Aerial view of the Phang Nga bay with mangrove tree forest and hills in the Andaman sea, Thailand

With the heat and the holiday crowd in full swing, the only escape from your usual vacation are hotspots that have stood the test of time. Dream destinations that don’t disappoint. Here are our top summer picks.

Phang Nga Bay

Phang Nga Bay is without a doubt Phuket’s, and maybe even  Thailand’s, most fascinating and iconic landscape. An absolutely  ‘Out of this world’ scenery that you must promise yourself to see with your own eyes if you ever decide to venture halfway across the globe just to visit Phuket. The best way to explore Phang Nga Bay is by kayak. Nothing beats the silence of slowly gliding among giant cliffs while listening to nature unravel during every paddle you make. Phang Nga Bay during the summertime is absolutely breathtaking. Situated in the marine national park, the area is a spectacular landscape which comprised of approximately over 40 ‘Krast’ Islands that outright evokes the sense of calmness punctuated with its emerald green waters.

Aside from the usual nature trip and beach adventures, Phuket is also known for its unique beach parties. Although the parties that are available are seasonal, Phuket’s reputation for throwing unforgettable beach parties is still notorious. Most of asia´s Beach Party Season usually starts on December and can run all the way til April. So if you fancy a taste of the Mediterranean summer clubbing culture in Phuket, then do watch out for VIBES – a world-class musical extravaganza never before seen in Asia. VIBES is the new phenomenon in Asia hosting some of the biggest names on the international DJ circuit, such as Erick Morillo, Roger Sanchez, Claptone, Mike Knight and Purple Disco Machine, to name but a few. With its glorious beaches, unforgettable sunsets and warm climate, Phuket is the natural location to pioneer Asia’s international beach party season – offering an exciting, innovative alternative to the usual summer holiday. The exclusive VIBES beach party season at Catch Beach Club by Twinpalms Phuket, Bang Tao, Phuket begins on December 1, 2017 running right through to April 14, 2018 and will hold no less than 60 beach parties.

Bali Elephant Ride
Fancy an elephant summer adventure? Then look no further than Bali, Indonesia to satisfy your curiosity of riding one of the world’s biggest animals. Although Bali is known for its majestic beaches and unmatched mountain top retreats, tourists from all over the world are slowly discovering another hidden adventure that Bali has to offer – riding elephants! A Bali elephant ride basically gives you the opportunity to ride an elephant into the jungle and across villages and into rice terraces. Just imagine yourself atop on one of the biggest animals in the jungle sitting on a teak chair swaying back and forth along with the movement of these magnificent gentle giants. This adventure is available with Mason Adventures, formerly known as Bali Adventure Tours, the island’s longest-established and critically acclaimed adventure tour operator which showcases unrivalled world class adventures through a multitude of interactive tours, facilities and excursions. A pioneer in Bali’s first White Water Rafting operation the re-launching of Mason Sky Tours now offers guests a wide range of high-class helicopter tours and services. In recent years, they have revamped the rafting aspect of their business with the opening of the multifunctional Mason Adventure Centre, a multi-million-dollar investment providing guests with a 5-Star rafting experience from start to finish. 2017 saw the launching of Mason Jungle Buggies, Bali’s newest and most exciting off-road challenge that takes the adventurer through the twists and turns of the jungles of Talag, as well as Mason Gourmet Chocolate, the archipelago’s most unique chocolate experience.

All tours and services are tied together by their own fleet of radio and GPS controlled buses, and in the case of any serious medical emergency, all guests are covered by an exclusive Free Helicopter Medivac Service. As Bali’s safest and most efficient adventure company, Mason Adventures is an excellent choice.

Tanah Lot Sunset
Tanah Lot should be on your ‘must visit’ list when you get a chance to go to Bali. Mysterious, yet classic beauty, this sea temple, which is built on a huge rock right in the middle of the ocean, engulfs you into its timeless journey, leaving you in awe as you discover the little secrets while walking around the area.

Tanah Lot is a family friendly spot, as there are numerous facilities such as souvenir shops, restaurants, cultural park, and even emergency facilities. Tanah Lot is one of the most sacred temples in Bali. Legend has it that the high priest from Majapahit, Dang Hyang Nirartha, arrived in Bali in 1489 to spread Hinduism and established a site in honour of the sea god, Baruna. He faced strong opposition from the village chief who gathered his loyal followers to dispel the high priest. Nirartha resisted and through this meditation shifted a large rock to sea while transforming his sashes into sea snakes to guard its base. Hence its namesake Tengah Lod, which literally means ‘in the sea’.

