Singaporeans are some of the world’s most prolific tourists. If you want to know all the good shopping spots in Bangkok, the best restaurants in Hong Kong or the nicest sights in Seoul, just ask that colleague who is always strategically taking leave during the long weekends to go on holiday, and you’ll find he is a walking Wikitravel.
Back in the early 2000s before budget airlines became a thing here, Singaporean travellers in Asia preferred to stick to tried and tested destinations–the usual Bangkok, Hong Kong, Penang, Malacca or, for those venturing farther afield, Australia and Tokyo.
These days we’re travelling a lot further afield. Just try talking about your boring vacation to Bangkok and you can be sure someone else will butt in with their story about hiking in Machu Picchu or cliff diving in Croatia.
Now’s your chance to get back at them. Here are five inexpensive travel trending destinations that nobody visited 10 years ago, but that are fast becoming favourites of Singaporeans who take pride in venturing off the beaten path (along with the hordes of other Singaporeans of course).
There’s a good reason nobody ever went on holiday to Myanmar in the past, and it’s got nothing to do with the country’s cool factor. Their tourism industry was basically non-existent, plus there was that little problem with being under military rule.
But ever since the country started opening itself up to the rest of the world, Singaporeans have been flooding in en masse on Air Asia flights, eager to check out the temples of Bagan and cruise down Inle Lake. In fact, you probably have several Facebook friends whose cover photos feature hot air balloons floating above lush Bagan landscapes.
For most Singaporeans who do not have relatives in India and have never been invited to a wedding there, South Asia has been hitherto uncharted territory. Many travellers panic at the slightest suggestion that the place they’re travelling to might be “unsafe”. Luckily for them, Sri Lanka now offers a safe, easy gateway to South Asia.
Now that Sri Lanka’s problems with the Tamil Tigers have come to an end, Singaporeans are of course heading there in droves, particularly PMET types in their 20s and 30s who are dying to go “off the beaten track” while still being able to stay in nice hotels.
There are lush tea plantations, ancient temples, beach resorts and hill retreats that are kind of like a much more exotic version of the Cameron Highlands. Not exactly your typical shopping and eating holiday, but then that’s what Bangkok and Hong Kong are for, right?
Ten years ago, trips to China were either school excursions to Beijing for the purposes of cultural immersion, or they happened when your grandparents wanted to drag the entire family to check out the ancestral home. It definitely wasn’t the coolest place to be.
These days, thanks to a buffet of budget flights, Singaporeans are becoming more and more eager to explore that massive country up North, but are skipping the gigantic cities of Beijing and Shanghai in favour of more scenic and less polluted destinations.
More Singaporeans are following the Yunnan tourist trail and passing through Kunming, Dali and Lijiang en route to ridiculously scenic sights like Tiger Leaping Gorge. Other places worth checking out include Xi’an for the terracotta warriors, Shenzhen as a cheaper alternative to Hong Kong, Hainan for the beaches, Suzhou with its Venetian-style canals and Hangzhou with its famous West Lake. Sure makes you wish you had paid more attention to those Chinese lessons back in secondary school.
Chiang Mai, Chiang Rai and Pai
Singaporeans have always loved going to Thailand, with Bangkok consistently appearing at the top of the list of our favourite travel destinations. Ten years ago, Singaporeans’ only objective in going abroad was to shop and eat. But now, priorities are changing, and people are more likely to seek out peaceful, nature-filled, stress-free vacations.
Which is why the north of Thailand has become increasingly popular with Singaporeans. The pace is markedly slower and the cities are way more laid back. Chiang Mai is an artsy town filled with handicrafts and street markets. You can then take a bus to Chiang Rai, where the famous white temple and black temple are, before continuing on to Pai, where more and more Singaporeans are going on yoga retreats and the like.
Cebu, Bohol and Boracay
Back in the 90s, almost no Singaporeans ever went to the Philippines on holiday. That’s because beach holidays weren’t a thing back then.
But now, beach destinations in the Philippines like Cebu Island, Bohol and Boracay are growing in popularity. Everybody and their grandma has been to Phuket or Pulau Tioman, but these Philippine island destinations are further away, less frequently visited and thus more exotic and desirable.
Have you been to any of the above destinations? Share your experiences in the comments!