5 Last-Minute Holiday Trips
Can you believe it? 2023 is almost coming to a close. Boy, you must have worked really hard this year. You know what this means? You deserve a break!
If you still have a few days of annual leave lying around, we’ve got some ideas on how you can use them on a well-deserved holiday to rejuvenate your senses and motivate you for the year ahead.
And no, they’re not going to be any sort of Penang, Malacca, Kuala Lumpur sort of culture-meets-gastronomy kind of city trip. That you can do over any weekend in the entire year.
No, we want something magnificent, something adventurous, something that promises an unforgettable experience. Something to remember and look back fondly on for the whole of 2024!
So throw deadlines to the wind, and pack that suitcase of spontaneity. We’re going on a last-minute getaway and it’s gonna be great!
Ride the Skies in Vang Vieng
Best for: Bucket list experience
If it’s a dream of yours to experience a hot air balloon ride, if even just once in your lifetime, then head over to Vang Vieng, Laos, for the most contemplative ride of your life.
Vang Vieng is fast becoming the adventure capital of Laos, with activities such as kayaking, canoeing, rock climbing, cave tubing, and ziplining. But if it’s a more serene yet thrilling adventure you’re after, then cruising the clouds in a hot air balloon Wizard of Oz-style may be more your thing.
As you gently ascend into the crisp morning air, you'll be treated to breathtaking panoramic views of the picturesque Nam Song River, surrounded by the stunning limestone karst mountains and lush greenery that characterise the landscape of Vang Vieng. Gliding serenely above the treetops, you'll witness the tranquil beauty of the peaceful Lao countryside unfold beneath you, with the golden hues of the early morning sun casting a warm glow over the landscape.
The choice of a sunrise or sunset flight is yours, and you can even add a light “in-flight” breakfast or choose to sip on a glass of bubbly while admiring the awe-inspiring view.
Every flight is a truly magical and unforgettable adventure. Considering there’s no actual way to steer a hot air balloon, who knows where your adventures will take you!
Opting for a hot air balloon ride in Laos has two-fold merits. Not only does the Laotian landscape offer a beautiful rural backdrop, but the prices are also reasonable enough to be able to enjoy the experience with the whole family.
There are a few ballooning companies to choose from, but Above Laos seems to be the only one that offers flights over the mountains as opposed to the city. They also take safety very seriously, and will rather choose to ground flights than put your safety at risk, so there’s some reassurance in that!
The best time for ballooning in Laos is between November and April, outside of the monsoon season, which makes December a perfect time to do so.
Witness Nature’s Illuminations in Selangor
Best for: Something magical
Embark on a mesmerising journey along the Selangor River, where you’ll witness riverside trees light up with countless flickering fireflies, creating an enchanting natural light display against the backdrop of the tranquil river.
This natural phenomenon takes place after dusk as part of a mating ritual, where the males produce flashes from their abdomen that are brighter in order to attract the females. Interestingly, the particular species popular amongst the berembang mangrove trees along the Selangor River flicker in a synchronised manner, which is rare amongst other firefly species.
Not only is this a beautiful sight to behold, but it also invokes a sense of wonder and deep appreciation for nature’s delicate creatures.
The fireflies tour can be combined with the Blue Tears boat trip, where you cruise through shimmering waters illuminated by bioluminescent phytoplankton, which creates a surreal spectacle of glowing blue lights resembling glow-in-the-dark stars underwater.
Nicknamed “Blue Tears”, this natural nighttime phenomenon is caused by the movement of dinoflagellates, a sort of marine plankton that emits blue-green light at night. As the boat glides through the darkness where the river meets the sea, the water seemingly comes alive with sparkling “blue tears”, casting an otherworldly ambiance straight out of a fairy tale.
The best time to witness these stunning displays of nature is when the new moon is taking place in the sky, which will happen next on December 12, 2023. The few days before and after this new moon are going to be the best days when you can take advantage of the heavens of darkness and best witness the beauty of nature’s illuminations.
Play with Elephants in Chiang Mai
Best for: Close up animal encounters
Elephants are one of those creatures in the animal kingdom that we know as gentle giants most of the time, yet we can’t help but feel intimidated by their sheer size, strength and power.
So being able to get up close and personal with elephants is an incredible experience . However, many elephant tours in Asia don’t have the best reputation when it comes to actual elephant welfare.
