Well, you could technically ask ChatGPT to pick your next holiday destination and plan out your itinerary. But between an AI and a bunch of humans who love travelling, we’d rather hit up the latter for some good ol’ holiday recommendations.
As we map out our vacation plans for the year, we asked some avid globetrotters at MoneySmart for their top travel destinations and favourite activities to do there. From these seasoned travellers, don’t expect anything basic. No shopping at Pratunam Market, no photoshoot at Gyeongbokgung Palace.
Instead, read about a full onsen town experience on the outskirts of Tokyo and quaint traditional villages in Thailand and Korea, just to name a few. Drumroll please, here’s the MoneySmart list of tried, tested, and well-loved places to go.
See the Southern Lights in Tasmania, Australia
So many people dream of seeing the Northern Lights, but so few know there are Southern Lights too! Tasmania is one spot where you can photograph them. It’s that little island below the Australia mainland, and is full of rugged coastlines, beautiful bays, and gorgeous mountain views. You simply can’t take a bad picture in Tassie!
The best way to see Tasmania is to rent a car and go on a road trip around the island. From Hobart (Tasmania’s biggest city, where your plane will land), you can start by going down to Port Arthur. It’s a town with historic value as a former convict settlement. If you’re more into scenery than history (like me!), visit Remarkable Cave and Maingon Bay while you’re there. My favourite thing to do is visit Maingon Bay at night—with a million stars above you and the vast Tasman sea before you, it’s a magical experience.
Going up the coast, the Bay of Fires is a popular spot to visit for its clear blue waters and fiery orange-red rocks. It may get crowded in the summer though, so a great alternative is Sleepy Bay located in Freycinet National Park. While you’re there, don’t miss the crescent-shaped, turquoise-rimmed Wineglass Bay—one of Tassie’s most beautiful beaches. It’ll take you 1 to 1.5 hours to reach the lookout point, and it’s definitely worth the view!
— Vanessa Nah, Content Writer, MoneySmart
Get swept away by twin waterfalls in Bali, Indonesia
Bali is all about beaches and relaxation. One of my favourite beaches is Kuta Beach. It’s clean, pretty easy to get to, and great for anything from surfing to sunbathing. The best part is that this beach is also perfect for beginner surfers like me to try riding the waves.
Further inland, there’s the Banyumala Twin Waterfalls. I rode over by scooter and found it to be absolutely beautiful. They may be called twin waterfalls, but they look more like a cascade of three or more waterfalls plunging into the pool below. On top of that, this waterfall wasn’t very crowded, so I really got to soak in the scenic sights and sounds of the rushing water.
A great idea if you’re visiting Bali is to take a ferry to Penida Island. My favourite spot there was Kelingking Beach, which you’ve got to climb down quite a bit to get to. It’s a gorgeous view from above too, but I would highly recommend making the descent.
— Daniil Tkach, Senior Software Engineer, Bubblegum
Let all your worries melt away at Kusatsu Onsen, Japan
One of my go-to travel destinations in Japan is Kusatsu Onsen. It’s a hot springs resort about 2.5 hours from Tokyo, so it’s a perfect day trip. Or, stay the night for the full onsen town experience.
Kusatsu’s got several options for private or public hot springs. Public ones are free, but tend to be pretty small. Also, they don’t filter the water, so water temperatures tend to be hotter.
For the most scenic onsen experience, I’d recommend Sainokawara Rotenburo, or Sainokawara Open-Air Bath. It’s this really big open air hot spring that’s encircled by views of the surrounding forest and mountains.
You’ll get a different view each season, but my favourite time to go is winter. During the colder months, the cold weather perfectly cancels out the heat of the onsen—perfect equilibrium.
Oh, and don’t forget to try their yoghurt drink after your onsen experience!
— Raymond Sutisna, Design Manager, MoneySmart
Walk on walls and eat your way through Penang, Malaysia
I know most Singaporeans visit Malaysia for three things: food, massage, and haircuts. But there’s actually a ton of fun activities to do and cultural places to visit in Penang.
For starters, visit the Clan Jetties in Georgetown. These jetties are part of a floating village built on stilts above the sea, and make charming photo spots by the beach.
Georgetown is also home to a glass bridge called the Rainbow Skywalk. It’s almost 70 storeys up and gives you a bird’s eye view of the city literally beneath your feet.
For some fun, there’s the whimsical Upside Down Museum where you can go through various rooms that are all turned upside down. The best part is taking photos inside. You’re definitely going to laugh when the photos come out and you look like you’re standing on the ceiling!
Oh and finally, I can’t talk about anywhere in Malaysia without talking about food. It’s so hard to name just a few, but my top three are Penang char kway teow with the perfect wok hei, tangy and flavourful Penang assam laksa, and rich and creamy Penang curry chicken.
— Apoorv, DevOps Team Lead, MoneySmart
Go bamboo rafting and ride ATVs in Chiang Mai, Thailand
You can take a 2-3 hour ride from Chiang Mai to get to Lahu Village, a rustic village peppered with wooden houses built on stilts. This village is home to an ethnic group that’s admirably self-sustainable. They farm and hunt for food and also do crafts like weaving for items like clothes and bamboo baskets that they need in their daily life.
We visited Lahu with a tour guide, and found it perfect for a one-day itinerary. We left for Lahu in the morning, then went on a village trek that lasted 2-3h where we got a glimpse of their daily life in the village. It’s amazing how they can sustain themselves on their limited resources. In the afternoon we went bamboo rafting on rafts they made themselves, before making the 2 hour trip back to Chiang Mai.
Another activity I highly recommended you do in Chiang Mai is an off-road tour on an all-terrain vehicle (ATV) in Ban Pong, Hang Dong. It’s equal parts adrenaline pumping, adventure seeking, and sightseeing. A good idea is to leave in the afternoon. Since the ride up the hill will take you about 3 hours, you’ll reach the summit just in time to watch the sunset.
— Felicia Lim, SEO Specialist, MoneySmart
Wander into the past in Yongin Korean Folk Village, Korea
There’s a place called Yongin Korean Folk Village a ways off from the city. I really loved it for how culturally immersive it was. Unlike the more touristy Bukchon Hanok Village, Yongin Korean Folk Village is an attraction for the locals. There wasn’t a single foreigner there, so 10 out of 10 for immersion!
The whole idea of this place is to bring people back into the past. Through exhibitions and performances, you get to see what their history looked like back in the village days. You can even dress up in their traditional attire, the hanbok, suitable for both males and females.
It’s also best if you know a bit of Korean, so you can navigate and understand what they’re looking at. While Bukchon Hanok Village is the gram-worthy, time-starved, foreigner-friendly version, it’s really only a snapshot in time, Yongin is like walking through a motion picture. They even have actors playing different roles who’ll interact with you as you walk through the village.
— Dwayne Tan, Product Marketing Manager, Bubblegum
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Original article: Best Travel Destinations and What To Do There, According to MoneySmart Staff.
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