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Quick escapes: The best destinations three hours or less from Singapore

Our prime location in the heart of Southeast Asia opens the door to a variety of affordable, easy-to-plan vacations right at Singapore’s doorstep.

Our prime location in the heart of Southeast Asia opens the door to a variety of affordable, easy-to-plan vacations right at Singapore’s doorstep.

PHOTOS: SHUTTERSTOCK

TEXT: MORGAN AWYONG

As March heralds the arrival of school holidays and the much-anticipated Good Friday long weekend, it’s the perfect time to plan a getaway.

Nestled in the heart of Southeast Asia, Singapore is a hop, skip and a jump from its neighbours, making it easy (and relatively inexpensive) to enjoy an impromptu change of scenery. Less than a three-hour plane ride away, myriad enchanting destinations await, promising everything from blissful beaches to rich cultural experiences.

Here are some of the best nearby locales for a rejuvenating break from the urban hustle.

EAT YOUR WAY ACROSS PENANG, MALAYSIA

An hour and a half from Singapore by plane, Penang is a culinary haven awaiting exploration. Begin your journey at Kimberley Street, a foodie stretch bustling with stalls serving delectable treats from fried carrot cake to piping-hot lor mee (braised noodles in a thick, starchy gravy).

One of the must-tries when you visit Penang’s Kimberley Street is the fried carrot cake.

Don’t miss one of Penang’s best char kway teow on Carnarvon Street off Chulia Street, where a friendly uncle whips up this savoury noodle dish with flair. Nearby at Campbell Street, you’ll find an eclectic mix of traditional and contemporary eateries. Savour artisanal delights at Bagel’s Dream and ice cream parlour Hema Hema, or try Tok Tok Bamboo Noodle’s delicious shrimp roe variant for something more old-school.

From there, head to the end of the row of shophouses and turn right. You’ll see a line snaking into a lane where Line Clear Nasi Kandar – known for its comforting curries and rendang – is located. Cap off your gastronomic adventures with cakes and croissants at the new JT Patisserie, founded by an apprentice of celebrated French pastry chef Cedric Grolet.

Penang also offers enchanting possibilities for families, with attractions such as the serene Penang Hill and The Habitat, the educational Entopia by Penang Butterfly Farm, as well as the fun-filled Escape Penang waterpark, that features the world’s longest water slide tube spanning 1,111m!

The Habitat at Penang Hill is a haven for nature lovers.

Stay in the heart of Georgetown at The George Penang for an elegant colonial experience, or opt for the more budget-friendly Loop on Leith. For a taste of local heritage, consider the traditional mansions of The Edison or Cheong Fatt Sze. Beach lovers can head to Hard Rock Hotel Penang at Batu Ferringhi, which offers stunning views along with special discounts of 15% off for HomeTeamNS members (till 30 Nov 2024).

BASK IN THE RELAXING VIBES OF LOMBOK, INDONESIA

A year-round surf destination, Lombok offers a good selection of surf spots for all levels of experience.

Three hours from Singapore by plane is Lombok, a serene alternative to buzzing Bali that offers an equally stunning tropical beach experience – but with fewer crowds. At the tranquil Jeeva Beloam Beach Camp tucked away in a nature reserve, A-shaped villas offer an elevated rustic getaway, with breathtaking views of the ocean and cliffs.

For modern luxury, Innit and Somewhere cater to different tastes: The former sits on the private island of Ekas Bay, and boasts sleek and understated interiors, while the latter is popular with surfers thanks to its proximity to beaches with world-class waves. Both offer private pools and local experiences, such as farm-to-table dining and a showcase of local crafts.

Families will find a perfect match in Novotel Lombok, with its slew of kid-friendly amenities, including play areas and menus – plus an outdoor pool and spa for the adults to unwind. A bonus: Stays are free for two children under the age of 16.

Beyond resort life, adventure seekers can explore the wonders of Mount Rinjani, snorkel in the crystal-clear waters of the Gili Islands, or learn to surf at one of the three schools at Selong Belanak Beach.

The beautifully clear waters and rich marine life of the Gili Islands make it one of the most rewarding snorkelling experiences.

DIVE INTO THE CULTURAL CHARMS OF HOI AN, VIETNAM

A short drive from the coastal city of Danang is Hoi An, a charming township brimming with colour and culture. This quaint destination offers a seamless blend of ancient and modern architecture within its old quarter, creating an Insta-worthy setting for visitors.

