Exotic places to visit in Asia
Many of us daydream about taking long breaks and travelling far away to places that we only ever get to see romanticised in films and experience things that are different from what we get here in Southeast Asia.
But not everyone has enough annual leave to set aside time to travel halfway across the world several times a year. Thankfully, Asia is as equally beautiful and diverse as any country that requires a flight that’s longer than a good night’s sleep. Head for these nearby destinations for places that could easily be mistaken for some faraway land so you can up your ‘gram game.
Pro nomad tip: Equip yourself with GOMO Mobile’s Data Roaming Pump so you can stay connected and post real-time updates of your adventures on-the-go!
1. Arosbaya Limestone Hill, Indonesia - looks like Antelope Canyon, USA
Arosbaya Limestone Hill could easily be a tropical version of the famous Antelope Canyon in the USA. One glance and you’ll notice that, like its American counterpart, it comprises earth-toned walls that create an almost otherworldly feel for enviable photos that Indiana Jones would approve of.
But of course, the hill isn’t without its own unique identity: Its exterior is covered in loose foliage, and the limestone walls have noticeable groves from its past as an old limestone mining area. So while you can recreate pictures that look like you’re in Arizona, you can also get pics that would perfectly fit into some fantasy Aztec jungle.
Image credit: @lifeofpantaitai
Located about a 1.5 hours’ drive from Surabaya on Madura Island, this place makes for a great day trip where you can leisurely explore the caves within, have a picnic, and get away from the hustle and bustle of town.
Getting there: As Arosbaya Limestone Hill is quite secluded, it’s recommended to hire a private vehicle, drive there or sign up for a day tour. It’s about a 1.5 hours’ drive from Surabaya.
Flight from Singapore to Surabaya: Below 2.5 hours
Address: Plalangan Madura, Buduran, Arosbaya, Makam Air Mata, Buduran, Arosbaya, Kabupaten Bangkalan, Jawa Timur 69151, Indonesia
Opening hours: 9AM-5PM, Daily
Admission: Rp.5,000/person ($0.50)
Car park fee:: Rp.3,000 ($0.30)
2. Tsing Ma Bridge, Hong Kong - looks like the Golden Gate Bridge in San Francisco
Once you’ve gotten all that dim sum and shopping out of the way, you may find it worth your while to take in some of the many scenic sights around Hong Kong.
If you’re heading towards Lantau Island for your Hong Kong Disneyland fix, or if you’re simply on your way to the airport, be sure not to miss a stop at Tsing Ma Bridge for photos that look like you could well be in San Francisco at the famous Golden Gate Bridge. If you’re lucky, you could even catch a killer sunset that may just put the Golden Gate Bridge to shame.
Getting there: The most straightforward way to view the bridge is from the Lantau Link Viewing Platform. It’s just a 10 minute drive from Tsing Yi MTR Station. An “off the beaten path” viewing area is at Hong Kong United Dockyard, which is a 15-minute car ride from Tsing Yi MTR Station.
Flight from Singapore to Hong Kong: Below 4 hours.
Lantau Link Viewing Platform
Address: N W Tsing Yi Interchange, Tsing Yi, Hong Kong
Opening hours: Sun-Fri 7.30AM-11PM | Sat 7AM-1:30AM
Telephone: +852 2495 5825
3. Fortune Island, Philippines - looks like a Grecian island
As if its name isn’t appealing enough, Fortune Island is a gorgeous resort island known for the historical-looking ruins that stand tall at the island’s southern tip that’s aptly named Fortune Island Acropolis. The island is relatively “virgin,” meaning you won’t find any restaurants, accommodation or even electricity here.
Not only do you get crystal blue waters and a cliffy landscape that looks like something out of a Pirates of the Carribean movie, you can also get some stunning photos that could place you right amongst the historical ruins of Greece.
Hike around Fortune Island to see where the best photo spots are.
Image credit: @thesexypiggy
In case you were wondering, these ruins were left behind by a resort in the late 80s’ although it certainly looks a lot older than that. You can also camp here and go swimming or snorkelling around the island if you bring your own gear. If you plan to stay nearby in more comfort, the nearest resorts are on mainland Nasugbu.
