Weekend breaks are perfect. They give you the much-needed breather from the mundane, offer a change of scenery, recharge your batteries and soothe those itchy travel feet, at least for a while. Plus, you don’t have to go through all the heavy-duty planning and bookings as you would have to for a long vacation. The best part of weekend breaks? They do not break the bank. Read on to find out some of the best long weekend getaway options waiting to be explored!
1. Chiang Mai, Thailand
Chiang Mai is like a colourful painting that has come alive. This land of elephants, handicrafts, and temples, with its quaint and calm atmosphere, is a heavenly break from the hustle bustle of everyday life. The northern Thai city, known for its ageless temples (some of which were built in the 14th and 15th centuries) and splendid mountains, is a magnet for tourists from across the world.
If you have always loved Thai food, it’s time to learn how to make some. Chiang Mai has some of the best Thai cooking classes in the country that will teach you how to make the most awesome Thai curry ever! Alternatively, you could have an insightful conversation with a monk at one of the many temples like Wat Chedi Luang or Wat Sisuphan. Chiang Mai will also make sure you experience many ‘firsts’ there such as bathing a baby elephant (so adorable!), getting a body massage from a visually impaired person, or even going temple hopping.
To enhance your experience in this cultural hub, opt to stay at a lovely home instead of a hotel.
2. Phuket, Thailand
Visiting Phuket is like visiting a fun theme park. There are so many enjoyable things to see and do that you will not get bored for a minute. The island (which is humongous) can get as sizzling as the Thai chilli or as comforting as a body massage – it depends on what you want.
From beaches and views to die for to exciting night parties and water sports, Phuket’s diversity will surely impress you. On your weekend trip, you can choose to spend a relaxing day at Phang Nga Bay and view its picture-perfect limestone karsts or catch an exciting Muay Thai (Thai boxing) match on the island. Your kids will definitely enjoy the Phuket FantaSea show, thanks to its extravagance and obviously, the interaction with elephants! For soul searchers, there are numerous beautiful temples in Phuket and for fun hunters, there is the famous Bangla Road (be ready to be surprised).
To make sure you avoid the noisy crowds of the island, stay at one of the many peaceful but well-connected HomeAways properties.
3. Malacca (Melaka), Malaysia
If you love history and want to be transported back to the past, visit Malacca. This picturesque state is a booming tourist attraction with its many historical structures and museums. Lose yourself in the vibrancy of Jonker Walk Night Market, try some amazing homemade delicacies and check out some exquisite antiques. Since the street is super crowded, make sure you carry your baby in a carrier instead of a stroller. Malacca is home to some of the most unique museums ever – Straits Chinese Jewelry Museum Malacca, Baba & Nyonya Heritage Museum and Submarine Museum. Kids can have their share of fun at The Shore Oceanarium or The Butterfly & Reptile Sanctuary. Enter the inverted world in the Upside Down House or feast your eyes on the colourful street art along the Melaka River. When you visit this cultural melting pot, don’t forget to taste some amazing deep fried octopus and ride in an attractive trishaw. This will surely be a trip like no other.
4. Bali, Indonesia
Whether it is your first trip to Bali or the fourth one, the island will never cease to surprise you. There is something magically relaxing in the air of Bali which is what attracts travellers over and over again. It could be the beautiful colours of Ubud, the vivacity of Kuta, the sophistication of Seminyak, or the smiling faces of the warm hearted locals that will make sure you have an unforgettable trip. Explore the USS Liberty Shipwreck (along with beautiful coral and fish) by scuba diving at Tulamben or hike Mount Batur, an active volcano.
Discover new shades of green at the never-ending rice fields of Ubud, get one of the most comforting (as well as the cheapest) body massages of your life, or be mesmerised at the saffron hues of sunset against the black sand beach at Tanah Lot – the options are many. When you find yourself in this paradise, don’t forget to sample some Coffee Luwak. This unique premium coffee is made by processing the undigested coffee beans in the droppings of Asian Palm civet (a furry animal). Yes, you read that right.
Cosy homes can do far more justice to Bali than hotels ever will.
5. Koh Samui, Thailand
If you are craving some sun and sand, head straight to the dreamy island of Koh Samui. It is the perfect blend of many contrasts – from lively luxurious lounges to laid-back beach shacks, from frilly international delicacies to classic Thai street food and from riding a jetboard in the sea to reading your favourite book on the beach. Looking to spend a romantic weekend? Book a half-day spa for two in advance and let the magic of romance be weaved in your life amid the tropical atmosphere.
