As the most patriotic time of the year draws closer, we feel that old familiar feeling coming over us, a kind of restlessness stirring in our bones. It’s the brisk chill in the air heralding the arrival of fall, the beat of the city on a drowsy summer’s day—it’s the feel of a long weekend beckoning to us. If you’re craving someplace quiet to escape the hustle and bustle amidst the upcoming Singapore National Day festivities, here are six places to unplug and make the most of your long weekend.
Train it to Sentosa
If all you’re looking for is to escape the flurry of city life, Sentosa Island is the perfect place for rejuvenation. Apart from offering the perfect sun-soaked spot at Tanjong Beach for having pina coladas without getting caught in the rain, Sentosa’s Mega Adventure Park offers you the opportunity to zipline through nearly 500 metres of forest overhead. If heights are not your thing and you like your feet (somewhat) planted on the ground, make like our Grand Budapest Hotel heroes Monsieur Gustave and Zero and zip down two winding trails on a luge cart at Skyline Luge Sentosa.
Some of Sentosa’s lesser-known hideaways also include Tanjong Rimau beach, a serene stretch of sand known only to a few—and the coral, starfish and crabs that live on its coastline. Perfect for reading that impulse-bought novel you swore that you would read some time but just didn’t have the time to.
Travel time: 20 minutes by train from the heart of the city.
Make a splash at Kota Tinggi Waterfalls
No matter what TLC told you, you chase those waterfalls if you want to. If a day trip away from Singapore is what you’re looking for, Kota Tinggi is an unconventional little slice of paradise that offers some respite from everyday life, whether you’re looking to camp, hike or picnic. While signs point to the main waterfall, Air Terjun, the other two, Pelepah and Tengkil, are located slightly off the beaten track. If you’re feeling a little more adventurous, the latter is perfect for those wishing to do a spot of hiking and do not mind doing a bit of stream-crossing to get to their cascading waters.
Wrap up with the perfect ending to a day out by hopping onto the 30-minute boat ride at Firefly Valley Leisure Park and sit back in quiet awe as the fireflies come out to bid you farewell.
Travel time: Just slightly over an hour and a half’s drive from Singapore.
Bin(tan) there, done that?
A mere hour-long ferry ride away from Singapore, Bintan is Singapore’s closest island neighbour. This stunningly diverse island offers a whole host of activities. From exploring the arresting sand dunes of Gurun Pasir Busung and kayaking in the calm waters of Treasure Bay’s Crystal Lagoon, to a session of archery at Bintan Lagoon Resort—at a ridiculously more-than-reasonable SGD5 per archery session—Bintan Island has a diverse range of outdoor activities to satisfy your inner Bear Grylls. We suggest going about it in that order, as you won’t be able to use your left arm the next day. Totally worth it, though.
Travel time: 1 hour by ferry from Singapore to Bintan.
Gaze upon the horizon from Mount Kelimutu
Nestled deep in the summit of Indonesia's Mount Kelimutu’s craters, a hauntingly beautiful view of the volcanic lake and its hypnotizing aquamarine waters lie in wait after a challenging 1690 metres trek uphill.
I think I’ll let the breathtaking view speak for itself on this one.
Travel time: 5 hours 40 minutes by plane from Singapore to Bali, and connecting flights from Bali to Ende.
Visit the Jewel of Kedah, Malaysia’s Langkawi Island
Also called the Jewel of Kedah, Langkawi is an archipelago of 99 islands sitting on Malaysia’s west coast, surrounded by turquoise waters. One of Malaysia’s best-known tourist attractions, this tropical gem offers a myriad of outdoor activities from jet skiing and paragliding to snorkelling. If you should spot a lone gray fin travelling through the waters *da dum, da dum* don’t panic (like I did)—it’s pretty common for curious (and might I add, completely harmless) baby sharks to swim right up to the shoreline to greet tourists enjoying a dip in the water. Now you know and can save yourselves and the other beachgoers some secondhand embarrassment. You’re welcome.
Travel time: One and a half hours by plane from Singapore to Langkawi.
Explore Philippines’ Vigan City
For those wishing to get a little taste of Europe, Vigan City offers exactly that. Established as a bustling coastal trading port even before the Spanish arrived in the 16th century, this quaint UNESCO World Heritage Site has retained much of its Spanish colonial character across its architectural townscape today, particularly evident with the cobbled stones on its main street, Calle Crisologo. Travel through history by going on the heritage river cruise on Mestizo River, troop up the historic Bantay Bell Tower in Ilocos Sur—long-standing witness to various massacres of World War II—and do not leave without trying the city’s famous Vigan longganisa, an aromatic, deliciously garlicky Filipino version of chorizo sausage.
Travel time: 3 hrs 45 minutes by plane from Singapore to Vigan City.