Beauty lies in the eyes of the beholder. You’ve probably heard this saying. Or, The brevity of life illustrates itself in whether you can get up the next morning.
That wasn’t my saying. Some wise sage did. Jog my memory, please.
While still alive and kicking, or shall we say in millennial speak, YOLO!, why not set foot on some distant lands so that you may let out your breath much bated by dizzying-paced local corporate life and work?
Ready to let out that bated breath in wonder and contented sighs?
Here goes: 10 Beautiful Places in Southeast Asia that You Need To See Before You Die
1. Georgetown, Penang.
My mother’s mother’s land. Get you a cendol for solving that riddle!
Sphinxes aside, Georgetown, the capital city of Penang, is Malaysian’s second-largest city and a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
Once a British-colonized entity, it is located at the north-eastern tip of Penang Island.
Georgetown’s signature vintage, time-old shophouses and buildings are its main attractions (some British-influenced).
They’re complemented by the timeless hands of artists – noteworthy one Ernest Zacharevic – who has painted (giant) murals into the island’s various facades.
The expat’s backpacking life is also rife there; you can hear ten different languages anytime!
Get yourself a beer and stay at any of the “Westernized” inns or choose to walk the city and explore its various timeworn nooks and crannies. Take selfies with the various murals once you have discovered them.
Alternatively, Penang Hill is nearby should you desire to be nearer to nature.
Take a steep, slow ride to the top via its Penang Hill Railway, a two-way funicular train.
Pop 2 ringgit into any of the binoculars on top of the hill and be kings and queens of the Hill!
2. Jomalig Island, Philippines
Forget Boracay. Though beautiful as most of the Philippines’ well-known beaches are, nothing compares to the raw sand-and-turquoise-hued splendour found almost exclusively on Jomalig Island.
A less-known secret paradise isolated in the easternmost part of Polilio Group, Jomalig (pronounced “humalig”) is one of the least populated municipalities in the Quezon province.
Home to exquisite sunsets, more primitive kampung life, friendlier-than-city-locals and more, Jomalig is the perfect getaway for camping, snorkelling, diving, boating… and not to mention, breathing in air pure and free from urban traffic.
Getting there is already a 10-hour land-and-sea adventure by itself, so check out this sanguine, neat and perfectly solitary getaway with your loved one(s) if you ever tire of city life!
3. Taj Mahal, India
Built by Mughal emperor Shah Jahan as a tribute to his favourite wife (who died during childbirth) in the 1600s, the Taj Mahal is a magnificent testament to the prowess of architecture and a daily visual fiesta for the 1.2 million people of modern Agra.
Dubbed the Seventh Wonder of the World, this exquisite white marble mausoleum in the city of Agra, India is UNESC-certified and protected.
While you are there, besides letting your breath wisp away in the hidden details that make the palace beautiful, why not Google the story of why Taj Mahal was built, and marvel both at the breathtaking visual depth of human architecture, and the equally visceral depths of the powers of love.
Emperor Shah Jahan certainly has left behind more than a memento for the people of the later centuries, a stark reminder that the human heart can span beyond the frameworks of the universe.
4. Bali, Indonesia
Reportedly one of the favourite vacation-destinations of Singaporeans, this “generic” stay-place has few places left untouched.
What it lacks in novelty, Bali seduces with a number of enchantments.
Known as the Land of the Gods, the deities have blessed the land with various (non-dangerous) volcanoes, lush beaches, and almost unheard of temples.
Hitting Bali for a quick staycation or prolonged adventurer’s exploration is both ideal – scuba diving, landscape trekking, temple-hunting and cultural appreciation are perfect itineraries for this well-deserved holiday.
On a whispered note: don’t forget to try Bali coffee or visit the Tanah Lot “Sea” temple that nudges the boundaries between land and sea. The memories would come back and tease your daydreams back at work, I guarantee!
5. Bagan, Myanmar
Speaking of temples, this one has a lot of them. Buddha’s memory is so revered by the native Burmese, they built well over 10,000 shrines in honour of Him.