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Kuta Beach
Blessed with a long and almost endless Indian Ocean beach-front, Kuta was originally discovered by tourists as a surfing paradise. It has since been a popular stop on the classic backpacking route in South East Asia. Now, it is almost impossible to talk about summer holidays without anyone mentioning Bali. Kuta is somewhat the wild side of Bali. It is where all the action is. The streets come alive at night with hordes of tourists sipping their cocktails at nightclubs around the area. Due to the ever increasing popularity of Bali, Kuta is continuing to develop along with the image and reputation that Bali brings. Expect chaotic but fun crowds especially during the peak season of summer.

For those wanting to discover Bali’s timeless appeal and warmth, a hidden sanctuary in southern Bali offers you the experience and luxury of a home away from home. The ANVAYA Beach Resort is more than just a destination. With an idyllic setting in bustling Kuta and inspired by the beauty of the Island of Gods, The ANVAYA highlights stylish, contemporary, authentic Balinese architecture featuring a gorgeous connection between the eras of the ancient Bali Aga, Hindu Bali and Modern Bali.

For discerning travellers seeking an authentic experience and unique ambience, The ANVAYA offers 493 fully furnished, modern spacious guestrooms, suites and villas, we are ready to spoil our guests with all the luxuries afforded to today’s savvy travellers. A stay at The ANVAYA promises a lifetime of memories as you step out of the peaceful ambience of The ANVAYA right into the heart of Kuta, where vibrant shopping, water sports, local attractions and nightlife awaits right at your doorstep. Beyond Kuta, there are hundreds of hidden beaches to explore. Discover the mountains and untouched lifestyle of the “real Bali”. Indeed, nothing exudes Bali’s uniqueness quite like The ANVAYA Beach Resort, a home away from home.

Kek Lok Si Temple
The Summer season usually bring images of beaches and blue skies kissing pristine coastal waters. However, for the seasoned traveller looking for a dose of cultural summer immersion, Penang offers more than what you expect. One tourist attraction that stands out from the rest is The Kek Lok Si temple. It is considered by many as one of the finest and largest temple complexes within the region. Adorned with many sculptures and carvings, and even more images of Buddha, the temple is an essential aspect of Buddhism and Chinese cultural rituals in Penang, perfect for a summer holiday trip that’s more than just your usual beach bumming. The temple’s architecture, with its many pagodas and archways, is even more enchanting during the Chinese New Year and Wesak Day celebrations as the temple will be covered in dazzling lights. It is also during these times when the temple is most crowded by both worshippers and tourists who wish to soak in the serene atmosphere.

After a visit to the temples, head over to Hard Rock Hotel Penang located at the famous Batu Ferringhi Beach. Hard Rock Hotel Penang is a trendy hotel that sets itself apart from the conventional beach resort; blending rich music culture, contemporary design, and family friendly facilities. The hotel boasts 250-rooms and suites, most of which feature beach frontage. All rooms are equipped with DVD/CD players, 50-inch LED screen TVs, BOSE Sound Systems, free Internet Access, free HD Blockbuster Movies on Demand and interactive IPTV system. The modern structure is completed with tastefully furnished bedrooms and modern in-room amenities. Hard Rock Hotel Penang also features the largest free-form pool in the area. With a large play area, the pool is a hit with children. There are also a plethora of fun activities and entertainment all day long, a perfect addition to your summer holiday plans. Hard Rock Hotel Penang definitely adds some spice to your summer getaway.

Lang Cô Beach

Lăng Cô is renowned for its pristine coastline, and natural scenery. With more than 100 activities in the area that are available to bring out the intrepid explorer in you, you are likely to be so busy enjoying yourself that a return trip is definitely inevitable. If you’re planning to enjoy a day of sun and sea and explore its azure waters, then riding a jet ski is second to none if you want a truly unforgettable experience. Some notable Hollywood celebrities and even top tier international athletes have recently been spotted in its blue waters.

And when all the hard adventure and adrenalin-pumping action is over, do not forget to just relax and just lounge at the beach as you enjoy the refreshing sceneries of this magical place. Nothing beats the tranquility of nature’s beauty than to pair it with some old-fashioned relaxation time. Lăng Cô definitely has no shortage of world-class resorts but none gives you a more idyllic getaway experience than Angsana Lăng Cô, a modern retreat nestled within a landscape of unspoiled natural beauty in close proximity to various UNESCO World Heritage Sites.

This amazing resort is easily accessible within a 60-minute car ride from Da Nang International airport. It is home to 222 stylish suites with more than 100 of the suites equipped with their own private pool. A plethora of dining options also awaits every Angsana Lăng Cô guest. Spa enthusiasts may enjoy Angsana Lăng Cô’s spa for treatments that place special emphasis on the use of natural ingredients such as native flowers and fruits. A variety of activities are also on offer at the resort. The Watersport Activities Centre features jet skiing, water skiing, and kayaking while the Activities Centre offers archery, mountain biking and all-terrain vehicles (ATV). The Handicraft Centre immerses guests in Vietnam’s rich artistic legacy with classes in various fine arts led by local masters.

