various walks of life. The culture and ethnicity that every single one of the countries bring to the region is incredibly rich. Don’t wait to explore what these enriching, breathtaking spread of lands have to offer!

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Heads Up — Bali Might Be Reopening to Tourists in September 2020

The COVID-19 pandemic has evidently changed different aspects of our lives and forced us into a ‘new normal’ indefinitely. It has also put a halt on some of our plans, including all our travels that we had planned for this year and the next. With many international borders still closed, it’s almost impossible for us to travel outside of our cities during this time. 

But here’s some good news, finally. For those itching to head to the beach to catch a few waves or simply bask in the sun, Bali is planning on reopening their borders for international tourists this September.

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According to Mr I. Putu Astawa, head of Bali’s tourism agency, they have set a goal of reopening its borders to international travellers on 11 September 2020 but this is still “subject to approval from the national government”.

In early July, Bali began their three stages of reopening by slowly opening tourism sites for their residents, followed by allowing local tourists from other parts of Indonesia to enter since 31 July 2020. If overseas tourists are permitted to enter in September 2020 by the national government, this would be their third phase of reopening. 

This comes after the announcement in May by the Indonesian Tourism Ministry of their plans to launch a promotional campaign to revive and breathe new life into major destinations in the country. This includes the cultural capital of Yogyakarta, the exotic and understated Riau Islands, and of course, Bali. 

Tourism is at the heart of what keeps the economy of Bali going with its overseas visitors in the millions each year. In 2019 alone, there were 6.3 million international tourist arrivals, making Bali the most popular destination for tourists in Indonesia. 

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Bali is absolutely loved by many for a plethora of reasons. The first and most obvious reason is the abundance of pristine beaches on the Island. From popular sights such as Kuta and Canggu beach to more remote areas that are only known by the locals, each beach in Bali has its own distinct charm. Whether you’re looking for a beach to jump off of cliffs, to swim in the crystal clear waters, or just lounge in the sand, you’ll end up finding one that you love. Or perhaps, falling in love with each one you visit. 

Besides their lush white-sand beaches, Bali is also considered one of the best surf destinations in the entire world with at least 60 surf spots. Veteran surfers and beginners who are looking to learn the water sport never fail to turn to Bali as their go-to playground. The Island boasts many world-class surf breaks and perfect waves all year round, which always keeps surfers coming back for more. 

Above all of that, visitors love the Balinese hospitality and culture that is deeply engraved in every corner of the Island, from their people, their food and its natural beauty. Most people who have visited Bali agree that the locals are incredibly friendly and will make anyone feel right at home. 

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In order to prevent imported transmissions of the virus, visitors are required to be tested negative for COVID-19 before their scheduled trip and need to have additional documentation. 

With the pandemic gravely affecting the tourism industry in Indonesia, many locals in Bali have also suffered. With no certainty on when this will end until there is a vaccine for COVID-19, there is a need to reopen the borders for tourism activities to keep the economy running. 

Despite finally reopening for tourism, Bali Governor I Wayan Koster mentioned that they may have to close certain areas of the Island if ever inspections spike again. The local government has established several guidelines for travellers coming from abroad that include wearing masks and social distancing, and seek their cooperation during their stay in Bali. 

If we want to enjoy our visit to the ‘Island of the Gods’ to the fullest, let’s do our part to practise the guidelines set in place to keep ourselves and everyone around us safe. But as much as possible, steer clear from non-essential travel if you can. Let us wait out the storm and travel once we’re finally in the clear.