2023 is the year of revenge travelling. Having watched the past three years uneventfully pass us by, we’ve desperately got to make up for the lost time.
By now, we’re sure most of you have already got a long list of dream destinations to visit. The only problem is deciding on where to go first. Well, if you’re looking for some travel inspiration, forget the usual Seoul or Tokyo (they’re probably packed full of tourists now anyways). Instead, here are 10 new destinations recently connected to Changi Airport, which will take your travel game to the next level.
1. Sibu (Malaysia)
For those who only visit Sarawak, Sibu tends to get overlooked. But this charming little city, full of history and culture, is worth checking out!
For starters, there’s the Taoist Tua Pek Kong Temple and the Goddess of Mercy pagoda tower, both of which are found side by side. It’s the oldest Chinese temple in Sibu, and the statue of Tua Pek Kong was specially imported from Xiamen in the 1850s. Even if you’re not religious, the architecture is a visual feast in itself.
The biggest market in Sarawak and the largest indoor market in Malaysia — Sibu Central Market — is found here too. You’ll find both locals and tourists alike trying to find the best bargains and freshest deals around. What can we say? When in Rome, do as the Romans do.
Of course, you can’t leave Sibu (or rather, Sarawak as a whole) without pigging out on some Kampua Mee — noodles tossed in pork lard, fried shallots and spring onion, drizzled in a copious amount of soy sauce and chilli sauce. You’ll easily find a shop selling them anywhere around town, but reviews say Best Harvest Cafe’s where it’s really at.
2. Punakha (Bhutan)
Some people refer to Bhutan as the Switzerland of Asia and it’s easy to see why. This mountainous country has cliffside views on end, and under the vast sky, it feels like all your problems are far away. In particular Punakha, the former capital is where you can really disconnect.
Two of Bhutan’s important rivers, Mo-Chu and Pho-Chu, converge here at the majestic Punakha Dzong. With rivers, there’s white-water rafting. The fast and furious flow of both rivers as they rush towards the Devil's gorge makes rafting a popular activity among thrill seekers.
For something that seems pretty out of character for a conservative place like Bhutan, head on over to Chimi Lhakhang, otherwise known as the Divine Madman Temple, or The Fertility Temple. Unlike most temples, this one in particular features the generous usage of phallic imagery, apparently to ward off evil spirits. Unsurprisingly, it’s also popular for couples to visit the temple in hopes that the monk’s blessing would bestow them with the gift of a child.
If you’re there in winter, it’s highly recommended to go hiking. With the mild, cool weather, a four-day hike (54km) from Punakha to Wangduephodrang Dzongkhag feels more like a breezy walk through the forests and villages.
3. Jeju (South Korea)
Most people treat Jeju as a side trip; but we’re telling you there’s more to Jeju than just Hyeopjae and Hamdeok beaches, as white and sandy as they might be. You’d want to spend at least five days, or better yet a whole week, slowly exploring the whole island.
Visiting Jeongbang Waterfall is pretty much a given. It’s the only waterfall in Asia that falls directly into the sea. Further West lies Yongmeori Coast, otherwise known as the Dragon’s Head Cliff to locals. As the name suggests, it looks like a dragon with its head (the cliff) in the water.
Most would agree that South Korea makes for great Instagram fodder, but one of the best places to get shots for the gram is at Camellia Hill, the largest Camellia garden with over 500 types of flora. Just picture flowers that stretch on for eternity. And when you’re done, there’s a camellia-themed gallery to check out too.
Jeju isn’t just about the scenery, but unusual experiences too. For something different, head on over to 9.81 Park to go racing without motors. Their go-karts rely on gravity to accelerate, reaching up to 60km/h while speeding past Aewol Beach and Hallasan Mountain. Oh, and they’ve got swings that go 360 degrees, laser tag, VR racing and more too.
4. Busan (South Korea)
The same goes for Busan, actually. There’s so much this picturesque coastal town has to offer it’s a shame to only spend three days here. To really enjoy your time here, it’s highly recommended to rent a car to drive around Busan.
First stop: Gamcheon Culture Village. Once a slum populated by war refugees, Gamcheon Culture Village has since turned into a tourist hotspot. With its stunning splash of pastel colours across the village, it’s no wonder the village is heavily featured on the backdrops of many travellers’ Instagram photos.
You can’t miss out on the largest fish market in the country: Jagalchi Fish Market. Rather than a market, it’s more like an entire neighbourhood with seven stories all dedicated to just seafood. Here you’ll find anything from king crabs, sea pineapples, hoe, squids to octopi (which, depending on the stall, you can eat whole and raw if you dare). Don’t forget to head up to the top floor of the market to bask in the view of the Busan Port while you’re there.
5. Nouméa (New Caledonia)
For an idyllic island adventure, why not Nouméa down in New Caledonia? It’s an island holiday unlike the Bahamas or Maldives, where French elegance meets Melanesian hospitality.
When it comes to Noumea tourist attractions, you cannot miss out on the Noumea Lagoons Aquarium. The aquarium only houses native marine critters, including glowing corals and even a living nautilus—a deep ocean reef mollusk—the first in the world to do so.
Snorkelers will love Duck Isle, located just off the coast of Noumea, for its underwater trail. Not only does it guide you past a kaleidoscopic array of corals, anemones and fishes, but travellers have also mentioned seeing white-tip sharks and green turtles too.