Phi Phi Islands

One exotic place in Thailand that really needs no introduction is Phi Phi islands. Thanks to Hollywood powerhouse Leonardo DiCaprio, it catapulted this once secluded paradise to worlwide fame in 2000 with the movie ‘The Beach.’ Since then, the place just keeps getting bigger, grander and busier. Remembering the sad tsunami tragedy that befell this place not so long ago that literally wiped out Phi Phi islands back in 2004, the local government has since been keeping it small but manageable. However, the young crowd that continues their summer pilgrimage to Phi Phi Islands all year round seems to love the islands so much that it has since thrived and slowly became a juggernaut in Thailand’s tourism industry. No summer holiday is complete without a Phi Phi Island party!

Some of the nearby resorts at Phi Phi islands combines the seclusion much sought after in Thailand with the refinement of a 4 star resort. For the elite jetsetter, Phuket offers one of the very best and finest accommodation in the region – Anantara Mai Khao Phuket Villas. Anantara Mai Khao Phuket Villas is an all-pool villa oasis enveloped by the Bill Bensley designed tropical gardens and tranquil lotus filled lagoons on Phuket’s peaceful northwest coast. Fringed by Sirinath National Park, the resort opens onto a quiet expanse of Mai Khao Beach and the Andaman Sea. Inside the villa, the sitting room is filled with shades of blue and white fabrics inspired by tidal marks on the beaches of Randall’s Island, New York. The design ‘Harlem’ mirrors the distinctive blemishes left by the tides of the Harlem River. In the master bedroom Heliconia is the main stimulus of design that takes inspiration from the ornamental Heliconia flowers. The second bedroom in this glorious suite is a spacious twin bedded room that overlooks the gardens and the swimming pool with accents of fine Floriental fanciful block-print brought to life from the Jim Thompson archives. Indeed, nobody captures the true essence of Thai spirit better than Anantara Mai Khao Phuket Villas.

Marble Mountains
The Marble Mountains are arguably one of Vietnam’s most popular attractions for both locals and foreign visitors. This magnificent jewel is located south of Danang, right along My Khe beach to Hoi An. The history of the Marble Mountains is as rich as the landscape that surrounds it. For many years, it has been a center of worship since the time of ancient Champa – the famous 400-year old female Buddha in the grotto next to the descent into the main cavern. During the American-Vietnam war, the Marble Mountains were crucial for the services of the North Vietnamese army. For most of the duration of the war, it served as a formidable hideout and prominent lookout post for incoming troops. From the peaks of the crags, they had an unbeatable view of the American airport and sea harbor. The partisans hiding in the caves were one of the main sources of intel for the North. To get to the Marble Moutains, the easiest and perhaps most convenient way is by renting a bicycle or motorbike. If you are coming from Danang, just follow Truong Sa street to the south. Seven kilometers further, you’ll be greeted by the sight of the pagoda of the Marble Mountains. Make your way to the elevator shaft for a more convenient way of accessing the upper area. Some local stonemasons may offer an opportunity to park your ride in exchange for the promise to look after their wares when you return from the mountains. Getting up the mountains has never been easier. But if you really want to soak in the experience of adventure, there’s no better way than to climb the winding steps. Go at your own pace and take the time to check out the many tunnels, caves and grottos, and refresh with a cool drink or maybe even enjoy some local food treats being offered at the numerous stalls along the way.

The Marble Mountains is perhaps one of the most unique places you’ll ever see in the region. The best time to visit and explore these majestic mounts are during the summer season where you can feel the exhilarating experience of being among thousands of tourists that yearns to get a piece of both its culture and exotic allure. Do keep a lookout for the main cave which houses a stunning cham Buddha that is seemingly adorned by the natural beam of light that streaks from the outside. Once there, you have the option to further explore grottos, pagodas and several tranquil places to meditate or to simply just admire the natural beauty of this ancient wonder. Of course, no trip to the Marble Mountains is complete without bringing a souvenir of your adventure before you leave. Shop for Stone Carvings in the nearby vendors. Locals around the Marble Mountains are famous for their craftsmanship and delicate carvings. And there are also plenty of bargains to be made at the numerous shops around the base of the mountains. Just make sure you deal amiably but firmly with some shop owners have they may sometimes be overly enthusiastic.

