When Singaporeans think of taking a rustic getaway, images of staying at luxurious jungle resorts or glamping on exotic safaris come to mind. That’s what happens when you live in a place where the only remotely rural areas all serve as training grounds for NS men, and going on a trip to the countryside means effectively having to leave the country.
But with so many affordable destinations a short flight away, there’s really no need to spend thousands of dollars just to spend the night in the jungle. Here are some rustic getaways where you can stay cheaply in jungle or beach huts without having to spend thousands of dollars or trek for days in the wildnerness.
1. Pai, Thailand
This small town in the Mae Hong Son province of Thailand is a popular stop on the backpacker trail, but if you’re not exactly into downing buckets of vodka red bull to reggae music, that doesn’t mean there’s no reason to head out here. On the other side of the Pai River right beside the town centre at the foot of rolling mountains is an agglomeration of cheap jungle huts and full blown resorts for visitors on any budget.
How to get there: Return flights to Chiang Mai cost about 250 SGD if you book well in advance. From Chiang Mai bus station, take a 3 hour bus to Pai for 150 THB (6.30 SGD).
Accommodation: For prices as low as 200 baht (8.40 SGD) a night, you can stay in a hut or bungalow facing the mountains, river or rice fields. You’ll be woken up by the sound of ducks quacking rather than the roar of traffic, but you’ll just be a few minutes’ walk from the centre of town, where restaurants and bars await.
2. Kukup, Malaysia
This small fishing village in Johor, Malaysia is already pretty popular with Singaporean tourists craving a ticket out of our congested city. This isn’t a place where you’ll be shopping for souvenirs or partying. Most of the time you’ll be staring out at the sea and the mangrove swamp or wandering around the village where houses are built on stilts over the water. Well, you did say you wanted a rustic getaway, right? Don’t forget to sample the fantastically fresh seafood.
How to get there: Getting to Kukup is easy. You can either make a 1.5 hour drive up from Singapore or take a bus from Larkin Bus Terminal in JB for about 17 MYR (6.40 SGD).
Accommodation: You won’t really be roughing it, as there are numerous affordable chalets set up by the water, many traditional houses on stilts, and some of which can accommodate up to 10 people, meaning you can bring your entire clan. You can get a four-person chalet for less than $100, while 10-person chalets for under $150 can easily be found.
3. Ko Chang, Thailand
Think of tropical island getaways like Bali, Bintan or Ko Samui and your wallet starts sweating. It’s a good thing there’s still Ko Chang, which is basically a tropical island paradise on a budget. While other islands like Ko Phi-Phi and Ko Lanta are now geared towards affluent travellers, Ko Chang remains one of the few affordable ones left.
How to get there: Fly to Bangkok for less than $150 if you book in advance. From Bangkok, you can easily arrange with a tour agent onward travel to Ko Chang by bus. Total price for the bus and the ferry trip from the pier can cost less than 400 THB (16.80 SGD) from Bangkok, or about 600 THB (25.10 SGD) directly from Suvarnabhumi Airport to Ko Chang.
Accommodation: There is where you can live in a hut for two with a view of the ocean or the jungle, your choice, for less than 30 SGD a night.
4. Vang Vieng, Laos
If the name Vang Vieng sounds familiar to you, you probably know all too well that it’s become one of Southeast Asia’s most infamous party destinations. We’re sorry to break the news to you, but after a huge recent clean up Vang Vieng has gone from a lurid mass of partying backpackers to a relatively peaceful riverside town with stunning scenery. The thing to do here is to get a rubber tube and float down the Nam Song River. Trekking, kayaking, rock climbing and mountain biking are also popular activities.
How to get there: Fly to Kuala Lumpur and then get on an Air Asia flight to Vientiane. Vang Vieng is 3-4 hours by bus from Vientiane, and a bus or minivan ride costs about 35,000 kip (5.90 SGD) to 50,000 kip (8.40 SGD).
Where to stay: A room for two in a guesthouse with a view of the river and/or cliffs can cost as little as 20 to 30 SGD a night.
Where are your favourite rustic getaways? Let us know in the comments!