As a lagoon, Noumea and the surrounding islands are also where endangered Green turtles, Hawksbill turtles, Leatherback turtles and Loggerhead turtles come to nest. If you’re lucky, you might even get to see the hatching of turtles along the beaches.
6. Nadi (Fiji)
Most people start their holiday in Fiji on Nadi, located on its main island, before dispersing to check out the nearby islands.
While the rest of Fiji’s known for its beach activities, Nadi’s where culture is at. For starters, there’s the Fiji Culture Village where artisans showcase their traditional craftwork. You might even get to join a kava drinking ceremony—Fiji’s national drink made from a kava plant’s root. Come night time, there are fire dances to enjoy too.
The Garden of the Sleeping Giant and the Sabeto Mud Pools aren’t to be missed out on. The garden itself lies below a mountain that’s said to look like a giant on its side (hence the name) and is home to hundreds of Orchid varieties. They’re both found in the same backroads of Nadi, and after a day of walking through the Garden of the Sleeping Giant, soaking in the mud pools is a great way to relieve that muscle fatigue.
7. Bahrain (Bahrain)
With 33 islands making up the entire of Bahrain, the country has plenty of enchanting island adventures to offer vacation-makers, including pearl diving along the UNESCO-protected Bahrain Pearling Trail.
Most of Bahrain’s economy was reliant on the seas around the country for a few thousand years — not for seafood, but for pearls. If you’d like to go pearling yourself, just approach any of the five different licensed pearl-diving operations, and whatever you can find while swimming, you can keep.
Another popular activity to do in Bahrain includes visiting the royal camel farm. The farm only exists to preserve the royal tradition of camel rearing, so the camels kind of live like kings in their own way too.
There are also plenty of architectural attractions and markets to visit, namely the Bahrain National Museum. It’s located at the capital’s waterfront and is bursting with archaeological finds, interactive exhibits and photographs showcasing over 6,000 years of history.
8. Jeddah (Saudi Arabia)
Jeddah has long served as the gateway for travellers, particularly Muslims going to Mecca, and visiting Saudi Arabia. It’s considered the most progressive place to visit and boasts an eclectic mix of mosques, cafes and souqs (traditional street markets) to see.
Theme parks are all the rage here. The best one—Al Shallal Theme Park—is known for its Big 8 Roller Coaster that goes at a whopping 85km/h. But there’s more to do from boat rides to skating rinks and arcade games, for those who are not fans of roller coasters.
Fakieh Aquarium shouldn’t be missed, it’s the only aquarium in Saudi Arabia and it’s also where you can go swimming with dolphins. There are also sharks, seahorses, sea lions and many more to see while there, and of course, a delicious seafood meal awaits at the aquarium’s restaurant.
Finally, shop till you drop at any one of Jeddah’s souqs, be it Souq Shatee, Macarona Souq or Yemeni Souq. You’ll find pretty much everything there.
9. Addis Ababa (Ethiopia)
Many of Ethiopia’s natural attractions, like the Bale Mountains National Park and Lalibela churches, are located just outside the city of Addis Ababa. Along with all the cultural attractions in Addis Ababa itself, it’s the perfect base for your Ethiopian adventure.
History buffs will love Addis Ababa for the many, many museums around, among which the National Museum of Ethiopia is considered the most important in not just the country, but in sub-Saharan Africa. The most famous exhibit there has to be Lucy, the skeleton of the oldest human ancestor, though equally exciting are also the remains of extinct animals like the sabretooth tiger.
The crowded, chaotic market of Merkato is also one of the must-sees of Addis Ababa. It’s supposedly the largest market in all of Africa with over 7,000 businesses hawking their wares to casual tourists and serious traders alike. From fresh fruits to traditional Ethiopian coffee pots, and handwoven shawls to exotic spices, you’ll pretty much find everything here. However, due to the prevalence of pickpockets and theft, it’s highly recommended to have a guide bring you around.
10. Vancouver (Canada)
Considering how Singapore’s already a city, it might feel a bit odd to travel so far just to stay in another city, except Vancouver isn’t just a city with better weather. It’s easy to get lost in nature with how close it is to the natural spots.
If you’ve got your hiking shoes ready, take a whole day to really get lost among Vancouver’s nature. Start from Lynn Canyon Park (where you’ll also find the famous Capilano Suspension Bridge Park) before hiking up to St. Mark’s summit., Then, take a stroll around Lighthouse Park before heading back down to Gastown for a well-deserved meal.
There happens to be a seemingly random island in the middle of town, but it’s here at Granville Island that you’ll find an indoor public market surrounded by even more outdoor vendors offering all sorts of moorish foods for sale. Think notable booths like Siegel’s Bagels, Stuart’s Bakery, Kaylin & Hobb’s Pickles and more. The island has so many stores to see, it’ll be hard to return home without multiple gifts for everyone.
For those of us used to the warm tropical weather, it’s most recommended to come in summer when we can enjoy splashing around the beach without that equatorial sweltering heat we’re used to.
This list isn’t exhaustive of course, and there are still plenty more holiday destinations to visit, many of which you can find guides for on our website. Happy jetsetting everyone, we’ve all waited too long for this!
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