Image credit: CC BY-NC 2.0 (arwcheek, 2011)
For the busy corporate executive who counts it a luxury to be abroad for more than 72 hours, or that stretched housewife struggling to keep her sanity intact for long family vacations, a whirlwind break to freshen the mind is the next viable choice.
Even so, there are plenty more options than simply spending time at a beach resort — and it is easy to deviate from conventional getaway itineraries. Whether attempting a new sport or recharging yourself in tranquil surroundings away from the city or seaside, break the monotony and add that special spice to your weekend for an extra-memorable getaways!
Swing with gibbons in Thailand
Zip-line your way across lush forest canopy and feel the rush of cool wind in a very special part of the Land of Smiles. Unlike the usual zip-lines at adventure centres in urban areas, the Flight of the Gibbon in Chiang Mai gives you the opportunity to come face to face with the wild gibbons that inhabit the 1,500-year-old forest. With 5 kilometres worth of zip-lines, three sky bridges, abseiling courses, 33 different platform stations, and the added option of kayaking and white-water rafting, the activities here are more than enough to keep your adrenaline pumping over the weekend. Guides will also bring you on a tour of the wildlife and vegetation along the course, including a trek to the beautiful Mae Kampong Falls. Thrilling obstacle courses, the close encounters with wildlife and the natural scenery will make this trip an exhilarating and rejuvenating one. Similar zip-line tours are offered in the Angkor Wat at Siem Reap and Chonburi near Bangkok.
Meditate in Taiwan
Distress and seek inner peace at Fo Guang Shan monastery in Kaohsiung, Taiwan. The monastery is the largest in Taiwan and offers temple stays for visitors at the Pilgrims Lodge and Bamboo Garden Lodge. Though basic, the rooms come with air-conditioning and modern facilities; one, after all, does not come to a temple expecting the comforts of a five-star resort. Guests can take part in the morning chants and meditation retreats, learn calligraphy at the Sutra Hall, sip tea at the Waterdrop teahouse, and tuck in to the temple’s famous vegetarian cuisine. The monastery also offers many attractions to keep you occupied. View the Buddhist artworks at the Fo Guang Yuan Cultural Exhibition Hall, learn about the monastery’s history at the museum, take pictures of the 36 metre-high Great Buddha statue, the tallest-standing Buddha in Southeast Asia, and strike the bell at the Great Vow Shrine for good luck. With great views of the Gaoping River and the distant mountains, the tranquil environment of Fo Guang Shan will leave one refreshed for new challenges.
Get a farm workout in Vietnam
Go back to basics at this farm stay in rural Vietnam. Surrounded by paddy fields and the Phong Nha–Ke Bang National Park, the French colonial style Phong Nha Farmstay is a rustic getaway for urban dwellers. Try your hand at buffalo ploughing and rice harvesting, swim in the streams, visit the Vietnam War memorial sites or cycle around the rice fields or at the nearby village. This is also a great opportunity to explore the national park, which is listed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Trek or cycle through the jungles of the national park teeming with wildlife and explore the many caves and limestone mountains in the area. In fact, the Hang Ke Ry is known as the world’s longest river cave and Hang Son Doong Cave is said to be the world’s largest cave.
Concoct your very own perfume in Bali
If you often find yourself sifting through the shelves of cosmetic or duty-free stores for the perfect bottle of perfume, why not try your hand at creating a scent to call your own? And right in Bali, one of the most popular beach destinations in Southeast Asia. L’Atelier Parfums & Creations studio, the brainchild of Nora Gasparini who hails from Paris, offers a completely bespoke experience where qualified instructors guide you in picking scents that best suit your personality type based on a short questionnaire that you answer at the beginning of the session. Participants can design the perfect blend from over 40 essences, ranging from common favourites such as lavender and jasmine to local varieties the likes of cempaka and civet. Your perfume will be packaged in a 30ml bottle to take home; the formula will also be stored in the database, so you can order a refill when you run out of it!
Race the wind at the south-eastern coast of Vietnam
If you are thinking of picking up a new sport, that next beach holiday might be a good time. C2Sky in Mũi Né, Vietnam, offers lessons in kitesurfing, which is a combination of wakeboarding and windsurfing. Considered an extreme sport, kitesurfing will not only get all those joints and muscles working, it also promises heart-thumping fun and action. With enough practice, one will be able to ride the waves and even attempt acrobatic stunts in the air. The sport is extremely popular at Mũi Né, where the sky at the beach is often dotted with the colourful kites of kitesurfing enthusiasts. The surrounding area also offers beautiful scenery of sandy beaches and sand dunes and ample dining options at the beach restaurants and the local fishing village.
Indulge in wine in Thailand
Europe and Australia may be famous wine-producing regions, but one need not travel to far flung places for a vineyard experience. In fact, there’s a viticultural paradise just a couple hours’ drive north of Bangkok, just a short flight out of Singapore. The Khao Yai Wine Region is the perfect getaway for wine lovers, while the surrounding Khao Yai National Park is equally intoxicating, with its numerous hiking trails, waterfalls and lush forests. To appreciate Thai wine, seek out the PB Valley Khao Yai Winery, where you can tour the vineyard and fruit orchard spread over 320 hectares to learn more about the wine-making process, enjoy wine tasting sessions at the winery’s foyer, and tuck in to a sumptuous meal of Thai and Western cuisine at the vineyard restaurant overlooking the lush plantation and the surrounding mountains. PB Valley is capable of producing a million bottles of wine annually and has even garnered awards for its vintage wines, so don’t forget to pick one to add to your collection.