Break with tradition

PUBLISHED : Thursday, 07 April, 2011, 12:00am
UPDATED : Thursday, 07 April, 2011, 12:00am

It's almost that time of year - the Christmas and New Year's holidays feel like eons ago, and your feet are getting itchy. Thankfully, the Easter break is coming up, but there's no reason why you should head to the same old beach in Phuket. Take a couple of extra days off, stretch the break into an entire week and select one of these quick regional getaways. They're close, they're different and they won't break the bank. Here are our best destinations for:

A romantic getaway

Jeju Island, South Korea: often called the 'Hawaii of Korea', Jeju has for years been a popular honeymoon destination for Koreans, but is only starting to attract foreigners flying in for a romantic getaway. With its endless charming sights, it's no wonder. Hike up Mount Halla, South Korea's highest peak, to watch the sun set over the shimmering ocean, hire horses and ride out to one of the waterfalls scattered around the island, or just spend lazy days on semi-secluded beaches. While there you can't miss Loveland, an ode to love and sex that borders on the pornographic with its hundreds of sculptures of compromising positions and hilarious interactive exhibits. Just don't bring the kids.

Getting there: fly Thai Airways direct to Seoul for about HK$4,000, and take one of the many connecting flights to Jeju.

A group of friends

Gili Islands, Indonesia: once a haven for backpackers, the rise of budget airlines has seen the Gili Islands lose their tourist crowds to destinations such as Thailand. That's actually a good thing for groups looking to escape the masses, with the islands now treading a fine line between secluded getaway and party destination. Gili Trawangan is the largest of the three islands and easily the most popular - its white-sand beaches rival any in the region and boast some of the finest diving, snorkelling and surfing. Fine dining is affordable, with endless fresh seafood buffets for a fraction of neighbouring getaway prices. But it's the nightlife the island is famous for, with packed beachside bars blasting reggae music every night and a wide selection of legally questionable 'energy' drinks guaranteeing great nights out.

Getting there: fly Hong Kong Airlines direct to Bali for about HK$5,500, then take one of the many ferries to Gili Trawangan.

Couples looking to escape

Chanthaburi, Thailand: spring is in the air, the time for romances to blossom. Couples often settle for something cheap and easy, so surprise your partner with a destination a bit off the beaten track. Stay away from overcrowded Bangkok and Phuket, and head to the lesser-known Chanthaburi. Located four hours by road from Bangkok, the city borders Cambodia and is still relatively untouched in terms of tourism. Pristine, secluded beaches stretch as far as the eye can see; local, authentic restaurants are dotted all around town; while its southern location means the area is rich in orchards, limestone caves and waterfalls. There's little else to do, but loved-up couples don't need much to keep them entertained.

Getting there: fly Air Asia to Bangkok for about HK$3,500, then take a four-hour bus ride to Chanthaburi.

Those flying solo

Kovalam, India: there's one great advantage to going on a solo trip - you can do what want, when you want. India's a great place to go, but Goa's overdone, so instead head to laid-back, singles-friendly Kovalam, where gorgeous beaches, delicious food and a great group of English-speaking travellers await. And if you get bored of the tranquil vibe and relaxed travellers (although we can't see why you would), you can take a quick taxi ride to Trivandrum, one of the oldest cities in India. Choose from fascinating temples, immense palaces and awe-inspiring forts - after all, it's entirely up to you.

Getting there: fly Kingfisher Airlines to Mumbai for about HK$5,500. Catch a short domestic flight to the city of Trivandrum and take a 20-minute taxi to Kovalam.

Young families

Kanazawa, Japan: it might seem like most of Japan is off-limits, but heading to the west of the country is probably just as dangerous as staying at home. Kanazawa is one most overlooked cities in all of Japan, a perfectly preserved slice of the Edo period that resembles a real-life Disneyland. Ideal for families with young children, the city is full of history and culture, with sights for every age: little princesses will be enthralled by its many castles, while scrappy boys will love the samurai district and the ninja temple. Mum can admire the waterfalls and April's cherry blossoms, while late-night dad can sneak out and drop in on the geisha district.

Getting there: fly Delta Airlines direct to Tokyo for about HK$5,000. Then either catch a short domestic flight to the city of Komatsu and an hour-long bus to Kanazawa, or take a four-hour train journey to the city.

Families with teens

Yangshuo, Guilin: teenagers present a problem for parents organising holidays - do you risk endless whining over boring sightseeing, or underage drunkenness at a beach getaway? Yangshuo is gorgeous at this time of year, surrounded by some of the most picturesque mountains in China. Few teens will be interested in that, but, thankfully, the city is also carving itself out as the mainland's extreme sports capital. Hormone-raging teens can indulge in safe but stimulating adventures such as bungee jumping, mountain biking, cliff climbing, kayaking, river rafting and many others. And if they still don't like it, stick 'em in the hotel room and wait out the years - damn punk teens.

Getting there: fly China Southern Airlines to Guilin for about HK$1,200, then take a 90-minute bus ride to Yangshuo.

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