The two public holidays in May are a reason to take a bit more leave to turn a rushed break into a five-day getaway.
<b>PHOTO</b> DYNASTY TRAVEL
BUSAN, SOUTH KOREA
South Korea’s second-largest city is every bit as modern as Seoul, yet runs at a less frenetic pace. Perfect for the traveller who wants to take it easy, but not lounge around all day. Plus, you can expect a visual break from towering skyscrapers, thanks to scenic attractions like beaches, hot springs, mountains and elaborate gardens.
Igidae Coastal Walk: One of the city’s best-kept secrets, this is a great way to soak up the spectacular sights, including Gwangan Bridge – a suspension bridge dubbed “Diamond Bridge” for its resemblance to a glittery diamond necklace at night.
Oryukdo Skywalk: The glass-bottomed viewing platform juts out from a coastal cliﬀ. Watch waves crash beneath your feet as the sea stretches out in front of you.
Gwangalli Beach: Skip the crowded, super-touristy Haeundae Beach and go to this local one instead. Expect fine sand and clear water. On weekends, look out for live gigs and cultural performances.
Gamcheon Cultural Village: This stepped village with its colourful little houses is every bit as picturesque as its moniker, Santorini of the East, suggests. Wind through alleyways to see murals, take selfies with quirky sculptures and installations, and get crafting at the art-centric activity stops.
The Bay 101: Anchored by a yacht club, this waterfront complex is one of the trendiest spots in town for a relaxed night out. Start with a sunset yacht tour around Haeundae Beach, then kick back with ice-cold beers at the open-air terrace.
No direct flights from Singapore are available. The journey may take seven and a half to 10 hours, depending on which city you transit in.
<b>PHOTO</b> LEE BEOMSU/KOREA TOURISM ORGANIZATION
Fresh catch at Jagalchi Fish Market: Busan is a seaside town and this market is the place to indulge in a king-crab feast or try exotic catch like live abalone, blowfish, and whale meat. Most stalls here are fronted by the women who actually dive for the produce themselves – uh, sea to table, anyone?
<b>PHOTO</b> DON FUCHS/DESTINATION NSW
LORD HOWE ISLAND, NEW SOUTH WALES, AUSTRALIA
Marked a Unesco World Heritage Site for its pristine ecosystem, the island paradise is rimmed with crystal-clear waters and colourful reefs, and crowned with volcanic peaks and lush rainforests. It’s the perfect place to shut yourself oﬀ from the rest of the world.
Lord Howe Island Marine Park: If you’re a diver, all the better, because this is home to an extinct underwater volcano that rises more than 4km from the seabed and plateaus just 40m below the waves. It is also a rare opportunity to observe both tropical and temperate marine life.
Ned’s Beach: If you don’t dive, but still want to get close to marine life, try this sanctuary. You can feed fish by hand here, or snorkel close to shore.
Mount Gower: The island’s highest mountain is rated one of Australia’s best day walks. It’s a full-day hike over rugged terrain, including rope-assisted climbs, so it would be best to get a guide.
There are no direct flights from Singapore to Lord Howe Island. You fly to Sydney or Brisbane first (which takes around eight hours). From either city, it’s about a two-hour domestic flight to Lord Howe Island.
<b>PHOTO</b> PINETREES LODGE
Do a beach barbie: The public barbecue pits are well maintained and oﬀer great views. Most guest houses oﬀer a barbecue lunch service where they deliver a gourmet hamper, complete with fresh catch from around the island.
LUANG PRABANG, LAOS
For destinations in South-East Asia, visit the ancient capital of Laos for its easy, old-world charm. Luang Prabang’s well-preserved heritage of colonial French buildings mixed with elaborate Buddhist architecture has won it recognition as a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
Kuang Si Waterfall: Luang Prabang’s best-known tourist attraction, famed for its multi-tiered falls and stepped pools. The hour-long journey there is enjoyable, winding through scenic hills. You can even stop at a traditional Hmong village on the way. Don’t miss taking a leisurely soak in the sparkling tiered pools.
Pak Ou Caves: Take a boat ride along the Mekong river to these limestone caves, which are crammed with thousands of Buddha statues. The caves are 25km north of Luang Prabang, so give yourself at least half a day to travel and explore the area.
Mount Phousi: This is at the centre of town, and sunset is the best time for you to be at the top. From there, you’ll get panoramic views of the town, the Mekong and the lush countryside.
No direct flights go to Luang Prabang from Singapore, but transiting in Vientiane, the capital of Laos, will result in the shortest journey – approximately four and a half hours.
Local delicacies from a night market: At the market stretching along Sisavangvong Road, you can get a taste of Laotian food. Try grilled water buﬀalo skewers and local sausages stuﬀed with fatty ground pork, chilli, garlic and herbs.
Once the seat of power of Myanmar’s last dynasty, Mandalay attracts fewer tourists than Yangon and Bagan, so consider this a good option if you want to wind down and experience a slower pace.
Kuthodaw Pagoda: Also known as “the world’s largest book”, the 729 white stupas (dome-shaped buildings that act as shrines) on the grounds each contain a marble slab inscribed with text from Tripitaka, the holy book of Buddhism. Kuthodaw Pagoda sits at the base of the 240m-high Mandalay Hill, but you should make the 30-minute climb to the top for unparalleled views of the flat landscape and the gorgeous sunset.
Mingun Pahtodawgyi: See the ruins of an ambitious plan in the 18th century to build the largest stupa in the world, abandoned when an astrologer warned that the king would die if the shrine was completed. This is an easy half-day trip from Mandalay, and getting there via a speedboat across the Irrawaddy River is half the fun.
U Bein Bridge: Curving gently across a shallow lake, the 1.2km-long bridge is believed to be the oldest and longest teak bridge in the world. It’s also a good sunset spot, and one of Myanmar’s most photographed sites.
Jade Market: At the world’s largest jade market, watch artisans ply their trade, carving gorgeous pieces of jewellery and other items from blocks of jade.
Transit in Yangon from Singapore if you want to get to Mandalay faster. The total flight time comes up to about four hours.
<b>PHOTO</b> JEANETTE WONG
Mondi: These are rice noodles coated in starchy gravy – a mixture of toasted chickpea flour and shallots – and tossed with fried shallots, crisped yellow noodles, and your choice of shredded chicken, fishballs or meatballs. Try it at Soe Soe Mandalay Mont Tee, at 31st Street.