Tuesday, December 11The Voice of London

Summer winter wonderlands

When temperatures drop, trips abroad made by UK residents soar. Here are three Southeast Asian travel destinations for a warmer winter.

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Bleak skies, drizzly winds, occasional bouts of snow — winters in London are always cold and rainy, with the temperatures in December and January averaging between a high of nine degrees and a low of five degrees. With trees shedding their autumn leaves and the afternoon sun beginning to dip earlier, the realisation that winter is settling over London pushes many to make holiday plans abroad.

The latest facts and figures from the Office for National Statistics show that UK residents took 72.8 million trips overseas in 2017, a 29% increase since 2012. Spain, France, and Italy are the most popular travel destinations for UK residents, but if you’re hoping for some sunnier skies and have the extra money to make this happen, here are three Southeast Asian countries that give winter a warmer vibe.

Boracay, Philippines

South of Manila is the tiny island of Boracay, which is seven kilometers long and one kilometer wide. Though the entire island can be traveled in a single day, there’s no shortage of things to do or see. Boracay is home to 13 pristine beaches, the two most famous being White Beach and Bulabog Beach.

White Beach epitomises the idea of a perfect day at the beach with its powder soft sand and crystal blue water. Its different sections span between vibrant restaurants and shopping districts, to more tranquil spots outfitted with greenery — making it perfect for relaxation.

If you’re looking to island hop, it typically kicks off from White Beach. For the right package (around £30 per person), you can go from island to island with activities like sightseeing, snorkeling, swimming, cliff jumping, fishing, and more.

There are more than a few bars and fresh seafood restaurants down by the beach, but for a wider variety, head down to the Street Market food hall, which caters to seven unique food concepts. Here you’ll find tacos, buttermilk fried chicken, fish and chips, yakitori, nasi goreng, curry crab, pizza, bingsu and more.

Siem Reap, Cambodia

If you’re not looking for the classic beach holiday, Siem Reap offers you an option rich with history. Its close proximity to the temples of Angkor, which are often considered a Wonder of the World, makes it a popular travel destination.

With around 50 different Buddhist and Hindu temples to visit in the Angkor complex, it is highly recommended to buy a three day (£48) or seven day (£56) Angkor National Park pass and join a guided tour for at least one of those days, to ensure you see the main temples. (Bonus fact: Tomb Raider was filmed at the Ta Prohm temple, which has been left untouched by archaeologists and is slowly being overcome by the roots of enormous trees.)

A little outside of Siem Reap lies Old Market, in the heart of town, where you can find a glimpse of authentic Cambodian culture among the different stalls teeming with food, arts, and life. This is the perfect place to try some traditional Khmer cuisine, which is rich in herbs, flowers, pickled vegetables, dipping sauces and more.

Also outside of Siem Reap you can find the floating villages of traditional fishermen on the Tonle Sap Lake. It’s not so much an interactive activity as it is a good way to observe how part of Cambodia’s economy is built on its ecological resources. Alternatively, you can take a canoe ride (typically paddled by villagers) into the dense mangrove forest for some stunning scenery.

Singapore

Sometimes there’s nothing more therapeutic than a good afternoon out to — as Tom and Donna on American sitcom Parks and Recreation might say, — “treat yo self.” So head to Singapore for something more upscale and modern.

Check out Singapore’s equivalent to London’s Oxford Street, Orchard Road. It’s full of local and international department stores, featuring both luxury and more familiar mainstream fashion brands. The sparkling lights strung up along the streets bring a bright, festive touch to the winter evenings. As a cultural hub, Singapore also boasts a wide variety of restaurants, from Western to Southeast Asian cuisine. (Tip: Check out the food court in Takashimaya Plaza on Orchard Road and the riverside restaurants and pubs at Clarke Quay in the evening.)

For some recreational fun, spend a day at Sentosa, down at Harbourfront. A one day pass to Universal Studios Singapore is S$76, but further into the island you can find activities like indoor skydiving or the skyline luge, or a beach area teeming with different water sports and refreshing bars and restaurants.

If you’re looking for a less rigorous day out, enjoy the tropical beauty of the Botanic Gardens, which has been honoured as a UNESCO World Heritage Site. The quiet ambience and shade makes for a lovely afternoon walk. Newer and more futuristic are the Gardens by the Bay in Marina Bay, which feature architectural, technological and natural marvels. One of the attractions at the Gardens by the Bay made famous in Crazy Rich Asians, the Supertree Grove, will be lit up this winter for a Christmas Wonderland.

 

Of course, not all of us can afford exotic getaways for the holidays, but there’s still plenty to do in London, too. The lights are beginning to go up, which makes for great photo ops, and there are Christmas concerts to look forward to, as well.

 

Featured image: Courtesy of Claire Chung

Words, Maps, and Photography: Claire Chung | Subbing: Taylor Paatalo

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