Getting there: It can take about 3-5 hours to get to Fortune Island from Manila, depending if you take public transport or hire a private car. You can take a bus from Manila towards Nasugbu, Batangas, and from there take a tricycle to Fortune Island Resort. You’ll have to charter a boat to get to the island.
Flights from Singapore to Manila: 3.5 hours
Nasugbu Port (for location reference): Wawa Port Rd, Nasugbu, Batangas, Philippines
Boat fees: Between PHP3000-4500 for 5-10 pax ($79.14 - $118.72)
Fortune Island fee: PHP350/person ($9.23); PHP400/person for overnight stay ($11.87)
4. Desa Dairy Farm, Malaysia - looks like a dairy farm in New Zealand
When you imagine a picturesque country setting complete with vibrant green fields, pine trees swaying in the breeze and a mountainous backdrop with rolling clouds, you wouldn’t exactly place this picture in Malaysia. But at the foothills of Mount Kinabalu in Sabah, you’ll find exactly this.
Left: Desa Dairy Farm, Sabah; Right: A typical dairy farm in New Zealand
Image credit: @arywinwong, Kimberly Wong
Desa Dairy Farm easily looks like it spilled right out of a milk carton from New Zealand’s pastures, especially with a healthy number of plump cattle grazing these fields, complete with cool highland weather.
Besides snapping a ton of pictures and taking a break from the usual heat, there are some other family-friendly activities here as well, like calf feeding and milk processing tours that are available throughout the day.
Getting there: The farm is a 2-hour drive from Kota Kinabalu in Sabah.
Flight from Singapore to Sabah: 2.5 hours
Address: 89308 Kundasang, Sabah, Malaysia
Opening hours: 8AM-5PM, Daily
Telephone: +60 88-889 562
Admission: RM5/adult ($1.64); RM4/child ($1.31); Free entry for children aged 6 and below
5. Bagan’s hot air balloons, Myanmar - looks like Cappadocia, Turkey
There’s something whimsical about hot air balloons: They’re almost dream-like as they float through the air and dot the surrounding scenery with vibrant colours. Cappadocia in Turkey may be the most famous place in the world for balloon-filled skies, but not too far away from us is Bagan which is also known for its hot air balloons.
Bagan shouldn’t really come as a replacement to Cappadocia, though, as the landscape here is equally as stunning. Balloons here overlook the province’s countryside of sprawling fields and old temples.
Image credit: @halfozitraveller
The best time to see them is at sunrise, and if you’re not onboard a balloon, you can go balloon-watching at famous sites like Dhammayangyi Temple or Shwe San Daw Pagoda. Balloon season takes place between October to mid-April. Since you can’t exactly ad-hoc a balloon-riding activity, there are several tour agencies that organise rides for you.
How to get there: Bagan is about a 1.5 hour flight from Yangon. But if you’re travelling throughout Myanmar and making a stop in Mandalay, it’s a 4-hour journey from there to Bagan by car.
Flight from Singapore to Yangon: 3 hours
Dhammayangyi Temple location: GPS coordinates 21.162566, 94.873064
Shwe San Daw Pagoda location: GPS coordinates 21.164981, 94.866104
Hot air balloon rates: Packages can cost from USD340 ($463.83) and up.
6. Santorini Park Cha-am, Thailand - looks like Santorini
Think of dream vacation spots and Santorini in Greece would be right among the top of that list. Ocean views aside, the town exudes a unique charm with its signature white plaster buildings dotted with pastel accents.
It turns out you don’t have to travel nearly halfway across the world to experience this Mediterranean Gem. Just a couple of hours out of Bangkok, there’s Santorini Park at the coastal district of Cha-am.
Image credit: @wirmaclaudia
Taking in the sights here is an activity on its own, but there’s also a lot of things to keep you busy here from shopping and cafes, to museums and amusement park rides like the ferris wheel and carousel for the kiddos.
How to get there: It’s about 2.5 hours away from Bangkok by car. If you’re taking the train, head to Cha-am station. The easiest way to the park from there is by taxi.
Flight from Singapore to Bangkok: Below 2.5 hours.
