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Photo: Le Tuan Anh on Unsplash

Cool weather destinations in Southeast Asia

Want to escape the humidity of Singapore? Chill out at these cool climes around Southeast Asia

By Delfina Utomo and Dewi Nurjuwita
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While Singapore's tropical weather may be welcoming to some, most of us just want to walk down the street without breaking a sweat. Instead of escaping to the nearest mall for that feel-good aircon blast, pack your bags and trade that artificial cold for the real deal – right here in Southeast Asia.

RECOMMENDED: The best diving spots in Southeast Asia and the best short day trips from Singapore

Baguio

Baguio, Philippines

Just a few hours outside Metro Manila, you can find one of the coolest places in the Philippines – and Southeast Asia, for that matter. At about 5,000 feet above sea-level, temperatures in Baguio rarely exceed 30 degrees Celsius. The mountainous area and lush forests bring in the cold breeze and it usually gets even cooler over December to February.

STAY For a log cabin-type of experience, check in to The  Manor at Camp John Hay for a breathtaking view of the Cordillera Central mountain range. Close to the city centre, Microtel Inn by Wyndham is located near many attractions in Baguio City, and the mall for you shopaholics.

EAT Cold weather calls for some thick hot chocolate so head to Choco-Late de Batirol. If craft beer in the mountains is something you want to experience, Baguio Craft Brewery is your watering hole. Check out its innovative brews and bar bites.

DO Visit Mount Pulag National Park where the third highest mountain in the Philippines is. In the city centre explore Burnham Park and the Baguio Night Market.

sapa

Sapa, Vietnam

This modest town located close to the Chinese border, northwest of Hanoi is known for its cool weather that doesn’t top 20 degrees Celsius all year round. It is also home to different ethnic tribal groups, making it one of the more culturally rich areas in Vietnam.

STAY For a private villa experience in the hills, the Eco Palms Lodge offer the best views of the rice fields and the mountains. Each of the bungalows is designed as a local minority group house in Sapa and the resort offers daily morning trips to the market and even cooking classes of you’re game. The centrally-located Sapa Elegance Hotel is where you can get scenic views of the mountains while still being around the corner from the Notre Dame Cathedral and the Sapa Cultural Market.

EAT With so many different ethnic groups in Sapa, it’s best  to be a little adventurous and sample different cuisines. At Sapa O’Chau Cafe, try the best of Vietnamese ethnic flavours while also giving back to the community. You can also settle for charcuterie, cheeses and coffee at The Hill Station if you’re up for French fare – Sapa was established as a French hill station back in 1922.

DO Trekking in Sapa is a must-do and almost every hotel offers some sort of hiking experience. Some take over two days, including an overnight stay in a village in the mountains. Make sure you see the green rice terraces of Muong Hoa Valley and visit Cat Cat Village where the Hmong people live.

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candi Arjuna
Bruno van Besien

Wonosobo, Indonesia

Jakarta might be notoriously known for being one of the hottest cities in Southeast Asia, but a little trip to Central Java just a few hours away might surprise you. Wonosobo is flanked by two mountains, Mount Sindoro and Mount Sumbing keep things pretty chill. Temperatures on Dieng Plateau can even dip below zero degrees.

STAY Fancy some pool time? Kresna Hotel Wonosobo is the perfect stay. If you’re roughing it out, opt for a homestay where you can meet the homeowners and other travellers as well. Sendangsari Bamboo Homestay at the base of Dieng Plateau is recommended for those looking for a digital detox.

EAT When in Indonesia, dig into fried duck at local joint, Bebek Goreng H.Slamet. There’s plenty of Indonesian warungs (small stalls) around so getting hungry is not something to worry about.

DO Hike Mount Sindoro for the edelweiss flowers and the best sunrise views at the peak. A visit to the spiritual place Dieng Plateau is a must. Explore volcanic craters, tour ancient temples and shrines and witness colour-changing lakes all at once.

Kundasang
Photo: Shutterstock

Kundasang, Malaysia

Just a two-hour drive from Kota Kinabalu is the mountain town of Kundasang. Known to many as the New Zealand of Sabah, the slow-paced town can be found in the foothills of Mount Kinabalu. The mountainous areas are refreshingly cool during the day, and temperatures dip below freezing during night time.

STAY You won't find big-chain hotels here. Instead, expect independent homestays that will give you a taste of local life in Sabah. Stay by the sloping mountainside in the modern chalets of J Residence, which provides basic accommodation that puts you close to nature. Alternatively, treat yourself to panoramic views of the surrounding highlands at Nikgold Garden Resort

EAT After exploring Mount Kinabalu, dig into local dishes at 89 Station, located near the Kinabalu National Park entrance. You'll find unique dishes such as wild boar with salted egg yolk and grilled ostrich. After which, head to Sabah Tea Garden to try out Sabah tea, or sip local wine (tapai) at a rice wine factory. 

DO Rejuvenate your body, mind, and spirit at Poring Hot Spring, located inside Kinabalu Park. The hot sulphuric minerals are said to have therapeutic and healing properties. At night, arm yourself with a torch and extra layers and head to the buffer zone of Mount Kinabalu Golf Club, which offers a mystical view of the Milky Way.

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Phetchabun
Celine Haeberly

Phetchabun, Thailand

Known for its forested mountains, streams and temps that don’t cross 30 degrees Phetchabun in north-central Thailand is known as Little Switzerland because of its peaceful and tranquil vibe. Home to untouched nature and ancient ruins, Phetchabun is the perfect cold weather getaway for those hoping to catch some culture.

STAY If you’re planning to hike in Khao Kho, book a stay at Phu Sandao Resort where you’ll be sleeping in pastel-hued pods in the hills. For something more idyllic, The Blue Sky Resort at Khao Kho is committed to replicating the lush English countryside, with its flower gardens and even quirky statues in the courtyard.

EAT Street food is your best friend in Phetchabun but for a place with a view, Pino Latte Cafe is a café in the clouds. Dig into standard cafe fare like cakes and sandwiches. For authentic Thai grub, hit the central area and dine at Krua Baan Suan, a gem of a place tucke away in Phetchabun.

DO Climb up Phu Thap Boek Mountain, the highest point in the region. Stop for a visit at Wat Pha Sorn Kaew the ‘temple on a glass cliff’ which is decorated with colourful tiles, and boasts amazing views.

It's getaway season

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