A highlight of Hoi An is the wooden boat rides along the river at sunset. For around $5, you can drift down the river and admire the vibrant lanterns floating on the water. Add to the magic by releasing your own lantern – symbolising wishes for health and luck – for an additional $1. Prices vary among the boat vendors for a 30-minute ride, so ask around before taking your pick.

Immerse yourself in the vibrant atmosphere of Hoi An’s Ancient Town surrounded by shimmering lantern lights.

Hoi An’s UNESCO World Heritage-listed Ancient Town showcases a diverse array of architecture – from Chinese shophouses and French colonial buildings, to narrow Vietnamese tube houses and a Japanese bridge. As you explore the area, sample local delights like mot, a refreshing herbal drink, and cao lau, a native noodle dish made from local well waters.

If you need a break from pavement-pounding, visit Reaching Out Teahouse and support a good cause at the same time. This quiet haven is a social enterprise that hires individuals with hearing or speech disabilities. Choose from a selection of handmade snacks and teas, and use the signs on the table to communicate with the staff. Another must-try local experience is the traditional basket boat rides through the river coconut forest. Hop into the bowl-shaped craft and hang on for that thrilling “spinning cup” moment.

A local boatman giving a lively demonstration of spinning in his round basket boat.

Stay at Laluna Hoi An Riverside Hotel or Anantara Hoi An Resort for easy access to nearby attractions, or choose Zest Villas & Spa Hoi An for a novelty stay in a floating boat room.

GET SOME VITAMIN SEA AT PHUKET, THAILAND

Phuket continues to captivate travellers with its stunning coastline. From the lively Patong beach to the serene Kata and Karon beaches as well as hidden gems at Freedom, Nai Harn and Mai Khao, there’s a perfect spot for every kind of seaside sojourn.

The picturesque Phuket Old Town is both a night market and a cultural attraction for visitors.

Venture beyond the sands to Old Phuket Town, a culinary hotspot with several Michelin-recognised eateries in the area. While there, explore the expanded weekend night market – Phangnga Road was added in November last year – that boasts a rich assortment of local crafts, art and delicious bites.

Accommodation-wise, Phuket has a great range of hotels to suit every preference. Club Med has an all-inclusive package for those who want a hassle-free holiday, while Ozo Phuket (just 150m from Kata Beach) is ideal for families with its variety of rooms and play pools. For a luxurious couple’s retreat, you won’t go wrong with The Slate, a sprawling resort with Naiyang Beach at its doorstep. Located on the quiet end of Patong, Andaman Beach Hotel Phuket lets you stay close to the action without compromising on peace and tranquillity.

Kata Beach is a popular and quieter alternative to Patong Beach.

HomeTeamNS members can enjoy special deals at M Social Phuket in the heart of Patong, with room rates at THB 3,500 nett per night (book before 14 Mar 2024). Over at Kata Beach, The Boathouse Phuket is offering 10% off its Best Flexible Rate, including daily breakfast (till 20 Dec 2024).

MAXIMISE YOUR TRAVELS WITH HOMETEAMNS

HomeTeamNS members can travel smarter with perks such as a free one-year Singlife travel insurance, ideal for any trip length – with the option to upgrade their coverage later.

Take advantage of exclusive deals with partner hotels at other popular Southeast Asian destinations. Current offerings include 15% off room rates at The Residence Bintan (till 30 Apr 2024), as well as 25% off Best Flexible Rate at Hard Rock Hotel Pattaya with a minimum two-night stay (till 31 Dec 2024). Glamping enthusiasts will enjoy Anmon Resort Bintan, with its 15% discount on room rates (till 31 Sep 2024).

Members can also get up to 50% off Best Available Room Rates at Montigo Resorts, which is part of the exclusive perks in commemoration of Home Team Day.

Like our stories? Subscribe to our Frontline Digital newsletters now! Simply download the HomeTeamNS Mobile App and update your communication preference to ‘Receive Digital Frontline Magazine’, through the App Settings.

Upcoming Events & Promotions

Check out the exclusive perks and benefits we have for our HomeTeamNS members in celebration of the inaugural Home Team Day 2024! Find out more here: https://www.hometeamns.sg/htd2024/
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15th March 2024
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