Address: Khao Yai, Cha-am District, Phetchaburi 76120, Thailand
Opening hours: Sat-Sun 9AM-6:30PM | Mon-Fri 9:30AM-6:30PM
Telephone: +66 32 772 999
Admission: THB150/person ($6.55)
7. Colmar Tropicale French Village, Malaysia - looks like you’re all the way in Europe
It’s obvious where Colmar Tropicale on Berjaya Hills got its name from: the entire resort village is a replication of the quaint town in northeast France. There are plenty of Instagrammable spots here, like castle-like structures, canals, fountains, cobblestone streets and 16th-century-inspired buildings.
With temperatures slightly cooler than that of regular ol’ Kuala Lumpur city, this local attraction has European vibes going strong, complete with activities like horseback riding, farming and mountain biking so you can enjoy the hilly scenery.
Image credit: @hmotoaki
How to get there: Colmar Tropicale is located in Bentong, Pahang. It’s just an hour away from Kuala Lumpur city centre. There are shuttle busses from Berjaya Times Square from RM38/person (one way).
Flight from Singapore to Kuala Lumpur: 1 hour
Address: KM 48 Persimpangan Bertingkat, Karak Expy, Bukit Tinggi, 28750 Bentong, Pahang, Malaysia
Telephone: +60 9-221 3666
Admission: RM16/adult ($5.25) and RM9/child ($2.95). Includes passes to Japanese Village, Botanical Garden and Rabbit Park.
Room rates: From $71/night
8. Ruins of St. Paul’s, Macau - looks like Duomo di Milano
Left: Ruins of St. Paul’s, Macau; Right: Duomo di Milano in Italy
Image credit: @arip.1645, Jessica Fang
Macau may be famous for its casinos above all, but as the city has a healthy stream of tourists visiting each day, there’s bound to be some scenic gems to snap those Instaworthy photos. Enter Ruins of St. Paul’s which is what’s left of an actual church that was built in the 1600s.
Only the facade of the entrance remains standing tall, but it’s hard not to notice its resemblance to another famous historical place of worship in Italy, Duomo di Milano. The ruins have a dramatic effect as it sits elevated from its surrounding buildings, while the sky peeks through its windows.
Bonus: The Grand Canal Shoppes in Macau
Image credit: @engr.niel
While you’re in Macau, take a stroll through The Grand Canal Shoppes, known as Macau’s very own little Venice. Take a gondola ride through the canals, shop for souvenirs or take some shots with the Italian-inspired interior.
Flight from Singapore to Macau: Below 4 hours
Ruins of St. Paul’s
Address: Located on St. Paul’s Road
The Grand Canal Shoppes
Address: Castella Street, Di Moda Street and San Luca Street on Level 3, Macau, China, Macao
Telephone: +853 2882 8888
Hidden gems in Asia
When it comes to unique places to travel to, Asia is most definitely underrated. There are plenty of hidden gems that look as good or even better than that of popular far off destinations. Plus, most of these places have an added touch of local charm when it comes to the natural landscape that surrounds these attractions.
Staying connected with GOMO
It’s only natural to want to stay connected when you’re travelling. If you haven’t heard of GOMO by Singtel, It’s an all-digital, non-contract SIM Only plan backed by Singtel’s 4G network. For $20, you’ll get a whopping 20GB of data to feed your YouTube habits, plus 200 minutes of talk-time and 200 SMSes.
Image credit: Singtel
All this includes free incoming calls, caller ID, registration and SIM delivery, without the worry of hidden excess charges. If you encounter any problems along the way, GOMO Support is available 24/7.
It’s pretty easy to sign up too - activation takes just a couple of minutes:
- Head to their website
- Look for GOMO Mobile
- Click on “Buy GOMO”
- Choose a preferred number
- Set a delivery date to get your SIM card (free delivery, even for same day orders!)
Good news for avid travellers: GOMO Mobile now comes with the Roaming Data Pump which gives you 1GB for 10 days across 10 destinations for just $10. This means you’ll no longer have to fumble to swap SIM cards, charge wifi dongles, or wait till you’re connected to public wifi to post those Instastories.
You’ll then have the confidence of knowing you have network coverage at all times, whether you’re in Singapore or exploring the world and all its beautiful hidden corners.
#YOdulting with Singtel
This article is part of our #YOdulting series with Singtel, that helps young Singaporeans navigate their way through adulthood by bringing them ease, value, and convenience while living life to the fullest.
Other articles in this series: