Holidays For Couples Recommends 10 Asian


Holidays For Couples Recommends 10 Asian
places you
have to see
in 2016
Romantic spots
you've never
heard of
Where to tie the
knot on the Island
of the Gods
(and what)
Where to eat
in Macao
The 5 hottest resorts in
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Gorgeous destinations to visit in 2016
WORDS Gemma Price
Easily accessible information
and convenient travel mean
we’re spoilt for choice when
planning a trip. Not only are
new flight routes putting
hard-to-reach destinations
within our grasp, some
previously inaccessible
countries are opening their
borders and relaxing visa
regulations, emerging as
potential holiday spots in the
process. Here are 10 Asian
holiday destinations worth
considering in 2016.
The Philippines checks all the boxes for a
romantic tropical getaway, but the Province
of Palawan – comprising Palawan island and
its reef-ringed neighbours – goes above and
beyond. Not only is it visually spectacular
(in 2014 Condé Nast Traveller readers voted
the island the most beautiful in the world
for its aquamarine waters, jungle-carpeted
emerald green mountains and idyllic,
multi-hued fishing villages backed by
limestone cliffs), but there’s plenty to see
and do, too. Foodie hub, Puerto Princesa is
home to a UNESCO-inscribed subterranean
river, voted one of the New 7 Wonders of
Nature. You’ll find great places to sail and
dive as you hop from islet to island, and may
even sight rare species such as the Philippine
pangolin or tiny mouse deer. Palawan isn’t
short on luxe resorts – Amanpulo offers
beach, hillside and canopy accommodation,
while each of the El Nido properties is more
gorgeous than the last – and as you can get
there by boat or a 90-minute flight from
Manila, it probably won’t be long before the
madding crowds roll up.
Laidback provincial town Siem Reap is
arguably best-known as Cambodia’s
gateway to the ancient Angkorian temple
complex, but its sophisticated restaurants,
boutiques and luxurious, pool-fringed
accommodation will keep you lingering
long after you’ve had your temple fix.
I love Belmond La Residence d’Angkor,
Raffles Grand Hotel d’Angkor and taking
time out to enjoy Wat Damnak’s local
produce-focused degustation menu.
Cambodia has lots more for couples to
explore – you can cruise up the Mekong,
go jungle trekking in Ratanakiri and
wander through gilded wats and striking
examples of 1960s New Khmer
architecture in the French colonial capital,
Phnom Penh. From here it’s a 35-minute
flight (or 3.5-hour drive) to the southern
beach resort of Sihanoukville, named for
Cambodia’s former king. Song Saa Private
Island is the perfect setting for couples
looking to escape, and when the
Kenzo-designed Arovada by Akaryn – the
first private island wellness retreat on Koh
Krabey – opens later this year, it’ll be one
more good reason to go.
Angkor Wat.
Prabang, Laos
Nestled at the confluence of the Nam Khan and Mekong rivers,
this former royal capital – and UNESCO World Heritage Site – is
a heady mix of well-preserved cultural tradition and colonial and
Laotian architecture. Colourfully garbed hill tribe women and
Mahayana monks clutching burnt sienna parasols walk along
bougainvillea-flanked roads, passing homespun eateries, little shops
and boutique hotels housed within gabled, timbered or
brick-and-stucco mansions. Villa Maly, a 33-room hotel anchored by
the 1938 home of Princess Khampieng and Prince Khamtan, embodies
the elegance of Indochinese-era living. Compared with neighbouring
Southeast Asian hubs, Luang Prabang is not that easy to get to – only
a couple of flights a day depart nearby Hanoi – although improving
connections may see that change. For now, though, you can enjoy the
300-step climb to Wat That Chom Si on the top of Mount Pousi Wat
and step beneath the low sleeping roof of 16th-century Wat Xieng
Thong to admire its vivid glass mosaics of Buddhist teachings and
King Sisavang Vong’s seven naga-headed funeral chariot, without
having to elbow through busloads of tourists.
Danang, Vietnam
Historically, Vietnam’s central coast
has been the seat of kings, emperors,
colonial administrators and war heroes
from both sides. Today, Danang’s
48-kilometre sandy shoreline (formerly
known as China Beach) – from hilly
Son Tra peninsular in the north to the
historic ancient town of Hoi An – is fast
becoming as famous for its sun, sand and
sea as its unique history: developers are
even tipping Danang as the next Phuket.
