20 March 2014
Top Picks: Asia’s top island escapades
Looking for an idyllic island retreat? Here’s a look at some of the best in the region
SEARCHING for an escape from, the hectic city life? This is Asia’s best of the winners of the 2014 Travellers’ Choice Islands Awards by TripAdvisor, based on reviews and opinions from millions of travellers.
These awards recognise more than 100 islands globally, including top 10 lists for Asia, Africa, the Caribbean, Europe, South America, the South Pacific and the US. Details at http://www.tripadvisor.com.my/TravelersChoice-Islands.
1 – Ko Tao, Thailand
Located in the Gulf of Thailand and shaped like a cashew nut, the island of Ko Tao takes its name from the abundant sea turtles found on its shores long ago. With calm seas and clear waters surrounding the island, Ko Tao is a great place to learn to dive and it has certified more divers than most diving destinations. The island is said to receive approximately 300 days of sun annually, best for long afternoons of lounging.
2 – Bali, Indonesia
One of the many islands in the Indonesian archipelago, Bali stands out for its lushness and deep spiritual culture. It is a favourite destination for both adventurers and those in need of relaxation. The waters off the coast of its white beaches are ideal for diving while the dense jungles, teeming with monkeys and hidden stone temples, call for exploration. Bali is further enriched by rugged volcanic mountains and warm hospitable locals.
3 – Ko Phangan, Thailand
Ko Phangan is famous for its abundant coconut trees and full-moon parties that attract hordes of party-goers every month. During the day, its beautiful beaches and well-equipped resorts make for a tranquil retreat.
4 – Ko Lanta, Thailand
Part of the Krabi province, Ko Lanta is popular with travellers seeking a quiet holiday away from the parties that rage on in other parts of Thailand. The island is famous for scuba diving and its white sandy beaches that stretch on for kilometres.
5 – Gili Trawangan, Indonesia
Once heralded as a backpacker centre in the 1980s and 1990s for it cheap accommodation, Gili Trawangan has developed into a destination with a far wider appeal today. In the largest of the three Gili islands, Gili Trawangan, all forms of motorised transport, including motorcycles, cars and buses, are banned to maintain its rustic charm.
6 – Boracay, the Philippines
At only slightly bigger than 10 sq km, this tiny island packs a punch with gorgeous beaches. Yapak Beach is known for exquisite white shells. White Beach offers powdery white sand and legendary sunsets. Balinghai Beach is an uncrowded cove, perfect for honeymooners. The more active will love water sports such as sailing, kite and wind surfing, snorkeling, diving and jet skiing.
7 – Phuket, Thailand
Nestled in the temperate waters of the Andaman Sea, Phuket is blessed with natural wonders such as Phang Nga Bay, a mystical blend of limestone cliffs with collapsed caves. At night, the island comes alive with merrymaking in the Patong area where travellers and locals come together.
8 – Palawan, the Philippines
Considered to be the country’s last remaining ecological frontier, Palawan is home to two Unesco World Heritage Sites — Tubbataha Reefs National Park which supports over 800 species of marine life, as well as Puerto-Princesa Subterranean River National Park which features a spectacular limestone mountain landscape. The latter has been named one of the New Seven Wonders Of Nature.
9 – Ko Samui, Thailand
Thailand’s third largest island is well-known for its many beaches. Its charm also lies in its bustling beach towns, including Chaweng and Lamai which offer every activity or service imaginable under the sun. From therapeutic massages to vibrant nightlife parties, and even intense muay thai training, travellers will leave with a taste of idyllic Thailand.
10 – Langkawi, Malaysia
The legend of a beautiful but cursed young woman named Mahsuri lingers on in the fabric of the local community here. The duty-free island is a nature-lover’s paradise, replete with picturesque paddy fields and Unesco World Heritage Site Langkawi Geopark.
“We are truly delighted that Langkawi has come in at No. 10 in the Choice Islands Awards list. It is a great way to kick start Visit Malaysia Year 2014,” said Culture And Tourism Minister Datuk Seri Mohammed Nazri Abdul Aziz. “ This jewel of Kedah will gain more prominence in the hearts of travellers worldwide and we urge everyone to take advantage of Visit Malaysia Year 2014 by making a trip to experience the beauty of Langkawi.”
Copyright © 2011 The New Straits Times Press (Malaysia) Berhad