It’s the middle of the year when all the major festive season holidays are over and you start to look for the next long weekend break.
While the year end holidays and festive season seems a long way off, you can still take advantage of the many weekends in the coming months. You just need to take one extra day leave on Friday to extend your short getaway to a four-day vacation!
Hua Hin, Thailand
Thailand comes to mind here not only for its close proximity to Malaysia – we’re practically neighbours – but it is one of those destinations that is great all year round.
This town is famed for a vast white-sand beach, thriving art scene and family-friendly resorts.
It is often cited as Thailand’s oldest beach destination and first appeared on the map in the early 1900s with the opening of the Thai-Malaya railway.
By the 1980s, luxury hotels started moving in and foreign tourists arrived by the thousands. Today, all the top global hotel chains have properties in Hua Hin and a growing number of wealth expats are calling it their second home through purchases of condominiums that dot the town.
There’s cheap public transport for beach-hopping and its takes a lot less effort and money to get to Hua Hin from Bangkok than to the southern islands.
Hua Hin in 3-4 days
Chatchai Market. This day market resides in an historic building built in 1926 with a distinctive seven-eaved roof in honour of King Rama VII. Here you’ll find morning vendors selling Chinese-style doughnuts and local coffee spiked with sweetened condensed milk, as well as all-day noodles with freshly made wantons, and the assortments of fresh fruit.
Hua Hin Hills Vineyard. Nestled in a scenic mountain valley 45km west of Hua Hin, this vineyard offers tours from 1,700 baht, including wine, an excellent three-course meal and return transport. You can also just opt for the wine-tasting sessions.
Night Market. The Hua Hin rendition mixes food and clothes and draws in locals and visitors alike. Ice-packed lobsters and king prawns appeal to the big spenders but the fare at simple stir-fry stalls is just as delicious.
Plearn Wan. Here we have a recreation of the old-fashioned shophouses that once occupied the Thai-Chinese neighbourhoods of Bangkok and Hua Hin. It is as much an art installation as a commercial enterprise. Besides music and clothes stores, there’s a pharmacy displaying roots, powders and other concoctions that Thai grandmothers once used.
Hat Hua Hin. This is a pleasant but not stunning stretch of sand punctuated by round, smooth boulders. Don’t write this off just yet – it is a people-watching spot. For swim, sunbathing and fun, continue south where the sand is a fine white powder and the sea a calm grey-green.
Thanon Chomsin Food Stalls. If you’re after 100% authentic eats, these food stalls are your answer. The setting might be humble but Thais are fastidious eaters and prefer fork or their fingers to remove meat from the bones of a fried chicken rather than putting teeth directly to flesh.
Looking for a family-friendly destination that’s easy on the wallet? Indonesia is calling.
Lombok, long overshadowed by its touristy neighbour, Bali. Despite being long overshadowed by its superstar neighbour, Bali across the strait, Lombok is rich with exquisite white-sand beaches, epic surf, a lush forested interior and hiking trails through tobacco and rice fields.
Besides being loaded with equatorial allure, Lombok also boasts the mighty Gunung Rinjani, the second-highest volcano in Indonesia, its summit complete with hot springs and a dazzling crater lake.
It is a challenge to truly immerse yourself in Lombok and what the island has to offer, but here are some options you could consider:
Lombok in 3-4 days
Pasar Mandalika. This vast market near the Mandalika bus terminal in Bertais has fruits and veggies, fish (fresh and dried), baskets full of colourful, aromatic spices and grains, freshly butchered beef, and pungent bricks of shrimp paste. Also, you’ll find cheaper handicrafts than anywhere else in west Lombok.
Pura Meru. Built in 1720, this is the largest and second-most important Hindu temple on Lombok. The inner court has 33 small shrines and three thatched, teak-wood multi-tiered shrines. It is dedicated to the Hindu trinity Brahma, Vishnu and Shiva.
Pantai Mawan. This half-moon cove is located some 8km west of Kuta and 600m off the main road. It is framed by soaring headlands with azure water and swatch of sand. The only form of development here is the fishing village of a dozen thatched homes. Ideal for swimming, this beach has paved parking, modest cafes and large trees for shade.
Lombok Handicraft Centre. Look for the arched sign over the narrow road which reads “Handy Craft”, some 2km north of Cakra. Here you’ll find crafts, including masks, textiles and ceramics from across Nusa Tenggara. Also a great place to stroll.
Gunung Rinjani. Indonesia’s second-tallest volcano boast an astonishing peak and is sacred to Hindus and Sasaks who make pilgrimages to the summit and lake to leave offerings for the gods and spirits. It attracts many trekkers, in fact the number of annual trekkers has more than doubled to more than 60,000 a year since 2013.
Da Nang, Vietnam
Another South-East Asian neighbour, Vietnam is another prime vacation spot for Malaysians. While cities such as Hanoi or Ho Chi Minh often take the spotlight for tourists, Da Nang has certainly made a name for itself over the years.
Da Nang is the commercial and educational centre of Central Vietnam and is the largest city in the region. But don’t let that fool you, as a coastal city, Da Nang is a growing tourist hotspot full of potential adventures and picturesque sandy white beaches.
Beaches aren’t the only thing that the city has to offer. There are also many more beautiful and scenic spots to slowly discover. It is even best to plan a day trip to visit surrounding attractions and the UNESCO World Heritage sites nearby.
You will definitely be spoiled for choice if you only have 3 days to enjoy Da Nang. To help you out, here are a few things you can try out:
Da Nang in 3-4 days
Da Nang Beaches. Da Nang has plenty of pristine white beaches for you to enjoy. Non Nuoc and My Khe beaches are particularly breathtaking.
Han Market. Han Market is the central market, located in the heart of Da Nang city, near the Han River Bridge. Not only is it a prime shopping spot for locals, it is also a hotspot for tourists.
The Lady Buddha. Located at Linh Ung Pagoda, The Lady Buddha is the tallest Buddha statue in Vietnam and is definitely a sight to see. The statue leans on the mountain, facing the sea, offering visitors an awe-inspiring view.
Hoi An. A UNESCO heritage site, Hoi An Ancient Town is an exceptionally well-preserved example of a South-East Asian trading port dating from the 15th to the 19th century. Sporting architectural influences from both indigenous and foreign residents of the time.
My Son. Another UNESCO heritage site, My Son is a series of Hindu temples, some of which are in ruins. However, The remains of these impressive tower-temples stand as a testament to the religious and political capital of the Champa Kingdom.
Ba Na Hills. You have probably seen pictures of that huge golden hanging bridge being held up by giant hands. This is where you can find it. Ba Na Hills is arguably the most significant resort and recreational complex of Vietnam. In a way, it could be seen as the Genting of Vietnam.