With bright blue skies and azure waters coming together to create the most inviting seaside settings, a beach holiday is just the thing to put the zing back into your life. Planning to take one but don’t know where to head to? Simply book your next awesome destination with AirAsia and let your woes melt away at the region’s Top 8 beach destinations!
Words: Shoba Pillai
Koh Samui, Thailand
This little nugget of an island on the Southeastern corner of Thailand is a haven for sun worshippers throughout the year. The island is legendary for its white sandy beaches and warm, shallow waters teeming with marine life and coral reefs. At night, Chaweng Beach and Lamai Beach areas both have vibrant night spots while day time activities away from the beaches include trips to the Big Buddha Shrine and Secret Buddha Garden. Nearby Koh Phangan and Koh Tao are two equally stunning islands. www.kohsamui.org
GETTING THERE AirAsia flies twice daily from Bangkok and three times a week from Kuala Lumpur to Surat Thani. Go to www.airasia.com for details. To get to Koh Samui, catch a ferry from Donsak Jetty in Surat Thani town.
Boracay Island, Philippines
Boracay has established itself as the grand dame of islands within Asia and for good reason. This gem of an island topped the list on the 2012 Top 10 Beach Destinations in Asia and came in sixth in 2012 Top 25 Beach Destinations in the World in polls by TripAdvisor.com. Recently, Travel +Leisure magazine also ranked Boracay second among Top Islands in Asia, and #4 among Top Islands Overall in its World’s Best Awards readers’ survey. Often called the crown jewel of Filipino tourism, Boracay boasts powdery white stretches of beach and tantalising aquamarine waters. For those who want to do more than just lounge on deck chairs by the beach, the destination also offers seaside activities like sailing, wind surfi ng, snorkelling, diving and jet skiing. www.boracayisland.org
GETTING THERE AirAsia flies daily to Clark (Manila) from Kuala Lumpur and Kota Kinabalu. AirAsia Philippines flies daily to Kalibo from Clark to go to Boracay. Go to www.airasia.com for details.
Karimunjawa Island, Semarang, Indonesia
Rather than head to Bali, Indonesia’s popular beach destination, why not break away from the trend and pick one of the other islands the country has to offer? Karimunjawa Island, the biggest island in the Karimunjawa National Park, is one of 27 islands within this area. This tourist destination, just off Semarang, has many exciting activities to offer from wreck diving sites and swimming with reef sharks to bird watching. The islands here are also generally considered some of the most pristine in Indonesia, literally untouched by modernity. www.karimunjawa-islands.info
GETTING THERE AirAsia flies daily to Semarang from Jakarta and Kuala Lumpur. Go to www.airasia.com for details. To get to Karimunjawa Island, catch a ferry or speedboat from Semarang or Jepara, which will take between 2.5 and 3.5 hours.
Tucked away from other touristic beach spots in Goa, Candolim Village is an untouched paradise that has retained all the charm and appeal of a beach attraction that’s far, far away from the madding crowd. Accommodation is plenty while food and drinks are readily available at thatched kiosks dotted all over the beach. The pull here, however, is the near deserted beaches, shrub covered dunes and the rolling ocean. Side activities include yoga classes at local yoga centres and shopping for Portuguese influenced local arts and craft. candolimgoa.com
GETTING THERE AirAsia flies four times a week to Bangalore from Kuala Lumpur. Go to www.airasia.com for details. To get to Candolim, fly domestic to Goa.
Heron Island, Australia
The tiny island, located within the Great Barrier Reef, is a haven for swimmers, snorkelers and divers alike as you need not take trips out to experience the stunning coral reef and diverse marine life. Located about 89kms off the coast of Queensland at Gladstone, the cay is surrounded by amazing coral gardens and sea creatures that flourish in abundance in its warm waters. July to November is the best time to spot humpback whales in these waters at Capricornia Bunker region. www.heronisland.com
GETTING THERE AirAsia X flies four times a week to Gold Coast, Australia from Kuala Lumpur. Go to www.airasia.com for details. To get to Heron Island, catch a domestic flight from nearby Brisbane to Gladstone.