When the sun finally starts to go down, all this trekking and high octane adventure seeking will undoubtedly lead to images of soft beds, cozy rooms and some good night’s rest. When in Danang, do check in the Premier Village Danang. For the second year running, it has won several categories in TripAdvisor’s Travellers’ Choice awards.. Located at the Ngu Hanh Son District, Premier Village Danang Resort is able to fulfill every traveller’s needs and enables the creation of lasting memories.

Langkawi Skybridge
Summer vacations mean lots and lots of summer photos shared on social media. It’s usually the most unique photos that grab attention and admiration. Then how about taking a selfie at the longest free span and curved bridge in the world? The Langkawi skybridge is a suspended bridge built on top of the Machinchang mountain and was completed in 2004. Accessible from the top station, the bridge is suspended from a 82m high single pylon which hangs at about 100m above ground and accommodates up to 250 people at the same time. It swings out over the landscape to give visitors a breathtaking view of the island, bringing you into otherwise unattainable locations, right above virgin fores. Notably, in contrast to a straight bridge, where the end is always monotonously in sight, a curved bridge offers a changing perspective. Measuring at 125m in length, the structure ranks among the world’s longest curve suspension bridge and constructing it was not an easy feat considering critical elements structural balancing and load distribution. The entire bridge and its elements had to be lifted to by helicopter and was later assembled to its current position.

Notre Dame Cathedral
If you want the feel of exotic European summer but are too tired to travel all the way to Europe, you might want to head over to Ho Chi Minh City and pay a visit to one of its most iconic religious structures – Saigon’s Notre Dame Cathedral. French colonists in the late 1880s started building its foundations and is now one of the very few remaining bastions of Catholicism in the more predominantly Buddhist country of Vietnam. It is ironically located in Paris Square, and stands almost 60 metres high. Two bell towers still echoes today surrounded with a tranquil garden setting right in the middle of bustling downtown Ho Chi Minh City District.

Before you start exploring other vibrant parts of Ho Chi Minh City, make sure to complete your Saigon Summer Adventure by visiting the trendy Mad Cow Wine & Grill at Pullman Saigon Centre. Located in District 1, Mad Cow Wine & Grill offers a 5-star setting with breath-taking rooftop views all while you enjoy sipping your hand-picked wine. Once the day’s adventure is over, satisfy your hunger with their mouth-watering first-rate steaks. Now that’s a summer experience you won’t forget anytime soon.

Kandawgyi Lake
An integral aspect of any travel experience is the element of the unknown. Undiscoverable. Uncertain. Unpredictable. Where the idea of surprise lurks at every corner. Where every step is like a journey towards an entirely new place. This is what Yangon is all about. This magical place in Myanmar takes rustic and nostalgia to a whole new level. Riddled with gigantic temples and a vibrant culture, it puts every traveller in a state of awe and amusement as you tread through uneven paths leading to small villages and monumental statues.

A journey to Yangon is like a journey back in time. Every corner of the city evokes both history and tradition. One of the best ways to get the feel of the local culture is to pay a visit to Kandawagyi Lake, also known as the Royal Lake. This artificial body of water was built by the British as a reservoir and is best enjoyed at sunset, when the glittering Shwedagon Paya is reflected in its calm waters. The boardwalk, which runs mainly along the southern and western sides of the lake is also an ideal place for early-morning joggers.  Just east of the Kandawgyi Palace Hotel, on the southern side of the lake, floats a Shin Upagot shrine. Upagot is a Bodhisattva  or Buddhist saint who is believed to bestow protection to patrons in moments of mortal danger.

The eastern side of the lake, for which you’ll have to pay the admission charge, is decorated by a small park, a kids’ playground and Karaweik Palace, a reinforced-concrete reproduction of the royal barge. There are plenty of lakeside cafes as well that are perfect spots for a drink, specially during sunset. On the lake’s north side is the quirky Utopia Tower with its giant pile of artificial rocks housing bars, karaoke, a massage parlour and, on the 5th floor, a viewing deck. On the ground floor, Summit Art showcases the impasto canvases of owner-painter Myint Soe and other artists.

El Nido Beach
A few decades ago, El Nido in Palawan was once considered as a “sleepy town” by both locals and visitors. Fast forward to today, now this small but alluring town has since awaken to give rise to a huge boom in tourism. In the past El Nido was synonymous with a playground meant only for the wealthy who go on vacations on private island resorts. Times have definitely changed and the backpacking scene has slowly grown exponentially thus transforming this once quiet town into a noisy, cramped mecca for both local and foreign tourists. There are a wide range of alternatives to the luxury hideaways in El Nido that have instantly created a huge market for the frugal to come in and island hop past the private islands and directly onto gorgeous beaches and awesome azul lagoons. However, with the increased number of accolades that El Nido, and Palawan in general are receiving, the best time to go is now.

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