When your next away day rolls around, take advantage of Asia’s natural beauty by seeking out the greenest, most untouched natural spots. There’s just something about Mother Nature that revitalises the spirit, relieve the stress of living and working in urban spaces. Here are some of the best offerings in the region for glorious green getaways.
1. The Verdant Valleys of Lijiang
What: Known as the “Land of Eternal Spring”, Yunnan’s charms are perhaps best experienced in Lijiang, where being at the edge of the Tibetan plateau puts all the natural treasures of the surrounding area within easy reach. Flora and fauna will steal the show during an incentive getaway here – think meadows of wildflowers running riot and migrating flocks from Siberia as part of your pow-wowing backdrop. Organise activities that will heighten appreciation of the scenery, like hiking around Tiger Leaping Gorge or horseback riding into the tea trails.
Who should go? Flashpackers seeking immortality via Shangri-la (the place, not the hotel).
Where to stay: The Bivou is perhaps the best home base from which you can experience the best of Lijiang’s esoteric natural setting while enjoying creature comforts in appropriately understated luxury. While there’s no doubt about the luxury fittings and well-crafted designer spaces of this rustic chic boutique bed and breakfast – the hotel is a restored century-old Naxi farmyard – you can still play at being an wandering adventurer while wearing cashmere.
Contact: Go minimalist at bivou.com
2. Bountiful Brunei
What: No-one thinks very much about Brunei beyond vaguely recognising it as a sultanate with a monarch who throws fabulously fancy parties, and most are surprised to learn that this Muslim country is also rich in natural resources apart from oil and gas. Most of Brunei, for example, lies within the Borneo lowlands forest eco-region, and there are mountain rainforests inland.
Venture beyond the Muara area where the nation’s capital, Bandar Seri Begawan, is located. A one-hour boat trip will take you to the more isolated region of Temburong and the Borneo rainforest. This is where most of the eco-tours are conducted, and you can stroll across a canopy walkway for a bird’s-eye view. There are also virgin forests to be experienced in Tutong on the other side of the capital, and you can head to the Sungai Basong Recreational Park to explore its cultural village.
Who should go? Fans of an amazing race who have done Taman Negara once too many but are not quite ready for the Amazon.
Where to stay: Want to completely immerse yourself in nature? Book into the Ulu Ulu National Park Resort, which is situated amid dense lush forest and offers night jungle walks, tubing, kayaking and waterfall treks. This accommodation is perfect for visitors looking to switch off from an overly connected lifestyle – there’s no wifi, no mobile reception and no TVs – so make sure you bring a good book or two.
Contact: Trek the terrain at uluuluresort.com
3. Secret retreat in Singapore
What: Singapore has been lauded for being the cleanest and greenest metropolis in Southeast Asia. Although the city’s gardens and parks are mostly cultivated and the beaches made of reclaimed land, they are unquestionably well maintained. For urbanites who aren’t quite ready to venture into the great unknown and face up to wild animals and unknown plants, the Merlion City is a wise choice for a tropical destination. While there’s nothing really raw or untamed here, knowing the right places can still bring you back to nature.
Who should go? Staycation-seekers or staff who can’t venture too far away or too long, for various reasons – family, conference calls or a morbid fear of animals.
Where to stay: Siloso Beach Resort has won many awards and accolades for being the island city-state’s first eco-conscious and sustainably designed luxury resort. For a country with literally no countryside, and one where space is a luxury, this is no mean feat. Some of the eco-friendly touches can be seen and felt in the ethical preservation of much of the original landscape: the mature plants and trees are irrigated by a 95-metre long pool using spring water naturally harvested from an underground source, for example. In the design of the rooms, there’s lots of wood detailing, decking and earthy tones. The perfect getaway to reward high-performing executives with some much deserved time-out with loved ones.
Contact: Go green with silosobeachresort.com
4. More than OK in KK
What: One of Borneo’s most popular destinations, Kota Kinabalu – fondly referred to as KK –boasts great coastal scenery, as it faces the South China Sea. Many trekkers come to climb the 4,095m-tall Mount Kinabalu, which lies 80km east of the city and is regarded as one of the most accessible mountains in the world, as no specialised mountain climbing skills are needed to make the ascent.
There are also fabulous diving destinations on the nearby islands such as Pulau Gaya, which located about 10 minutes’ away from the mainland by boat. Part of the Tunku Abdul Rahman National Park, this island is covered in dense, virgin, tropical rainforest and has been a reserve since 1923. For those not keen on jungle walks, stay on the white sands on Police Beach to enjoy swimming and beach life in its crystal clear waters.
Who should go? Beach lovers, sunseekers and worshippers of island living.
Where to stay: Steps away from Police Beach, Bunga Raya Island Resort & Spa enables you to get back to nature without compromising on luxury. The resort’s all-villa properties dot the hillside facing the beach, some with private plunge pools, others constructed in the matter of stylish tree houses, curtained by dangling mangroves. Larger groups on an away day can opt for three-bedroom deluxe suites on a hilltop with private plunge pools for those all important water-based corporate bonding sessions. Other recommended activities include kayaking, jungle treks, diving, snorkelling and bird watching.
Contact: Get active with bungarayaresort.com
5. Exclusively Taipei
What: There are other ways to explore Taiwan than through its renowned street markets and well-preserved temples. Taipei is an easy entry point for those coming in from Asia, and if a relaxing retreat is what you need, then why go from one urban space to another? Instead, escape into the misty mountains of the Taiwanese countryside to recharge the senses. Beitou is a quick 30-minute drive from the city (it’s also accessible by metro) and as such has been referred to as “the backyard garden” of Taipei. A perfect way to experience natural Taiwan, away from the heaving masses.
Who should go? Urbanites looking for a dash of glamour, exclusivity and privacy.
Where to stay: With only five rooms – choose from Japanese-themed or contemporary chic – Villa 32 is a secluded retreat with
hot springs in the guest rooms plus a geothermal valley and waterfall nearby. With its own dedicated private butler, Villa 32 can also cater for meetings, private banquets and special events at the 66 sqm Pepper Room – obviously for a very special, select group of people.
Contact: Luxuriate with your thoughts in villa32.com