Bagan spans along the east bank of the Ayeyarwady River and commands the sheer awe of 2,200 temples.
Constructed around the 11th to 13th centuries, these breathtaking pagodas are timeless testaments of the human edifice.
Be there for the sunsets or simply to undertake an odyssey of enlightenment to the sight of over 2,000 temples on a single plain!
After all, Monkey King Sun journeyed to the West. Now it’s your turn. Go cloud!
Quite “out of this world”, as stated by Forbes, Bhutan shows you some of the happiest citizens on earth.
If Thailand is the Land of Smiles, native Bhutanese probably touch the sun. Why so relevant to Singapore, you ask? Because we are one of the busiest, yet allegedly most unhappy people on planet earth!
Bhutan, a Buddhist kingdom located on the Himalayas’ eastern ridge, is known for its colourful assortment of monasteries, dzongs and landscapes of subtropical plains, mountains and valleys.
Dubbed the “World’s Happiest Country” despite only being accessible by two aeroplanes, this vibrant Land of Deep Laughter is perhaps a lesson ready-made for our tiny red dot republic on the elusive art of being happy.
7. Halong Bay, Vietnam
Okay, enough of temples, temples, temples. Goody Feed is proud to bring you Halong Bay in Vietnam.
Located in northeast Vietnam, this famous bay is UNESCO-conserved and reputed for its emerald waters and thousands of towering, rainforest-topped limestone islands.
Ha Long means “descending dragon” in Viet (The Bay of Descending Dragons), which is a pretty apt name for the dragon-slew-coil of 1,600 limestone islands that dot the bay. Cruise and boat rides are a must to get around and about these waters and sightsee their curious islands (with names such as Teapot and Stone Dog isles).
For the more adventurous souls, you can spend your time lavishly there in scuba diving, hiking or rock climbing, planning an adventure around nature as effective as your company KPIs.
8. Krabi Province, Thailand
Not quite ready to go back to Singapore yet? How about a quick toss at the Krabi Province in Thailand? It has pristine sands and water that allegedly rival the Philippines (which even our own Ford Siloso Beach/Palawan Beach fall short of mirroring).
If solitude is your thing, then you’re highly in luck: Krabi boasts 154 islands for your island-hopping, beach-combing pleasure! Ko Lanta and Ko Phi Phi are top of the lists, followed by… the rest.
It’s no wonder the poets sang their verses there.
9. Ifugao Rice Terraces, Philippines
I must admit, rice terraces are pretty curious staircases to have. Layered over a mountainous landscape, it appears that a giant invisible god has been climbing (and irrigating) these steps.
The Ifugao Rice Terraces of the Philippines are no less a treat to the eyes as they are a retreat from technology-infused Singapore.
Occasionally dubbed the Eighth Wonder of the World” (how many doth lay stake to that claim?!), the giant green steps were created by hand by overland migrants from Yunnan Province in China a few thousand years ago.
A thousand years later, the Ifugao region hence is now blessed with this miraculous sight, so why not be the next traveller to take a trek and feast your eyes?
10. MacRitchie Treetop Walk & Nature Park, Our Country
It would be unsporting of me not to end off with putting us back on our most endeared little red dot.
Staycations have been a trend of late and it doesn’t look like fading anytime soon.
So why not have a… ahem… trek-cation? MacRitchie Nature Trail is located beside MacRitchie Reservoir (Singapore’s largest reservoir) and anchored at the very heart of Singapore.
Water activities such as kayaking for the water enthusiasts and long treetop walks for the trekkers! While going at it, be sure to finally locate the ever-elusive Jelutong Tower that lies deeply entrenched within the trail.
This observation tower the height of 7 stories is constructed of wood and steel; the top allows you a ranging and uninterrupted view of nature all around the walk, including birds living in the vicinity (don’t blame me if you aren’t sharp-eyed!)
P?S: i must admit it was a bunch of Filipino friends who introduced my lazy city-oriented ass to the lunging wonders of MacRitchie Trail.
Jelutong Tower stays in my mind because our group took 5 hours to explore the trail and ended up getting routed back to it! Essentially, lost.