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Weekend Getaways That Won’t Break the Bank

by Webmaster Masala

Five travel picks for your next long weekend — but only if you’re willing to venture a little further afield.

By Jaspreet Narang

Ready to trade in gridlocked traffic and crowds for something a little further afield without breaking the bank? Here are five of our top picks to inspire you for your next vacation. Thanks to our many public holidays, Thailand has become the perfect place to snatch a sneaky getaway and leverage on the many long weekends here.

Luang Prabang, Laos


Hiking, rice farming, lazing around waterfalls, riding boats up and down the Mekong River, cooking up a storm with the locals and temple hopping — this destination really has it all. After a two-hour direct flight from Bangkok, you’ll find yourself in this beautiful oasis, dubbed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site. This town has managed to retain its charm despite the number of travellers passing through.

Things To Do:
• Hike up
Phousi Mountain for the excellent view.
• Walk down
Old Bridge.
• Take a cooking class at the
Tamarind Restaurant.
• Book an excursion to
Living Land Farm and try your hand at
    rice farming.
• For a taste of the local life, take a boat ride across to the other
    side of the Mekong River, and complete the
Chomphet Hike.

Highlight: Of all the waterfalls I’ve been to, Kuang Si Waterfall is my personal favourite. Imagine clear blue-green water tricking down over 100 tiny steps, spaced two to three metres apart, creating pools large enough to swim in at each and every step. It’s the true definition of paradise and tranquility.

George Town, Penang, Malaysia

Another destination marking its territory as a UNESCO World Heritage Site, and claiming a spot on Lonely Planet’s “Top 10 Must Visit Cities of 2016”, is George Town, Penang. This little town is receiving tonnes of buzz, and rightfully so. A melting pot of cultures, colonial and time-worn architecture, it also has a delectable food scene. It’s a slow paced life, comparable to that of Bali, with a distinct difference in its preservation of ancient cultures. You’ll find Chinese temples in Little India and mosques in China Town. There is nothing quite like the beautiful mish-mash of cultures here. 

Things To Do:
• Get lost in the city’s maze of chaotic streets and narrow lanes.
• Hike up
Penang Hill if you dare. It is almost 1,000-metres high and
    very, very hot. Another option is to take the funicular up Penang Hill
    for a glorious view of the city!
• Brunch at some quirky cafes like
The Daily Dose or Wheeler’s Yard.
• Indulge in some local delicacies sold by street vendors like
Wanton Mee, Chendol and Bah ku te.
• Spend an evening at
Love Lane, the clubbing scene in George Town.

Highlight: Take a street art map from your hotel reception, and conduct your own make-shift street art tour. I spent the entire day wandering around the “hidden in plain sight” art scene of George Town, and taking fun photographs with the interactive street art pieces.

Siem Reap, Cambodia

Transport yourself to an ancient world. Home to the infamous temples of Angkor, Siem Reap attracts tourists from all walks of life. Not to fret if you’re all templed-out, however, this quaint city has managed to reinvent itself in a chic way, ensuring that there is still plenty of other things to do both in and around the city

Things To Do:
• Sunrise discovery
bike tours.
• Visit the
Tonle Sap Floating Village for a nice sunset dinner.
• Learn some Cambodian history at the
Landmine Museum.
• Explore the many markets of Siem Reap, including the
Old Market or
Made in Cambodia market.
• Waste away your evenings at
Pub Street, Siem Reap’s definitive
    nightlife hub.

Highlight: Angkor Wat is not to be missed when in Siem Reap. As difficult as it might be to get up early in the morning, the sunrise and sunsets at this divine sanctuary are highly recommended!

Bagan, Myanmar

This temple town needs no introduction. One of the world’s greatest archaeological sites, boasting 2,000 Buddhist monuments and temples, Bagan has received much praise and attention. We are lucky to be so near to this gem of a destination waiting to be explored. Tourist numbers are increasing and so are hawker stands, but by standards of sites of similar beauty and stature, Bagan still remains an unsullied destination.

Things To Do:
Rent an electric scooter and cruise through the pagodas
    and temples.
• Discover both the
New Bagan and Old Bagan areas.
• Ride a
hot-air balloon over Bagan if you’re willing to splurge a little.

Highlight: I rode in a hot-air balloon over the temples and watched a number of sunsets in Bagan, but nothing compares to the (free) million dollar sunrise view in Bagan from Buledi Temple, Myauk Guni or Sulamani Temple. Wake up early — it is absolutely worth it!

Cameron Highlands, Malaysia

Cameron Highlands is to Kuala Lumpur, what Khao Yai is to Bangkok. A short two to three hour ride from Kuala Lumpur, and you’ll find yourself in the serenity of lush mountains adorned with never-ending tea plantations. The refreshing cool climate is another great reason to visit this beautiful hill-station area.

Things To Do:
• Go
strawberry picking at one of the many strawberry farms.
• Visit the
Boh Tea Plantation; tea is one of Malaysia’s main exports.
• Take an excursion to the
Mossy Forest or, if you’re up for it, hike up
    Gunung Brinchang for the amazing scenery and rewarding views at
    the end of the hike.

Highlight: The highlands’ numerous hiking trails and eco-conscious trekking make for an enticing destination. With
over 15 different trails of varying levels to choose from, and
optimal trekking temperatures, Cameron Highlands is a
trekker’s paradise.

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