For a three-day trip...
Luang Prabang, Laos
For something off-the-beaten track, try the charming Luang Prabang, an ancient city which is also a UNESCO World Heritage site. The culturally rich spot, sometimes referred to as the “jewel of the Mekong”, is known for its many Buddhist temples, rustic nature and French colonial buildings.
Some must-visits include the local night market at Sisavangvong Road for some authentic street food such as grilled fish or chicken on skewers, sticky white rice, mini coconut pancakes and tomato noodle soup. It’s also where you can get your hands on some traditional art, handicraft and traditional Lao skirts. Pay a visit to the Wat Mai temple, a richly decorated temple known for its gorgeous bas-relief work and an emerald Buddha statue, and make a trip to the picture-perfect Kuang Si Falls and Pak Ou Caves. If you can get up early, participate in the sacred alms-giving ritual early in the morning.
Don’t forget to take it slow at one of its many cafes, where you can enjoy the laidback atmosphere with a cup of joe. Note that there are no direct flights from Singapore to Luang Prabang, but you can take connecting flights on Lao Airlines and SilkAir via Vientiane, or Thai Airways via Bangkok.
For a three-day trip...
Often referred to as Jogja, this spot is chock full of traditional arts, cultural heritage and adventure. Its most famous sight is the UNESCO World Heritage Borobudur Temple, a three-tier complex that dates back to the 8th and 9th centuries and had been buried under jungle foliage and volcanic ash before it was discovered and restored. Marvel at its wondrous design of more than 2,600 relief panels and 500 Buddha statues on stacked platforms, but to really soak in its beauty (and avoid the crowds), try to make it before sunrise to catch the moment when sun rays hit the shrouded stupas for a spectacular sight.
The Prambanan Temple is another UNESCO World Heritage site and a 9th century Hindu temple dedicated to Hindu deities. It’s a beautiful spot so take some time to wonder around its extraordinary compounds and catch the sunset here. Other things you can do at Jogja include a hike up Mount Merapi, white water rafting, cave exploring or sand-boarding at Gumuk Pasir if you’re feeling adventurous.
Visit the 18th century Palace of Yogyakarta and stop by the iconic Tugu Monument, an elaborate obelisk in the heart of the city, not to mention the Taman Sari Water Castle, the site of a former royal garden of the Sultanate of Yogyakarta. Round up the trip with a bout of shopping at Malioboro Road – Yogyakarta’s major shopping street.
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For a five-day trip:
With so many things to see, do and eat, you could easily spend five days there without feeling bored. If you’re a culture fiend, visit the landmark 16th-century Osaka Castle which is surrounded by a moat and an idyllic park that sprouts bright blooms when it’s in season. For an experience of the senses, visit the bustling Dōtonbori that is filled with neon lights and huge billboards. Here’s where you can snack on takoyaki, buy souvenirs and take a picture with the giant LED Glico Man — trust us, it’s a thing.
For freshly grilled seafood and meats and fresh sashimi bowls, head to Kuromon Ichiba during lunch time for a satisfying meal sampling from various stalls. Don’t forget to pop by the Momofuku Ando Instant Ramen Museum where you get to learn all about the history of instant noodles and create your own customised instant noodles with choice of soup base and ingredients.
We highly recommend you set aside a day for Universal Studios Japan, especially if you’re a Harry Potter fan. The Hogwarts castle at The Wizarding World of Harry Potter is a magical sight to behold especially when it’s lit in sparkling lights as dusk falls. Go to USJ too for the thrilling rides, stunning parades and awesome merchandise.
For a five-day trip:
The vibrant and buzzing Hong Kong is always a great choice for a getaway, with mouthwatering dim sums and roast meats to be had as well as a myriad of shopping options. It’s also an eye-opener, thanks to its eclectic mix of towering modern skyscrapers, the worn, cramped housing in the city centre and quaint coffee shops.
Some places you shouldn’t miss include Victoria Peak for a breathtaking sweep of the skyline, the Temple Street Night Market for interesting food, clothing, trinkets, electronics and more, Lan Kwai Fong for some of the trendiest restaurants, Mong Kok — a neon-bathed congested shopping and residential district, and the Garden of Stars and Nathan Road at Tsim Sha Tsui.
A trip to Hong Kong is not complete if you didn’t have breakfast (ham, scrambled eggs and toast!) at a brisk and no-nonsense cha chaan teng. If you have time, take the ferry (just 60 mins away) for a day trip to the picturesque Macau for some sightseeing and Portuguese egg tarts, or head to Hong Kong Disneyland to satisfy the kids.
READ MORE: Tsui Wah And Other Hong Kong Eateries That Are Available In Singapore
For a seven-day trip:
There’s nowhere on earth quite like Bhutan. Often regarded as the happiest place on earth, Bhutan, which is nestled on the Himalayas’ eastern edge, is an unspoiled and pristine landscape lost in time. Monasteries, fortresses and dramatic topography make up its chemistry, and it is here where there’s an air of tranquility that no other city possesses.
Must sees include of course, Bhutan’s most recognisable spot — the picturesque Tiger’s Nest, which clings to a sheer cliff face above the Paro Valley and the Buddha Dordenma, a gigantic Buddha statue overlooking the city of Thimpu. Don’t forget the Dochula Pass, which was built in honour of 108 Bhutanese soldiers who died in a military operation, and try your hand at archery at Changlimithang Stadium in Thimphu. The Punakha Dzong, arguably the most famous Dzong in Bhutan, is another spot you should pay a trip to. Formerly a fortress and now the administrative centre of Punakha District in Punakha, it is a majestic complex and also where King Jigme Khesar Namgyel Wangchuck and Queen Jetsun Pema got married in 2011.
Note, you have to pay between US$200 to US$250 per person per day of stay (depending on the period you’re travelling), which includes accommodation, meals, a guide and transport, and you have to book your holiday through a licensed Bhutanese tour operator. Click here for more bucket list destinations to plan for!
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Text: Joy Fang