Redang Island, Malaysia
The East Coast of Peninsula Malaysia boasts many beautiful beaches along its shoreline, and Redang Island in Terengganu is renowned for its white beaches, crystal clear waters and amazing marine life. About 45kms from the mainland, Redang Island comprises nine islands and is a marvelous playground for reef fishes and turtles. It goes without saying that snorkelling and scuba-diving are popular pastimes here. The islands have recorded over 500 unique live corals, and more than 3,000 species of fi shes such as rays, sharks and other marine creatures. Deeps sea divers also congregate at Redang for its shipwrecks, especially the historical HMS Prince of Wales and HMS Repulse, both sunk by the Japanese during the Second World War. www.redang.org
GETTING THERE AirAsia flies three times daily to Kuala Terengganu from Kuala Lumpur. Go to www.airasia.com for details. To get to Redang Island, catch a ferry from Shahbandar Jetty in Kuala Terengganu or Merang Jetty.
Da Nang, Vietnam
This port city located between Hanoi and Ho Chi Minh City, is the latest addition to AirAsia’s routes in Vietnam. While it does have some unspoilt beaches that have hardly been touched by mass tourism, Da Nang is also the jumping off point to three UNESCO World Heritage Sites – Hoi An, Hue and My Son. A destination with sun, sand and heritage all wrapped in one is hard to come by, so make sure to include this city in your bucket list.
GETTING THERE AirAsia flies four times a week to Da Nang from Kuala Lumpur. Go to www.airasia.com for details.
OTHER AWESOME HOTSPOTS!
- Visit the four sacred Buddhist mountains: Mount Emei, Wutai Mountain, Jiuhua Mountain and Putong Mountain.
- Learn more about Du Fu, one of China’s renowned poets by visiting his home that has been turned into a literature and commemorative museum.
- Hike up Mount Qingcheng and enjoy the experience at one of the country’s most important Taoist sites.
- See adorable pandas at the Panda Breeding and Research Centre.
GETTING THERE AirAsia X flies four times a week to Chengdu from Kuala Lumpur. Go to www.airasia.com for details.
- Hop into a rowboat and fl oat along the waters of Beihai Park.
- Check out one of the hutongs (back alleys) and discover the China of the past.
- Visit the Temple of Heaven, China’s largest place of worship. This attraction, located in Tiantan Park, is a World Heritage Site.
- Visit 798 Art district to witness the new direction of the local arts scene.
- Marvel at the Bird’s Nest, Water Cube and other Olympic attractions.
- Snap a picture at Tiananmen Square and the Forbidden City.
- Climb the world famous Great Wall of China at Badaling.
GETTING THERE AirAsia X flies direct to Beijing from Kuala Lumpur. Go to www.airasia.com for details.
- Visit Lijiang Folk Customs Garden to learn more about the cultures and practices of the Guangzi, Miao, Yao, Dong and Zhuang nationalities.
- Get a glimpse of how royalty lived in the past at Jingjiang Royal Residence.
- Visit the natural Ludi Yan (Reed Flute Cave) and enjoy an hour of sailing through caverns filled with stalactites and stalagmites.
- Marvel at the Li River karst formations that have been called the ‘most beautiful scenery under heaven’.
GETTING THERE AirAsia flies four times a week to Guilin from Kuala Lumpur. Go to www.airasia.com for details.
- Take a walk around the 61st floor of the Macau Tower by signing up for the Skywalk X activity by AJ Hackett.
- Tuck into Macau’s famed egg-custard tarts at Lord Stowe’s Café.
- Visit the ruins of the Church of St Paul, just off Senado Square.
- Take a gondola ride at the Venetian Macau.
GETTING THERE AirAsia flies daily to Macau from Chiang Mai, Thailand; and Kuala Lumpur. Go to www.airasia.com for details.
- Fengdu Ghost City, about one and a half hour’s drive from Chongqing, is famed for its shrines and temples. However, some of these are submerged underwater due to the construction of the 3 Gorges Dam.
