Travelholics rejoice! With nine long weekends in 2018, you must be looking for new destinations to explore. Take a break from your usual getaways and consider these up-and-coming hot spots in Japan, Sri Lanka, Thailand, and Cambodia!

Okinawa, Japan: An island on the rise

The secret is out. For years, Okinawa – also known as the Sunshine isles -  has been a popular getaway for many Japanese. A 5-hours flight away from Singapore, Okinawa offers pleasant sub-tropical weather, beautiful beaches and wide array of activities.

A beach in Okinawa, Japan

Crystal-clear blue waters and fine white sand are hallmarks of Okinawa’s beaches

As one of the world’s best diving destinations, Okinawa’s archipelago is abundant with a diverse range of marine creatures for divers to feast their eyes upon. Be prepared to swim alongside manta rays and hammerhead sharks, and for those who dare, why not explore mysterious underwater ruins while you’re at it? With the temperature of Okinawa’s waters ranging from 22 °C to 29 °C, it’s a diver’s paradise all year round. 

Marine life in Okinawa, Japan

Okinawa’s underwater seascape is every diver’s dream

If you prefer to keep your feet on land but would still like to admire the beauty of marine life, the Okinawa Churaumi Aquarium is the perfect place to visit. Spread out over four floors, the aquarium has a wide variety of sea creatures on display, such as the regal whale shark.

Okinawa Churaumi Aquarium

Admire the beauty of marine life at one of Japan’s best aquariums

For the landlubbers, try your hand at one of Okinawa’s many local art and crafts classes. Challenge yourself to making traditional Ryukyu pottery or bingata, a traditional art of dyeing on paper and fabric.

Ryukyu pottery in Okinawa, Japan

Try your hand at Ryukyu pottery with the various workshops in Okinawa

Because of its different climate as well as geographical location, Okinawan food has traces of Chinese culture interwoven with Japanese elements and flavours. Among the list of delectable local fare, Okinawa soba is an absolute savoury must-try.

Okinawa Soba

Made of wheat instead of buckwheat, Okinawa soba noodles are a must-try.

Best time to visit

You can visit Okinawa any time of the year as it has a sub-tropical climate. Do expect cooler temperatures during the rainy season (May to June).

Transportation

Buses and taxis are the best way to get around, though do note bus signs are not in English. Car rentals are also a viable and affordable option.

Currency

The official currency of Japan is the Yen (JPY). Foreign-issued credit cards are accepted in most ATMs and some shops, though some local stores may only accept the Yen.

Colombo, Sri Lanka: A surfer and beach lover’s paradise

You’ll be surprised to know that there’s so much more to Sri Lanka beyond Ceylon tea. An island country surrounded by waters of the Indian Ocean and a 4-hours flight away from Singapore, Sri Lanka is the ideal destination for a beach holiday.

Right in the heart of Colombo is Galle Face Green, a cross between a park and a beach. Its huge space makes it a crowd favourite for outdoor activities like kite flying, football and beach volleyball. You may also spot families fishing or simply eating hawker food by the beach. 

Galle Face Green, Colombo

Both a park and a beach, Galle Face Green is a popular spot for outdoor activities.

After a day of sight-seeing, rejuvenate your mind and body with some well-deserved rest and relaxation. Colombo has many spas offering an extensive range of options to pamper tired limbs, energise one’s spirit and even to detox!

Spa in Colombo, Sri Lanka

Pamper yourself and rejuvenate your senses with a spa and massage session. Photo Credit: Spa Ceylon Luxury Ayurveda

Expect a unique spin on rice and curries when you visit Colombo. With 15 varieties of rice, expect lots of rice dishes, including hoppers (rice flour pancakes) and string hoppers (rice noodles). The island has an abundant supply of coconuts, tropical fruits, and vegetables too.

Hoppers from Sri Lanka

Hoppers are best savoured with a side of curry.

When in Colombo, it is imperative to indulge in the bounty of the sea. Savour the taste of the sea at Mount Lavinia, a beach town in Colombo that is also popular among tourists for its bustling nightlife.

Grilled seafood in Colombo, Sri Lanka

Head to Mount Lavinia for some of the best seafood in Colombo.

