Dare to do something different this holiday season – how about Christmas in a cooler climate, without spending a fortune on flights? It may not be the traditional and oft-sung-about “white” Christmas, but it’s close. And it might even prove to be better than what you are expecting. The best part is that it’s all in your own backyard – our dear Southeast Asia, known for its tropical climate and super sunny weather, also has some “cool” secrets up its sleeve. You’ll be surprised!
Take a break from tradition and tuck some adventures under your belt this Christmas. You don’t need to escape to far-flung places for some long-sought-after cooler climes – we’ve put together a nifty little list of five Southeast Asian destinations where you can whip out a scarf, a coat or a jacket and explore this mystical region.
1. Chiang Mai, Thailand
The mountainous city of Chiang Mai, with its gorgeous cultural monuments and elaborate Buddhist temples, sits up high in northern Thailand. Between November and February, Chiang Mai comes alive in its “winter” season, where temperatures in the mountain region drop to as low as 10 degrees Celsius.
Get cozy in a coat and wrap a scarf around your throat while you gaze at scores of beautiful cherry blossom trees, which come to full bloom in early January, in the Doi Inthanon National Park. There’s no need to fly to Japan for this pink-tinted visual treat – Southeast Asian neighbour Thailand is much closer.
If you want even colder weather than that, put on your hiking shoes and scale to the peak of Doi Inthanon Mountain, where temperatures occasionally dip below 0 degrees Celsius.
Flights from Singapore to Chiang Mai and back start from SGD 493.
2. Sagada, Phillipines
When you think of the Philippines, islands of white sand beaches and bright blue waters might usually come to mind. But this tropical paradise of a country has another, less-frequented side to it – the mountainous regions of the north of Luzon.
Situated in the Cordillera mountains in the Mountain Province of the Philippines, Sagada is a cool town surrounded by lush green forests, mountains, valleys, caves, waterfalls and rugged rock formations. Sagada’s temperatures range from 13-24 degrees Celsius year-round, but the best (and coolest!) times to come visit are from December to February, when the fog creeps in over the mountains.
Go hiking to see the hanging coffins, a tradition observed by the tribespeople of the region, and go rock climbing along natural rock faces in Echo Valley. Check out the inimitable sea of clouds over Kiltepan Peak at sunrise and check out the majestic Bomod-Ok Falls.
Flights from Singapore to Manila and back start from SGD 493.
The Cameron Highlands in Pahang, Malaysiam, which is famous for its lush greenery and perfect tea-growing conditions, stays pretty cool all year, ranging from the low teens to early twenties and rarely rising above 25 degrees Celsius.
Go trekking in and around the tea plantations, which stretch out as far as the eye can see. When it gets too chilly for you, stop and let some of the world-famous tea take the chill away. Snack on a myriad of strawberry-flavoured delicacies like smoothies and cakes – the climate in the Cameron Highlands is also ideal for growing strawberries.
After trekking and hiking, check out the food markets in towns like Tanah Rata and sample some fresh and spicy local cuisine. Warming up over a steaming bowl of rich curry is just the thing you need after your chilly adventures.
4. Bukittinggi, Indonesia
When Indonesia is mentioned, more often than not, the mind drifts over to Bali, famous for its beaches, diving and surfing. Stay away from the usual and check out something a little different and rather quirky – the charming city of Bukittinggi.
Located 930 metres above sea level in Western Sumatra, Bukittingi, which means “high hill”, boasts of a comfortably cool climate that ranges between 16-24 degrees Celsius. And there is a range of outdoor activities for everyone to enjoy at Sianok Canyon, from trekking through rivers, forests, rice paddies and canyons.
While you’re there, take the time to visit and walk along the Great Wall of Koto Gadang, which is like the Great Wall of China in miniature. Bukittinggi’s Great Wall, which connects Taman Panorama to Koto Gadang village, is a magnificent sight to behold and is the perfect place to steal a few moments of peace.
Flights from Singapore to Padang and back start from SGD 236.
Another mountainous region on our list is Sapa, Vietnam. Rice terraces, mountains, rolling hills and cold mists are what await you in this foggy mountain town, where temperatures average 16 degrees Celsius all year.
If you want really chilly weather, visit Sapa in January when temperatures drop down to 10 degrees Celsius. To keep you warm, check out the gorgeous woven blankets handmade by the Hmong tribe that lives in the hills of Sapa.
Sapa’s beauty is spectacular, and the trekking is amazing, often culminating in stunning nature features like lush valleys or cascading waterfalls.
There you have it. Five cities in Southeast Asia to escape to when the heat is on. So, wipe the sweat off your brow and start planning a cool Christmas getaway. It might just be the escape you need.