Ho Chi Minh, Vietnam
Ho Chi Minh is a relatively off-beat destination from India and travellers can soak up a lot of history here. It’s a city which has grown from the shadow of the Vietnam War into one of the most vibrant and dynamic cities in Southeast Asia. Travelers can explore the famous Cu Chi Tunnels which were used during the war, as well as the War Remnants Museum and Independence Palace which tells the story of an era gone by. In the heart of the city there are the beautiful Notre Dame Cathedral and the equally diverse Jade Emperor Pagoda. From bustling alley ways which have a large variety of food stalls and coffee shops, visitors can also visit the popular Ben Thanh market to shop for souvenirs. Ho Chi Minh also has a variety of affordable guesthouses and budget hotels, making the stay in this bustling city comfortable for travelers. For coffee lovers, Vietnam’s drip coffee is one of the finest coffees in the world.
Indian travellers will find Hanoi interesting with its colonial buildings and pagodas. Traditionally known for pho, a type of local rice noodle soup, Hanoi has become a popular destination to explore in Southeast Asia due to its affordability, variety of attractions, street food and architecture. From visiting the Temple of Literature, to sitting under the tree where Buddha received enlightenment, Hanoi gives travellers an insight into its historical past. You can take the Hanoi Free Walking Tour to explore the some of the best sites across the city and visit famous places like Dong Xuan Market and Tran Quoc Pagoda. If you want to get away from the chaos of the always-buzzing city life, take short drive away to its tranquil countryside which is surrounded by lush parks, mountains and traditional villages.
Krabi, known for pristine beaches, is one of the most laid-back cities in Thailand. Visitors can spend a lazy day on the picturesque Railay Beach,enjoying food and drinks from the local bars along the beachside. Travellers can stay in a variety of beach front resorts and villas which are affordable and easy on the pocket. Those up for some adventure can get a boat and explore the islands off the Krabi coastline. Another must-visit is the Thung Teao Forest Natural Park, home to several varieties of plants and wildlife. At the park, visitors can take a refreshing dip in the Emerald Pool and admire the waterfall from close quarters. Taking a dip in one of the several hot springs is rejuvenating. A unique Krabi feature, the Tiger Cave Temple, is not for the faint-hearted –1,237 steps need to be climbed to reach the top where one is treated to one of the best views in the city. Krabi, with its interesting local attractions and breezy way of life is the perfect choice for a quick trip to Thailand.
Indonesia’s capital, Jakarta, is a perfect blend of old alleys and modern skyscrapers. It is a bustling city with a teeming nightlife. Since street food is popular with the locals, the city is lined with a variety of vendors offering unlimited breakfast, lunch and dinner options to tickle the taste buds of the thriftiest foodie. There is a myriad of experiences in this city to choose from that will not break the bank. Shop at the famous Menteng Antique and Flea Market or ring in the old-world charm at Kota Tua, an old Dutch settlement which is now a space for performances, museums and art galleries. Families can indulge in affordable fun-filled activities, making their trip worthwhile to Jakarta, including making a stop at Ancol Beach City or to frolic in the water at Atlantis Water Adventure or Sea World.
Surrounded by turquoise waters, Langkawi is a mixture of scenic paddy fields, expansive parks and jungle-clad hills. It is known for its unexplored beaches such as Datai Bay, Pantai Cenang and Tanjung Rhu. Travellers can also enjoy cable car rides in Patai Kok or the Underwater World in Langkawi. Adrenaline junkies can also get their fix by heading for a dive at the Pulau Payar Marine Park. Travellers can also visit the impressive Art in Paradise 3D Museum, featuring more than 200 artworks that appear almost life-like when photographed. Perhaps lesser-known is that Langkawi is one of the three duty-free islands in Malaysia, which translates into guilt-free retail therapy for shopaholics.
One of the most popular travel destinations in Asia offering stunning skylines and rich cosmopolitan culture, Hong Kong is considered an expensive city. But smart planning can give a traveller a great experience, albeit on a budget. From hiking up to Victoria Park for a view of the magnificent city skyline, to catching the beautiful sunset on the wallet-friendly Star Ferry Ride, Hong Kong offers breathtaking experiences. The ferry ride can be followed by dinner at an affordable Michelin star or Michelin recommended restaurant.Don’t missthe delicious street food and shopping markets such as Temple Street Night market, Stanley Market and Jade Street. A trip to Hong Kong is incomplete without visiting Hong Kong Disneyland, a splurge-worthy item. Purchase a day’s ticket and relive your childhood.
Take a short ferry ride to Macau once you’re done exploring Hong Kong. The former Portuguese colony known for its glitzy casinos is gaining in popularity as a resort/family destination where you can experience a variety of family-friendly activities, traditional and fusion Portuguese food, colonial buildings and good value shopping.
Some of these countries provide free visa on arrival for tourists as per the requirements by the respective High Commission/Embassy (which is subject to change anytime).
Travellers from India can access these destinations through low-cost carriers, such as Scoot, from various Indian cities. Scoot operates flights from six cities: Amritsar, Chennai, Hyderabad, Kochi, Tiruchirappalli, and Thiruvananthapuram, with Coimbatore and Vishakhapatnam to join the network soon. All Scoot flights from India transit in Singapore, before connecting to the above destinations on non-stop flights. Flights to Langkawi and Jakarta operate four times and three times a week respectively, and flights to the other destinations operate daily.
The writer is General Manager India for Scoot Airlines