Thankfully, the Elephant Jungle Sanctuary in Chiang Mai, Thailand, is an ethical and sustainable eco-tourism project that meets animal welfare guidelines and contributes to elephant welfare in the best ways they can.
A joint initiative between members of the hill tribes and locals who were concerned about the welfare of elephants in the country, the Elephant Jungle Sanctuary not only focuses on educating the public, but also on elephant rescues and rehabilitation, as well as building a sustainable natural habitat where they can be free to roam.
There are different visiting options but we recommend opting for an overnight stay to fully immerse yourself in the complete elephant experience.
Beyond simply feeding the elephants, you’ll get hands-on training in preparing probiotic supplements to aid their digestion, learn how to analyse elephant dung to check on their state of health, give them a therapeutic mud bath, and rub them down in the river during bath time.
The beauty of this experience is being able to watch the elephants roam and forage freely in their environment, have fun rolling in the mud, and enjoy themselves with their loving caretakers, knowing that they are in good hands.
Food and photography are taken care of, so you don’t even have to worry about anything and focus on spending time with these beautiful creatures in a safe and relaxed environment.
Ride the Thrills in Genting Highlands
Best for: Families with kids who love thrills
When was the last time you visited Genting Highlands? It’s always been a popular family destination for its cool climate and entertainment options, but there’s been a few upgrades in recent years.
Especially for families who love theme parks and thrill rides, the combination of Genting Skyworlds Theme Park + Skytropolis Indoor Theme Park offers close to 50 rides for every member of the family.
Genting Skyworlds is an expansive outdoor theme park that features attractions based on many film franchises, so expect to soar into space on a Star Wars ride, enter the enchanting miniaturised world of Epic, and chase acorns on a thrilling roller coaster ride together with Scrat from Ice Age!
There are also gravity-defying stunt shows, live dance performances and outdoor samba parties to keep everyone entertained in between rides.
If the weather gets iffy, or the kids just want a warmer environment, then you can simply head over to Skytropolis, where all the rides are indoors and safe away from the elements.
Both outdoor and indoor theme parks feature relaxed little-kid-friendly rides, exciting adventure rides and the heart-thumping thrill rides that are not for the faint-hearted, so everyone in the family will be able to pick their favourite rides.
So if you haven’t been to Genting Highlands in a while, it might be a good opportunity to consider if a trip up north is exactly the thrilling adventure your family needs this December school holidays.
Explore Nature in Cameron Highlands
Best for: Families who love nature
From one highlands to another, Cameron Highlands is another much-loved destination for Singaporeans, again due to its chilly temperatures, further enhanced towards the end of the year.
Besides a chance to don your jackets, Cameron Highlands also offers rolling hills, beautiful scenery, and plenty of opportunities to get in touch with nature.
The highlands are famous for their tea plantations. Soak in the beauty of the tiered landscapes, learn about the tea process and marvel at all the different types of tea available. Cameron Bharat Tea Estate seems to be the most widely raved-about tea plantation, where you can round up your experience with a nice cup of freshly brewed tea served with warm scones and cream in their cafe.
While December isn’t exactly the best time for strawberry picking, the kids will be able to see how strawberries grow and maybe pluck a few to toss on their strawberry ice cream. The draw is definitely to experience what these strawberries are made into — dried strawberries, strawberry milkshakes, frozen strawberry juice, strawberry jam, strawberry cheesecake, and so much more! There are a few farms to choose from but Raju Hill Strawberry Farm seems to be the best-reviewed.
December is, however, the best time for the grape harvest which only happens twice a year, so make sure you pop by Kwang & Sons Grape Farm and enjoy all the juicy grapes you can fit into your tummy!
Ready for your December getaway?
Against the rich tapestry of Southeast Asia, these five last minute December getaways offer a diverse array of experiences that will captivate the senses and create lasting memories.
Whether you decide to go for the magical allure of nature, a truly heartwarming animal experience, or the thrill of adventure, these experiences not only promise a refreshing escape from the day-to-day routine, but also give us a chance to connect with the sheer wonder of the world around us.
So apply for your annual leave right now, book those tickets and hotel stays, make sure you’ve got your travel insurance, and announce to the family, “Guys, we’re going on an adventure!”