The past year, I’ve been traveling around South-East Asia with my husband. Before we began, we’d never been to any of Asia, and our travels have provided nothing short of a major culture shock. We’ve actively sought discomfort, trying to experience as much as possible in our time here. And so, we’ve had to put up with some less-than-ideal accommodation and weather conditions.
However, we have given ourselves our fair share of comfort and luxury in between, often with villas we found on Luxury Retreats. South-East Asia does luxury holidays better than anyone, with the many thousands of islands providing ample opportunity for relaxation on a higher level.
What’s great is that holidays in the region are cheaper than almost anywhere else. You can live in more luxury on an island holiday than you could ever manage in your life at home.
If you want to experience different cultures, foods, and places, while still having an incredibly relaxing holiday, the following islands are perfect.
Bali is a popular tourist destination, and that may keep those of you who want to visit “undiscovered” spots away. However, it is popular for good reason. There is incredible beauty in addition to the culture found down every narrow street. You can get an amazing villa at the price of a cheap hotel room, and if you’re able to put in a bit more money, you will get true luxury.
While tourists have ruined some of Bali’s beaches, there are many exclusive spots where parting with an entry fee will get you more than you bargained for. Sundays Beach Club, for example, is the perfect place to spend the day. You can lie by the beach on an ample selection of daybeds, waited on by attentive staff with cocktails and delicious food. At any point, you can get a 90 minute massage or reflexology for about €20.
During low tide, water sports equipment such as surfboards, standing canoes, and the like, are also made available for use with no strings attached.
Colombo, Sri Lanka
It still sometimes amazes me how many people have no idea where Sri Lanka is. But if I’m honest, before I started touring this region, I wasn’t sure myself. I definitely did not know how great Colombo, the capital was for a relaxing yet interesting holiday. There is just so much to do in Colombo, with everything from magnificent beaches to classy nightclubs.
One attraction of Colombo is that it does not work like an island city. Island cities tend to have a laid back, somewhat slow lifestyle, that is great in small doses, but can get frustrating. Colombo is different. Everything works efficiently and being there is on par with being in any European economic hub.
Phang Nga, Thailand
Thailand is another one of those island countries to which tourists flock. Again, this is for good reason, as it is not only highly affordable, but it has some of the greatest natural beauty I’ve come across. However, tourism has shaped certain areas to the extent that you feel like you’re living in a strange fantasy of an Australian nineteen-year-old.
Phang Nga fortunately escapes much of this influence. It is on Phuket, but is far removed from the inexplicable excesses of Bangla Road. You can get luxury accommodation there and spend your time relaxing without the crush of the crowds of tourists. You won’t be hectored to see live sex shows and can instead spend days and nights living it up on the beach.
Koh Samui, Thailand
Koh Samui is Thailand’s second largest island. And it therefore gets a lot of tourists. But if you go for the luxury retreat spots, you will find you’re able to get the best of the island while avoiding the worst of it. The great thing about a spot like Koh Samui is that you can get a bit of both worlds. You can spend your entire time relaxing in relative isolation. Or you can get lost in crowded markets, nightclubs, and bars.
Wherever you are in Thailand, there are some basic mistakes to avoid. Firstly, stay away from the attractions where animals are badly treated. An elephant ride might seem like a fun idea, but when you see the conditions these animals are kept in you’ll leave angry and sad, and you’ll feel guilty for having given any money at all to the owners.
Secondly, don’t let anyone hassle you into doing something you don’t really want to do. Once you agree to it, it will always turn out that there’s a charge they didn’t tell you about, and they’ll demand exorbitant amounts of cash with such aggression that you’ll give it to them to avoid trouble.
El Nido, The Philippines
El Nido is one of those destinations that is about to blow up. More and more tourists are discovering it, and realising it’s worth the multiple flights to get to. El Nido is honestly the most gorgeous town I have ever been to. The natural beauty is truly wondrous, and the town itself is endearing. Walking down the streets, stopping for a falafel and ice cream, buying cheap summer clothes, wandering into an Instagram-worthy restaurant, you’ll fall in love.
Most of the accommodation in El Nido is far from luxurious. But hotels and villas just down the road from the town itself will give you the comfort you desire when taking this sort of holiday. El Nido has not yet been “overrun,” so I advise you get there soon to enjoy it at its peak!
By: Claire Nash
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