Best time to visit

Apart from the heavy monsoons, which generally last between June and September, the weather is pleasant for most of the year in Colombo.

Transportation

Tuktuks and taxis are convenient ways to get around Colombo.

Currency

The official currency of Sri Lanka is the Sri Lanka Rupee (LKR).

Pai, Chiang Mai: Quaint countryside delight

After a 3-hours flight from Singapore to Chiang Mai, a two to three hour-drive from Chiang Mai brings you to Pai, a small countryside town in Mae Hong Son Province. With its relaxed vibes, lush expanses of nature and burgeoning café scene, Pai’s popularity with visitors has been steadily increasing.

Flora and fauna abound in Pai. Sunflowers, or bua tong (meaning golden lotus in Thai), flourish during the winter season and wash the fields in brilliant golden hues. 

Mexican sunflower in Pai, Thailand

Be sure to catch the Bua Tong during its short blooming period.

For those who crave a little more adventure, head to Sai Ngam Hot springs on a scooter and luxuriate in warm comfort to soothe your aches and rejuvenate your senses. 

Pai is also blessed with many waterfalls to visit. Mo Paeng Falls, though slightly crowded, is one of the easiest waterfalls to access.

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Even if you’re not an early bird, do catch the sunrise at Yun Lai View Point, also known as Yoonlai Mist Sea. The scenery makes for stunning panoramic shots, particularly when dawn is breaking. 

Sunrise at Yun Lai View Point

Rise and shine early to catch the sunrise at Yun Lai View Point

Pai also has its share of hipster cafes with vibrant ambiance, quirky décor, and delicious food offerings. Try Carrot on the Moon, Art in Chai Café, and Lemon Thyme Café for long leisurely meals with steaming cups of coffee against a rustic Thai countryside backdrop. 

 

 

 

Best time to visit

Northern Thailand has three distinct seasons: cool, hot, and rainy. November to February is the best time to visit because of the cool season. 

Getting Around

Getting around Pai can be done by foot. But for excursions, it is best to hire a motorcycle or bike.

Currency

The official currency of Thailand is the Thai Baht (THB). ATM machines are located around Pai.

Phnom Penh, Cambodia: Go off the beaten path

Once known as the “Pearl of Asia” and a short 2-hours flight away from Singapore, Phnom Penh is a dizzying mix of sights and sounds. Grim history aside, soak in the city’s ancient architectural splendours, such as the Royal Palace.

Royal Palace in Phnom Penh

The Throne Hall is the main attraction of Phnom Penh’s Royal Palace.

If you’re a fan of street food, be sure to visit the various markets peppered across the city. Khmer cuisine is all about contrasts – sweet and bitter, salty and sour, fresh and cooked. Whether it’s grilled dishes or Khmer desserts, the local markets offer the most authentic taste of Phnom Penh’s cuisine.

Have a thirst for adventure? How about joining scenic cycling tours of rustic plantations or for something more rough-and-tumble, village quad bike trails on all-terrain vehicles (ATVs) would be up your alley.  

Spa in Colombo, Sri Lanka

Go on an adventure around the countryside of Phnom Penh on ATVs. Photo Credit: Quad Adventure Cambodia

For animal lovers, Phnom Tamao Wildlife Rescue Centre is the perfect place to know more about the wildlife in Cambodia. Get up-close and personal with the elephants and other rescued animals, all while contributing to the conservation of Cambodia’s wildlife.

Best time to visit

November to February is the best time to visit Phnom Penh when the temperature is cooler and there is little rainfall. However, this is when most tourists come to visit. Expect better travel deals in May to early October during Cambodia’s wet season. 

Transportation

A cyclo is a relaxed way to get around Phnom Penh. For a quicker way to get around town, flag down tuktuks instead. 

Currency

The official currency of Cambodia is the Cambodian Riel (KHR). 

As the Dalai Lama once said, “Once a year, go someplace you’ve never been before”. Beat the crowds and start planning your upcoming long weekends now! Fly direct from Changi Airport to Okinawa, Colombo, Chiang Mai, and Phnom Penh.