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Travel & Holiday

New weekend getaways

Take the road less travelled to fresh destinations for food, shopping and culture
The Straits Times - August 23, 2011
By: Huang Huifen
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New weekend getaways

Tired of trawling the stalls of Chatuchak in Bangkok? Itching for an alternative beach break other than Bali?

There are alternatives for weekend getaways out of Singapore, other than the usual suspects.

Think Manila, Timor-Leste, Hainan Island, Bandung and Ho Chi Minh City.

With flight times of between two and four hours, comparable or even cheaper airfares, and more low-cost carriers opening new routes to cities in the region, these destinations are attracting more Singaporeans as alternative shopping, spa and beach weekend getaways.

Ms Yvonne Du, marketing manager for online travel agency Zuji Singapore, says Manila, for example, has experienced a phenomenal year-on-year growth of more than 50 per cent for bookings for weekend holidays.

'Many Singaporeans are taking advantage of the lower flight fares and affordable accommodation to enjoy the beauty of the unspoiled beaches in places such as Cebu and Boracay in the Philippines. Manila is the main aviation hub that connects to other provinces,' she says.

The price of a return trip from Manila on Jetstar Asia costs from $188, slightly cheaper than the $231.90 fare for Bangkok on the same airline.

Travel agencies such as Chan Brothers Travel, CTC Travel and ASA Holidays have all noted an increase in demand for travel to these weekend destinations.

Chan Brothers Travel saw a 10 per cent year-on-year growth in demand to destinations such as Vietnam, while CTC Travel saw a 20 per cent growth from last year for places like Vietnam and Manila.

ASA Holidays noted a year- on-year increase of 20 per cent of bookings to Hainan Island, a beach destination touted as the Hawaii of Asia for its year-long tropical weather.

Chan Brothers Travel's spokesman Jane Chang says that most of the customers who go to these new destinations make repeat visits on their own.

Property agent Andy Sim, 30, usually goes to Bangkok twice a year for weekend trips with his wife. But in January, he decided to go to Manila for the weekend with a friend. He estimated that his expenses, including food, transport and shopping, cost about $300.

'Apart from the traffic jams, I find Manila quite safe. Taxi-drivers charge by the meter, unlike in Bangkok where they try to negotiate a higher price. Plus, Bangkok is too crowded with tourists,' he says.

Retiree Jenny Pang, 60, was also pleasantly surprised when she went on a three-day weekend shopping trip to Ho Chi Minh City with four friends two years ago.

The group went to the various markets in the city and bought mostly food items such as cashew nuts, lotus seeds, fruits, dried scallops and fish maw to prepare for Chinese New Year then.

She says the price of the food was at least 30 per cent cheaper than similar items sold in Singapore.

'Ho Chi Minh City is a very different weekend destination compared to shopping destinations such as Hong Kong because you don't only shop, you also learn about a culture that is very different from what we are used to,' she says.



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