From The Straits Times    |


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There are many awesome places just a short plane ride away from Singapore, whether you’re after a cultural fix, spot of shopping, lazing about on a beach or just a change of scenery.

You can fly or ferry direct to all these destinations in less than 3 hours, giving you plenty of time to soak them in over a long weekend.

Here are all the mini getaway spots we’re lucky enough to live so close to.




Penang, Malaysia

Penang, Malaysia

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Penang’s capital George Town is home to colonial architectural wonders, museums, ancient Buddhist temples, mosques and even a memorial to Queen Victoria. The bustling, multicultural town is a UNESCO World Heritage Site and makes for awesome holiday snaps.

Your traditional culture fix aside, Penang is a foodie’s heaven too, fusing Indian, Chinese and Malay cuisine for incredible curries, laksas and soups – so you can dine like a queen at super affordable prices.

Head to Gurney Drive for the famous food courts and hawker stalls, or you could end the night at Three Sixty Rooftop Bar to dine in the revolving restaurant and sip cocktails into the night with spectacular views over George Town.


Phuket, Thailand

Phuket Thailand

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A direct plane ride from Singapore, Phuket in Thailand is popular for a reason.

Perfect for many holiday preferences from lazing around to water sports, the white sandy beaches at Patong are ideal for couples, friends and families, plus the many luxury hotels are surprisingly affordable.

Away from the beach, Phuket offers gardens, temples, water parks and night spots for a fun and varied weekend getaway.


Bintan, Indonesia

Bintan Indonesia

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Just a ferry ride away from Singapore, Bintan is the largest island in the Riau Islands province and makes for a perfect mini getaway offering luxury resorts, designer golf courses, and a picturesque beach holiday atmosphere.

The spectacular Bintan Resorts is one of the most popular tourist spots and offers many comforts and experiences. Based in the north of the island, the complex comprises of ten independently beachside resorts, four golf courses, and a range of other recreational facilities and attractions.

If you’re feeling a little adventurous you can take a boat ride through the mangrove forests and watch the monkeys, kingfishers and otters, or take a trip to the pretty and pristine Trikora beach.


Hanoi Vietnam

Hanoi Vietnam

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The capital of Vietnam is just over 3 hours by plane and many areas are buzzing, busy and bustling at all times. But while Hanoi may not make for a relaxed and tranquil getaway, it certainly retains a charm that should be experienced at least once; and you can do it over a long weekend.

The best place to venture into is the Old Quarter, resembling a labyrinth of streets; each one named after the merchandise it’s famed for.

And away from the mayhem, you can see a real beauty in the authentic Vietnamese way of life as locals take part in tai chi lessons in the beautiful public parks and street food sellers offering fresh fruit and flowers for sale. Make sure you indulge in plenty of pho, the country’s most famous national dish; a tasty noodle soup. Try restaurant Pho 10 for some of the best.


Ko Samui, Thailand

Ko Samui Thailand

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Less than a 2 hour plane ride away, Ko Samui is Thailand’s second biggest island and offers palm-fringed beaches, mountainous rainforest and luxury resorts.

One of the best is Ammatara Pura because it fuses contemporary design and outstanding service with traditional decor for an authentic Thai experience with all the comforts you’d expect from a modern boutique hotel. The family-owned pool villa complex caters to all dietary requirements and the rooms are huge and luxurious; each with its own private infinity pool.

When you choose to venture out, the famous rock formations Hin Ta and Hin Yai are a short walk away or you can take a day trip to Anything National Marine Park. Chaweng Beach is a 20 min drive away and worth a visit for relaxed watersports, sunbathing and sipping cocktails.

If you have time you should check out the 12m Big Buddha statue at Wat Phra Yai (located on a tiny island connected to Ko Samui by a causeway) and the more modern, nearby Wat Plai Laem, with a impressive main statue of Guanyin, goddess of compassion and mercy.


Borneo, Malaysia/Indonesia

Borneo Malaysia

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Borneo, the third largest island in the world, is just a quick 1hr 30min plane ride away and heaven for lovers of beautiful flora, wildlife, and adventure.

