From untouched beaches to hill tribes, spectacular limestone karsts and even vineyards, look no further than these five off-the-radar spots in Southeast Asia next time you ask #wheretonext?
Pining to go somewhere that’s still special, exhausted your travel bucket list or just had enough of tourists ruining your vacay? No matter the reason, it’s high time you get out of your bubble and explore these lesser-known spots in Bali, The Philippines, Thailand and Vietnam. We’re packing our bags and travelling to these underrated treasures right now.
Coron, Palawan, Phillippines
Boracay seems to be the first place that comes to mind for that perfect beach vacay in The Philippines. Now that the island is temporarily closed for six months, it’s time you get schooled on some seriously good alternatives. It’s no tedious task, with literally thousands of islands in The Philippines, waiting to be explored. Our pick: Coron, in the northern part of Palawan Islands – one of the most beautiful, unspoilt areas of the world. Known for its postcard-pretty white-sand beaches (there are over 10!), limestone cliffs, swimming holes and majestic diving spots with remnants of WWII shipwrecks, there’s plenty to see and do. Add Malcapuya Island, Kayangan Lake, Mount Tapyas and Maquinit Hot Spring to your itinerary.
How to get there: There are over six airlines (including Singapore Airlines and Scoot) that offer flights to Manila. Take a domestic flight from Manila to Francisco B. Reyes Airport (formerly known as Busuanga Airport), Coron.
Hua Hin, Thailand
Move aside Phuket and Krabi, there’s a new beach spot in town and it’s quickly attracting travellers looking for an off the radar spot in Thailand. Just under three hours from Bangkok, Hua Hin is a seaside resort town that’s fit for royalty (summer residences were built for Thai royals in the 1920s) and a respite from the shopping capital. We’re not kidding when we tell you there’s lots to do in this fishing port. Golf clubs, caves, waterfalls, night markets, water parks, themed restaurants and nearby national parks – this place has got it all, but it isn’t overrun by tourists. After soaking up the sun on the pristine white-sand beaches, drive downtown to Hua Hin Hills Vineyard for Monsoon Valley wines, transport to mini Santorini at the Santorini Amusement Park or spot a couple of Bryde’s whales at the Bang-Tabun fisherman village in Phetchaburi. Best to visit in November to February, when the weather is just right.
How to get there: There are over 28 flights to Bangkok, daily. Hua Hin can be reached by train or bus from Bangkok but best to hire a private car or taxi for convenience.
If a cultural sojourn is what you’re seeking, Chiang Rai it is. Ensconced in northern Thailand, Chiang Rai (not to be confused with its sister province, Chiang Mai) is the laidback rural counterpart that is brimming with (countless) majestic temples, golden pagodas, elephant treks, towering waterfalls and is home to the Golden Triangle – where Thailand, Laos, and Myanmar borders meet at the junction of Ruak and Mekong Rivers. Don’t leave without visiting the grandiose Wat Rong Khun white temple, Pha Soet hot springs (you can boil quail eggs to gauge how hot it gets), and my personal favourite, the hill tribes of Chiang Rai. I spent some time with the beautiful women from Padaung Long Neck tribe, and trust me, it was an unforgettable experience.
How to get there: Scoot offers direct flights to Chiang Rai.
Exhausted your list of things to do in Bali? Think again. Seminyak sits pale in comparison to Nusa Lembongan, the most popular out of the three islands in the Nusa Penida district. A 30-minute boat ride from Sanur will get you to this soul-soothing paradise. Book a tour ahead or hop on a motorbike or truck and explore away. Pro tip: Skip the bigger tourist groups and book a private tour. A day trip covers a three-spot snorkeling session, a short boat ride through a mangrove forest, Devil’s Tears and Dream Beach. For daredevils, the cliff jumps at Dream Beach are highly encouraged. Oh, and don’t forget to sip on some fresh fruit juice at the restaurant overlooking the azure waters of Dream Beach. Trust me, we had to surgically remove ourselves from this dreamy spot.
How to get there: Most airlines offer direct flights to Bali. Arrive at Sanur Beach and take a fast boat to Nusa Lembongan.
Bai Tu Long Bay Vietnam
Between Bai Tu Long and Halong, Bai Tu Long may be the lesser known bay out of the two but will always be bae in our hearts. Well, it’s tough to go wrong when there are so many places to see in this Northeast part of Vietnam. Over a thousand small islands, untouched beaches and limestone karsts are waiting to be explored in this geographical wonderland. The coral reefs and underwater caves at Cong Do, tranquil Tra Gioi, Vung Vieng fishing village and the unique rock formation at Da Xep Park are some cultural highlights not to miss.
How to get there: Four airlines (including Singapore Airlines and Vietnam Airlines) offer direct flights to Ha Long. Take a cruise from the port city to Halong Bay and Bai Tu Long Bay.