9 Long-Weekend Getaways You Can Have In Asia

From Osaka to Colombo, check out these short getaway ideas for your next long weekend:

1. OSAKA, JAPAN

 

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Nicknamed “the nation’s kitchen” for once playing a vital role in managing Japan’s economy and distribution of goods, this city has also gained a reputation for its fine cuisine in recent years. If you are concerned that a long weekend is too short for a foodie trip there, try opting for an overnight flight there and back, leaving you with more time to, well, eat. And you will need it. Numerous websites are dedicated to its must-visit restaurants and cafes. For example, Sushiyoshi (above) in the Kita-ku ward, known for its sushi, has two Michelin stars. Fancy super-fresh squid cooked and served in a thickened sauce accentuated with yuzu? Or tuna maki with thick strips of tuna in varying shades of fattiness? The Kani Doraku chain of restaurants, famous for its crab dishes, is worth checking out for dishes such as these.

2. PALAWAN, THE PHILIPPINES

This Philippine island, with its pristine beaches, coral reefs and limestone cliffs, makes a perfect beach getaway. One of the island’s treasures is the Puerto Princesa Underground River (above), which was named one of the world’s seven wonders of nature in 2012. Previous reports say the 8.2km-long river has caverns abloom with limestone, in shapes that evoke medieval cities, frozen waves and a cloud-like cathedral. Nobody knows exactly when the hidden river, which flows into the South China Sea, was first discovered, but Australian and Italian teams began exploring its chambers in the 1980s. Another attraction is El Nido, an area known for its white, sandy beaches and snorkelling spots.

3. DARWIN, AUSTRALIA

 

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When Down Under, always be prepared for an adventure. A four-and-a-half-hour flight from Singapore, Darwin, Australia’s only tropical capital city, has that in spades. Those unafraid of heights can go sky-diving with Top End Tandems and enjoy a free fall at more than 200km/h against the blue sky, while taking in magnificent views of Lee Point Beach. At the Crocosaurus Cove, you can sign up for an experience in its famous Cage of Death (above), Australia’s only crocodile dive, which includes 15 minutes in the enclosure with one of the massive reptiles. While inside the cage, you will be suspended above the reptiles and lowered into the pen to get an up-close-and-personal look. A one-and-a-half-hour drive away is Kakadu National Park, Australia’s largest national park. There, you can take a plane or helicopter ride, following the snaking rivers and looking down on the ancient stone escarpments, while those into trekking can explore the rock art galleries of Nourlangie Rock.

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4. CHENGDU, CHINA

 

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If you cannot get enough of pandas after seeing Kai Kai and Jia Jia at Singapore’s River Safari, this city – about a four-and-a-half-hour flight from Singapore – is the perfect vacation spot as it is famous for being a panda paradise. The Chengdu Research Base of Giant Panda Breeding is home to 152 giant pandas, as well as several red pandas. Besides a panda museum and a beautiful bamboo forest on the panda base, the view of pandas here is reportedly much closer than that at most Western zoos. Another panda attraction, the Dujiangyan Panda Base and Center for Disease Control (above), offers volunteer programmes that let visitors get closer to the animals. During these programmes, which last one to two days, volunteers prepare panda food, clean panda enclosures, plant bamboo and trees as well as watch films about pandas, among other activities. Besides pandas, Chengdu, the capital of Sichuan province, is also known for traditional Sichuan opera, characterised by crowd-pleasing elements such as acrobatics and fire spitting. The Shufeng Sichuan Opera House, for example, has performances every evening.

5. BANDAR SERI BEGAWAN, BRUNEI

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Just a two-hour flight from Singapore, Brunei’s capital and largest city may not be as well-known as other South-east Asian cities, but its architecture is stunning and it is home to some of the most beautiful mosques in the region. The Sultan Omar Ali Saifuddin Mosque (above) is built in an artificial lagoon on the banks of a river and its golden domes and marble minarets will take your breath away, while the Jame’Asr Hassanil Bolkiah Mosque is especially striking when it’s lit up at night. The best time to visit the city, according to those who have been there, is Hari Raya Puasa. That is when Sultan Hassanal Bolkiah, who is also the Prime Minister, hosts an open house at his official residence, the Istana Nurul Iman. During this time, male visitors reportedly get a chance to meet and shake hands with him, and all visitors are treated to a sumptuous feast. Just be prepared to wait as the royals are said to greet about 40,000 people a day during the festivities.

6. LUANG PRABANG, LAOS

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This UNESCO World Heritage Site is just 40 minutes by plane from Laos’ capital, Vientiane, which is about a three-hour flight from Singapore. The town of Luang Prabang is noted for its unaffectedness and languid charm, and an early morning ritual that involves monks (above) receiving alms from the locals. Every morning, a wet market pops up in the alleyways off Sisavangvong Road, the city’s high street. Expect to see glistening fresh fruit, vegetables and meat laid out on mats at stalls run mostly by women who speak in quickfire Lao. A bustling night market stretches from Sisavangvong Road to Settathilat Road, selling shawls, rugs and handbags that showcase Lao weaving and embroidery. Pop by at about 10pm, when stall owners start to pack up and you are more likely to get a generous discount.

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7. SURABAYA, INDONESIA

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Approximately two and a half hours away by plane from Singapore, Indonesia’s second-largest city is considered a gateway to some of the country’s scenic mountain landscape. About a two-hour-drive away is Mount Arjuno-Welirang, which is dotted with temples, graves and other historical sites and where tour companies organise treks. The Bromo Tengger Semeru National Park, about a three-and-a-half-hour drive from Surabaya, is named after two of its mountains – Mount Semeru and Mount Bromo (above) – both active volcanoes. Mount Bromo, which is more famous, erupted as recently as last year and the crater inside is known to emit white smoke. The overall scene has often been described as unearthly as the sand around the volcano contrasts with the lush, green landscapes in the park, fed by rivers originating from the mountains.

8. IPOH, MALAYSIA

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If you have kids in tow, you will need attractions and activities that can keep the little ones occupied. And Ipoh, Malaysia’s fourth-biggest city has plenty of those and is only about one and a half hours’ flight from Singapore. The Lost World Of Tambun theme park is a child’s wonderland, with a water park, petting zoo, amusement park and adventure park, among other attractions. Thrill-seekers can roll and tumble around in giant zorb balls or take part in a super adventure race that involves rafting, jungle trekking, caving and cliff racing. Those who do not mind getting wet can enjoy the country’s longest inflatable tube ride, biggest wave pool and longest man-made adventure river. The kids might also enjoy the Sam Poh Tong Temple, located in a natural limestone hill about 5km from Ipoh. Its colourful statues and designs make for great photos and its turtle pond is said to be filled with hundreds of the reptiles, which visitors can feed with vegetables and bread. Visitors have noted that the animals will “rush” to you if they believe you have food in your hands.

9. COLOMBO, SRI LANKA

The bustling city of Sri Lanka, which retains many traditional elements, is another alternative for spending a long weekend, and it takes less than four hours to fly there. Among its many beautiful temples is the Gangaramaya Temple, which organises the city’s most-talked-about annual cultural pageant, the Navam Perahera festival, in February. The event features hundreds of monks clad in colourful robes solemnly walking in the procession, with youths clad in white carrying Buddhist flags, dancers, drummers and brightly decorated elephants (above). Another cultural attraction is the Traditional Puppet Art Museum, which was established to preserve the memory of traditional arts. Puppet shows were part of the entertainment in Sri Lankan villages and the country has its own style of presenting these performances because of its unique mix of cultures and religions.

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Story originally appeared on SilverKris.

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