February 12, 2014 00:00
By Phoowadon Duangmee
Seven Asian destinations that promise to wow your significant other in this, the month of love
For this first time in decades, Valentine’s Day coincides with one of Buddhism’s holiest days, Makha Bucha, a clash that is bound to make Thailand’s devout think twice about the wisdom of celebrating in traditional Valentine’s style. Fortunately, the season for love continues throughout the month, leaving plenty of spare days for lovers to whisk away their significant others on a romantic break for two.
We take a look around Asia for the most romantic destinations. Whether you’re cash-strapped or a big-spenders, you’ll find somewhere to go in our take on the best places to celebrate your love.
AGRA, Uttar Pradesh, India
Known the world over as the city of love, largely thanks to Mughal emperor Shah Jahan, who built the Taj Mahal in memory of his third wife Mumtaz Mahal, this is an ideal place to lay down some loving memories. For some 250 years, the Taj Mahal has been glorified as the jewel of Muslim art combining elements from Islamic, Persian, Ottoman Turkish and Indian architectural styles. Visitors come under the spell of the love story behind it and fall in love when they’re in the city. You might check into a heritage hotel – the Oberoi Amarvilas, for example – and watch the changing hues of the Taj Mahal as the sun moves from east to west. There’s plenty to see in Agra too from gardens and courtyards to temples and monuments.
BROKEN HEART GUEST HOUSE, Rung Island, Cambodia
It might sound like a retreat for the lovelorn to lick their wounds, but with a beach that would make the Maldives green with envy, this $10-a-night guesthouse is the perfect bolt-hole for cash-strapped lovers. Tucked away on Cambodia’s Rung Island, an hour’s boat ride from Sihanoukville, the Broken Heart Guest House – also known as BHGH – gets its name because leaving the place will break your heart. The pristine beach is fronted by a beautiful azure sea and is miles away from the crowds and full moon parties. Here you can reenact the legend of Adam and Eve and enjoy the full “castaway” experience every night, as the island is electricity-free.
With its reputation for fun in the sun, Bali is one of world’s best beach destinations. Its rich culture and natural beauty play out in everyone’s life – remember Elizabeth Gilbert of “Eat Pray Love” fame? Gilbert, who is played by Julia Roberts in the film version of her journal, spent one year travelling around the world after a devastating divorce. She spent four months in Italy eating, and then another three months in India pulling herself together. Her last five months were spent in Bali – and it is here that she fell in love. The romantic story might inspire many “lone rangers” to set off to Bali but the island is also an ideal destination for couples. The romance lies in its awesome beaches, terraced rice-fields and lush green highlands.
Nestled along Thailand’s southern coast, Krabi province attracts lovers and honeymooners – straight and gay, young and old – from around the world to celebrate their love by the calm turquoise sea, along the white sands and in stylish resorts. With small islands scattered around the Andaman Sea, lovebirds can also take a boat ride and snorkel in the deep while communing with the colourful fish. In Koh Hong, an hour’s boat ride from Ao Nang, the white sands lead down to a shallow turquoise and emerald-green lagoon. There is nothing here but a makeshift kiosk selling cold beer and water. Enjoy!
The Indian Ocean’s paradise has long been at the top of the romantic destination list with many people saving all year round to find the money to enjoy a palm-covered atoll and stylish villa over the sea. Maldives might be the ideal place for busy couples who spend too little time together back home. With little to do and to see on these secluded islands, you will have all time in the world for each other. The strip of picturesque beach is perfect for strolls hand in hand. You can also plunge into the clear blue sea and get up close and personal with the striking coral reefs and thousands of fish. With a crystal clear ocean extending as far as the eye can see, anything can happen in Maldives.
LUANG PRABANG, Laos
Nestled along the bank of Mekong River in northern Laos, the former royal capital is the country’s first Unesco World Heritage Site. The small town is strung together by Buddhist temples, small hotels and guesthouses, crumbling French provincial architecture and multi-ethnic showpieces. Humble as it is beautiful – Luang Prabang has all the charm for a romantic break.
HOI AN, Vietnam
This seaside city is now a Unesco World Heritage Site. With a graceful historic Old Town, Chinese temples and ancient tea warehouses, lounge bars and boutique hotels, Hoi An has both romance and culture for couples who enjoy exploring by day and hitting the town at night.