Unique Asian Destinations For December Getaways

By Douglas Yong, 12 November 2018 7051

Gosh, we are approaching year end already! Have you started planning for that year-end holiday trip yet? Well, it’s never too late to begin. Holiday advertisements have been popping up across channels, featuring run-of-the-mill destinations that you have already been to, or perhaps you are just not inspired by these conventional places at all.


Fret not, because whether you prefer a warm Christmas or chilly winter, we have four distinctive Asian destinations lined up that will sure spark your travelling desires. Fellow foodies, shoppers, history buffs and nature-lovers, it’s time to buckle up!


Piping Hot Dim Sum in Frosty Guangzhou


Freshly steamed Dim Sum at 8am
Photo by: Douglas Yong


Did you know that the unique culinary art of Dim Sum originated in Guangzhou? These delicious bite-sized dishes are served in bamboo steamers, which are meant to be eaten communally while sipping tea in teahouses. This is also culturally known as Yum Cha – which means ‘drink tea’ in Cantonese – a brunch tradition where families and friends meet for a late morning hearty meal. Sipping warm, fragrant tea while enjoying steaming hot Dim Sum is especially satisfying in the frosty winter!


In Guangzhou, these teahouses are in abundance but perhaps the most established brand is known as Dian Dou De, a popular restaurant that specialises in all-day Dim Sum, with 13 branches in the city. The most convenient branch sits at No. 470 Huifu East Lu, which is only within minutes of walking from the famous shopping district Beijing Lu Pedestrian Street.


Entrance of Beijing Lu Pedestrian Street
Photo by: Douglas Yong


The district is a lively mix of modern departmental stores, restaurants, hawkers and rows of little individual shops that are constantly blasting sale announcements. You can easily spend half a day here admiring at the plethora of goods available for sale – clothing, accessories, bags, shoes, books, and even all sorts of knick-knacks. This is Taobao in its physical form!


Aside from its eating and shopping options, Guangzhou is also known for its beautiful historical monuments such as the Sun Yat-sen Memorial Hall which was preserved to commemorate Dr. Sun Yat-sen, the founding father of the Republic of China.


Sun Yat-sen Memorial Hall nestled within the city
Photo by: Douglas Yong


Directly accessible by the local metro from Sun Yat-sen Memorial Hall station, the almost 90-year-old compound also offers a short history lesson of the Chinese revolution with a mini museum situated inside the memorial hall.


19th Century Europe in Wintry Tianjin


China Banking Regulatory Commission building
Photo by: Douglas Yong


When it comes to architectures of the past centuries, Tianjin is also no stranger to these magnificent structures. Due to the concession of territories to European countries by the Qing Dynasty, many districts in Tianjin look like they are straight out of a 19th century European city.


Kegs of imported European beer in Italian Style Street
Photo by: Douglas Yong


One of the more popular areas is known as Italian Style Street, where a small town of Italian aroma has been preserved since 1902 and developed throughout the century. As the former Italian Concession in Tianjin, it has now become a distinctive tourist attraction with Italian restaurants and bars, alongside many other European fares. On top of authentic pizzas, pastas and beers, you can also find museums, cinemas, clothes and handicrafts, accompanied by Italian performances that run into the night.


Ancient Culture Street on a weekend
Photo by: Douglas Yong


Apart from its colonial architectures, Tianjin also has its fair share of traditional places such as the Guwenhua Jie, also known as Ancient Culture Street. Here you can enjoy local street food while admiring ancient buildings that even date back to 1326! There are also plenty of souvenirs such as traditional toys and ornaments that you can bargain for and bring a piece of ancient history back home.


Tiananmen Square: Entry to the Forbidden City
Photo by: Douglas Yong


When you’re in Tianjin, consider allocating extra days for this trip because Beijing, the capital city of China, is only a 1.5-hour train ride away! The high-speed rail is a comfortable and quiet ride, where multiple departures are available throughout the day. The breathtaking Great Wall of China, Forbidden City and Temple of Heaven are absolute sights to behold and should not be missed.


Temple of Heaven in the Forbidden City
Photo by: Douglas Yong


Cooling Exploration in Ho Chi Minh City


On the streets of Ho Chi Minh City at dusk
Photo by: Douglas Yong


If you’re not a fan of the cold winter, head over to the vibrant Ho Chi Minh City (HCMC) where temperatures go as low as 22℃ in December. The cooling weather allows you to explore the dynamic city comfortably without having to worry about freezing temperatures.


Saigon Post Office, built in 1891 with Gothic, Renaissance and French influences
Photo by: Douglas Yong


This former French colony packs an exhilarating experience for first-time travellers as you get to soak up a complex history that has a contrasting mix of old and new. Former colonial buildings, with their exquisite architectural styles and brightly-coloured exteriors, are easily spotted within the city and has since become major tourist attractions.


