GBA Lifestyle News
Travel Outside HK Section
By Gayatri Bhaumik | May 9th, 2018

Hong Kong boasts one of the world’s most well-travelled populations, and big cities like Singapore, Taipei and Bangkok are among these globetrotters’ favourite short-break destinations. But for your next long weekend, why not try one of these slightly more under-the-radar city weekenders instead?

 

Yangon, Myanmar

Bright lights of Yangon's Swedagon Pagoda.
Yangon’s Shwedagon Pagoda. Photo: Jose Javier Martin Esparto / Flickr CC

Myanmar’s biggest city features an intriguing blend of cultural heritage and contemporary fun. See colonial architecture at landmarks like the Myanmar Railway Headquarters and indulge in some spirituality at grand temples like the Shwedagon and Sule Pagodas. Browse the wares at Bogyoke market then pop into the Strand Hotel’s Sarkies Bar to drink with the ghosts of Somerset Maugham and Noel Coward. Ready to return to the 21st century? Explore Yangon’s modern art scene on bespoke tours with Myanm/Art, fuel up on local dishes and brews at street stalls, or seek sunsets and cocktails at the bar atop Sakura Tower.

Flight time: 3 hours, 20 minutes
Where to stay: Merchant Hotel
Best for: History buffs
If you have more time: Check out the temples at Bagan.

 

Chengdu, China

A tranquil garden scene in Chengdu.
A tranquil garden scene in Chengdu. Photo: Fidelio Garcia / Flickr CC

Visiting Chengdu’s cuddly residents at the Chengdu Research Base of Giant Panda Breeding is a perfectly valid reason to visit, but it shouldn’t be your only one. Explore the spicy Sichuan cuisine of this UNESCO City of Gastronomy, and time travel while sipping brews at traditional teahouses, strolling the city’s oldest commercial district at Jinli Street, and wandering the Wide and Narrow Alleys. For more local flavor, take in a Sichuan Opera show and venture to Wenshu Monastery.

Flight time: 2 hours, 40 minutes
Where to stay: Kempinski Hotel Chengdu
Best for: Panda fans and foodies
If you have more time: Head south to see the Great Buddha of Leshan.

 

Phnom Penh, Cambodia

Golden spires at Phnom Penh's Royal Palace.
The golden spires of Phnom Penh’s Royal Palace. Photo: Ashley / Flickr CC

Often overlooked in favor of the temples of Siem Reap, Phnom Penh is a full-fledged assault on all the senses. You’ll dodge bikes while basking in an array of sights, smells and sounds, but it’s all worth it to explore this city that has risen from the ashes of war. Enjoy the architecture and serenity of the Royal Palace and Wat Phnom. Stroll the riverside promenade while soaking up the relaxed café culture, then try a Khmer cooking class at Frizz before heading to the quirky bars of Bassac Lane for some lively nightlife. Looking for souvenirs? Wander through the Art Deco-inspired Central Market for trinkets and handicrafts.

Flight time: 2 hours, 40 minutes.
Where to stay: Plantation
Best for: An authentic Asian experience
If you have more time: See the weaving villages of Silk Island (Koh Dach).

 

Penang, Malaysia

Street art in Georgetown
Street art in Georgetown. Photo: Olicier & Pascale Nonillion / Flickr CC

Penang’s thrilling mix of cultures and eras defies description, but also makes it a must-visit. Explore the colonial buildings and street art of historic Georgetown. Scale Penang Hill (there’s a funicular if you’re feeling lazy) and lunch at the summit at David Brown’s, an old-world restaurant with sweeping views. Explore the city’s different cultures at the Peranakan Mansion, the Hindu Nattukotai Chettiar Temple, and Khoo Kongsi, an ancient Chinese clanhouse. And when hunger strikes, feast on exquisite local dishes like assam laska and char kuay teow.

Flight time: 3 hours, 45 minutes
Where to stay: Eastern & Oriental Hotel
Best for: Culture vultures
If you have more time: See the orangutans at Matang Mangrove Forest.

 

Fukuokua, Japan

Maizuru Castle
Maizuru Castle on the west back of Fukuoka’s Naka River.

Straddling the Naka river with regal Fukuoka in the west and lively Hakata in the east, Japan’s fifth-largest city is practically Asia’s answer to Budapest. Visit the castle district in the to marvel at 17th century Maizuru Castle, peek into some of Japan’s oldest Shinto shrines like Kushida-jinja, then delve into local traditional arts like calligraphy and origami at the Hakata Machiya Folk Museum. For modern day fun, hit the shops in hipster Daimyo, have a night out at Oyafuko Dori, and feast on tonkotsu ramen.

Flight time: 3 hours, 15 minutes.
Where to stay: Zen Oyado Nishitei
Best for: Relaxed city vibes
If you have more time:  Unwind at Ureshino Onsen in Saga Prefecture.