- Xueyu Cave is located along the Yangtze Kiang and is called the most beautiful cave in China.
- Zhang Fei Temple has been reconstructed and relocated but remains a repository of literary, calligraphy and art works.
- Visit Eling Park to catch a glimpse of the city at night. The park, once one of the earliest private gardens in the city, was built in 1909.
- Cruise on the waters of the Lesser Three Gorges, in Wushan County (about 450 km from the city).
- Witness the amazing rock carvings at Dazu County.
GETTING THERE AirAsia flies daily to Chongqing from Bangkok. Go to www.airasia.com for details.
Awesome South Korea
- Changdeokgung, a World Heritage Site, offers visitors a glimpse into how the royals lived in the past.
- Insadong District is the place to go to explore the artistic side of Seoul with numerous antique store and art galleries offering genuine finds.
- Unleash your inner child at Lotte World.
- Namsangol Traditional Korean Village offers cultural insights into the various social levels of the Joseon Dynasty.
GETTING THERE AirAsia X flies four times a week to Seoul from Kuala Lumpur. Go to www.airasia.com for details.
- Have a fun day out at Universal Studios Japan.
- Kids will love a trip to Osaka Aquarium, just past Tempozan Marketplace.
- Osaka Castle is a treasure trove of more than 10,000 historical items.
- Learn more about Toyotomi Hideyoshi, the warrior and general who built Osaka-jo castle after he unified Japan around 1580.
GETTING THERE AirAsia X flies four times a week to Osaka from Kuala Lumpur. Go to www.airasia.com for details.
- Check out Ameya-yokochõ for interesting souvenirs to bring home and for a taste of local culture.
- Higashi-gyõen is the only part of the Imperial Palace that tourists have access to. Once in, head over to the Museum of Imperial Artworks, to view stunning works of art.
- Edo Tokyo Museum offers a glimpse of everything you need to know about Tokyo’s history.
GETTING THERE AirAsia X flies daily to Tokyo from Kuala Lumpur. Go to www.airasia.com for details.
- Maidan Fort is to locals what Central Park is to New Yorkers. Stroll through the park and enjoy the local sights.
- Victoria Memorial in Kolkata houses photos and effigies of important historical personalities.
- The Marble Palace is an exquisite gallery with a treasure trove of arts, sculptures and oil paintings, including Reuben masterpieces.
- Hungry? Head to Nizam’s or Flury’s for a meal or coffee when in Kolkata.
GETTING THERE AirAsia flies three times a week to Kolkata from Kuala Lumpur. Go to www.airasia.com for details.
- Step back in time when visiting Tipu Sultan’s Palace. The area surrounding the home of the ‘Tiger of Mysore’, who reigned during the 16th century, is dotted with attractions like the Krishnarajendra Market, Jama Masjid and Venkataraman Temple.
- Love tea? Then Cha Bar is the place for you. If sight-seeing is not your cup of tea, this may just be. Choose from over 20 types of tea.
GETTING THERE AirAsia flies four times a week to Bangalore from Kuala Lumpur. Go to www.airasia.com for details.
Awesome Sri Lanka
- Wolvendaal Church, built in 1749 by the Dutch, is a sight to behold thanks to the unique pews made from ebony. This building is one of the few remnants of the time when the Dutch ruled the country.
- Besides being home to elaborate gifts by well-wishers, Gangaramaya Temple houses a library and museum.
- Kelaniya Raja Maha Vihara is said to be the spot where Lord Buddha preached some 2,000 years ago. The temple houses an exquisite carving of a reclining Buddha.
- Pettah is Colombo’s leading bazaar that offers great bargains on clothes, footwear and even gemstones.
GETTING THERE AirAsia flies daily to Colombo from Kuala Lumpur and three time a week from Bangkok. Go to www.airasia.com for details.
Do you think your personal choice of AirAsia Awesome Destination is better than those listed here? Share with us your suggestions at www.facebook.com/travel3sixty