The year 2016 has been full of long weekends so far, but there are still many more coming up in October and December. Bookmark this for some more ideas on destinations you can just hop on a flight to, without the hassle of a visa application in advance.
1. Hong Kong- Macau
The most exciting place for kids and maybe even adults who are young at heart like me, is Disneyland. Hong Kong Disneyland is truly a wonderland and you can even stay in the hotels inside! How fabulous is that for a kid. But for those of you upon whom lady luck smiles.. there’s glorious Macau. I’ve been yearning to stay at The Venetian for ages.. designed in keeping with the romantic and mesmerizing city of Venice, you can enjoy a gondola ride or even some games of chance in the casinos. Hong Kong and Macau are both brimming with heritage and culture so you can easily spend 4 or 5 days there exploring.
Disney’s Hollywood Hotel – Stay front and center in Disneyland, at the Hollywood Hotel. You really feel like part of the Hollywood elite at this art-deco designed hotel with its piano shaped pool and collection of vintage cars.
Royal Park Hotel, Hong Kong – A little away from the tourist areas, this hotel is located in Sha-tin, and provides free shuttles to Tsim Tsa Tsui shopping district, Admiralty station and other parts of Hong Kong. The rooms are beautiful and they also provide unlimited bottled water.
Hotel Harbour Plaza Metropolis – A grand and luxurious hotel with sweeping views of Victoria harbor. They also have a metro station just at their doorstep so you can explore the city easily from here. Tsim Tsa Tsui is 10 min walking distance as well.
The Venetian Resort-Hotel-Casino, Macau – This Italian themed hotel is huge with luxurious suite rooms and many restaurants serving Chinese, Japanese and Western cuisine. There are plenty of activities and shopping to be had at this resort. Don’t miss out on the gondola rides, the Venetian pool or mini golf.
Sheraton Macau – Cheaper than The Venetian, but you get all the luxury and service that Sheraton Group is famous for. Avail of the free airport shuttle and location on the Cotai strip to explore the culture of Macau from here.
Sometimes you just need to take a deep breath and slow down from your manic lives in the city. Explore ancient monasteries and hillocks with breathtaking views in the Land of the Thunder Dragon. I’ve always wanted to see how the monks create those intricate mandala’s, and after hours of painstaking work.. they just wipe it all away. It will be interesting to notice the architecture and get to know the friendly locals and smiling monks in Thimphu or Paro. However, if you are like my very adventurous friend who loves a good trek, then go to the Punakha valley like she did. The rivers of Pho Chhu and Mo Chhu converge in this valley and since the climate is perfect (warm winters and hot summers), you can stay by the river and meet a lot of great trekkers from all over the world here. You’ll find one of the most majestic structures in Bhutan here, the Punakha Dzongkhag. The second oldest monastery in Bhutan, this beautiful place is where the wedding of the King of Bhutan, Jigme Khesar Namgyel Wangchuck was held.
Naksel Boutique Hotel & Spa – This may be a fancy hotel in Paro, but its so picturesque, I couldn’t resist. It’s 5 km from the Taktsang Monastery and has free wifi as well.
Khang Residency, Thimphu – This is an excellent choice specially if you are travelling with family as there is a kitchenette in the room, and the restaurant has excellent reviews. Choose the heritage rooms if possible. The hotel houses a Spa and is also close to the Takin (National animal of Bhutan)Preserve where you can feed the animals too.
Kichu Resort Wangdue – The river literally runs through it! A breathtaking location, with traditional architecture, this hotel is peaceful with some rooms offering private lawns too. Perfect for a short stay as the rooms are on the smaller side. Worth it for the view though.
Dragons Nest, Punakha – This serene hotel is away from the noisy main road. Beautifully designed and located on the bank of the Mo Chhu river. I would recommend this hotel for the excellent food and perfect views.
When in doubt, go to Thailand. That was pretty much my motto for a couple of years actually. It’s our comfort zone just a short flight away. With a visa on arrival for Indians, this is a great option for a last minute plan. Every time we visited Bangkok, we saw the city evolve into the amazing melting pot of cultures it is, food, shopping, night life and so much more. You just need to know where to stay to avoid the grimy parts of the city. If you’re looking for a culinary expedition on your trip to Bangkok, stay in the Thonglor area which is full of chic cafes and delicious eats. For those longing to see the exotic blue waters of the Thai beaches, Pattaya, Koh Chang and Hua Hin are just about 2-3 hours drive away from BKK airport.
Bangkok: Amari Watergate. – Brilliant location right opposite Platinum mall where you can shop till you drop. Gorgeous rooms and good service.
Bangkok: Novotel Bangkok Siam Square – Siam is the most happening place to stay, as its close to the metro, malls and restaurants too.
Hua Hin: Devasom Hua Hin. – Holiday like the royals, this hotel is designed for romance. A tree in the middle of their salt water pool facing the beach, huge claw footed tubs in their rooms. Need I say more?
Koh Chang: Furama Xclusive Aiyapura Resort and Spa. – Good for couples and families alike, this Eco Hotel is thoughtfully designed, with private beaches, an excellent spa and even organically grown vegetables. Plenty of free activities offered by the hotel too.
Pattaya: The Bay View Hotel. – A beautiful hotel with large rooms, 6 dining options, and great facilities.
Pattaya: The Pattaya Discovery hotel: Beach front property with good rooms. The sea view rooms in the Chic tower are at a great price too.
4. Sri Lanka
Photo via: Kosgoda Sea Turtle Conservation Project
Sri Lanka also offers visa on arrival for Indians and is just a short flight away. A smorgasbord of wonderful tastes, heritage and culture, golden beaches and wildlife, even large whales choose to frolic in the seas around Sri Lanka. Travel in December if you want to experience the breathtaking sight of the whales at Dondra point. Accessible from Galle, Hikkaduwa and Mirissa. You will probably hold your breath as the huge blue whales, humpback whales and even dolphins swim close to your boat. Many resorts offer a host of luxurious Ayurveda spa treatments and authentic Sri Lankan cuisine. Colombo is known for the great shopping and food. Kandy is also beautiful with its historical significance. if you are looking for more adventure, try trekking and hiking in the highlands of the Knuckles mountain Range. Sri Lanka also has an elephant sanctuary (Pinnewala Elephant Orphanage) and turtle hatchery. You can experience the joy of releasing baby turtles on the beach and watch them make their journey to the sea. Learn more about sea turtles at the Kosgoda Sea Turtle Conservation Project. And since Sri Lanka is an island, you know there are some fantastic surfing beaches to explore too.
Stonyhurst : a luxurious cottage Nuwara Eliya – Listed on AirBnb, this colonial style cottage is cozy and luxurious at the same time. Perfect when travelling in a group as it has 6 bedrooms that you can rent together if you want the whole house.
Cinnamon Grand Colombo – In the heart of Colombo city, this grand hotel has many food options and the rooms are large.
Sri Lanka has great Airbnb rentals that are sometimes better than a typical hotel, so do check those out.