After the lull following 2008’s downturn,
things are starting to pick up again.
The Meliá Danang held its soft opening
there in 2015, while JW Marriott, Hilton
and Sheraton will be online within the
next few years, and flights are gradually
being added from hubs all over Asia. For
now, though, the vibe is not too hectic, the
resorts are gorgeous (the all-villa Nam Hai
and high-style InterContinental Danang
Sun Peninsula Resort are my favourite
places to stay on the beach), and local
attractions – from cooking classes to
beach bars tucked away in small bays – are
myriad. At ancient UNESCO-listed
merchant town, Hoi An you can wander
charming museums, temples and eateries
set within 15th-century houses by day, and
eat at tiny eateries along lantern-lit streets
by night – don’t miss the chocolate duck
and mango shrimp at Mango Rooms or
a nightcap at opium den-inspired Q Bar.
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The Nam Hai.
While Bali’s charms may seem thoroughly documented (thanks,
Eat, Pray, Love) and regular visitors may grumble that it’s not the
untouched paradise they remember, the truth is that this Indonesian
jewel has been evolving since celebs such as Noel Coward and
Charlie Chaplin vacationed here in the Twenties and Thirties.
The upside is that no matter how many times you’ve visited Bali,
next time around there will be new places to check out – and check
in to. Last year, the 60-villa Ritz-Carlton Mandapa opened on the
banks of the Ayung River in Ubud, and Alila launched its fourth
Bali property in fashionable Seminyak; this year’s hotly anticipated
newcomers include Philippe Starck’s 12-villa property, The Stairs,
and all-suite hotel, The Katamama (run by the folks behind hip
Seminyak beach club, Potato Head). New restaurants pop up
every season, many from already successful Bali restaurateurs
– last year I loved Pirate Beach Club and Indonesian eatery,
Bambu Restaurant from the team behind popular La Lucciola.
The island’s well-established eateries also introduce new chefs
and new menus to complement their high-concept interiors
(check out the British colonial-era Shanghai vibe at Mama San
and rice-paddy vistas at Sardine).
And in addition to captivating visitors with its jungles, beaches and
spiritual sanctuaries, the Island of Dreams also inspires entrepreneurs
from all over the world to up sticks and try new ventures on its
shores. When not opening new boutiques or launching craft
cooperatives, designers – including those behind Australian brands
Ebony Eve, Shakuhachi and Nastasha – spend most, if not all, of their
time in Bali previewing new collections or releasing samples through
local shops. This means you’ll often snag one-off pieces for an
absolute steal.
And once you’ve had your fill of Bali’s social scene, ancient centres
of tranquillity such as Pura Ulun Danu Bratan and Uluwutu
temple, still hold new secrets to be discovered.
Ever since Aung San Suu Kyi was released from house
arrest, Myanmar’s star has been in the ascendant and
many travellers will tell you its top of their list. Historically,
Myanmar (formerly Burma) has been a popular
destination, particularly during its British colonial past (and
visitors can experience the luxurious accommodations of
that bygone era), but years of more recent isolation mean
that Myanmar still feels relatively untouched by the
fast-paced modern development characteristic of
neighbouring countries. Yangon, especially, is a beguiling
mix of European-influenced history and Myanmar
tradition. Victorian features at The Strand Hotel –
sweeping marble staircases; an ancient elevator – have
been well maintained, while rooms at the two-storey
1920s home of Myanmar’s former British governor, now
the Belmond Governor’s Residence Yangon, feature
canopy beds bordered by silk-panelled walls and views
over leafy treetops. But things are changing quickly and
new developments are mushrooming up everywhere.
Luxurious, safari camp-inspired Bagan Lodge opened in
2013 to give well-heeled visitors a place to stay just a few
kilometres from Bagan’s 11th-century plain of temples.
In recent years, several river cruisers have been launched
along the Ayeyarwady, including Belmond’s Orcaella and
Sanctuary Ananda, while Inle Lake and Ngapali Beach are
both hotbeds of development.