The thick, tropical Borneo rainforest is incredibly biodiverse and home to over 15,000 plants, many birds and mammals including brightly-coloured hornbills and fascinating proboscis monkeys.

It’s one of the only places where endangered orangutans can still be seen in the wild. The most popular place to see orangutans is the Sepilok Orangutan Rehabilitation Centre in the Malaysian Sabah District, where they’ve been looking after young orphan apes for more than 50 years.

Tourists can explore further by rafting or trekking while adrenaline-junkies should set their sights on Borneo’s famous Mount Kinabalu. The mountain is 4,095m high and tourists are welcome to climb it.


Siem Reap, Cambodia

Siem Reap Cambodia

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The Angkor Archaeological Park in Siem Reap is the most famous tourist site in Cambodia – and it’s just 2-3 hours from Singapore. The 400km area has more than a thousand temples with the biggest – Angkor Wat – proving the popular. The ‘Seventh Wonder of the World’ is a huge temple complex surrounded by mountains and glorious green rice fields, and it’s said to be the largest religious monument in the world.

You can explore the whole area over just a long weekend, with hot air balloon offering the most spectacular panoramic views of Angkor Wat. It’s also worth getting up at dusk to watch the sun rise over the temple for an unforgettable experience.

If you have some time after exploring Angkor and Being Mealea, you can head back into Siem Reap for museums, markets, galleries and countryside tours.


Bali, Indonesia

Bali Indonesia

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Bali offers something for everyone, from award-winning restaurants and buzzing seaside nightlife (Potato Head is a must), to volcanic mountains and independent boutiques – and of course the famous pristine beaches.

Hip Seminyak offers morning seaside yoga, surfing lessons, shopping and art stores, healthy cafes and traditional warungs for authentic Indonesian food.

Meanwhile a popular excursion in green and hilly Ubud is a sunrise trek up Mount Batur, and you can opt to dip in the nearby hot springs afterwards. Nearby, you can meet lots of local monkeys at Monkey Forest, and it’s worth paying a visit to Tegenungan and Uluwatu for gorgeous waterfalls.

Further south east is Sanur, a relaxed and blissful beachside town. Colorful jukung boats rest on the quiet, peaceful beach, and there are impressive restaurants and small art galleries too, as well as sacred Hindu temple, Pura Blanjong.


Bangkok, Thailand

Bangkok Thailand

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Bangkok is just 2 hours away and perfect for a quick and exciting change of scenery. The city has tons to offer including fine dining, awesome market shopping at Chatuchak, Pratunam or Talad Rod Fai for vintage/retro, temples and other amazing architecture, and partying into the night on Khao San Road.

After a busy (and exhausting) day out you can retreat back to the Siam Hotel – the most plush and gorgeous stay for your mini getaway. They offer great food and the concierge ensures you don’t lift a finger – unless you choose to book a one-hour Muai Thai boxing masterclass (which I recommend you do).

It’s an interior designer and architect’s dream, with sleek and traditional decor, offering a zen sanctuary and letting you recharge fully ready for the next day.


Song Saa Private Islands, Cambodia

Song Saa Private Islands

Photo: Song Saa Private Islands

One of the most luxury places on this line-up, Song Saa Private Islands is a resort for those who want the absolute best from their long weekend away. As you may have guessed, this destination is perfect if you want to get away from it all in maximum privacy and feel like a queen.

Flight time is over 4 hours to Sihanoukville Province (you’d want at least four days here) – and the resort is a speedboat rise away – but the bonus is you’ll be in something close to true paradise and it will feel like you’re the only one there, except for your travelling companion.

Song Saa is rich in dense tropical rainforests, gorgeous reefs and pristine beaches, and each private villa features custom-made furniture, for a rustic and sophisticated vibe. You can take part in sunrise yoga then, after breakfast, go snorkelling among colourful corals and exotic parrotfish, take a kayak and a picnic to explore the glorious coves or indulge in spa treatments.