Looking for a relaxed beach destination that’s got a lot to offer and takes no time to get to? Cecilia Yee introduces her three favourite minibreak resorts in Thailand, Vietnam and Malaysia.
Sun, sea and surf are the essence of summertime fun and a short beach break is the perfect opportunity for relaxation, whether romance or quality family time is on your agenda. You’ll want to maximise your time, if you’re planning a weekend jaunt, so consider a destination that’s easy to get to.
My top picks for 2016 are Krabi, Hoi An and Langkawi. Read on to find out what’s on offer at each of these exotic destinations, how to get there and where to stay.
Krabi teems with natural attractions, offering stunning scenery, some of Thailand’s best mainland beaches, a coastline with more than 200 islands and a verdant jungle-covered interior revealing towering limestone cliffs, waterfalls, caverns, mystical shrines and exotic wildlife.
Situated in Thailand’s south-west, Krabi is also the location of two world-class beaches, Ao Nang and Hat Rai Le. While Maya Bay gets flocked by tourists year-round, there are plenty of unspoilt spots waiting to be discovered. You can enjoy the spectacular seascape, limestone cliffs and caves from a kayak, exploring hidden offshore areas at a leisurely pace.
Krabi is known for its excellent rock climbing and diving, while classic Andaman Sea destinations like the Phi Phi Islands are easily accessible by ferry. If you feel like a break from the beach, hike up a ridiculously steep and vertigo-inducing hill to the Tiger Cave Temple, a Buddhist site with panoramic views.
At the far southern tip of Krabi sits Rayavadee, an exceptional destination that embraces its surroundings with low-key but comfortable standalone pavilions and villas. With a spacious spa, a stunning pool surrounded by limestone cliffs, and a number of dining outlets, you’ll find everything you need in this luxurious resort. Be sure to head to the grotto for a sundowner – the perfect place to finish the day. Visit www.rayavadee.com.
Bringing the family to Krabi, and looking for something more conventional? Consider Sofitel Krabi Phokeethra Golf and Spa Resort. The expansive property features luxurious rooms and suites, a 7,000-square-metre, lagoon-style pool and a wide array of family-friendly dining outlets. Visit www.sofitel.com/krabi.
Hong Kong Airlines offers a direct, red-eye flight to and from Krabi. If you have more time, consider flying out via Bangkok with Thai Airways – with the right connection you can get there and back in under five hours.
Hoi An, Vietnam
The ancient town of Hoi An, on Vietnam’s central coast, maintains its traditional, French-colonial charm and architecture, having survived a number of wars relatively unscathed. Now considered one of Vietnam’s jewels, this peaceful town thrives on its ideal setting right on the doorstep of the country’s most sought-after beaches.
Offering a picturesque break from the beach, Hoi An old town rings with the sound of sewing machines and street hawkers, and being closed to cars, it’s one of the most pedestrian-friendly towns in Vietnam. Stroll along its ancient streets, exploring art galleries and temples, and of course, visiting a tailor, who will deck you out with a whole new wardrobe in a matter of hours.
Should you feel like a cultural day trip, visit the imperial city complex of Hue – a tranquil, serene city, considered to be Vietnam’s artistic and cultural centre. It is known for its architectural masterpieces, including the imperial citadel, royal palaces, mausoleums and pagodas on the banks of the Perfume River.
The 100 suites and villas that make up The Nam Hai, Hoi An dot the beachfront. They offer ample living space fused with interiors that draw inspiration from ancient feng-shui philosophies of wind and water. Relax at your private pool villa, or treat yourself to a spa treatment by the koi-populated lagoon. Visit www.ghmhotels.com/en/nam-hai.
At The Fusion Maia Da Nang, you are guaranteed two spa treatments per person per night stay. Set within lush tropical gardens with its own waterfall, the Maia spa is pure pampering heaven, with steam rooms, saunas, private Jacuzzis and beauty salons all available. Meanwhile, the resort’s Natural Living Programme ensures body and soul are nourished too, with thoughtful complimentary activities like meditation, yoga and wellness workshops. Further proof of this resort’s laidback attitude to life? You can breakfast anytime, anywhere. Visit www.maiadanang.fusion-resorts.com.
Dragonair flies direct to Da Nang every day in the morning; the return flight is also in the morning.
Located in the Andaman Sea, some 30 kilometres off the mainland coast of north-western Malaysia, Langkawi is the largest and most populous island in an archipelago of over 100 islands. Most visitors stay on the eponymous Pulau Langkawi, with the only other inhabited island being nearby Pulau Tuba.
Officially known as Langkawi, the Jewel of Kedah, the archipelago is known for its dramatic scenery and profusion of mysteries and legends. Surrounded by turquoise sea and swaying coconut palms, the interior of the main island is a mixture of picturesque paddy fields and jungle-clad hills. Langkawi is recognised for its excellent diving and snorkelling opportunities and you’ll want to go island-hopping to enjoy isolated sandy beaches and freshwater lakes.
While on Langkawi, be sure to take the cable car up Gunung Mat Cincang for the breath-taking views, and take a sunset cruise on the Andaman Sea. Kids will love the expansive Underwater World Langkawi and the Telaga Tujuh Waterfalls, where, according to legend, fairies once came to bathe.
Set amid one of the oldest rainforests in the world, and now a UNESCO-protected site, the Four Seasons Resort, Langkawi finds its home along a white sand coastline. The Moorish architecture contrasts with the destination, but the sizeable accommodation offers luxurious living amid a flourishing and varied ecosystem. Family pools and adult-only pools make this an ideal destination for both families and those seeking a little time out. Visit www.fourseasons.com/langkawi.
Nestled in an ancient rainforest with its own private beach, The Datai Langkawi is the perfect place to sit back and soak up the sun. Get pampered at the majestic spa, or sign up for an adrenalin-pumping sailing and snorkelling adventure. Visit www.thedatai.com.
Fly out in the morning to Kuala Lumpur with Malaysia Airlines and connect to Langkawi in the afternoon. On your return, consider flying from Langkawi to Kuala Lumpur around noon, and back to Hong Kong in the early evening.
Flight Centre Hong Kong specialises in tailor-made travel experiences, the widest choice of airfares and unique products, and 24-hour emergency assistance. To book your getaway, call 2830 2776, visit www.flightcentre.com.hk or drop by the retail stores in Discovery Bay, Central, Happy Valley or Wanchai.