In 2009, then-Maldives President, Mohamed Nasheed and his officials donned scuba gear and hel
an underwater cabinet meeting aimed at drawing attention to climate change. For locals of this
Indian Ocean Republic, the issue cuts close to home. The Maldives’ highest point stands only
2.4 metres, and its 1,200 gorgeous reef- and beach-fringed islands and atolls are threatened by rising
sea levels associated with global warming. Researchers have warned there will be no coral left in
30 years and that the Maldives will disappear completely by 2100, so local authorities and resorts
have taken a stand. For every island being developed into a resort area, another island is being
va Fushi even
preserved. All Maldives resorts are eco-resorts; the “biodegradable” Six Senses’ Soneva
arbon dioxide
produces its own fresh water by desalinating ocean and lagoon water, and removes carbon
from the atmosphere rather than adding it. Many couples staying in the Maldives have been actively
helping to support the local economy and save the islands. And boy, are they worth saving. Go now.
Koh Lanta,
As Krabi province is a little tricky to get to – the only
international flights serving Krabi airport are from
Singapore, Kuala Lumpur and Darwin – it’s one of
Thailand’s more laid-back destinations. And compared
with Ao Nang and Phi Phi, Koh Lanta is even more
low-key. That’s not to say that there’s nowhere for
couples to stay (of Lanta’s five-star resorts,
we love the deliciously secluded mountain retreat,
Pimalai Resort & Spa), but it does mean that the island
experience feels both relaxing and more authentic.
Lanta’s ethnically diverse inhabitants, comprising Muslim,
Thai-Chinese and Urak Lawoi sea gypsy communities,
are more likely to make their living from fishing,
prawn-farming and rubber-tapping rather than tourism.
Along the 25-kilometre west coast from northern Klong
Dao to Bamboo Bay in the south, you’ll find deserted
stretches of sand interspersed with day-into-night beach
bars frequented by locals and visitors alike. The action,
such as it is, happens around the concentration of bars,
shops and stilt-house seafood restaurants in the main
village of Baan Saladan, and there’s also great diving to be
had. Ko Ha Yai is known for its submerged caverns and
you can spot whale sharks, manta rays, and schools of
barracuda around the deep drops-offs of submerged
pinnacles, Hin Daeng and Hin Muang.
Pimalai Resort & Spa.
Surat Thani,
Chehel Sotoun Palace
in Isfahan, Iran.
You might not realise it, but Iran is also in Asia. It’s also set to be one of the must-go frontier
destinations for 2016. Most of the country is now considered safe: Australia has an embassy in
Tehran and after re-establishing its embassy there last summer, the UK is launching non-stop flights
from London this July – Iranian officials are hoping to welcome 20 million annual tourists by 2025.
But those going now will be among the first to experience the Islamic Republic’s diverse landscapes
and cultural treasures. You can hit the beach or go skiing (yes, you heard correctly). You can explore
19 UNESCO World Heritage sites, the most of any Middle-Eastern country (Persian capital,
Persepolis was founded by Darius The Great in 518BC), and wander ancient Islamic prayer halls
illuminated by kaleidoscopic shafts of light lancing down from stained-glass windows. And after
a day’s sightseeing, you can turn your attention to Iran’s fabulous cuisine to the sound of Persian
pop or classical poetry – walnut pomegranate stew or hot and sour shrimp, anyone?
Once the capital of the 10th-century Indonesian Srivijaya Empire,
Surat Thani city is the hopping-off point for its eponymous province
and some of Thailand’s best-known islands, each of which has built
a reputation on offering either great diving, a castaway lifestyle, or a
party from dawn to dawn – and sometimes all three. Koh Tao is
credited as having the best diving in the Gulf of Thailand, and
gorgeous places to stay are legion. Koh Samui – part of the
protected Ang Thong National Marine Park’s 42-island archipelago
– is known for its high-end resorts and spas, but you can also find
nightlife along Chaweng’s main street and a more tranquil vibe in
north coast fishing hamlet, Bo Phut. And while Koh Pha Ngnan is
best known for its infamous full-moon parties and less-raucous
half-moon parties, it has a lot more to offer beyond the Hat Rin
debauchery. As 90 per cent of the island is covered in jungle and
40 per cent is protected by national park, wildlife abounds; if you
hike up Khao Ra, the island’s highest point, your pulse will likely be
raised by the jaw-dropping vistas as much as the incline.