The interior of Saigon Post Office with a portrait of Ho Chi Minh, the Vietnamese Communist revolutionary leader
Photo by: Douglas Yong


The Saigon Central Post Office, constructed as part of the French Indochina in the late 19th century, is one of the most popular tourist sites in HCMC and is still very much a working post office! Apart from sending postcards and letters, you can also shop for a variety of souvenirs such as stamps, books, accessories and ornaments.


Saigon Notre-Dame Basilica built in 1880 with imported materials from France
Photo by: Douglas Yong


Right across the street lies the famous Saigon Notre-Dame Basilica, also a late 19th century building constructed during the colonial era. The red brick exterior and delicate Romanesque interior attracts millions of visitors annually, including locals and foreigners who flock here for wedding photos, as well as the minority Catholics who attend the Sunday mass.


Independence Palace, the symbol of Communist victory
Photo by: Douglas Yong


Amongst the colonial era buildings, monuments of war also serve as a reminder of hardship the Vietnamese people have endured during decades of conflict. The Reunification Palace, or Independence Palace, is a cultural relic that symbolises the Communist North’s victory over the US-backed South.


One of the many conference rooms in the Independence Palace
Photo by: Douglas Yong


In this former presidential palace, you will find a unique blend of Indochinese designs and Communist symbols amidst the Western modernist style architecture.


Traditional Vietnamese cuisine
Photo by: Douglas Yong


Beyond its colonial past and recent war history, HCMC is also famed for its local cuisine. These authentic fares can easily be found at every corner of the sprightly city, whether you’re rested in a quaint restaurant cushion seat or an inexpensive roadside plastic stool.


Bun Rieu by the roadside
Photo by: Douglas Yong


Aside from pho, Bun Rieu (crab noodle soup) is another local favourite for a hearty bowl of noodles. These nutritious bowls of rice noodles usually come with crab meat, prawns, sliced pork, pig’s blood, and a variety of vegetables – which are all interchangeable depending on the stalls’ specialty. The standard tomato-based soup is always tangy with just enough heat that will have you ordering extra bowls.


Breezy Island Life in Phuket


Patong beach resort town in the west coast of Phuket
Photo by: Douglas Yong


Another quick getaway lies in the mountainous island of Phuket, where sandy beaches are just a start to this alluring destination. Touted as one of the top beach destinations, there are more than 30 beaches for you to explore and each is just as spectacular as the next.


Coastal cliffs near Promthep Cape
Photo by: Douglas Yong


However, there is more to sandy coastlines in this island. Its lush rainforest and mountainous terrain make it one of the best flourishing forests in the region – and you can admire these natural scenes throughout the whole island.


Promthep Cape at the southern tip of Phuket
Photo by: Douglas Yong


One of the most well-known viewpoints is none other than Promthep Cape, a gorgeous cape that overlooks the jewel-blue sea and lapping waves. Here you can sit and relax, as you enjoy the captivating sunset with friends, family or even a romantic partner. If you’re feeling extra adventurous, you can even trek all the way down to the end of the cape with caution. Be sure to come early though, because many buses of tourist will arrive just in time to catch the sunset and you would not want to miss out on a good spot.


Karon View Point, one of the best views in Phuket
Photo by: Douglas Yong


Another popular attraction is Karon View Point, where you can get a spectacular view of Phuket. Sparkling blue sea, chalky beaches, and lush greens – nature doesn’t get any more picturesque than this. On a good day, you can even capture a view of three bays in one shot! And as usual, bus loads of tourists visit this view point daily, especially during the sunset hour, so be sure to time your trip fittingly.


These attractions are inaccessible by foot, so you should hire a driver for a day or two for your scenic hops on the island. These seasoned drivers have the perfect itineraries, so even if you have not planned one, just hop on and go! You can also consider asking your driver to also bring you away from the beaches and forests, and head right into Old Phuket Town – the provincial capital of Phuket. Unlike other Thai provincial capitals, Old Phuket Town is historically rich in its personality. Many of the elaborate Sino-Portuguese buildings have been preserved into commercial entities such as museums, restaurants, cafes, hotels and shops – where a day stroll through the streets is nothing less than perfect.


A scrumptious spread of local Thai food
Photo by: Douglas Yong


Whether you’re enjoying the coastal breeze or admiring the ornate structures, inexpensive Thai food can always be found near you. Unlike the bustling city of Bangkok, you don’t have to deal with massive crowds during lunch or dinner time. Just sit back, relax, and enjoy the authentic Thai fare served within minutes.


Inspired by these destinations yet? Whether you’re a foodie, nature-lover, history buff or an avid shopper, there is a place in Asia for you.


Before jetting off for our year-end holiday, we should protect ourselves with a comprehensive Travel Insurance that provides coverage against unforeseen circumstances. Nothing beats travelling with a peace of mind!


Whether you are met with unexpected delays, runny tummies, or even loss of personal items, an extensive coverage will ensure that you’re adequately protected, so that you can continue to have all the fun you’ve planned for. So what are you waiting for? Let’s get flying!