If you are travelling as a family with kids, how about an adventurous day at Ang Thong Marine National Park involving snorkeling, kayaking and island hopping! You could do any of this, or do nothing at all except stare at the waves while lying on a white sand beach. Either way, you will love Koh Samui.
Looking for a pool villa for a huge family or group of friends? Checking out options for a romantic, cosy place to stay for two? HomeAways properties are diverse and there is a perfect one for you out there. Go, find it.
6. Siem Reap, Cambodia
You might want to visit Siem Reap for Angkor Wat, for the many museums, for the distinctive cuisine, and many other reasons. However, the main reason you must visit Siem Reap is to peek into Cambodia’s heart. The kind, smiling locals, the dreamy sunsets, the rivers, and the floating villages will be carved deep into your memory. Of course, Siem Reap has a modern side to it too. All the fancy hotels, clubs, and spas have given this quaint city a contemporary flavour.
One tip before you head to Siem Reap – the place is a thriving hub of fake orphanages and NGOs. So, if your heart melts at the help appeal, please check the authenticity of the institute before donating.
7. Krabi, Thailand
Think turquoise waters. Think white sands. Think tall limestone karsts. Think Krabi.
This Thai island promises to give you everything you want, from an ideal beach vacation to a lot more. Apart from its incessant coastline, Krabi is home to majestic waterfalls, mysterious caves, and dense jungles. Rent out a boat or take a dip in the naturally warm Crystal Lagoon at At Thung Teao Forest Natural Park. Alternatively, you could climb The Khao Khanab Nam Mountain and get some of the best views (and of course, photos!) or visit a temple in a cave! How about visiting the Krabi Shell Cemetery – a really old geological wonder – to explore fossilised shells?
Take a day trip to the gorgeous Phi Phi Islands or pick a thrilling tour to The Four Islands. With Krabi now having an airport of its own, it can be accessed with ease.
8. Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia
Everyone knows the magnificent Petronas Towers, the humongous shopping malls, the skyscrapers, and the hip lounges of ‘KL’. However, under the smooth layer of all this modernism is a city that loves its history, religions, and culture. It loves its wildlife, its underwater world, and the abundance of natural beauty. Spot an elephant while cruising through the Kinabatangan River or witness wild orangutans being fed at the Sepilok rehabilitation centre. If you love mountaineering, hike the majestic Mount Kinabalu; if sea is your best friend, snorkel around Gaya Island.
Since Malaysians love food, you will never have a dull gastronomical moment. Don’t forget to gorge on some chili pan mee, curry laksa, and nasi lemak at stalls across the streets of the capital city.
Even though KL is loaded with hotels of all kinds, a homestay would give the perfect Malaysian touch to your stay.
9. Hanoi, Vietnam
When you lift Hanoi’s chaotic veil full of crowded streets and crazy motorbikes, you will find a city which has risen from its difficult past, has embraced modernism without diluting its roots, and smiles warmly through its many beautiful pagodas. Hanoi has the perfect French colonial charm with American influences and of course, the unpretentious Vietnamese character. Visit the Hỏa Lò Prison Museum or the Vietnam Military History Museum to get an insight on the Vietnam-American war.
In case you feel too gloomy after that visit, bring out the child in you by seeing colourful puppets dance on water at the Thang Long Water Puppet Theatre. Spot a turtle at the Lake of the Restored Sword and find happiness for life, as the local legend goes. Shop your heart out – Hanoi is full of attractive handicrafts, antiques, and postcards. Don’t miss out on all the glorious street food while in Hanoi. Take a tour on foot or on a motorbike, like the locals do it. And of course, everything tastes sweeter when it’s so cheap.
10. Bangkok, Thailand
No weekend getaway list is complete without Bangkok – the mother of all weekend destinations. Exhilarating and comforting, new-flanged and ethnic, upbeat and calm – is there anything Bangkok is not? Have one of the best night parties of your life or indulge in some soul searching, the choice is yours.
When it comes to shopping, they say that if you don’t find it in Bangkok, you won’t find it anywhere. And after all those exhausting but satisfactory trips to the malls (that are mammoth), your body will definitely beg for a divine massage. Give in. Once rejuvenated, explore the old Bangkok comprising age-old villages, floating markets, monks, and Chinatown. The Thai capital has loads of surprises up its sleeve and assures to not let you have a single dull moment. Go ahead, experience Bangkok – a city as flavourful as Thai food.
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