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Forested hills, romantic white-sand beaches and crystal-clear waters greet visitors to tropical Palau Langkawi, the largest of the 99 islands in Langkawi archipelago. Known mysteriously as "Legendary Island" because of myths associated with its ancient geological formations, it drifts serenely alongside Malaysia in the azure Andaman Sea. Sample local cuisine at the night markets, hike to dramatic waterfalls or dive into an underwater marine park to take a guided glimpse at life beneath the sea.
Just a speedboat ride from Singapore, Batam’s beaches and bars tempt visitors with dishes of chili crab, grilled lobster, and freshly caught fish. While travellers golf, snorkel, and spa-hop, the island’s traditional culture thrives in fishing villages built on wooden stilts.
Blossoming bougainvilleas, crumbling cathedrals on leafy boulevards and 18th-century colonial buildings colour the former French colony of Pondy, which sits on the Bay of Bengal. But it's also unmistakably Indian, with colourful festivals throughout the year, several mosques and the Sri Aurobindo Ashram. Quiet beaches stretch north and south from town, good for swimming and sunrise strolls. Pondy is a popular weekend getaway destination from Chennai and is easy to navigate on foot or by bicycle.
Bali is a living postcard, an Indonesian paradise that feels like a fantasy. Soak up the sun on a stretch of fine white sand, or commune with the tropical creatures as you dive along coral ridges or the colorful wreck of a WWII war ship. On shore, the lush jungle shelters stone temples and mischievous monkeys. The “artistic capital” of Ubud is the perfect place to see a cultural dance performance, take a batik or silver-smithing workshop, or invigorate your mind and body in a yoga class.
Want to make your co-workers insanely jealous? Just casually drop "I’m holiday making in the Maldives this year" into conversation, preferably in the dead of winter. Or better yet, go there without mentioning it to anyone—then send them a "Wish you were here!" postcard.
Where else can you find an azalea-framed volcano to climb, a sisterhood of deep-divers, and ancient stone statues on which to make wishes? Jeju Island. A favourite with newlyweds (and K-drama fans), this popular retreat is also home to miles of golden beaches, winding coastal trails, and Jeju Waterworld, the area’s largest water park. No matter what your fancy, one thing is for certain: a day of sightseeing isn’t complete without enjoying some of the isle’s delicious raw seafood and famed barbecued black pork.
The biggest island in the Philippines, Luzon is also one of the most diverse—it’s where mountain peaks and volcanoes meet miles of coastline, and indigenous culture melds with Spanish colonial history. You can relax at the beach in Pagudpud, hike with locals up the Batad Rice Terraces, ride in a horse-drawn carriage in Vigan, and snack on street food and dance the night away in Manila. You’ll need a few days and a bus pass, but you’ll be glad you stayed.
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