There is a secret to why Asia's beaches are so wonderful
-- locals generally shun them. So you get long, golden
stretches of beach which are generally deserted.
Strangely, swimming in the sea was traditionally not
something locals did, and sun-tanning was a definite no-no,
especially for young ladies (it was considered "peasant" to
This may have changed in recent years as tourist
behaviour impacted local culture and young Asians begin to
discover the delights of sea, sun and sand.
But think back to the days before Phuket, Penang and
Bali were colonised by tourists. The best beaches were
generally deserted. Locals went to the beachfront to sit
under the trees and have picnics - and only in the
evenings. Only mad dogs and Englishmen did it at noon. In
Thailand, the joke is locals find a beach and they set up
food stalls. It's pretty much the same everywhere in
With so much to offer in Asia, and with more and more
beaches becoming more accessible, the beach seeker is truly
spoilt for choice.
Beach holidays are well developed in countries like
Malaysia, Thailand, Indonesia and the Philippines. The
Maldives and Sri Lanka are a hit with the Europeans.
And the next wave of beach resorts is about to hit
Asia's shores. Vietnam's Danang Beach is opening up to more
flights and Myanmar is slowly developing its beach product.
Ngapali Beach is the first but watch out for more - the
country has some spectacular islands in the Burma Banks
area, and all still undeveloped.
As they say, life's a beach in Asia.
SLEEPY NO MORE
By Corinne Wan
If anyone out there still refers to Langkawi Island as a
sleepy hollow, banish that thought. This description would
have held water a few years ago. Today, Langkawi, off the
northeastern coast of Peninsular Malaysia, has been
transformed into a real cool and happening island resort.
Don't get me wrong. You can still lie in the sun and be
lulled to sleep by the sound of waves and the island's
famous legends and fables. But surely you don't want to do
that throughout your stay as there's so much to see and
Quick guide for a perfect holiday:
• Freedom on the road: See the island by car or
motorcycle. Rent these vehicles at the airport or jetty
area. Check out the UFO slide and the free fall at the
Aquabeat indoor water theme park in Padang Matsirat.
• Island hop: Hop to Pulau Singa Besar for a picnic; Pulau
Dayang Bunting (Lake of the Pregnant Maiden) for a quick
dip; Pulau Payar for the biggest marine park in Asia; and
• At one with nature: Discover the island's natural assets
on the half-day Mangrove Tour, the hour-long nature walk or
the three-hour jungle trek. These tours are available at
PACK A PICNIC IN PENANG
By Yeoh Siew Hoon
Penang may be known for its beaches, but remember too
that it's also known for its food - so here's a guide to
the best beaches to hang out for food, beer and music -
apart from sun and sand.
• The most unbeatable stretch of beach is the most
well-known one - Batu Ferringghi where the main hotels are
located. This roughly stretches from the Rasa Sayang to the
• The far end corner at the Rasa Sayang is a good, quiet
spot of a picnic. This was a favourite camping ground for
locals until the arrival of tourists.
• The best spot for lunch on the beach is at Lone Pine,
the island's oldest beach hotel loved by nostalgic British
tourists who want to follow the footsteps of Somerset
Maugham. The hotel is known for its Hainanese food, a form
of cuisine peculiar to Penang. It is said to have been
developed by Hainanese chefs for their former colonial
masters. Tuck into "inche kabin" (fried chicken in spices,
dipped in Worchestershire sauce) or "assam prawns" (prawns
fried in tamarind sauce).
• Palm Beach, operated by the Shangri-La group, is
another favourite hotel that offers local dining by the
sea. Its restaurant is right on the beach. The stars, the
fresh breeze and the pounding of the waves make you forget
the food you are eating - well, sometimes.
• A great hideaway is at Moonlight Bay, a quiet bay just
before the main Batu Ferringhi stretch. Few tourists
venture there so it remains a great hideaway for quiet
picnics and lovers.
• Did you know Gurney Drive is also a beach? Most people
associate this promenade with delicious hawker food. Well,
it was a beach before the hawkers discovered it. It is
wonderful for morning tai chi and evening walks. After
dinner, stroll along the promenade.
• A new pub has opened at Tanjung Bungah beach. It's
called Rozells and it offers good old fashioned country and
western music. Local folks gather here for their Hank
Williams and Jim Reeves, and you get to see some line
dancing as well. It's open air and it's right on the beach.
Garth Brooks would approve.
By Luke Clark
Bali is no longer the quiet, sleepy little island it
once was. It's a holiday hub for an entire country, and
comes with all the hustle and bustle this involves. As a
result, tourists who get slapped in Kuta expecting the
Maldives get disappointed.
But find the right place to sit with a cold beer, a blue
surf beach and uninterrupted horizon, and a dusk procession
of villagers, all carrying offerings and spotlessly adorned
in gold silk and white sarongs; and you'll realise that
this is a beach destination like few others. It's
something, well, a little mystical.
A BEACH FOR EACH DESIRE
The stats show that those who come to Bali will return
again. It's because people find what they want.
Bali's beaches: Tuban. Kuta, Legian, Seminyak,
Petitinget and Canngu are on the southwest coast. South to
north, the beach gets cleaner and less crowded. Hotel
prices rise further north, and get more exclusive; though
there are always some good deals.
Parallel to the beach, the shopping and restaurants get
more boutique and upmarket further north, though Kuta now
has impressive air-conditioned shopping centres.
Agents should know the following beach areas and
discover the associated hotels: Tuban and Kuta are young,
brash and out-there. This is the action centre, where you
go to have fun and to shop. Kuta's not all cheap though now
- classy hotels like Hard Rock and the renovated Alam Kul
Kul give more comfort to the experience. Legian's further
north, and popular with FITs wanting a casual experience
without the Kuta hassle. Bali's version of Goa. Seminyak
and Pettitinget are more exclusive, and popular with
couples, women, and gay travellers. Home of The Oberoi and
The Legian, this area is becoming popular for swanky bars
and restaurants. Canggu, an ancient village, and still
pretty undeveloped - it is still the place for empty beach
and windswept temples.
Nusa Dua is pure controlled integrated resort experience
- perfect for MICE groups or those people who want to
escape from the world and chill out in a manicured four- or
five-star environment. Popular for watersports. Jimbaran is
noted for its sea-food restaurants on the beach, and its
colourful markets, Jimbaran is hilly and properties are
Sanur maintains a Balinese village feeling, and has a
good swimming beach. Quieter, it's a place to relax and
shop. Popular with families, and the Japanese markets.
North and East: For serious getaways, Lovina in the North,
and Amed and Tulamben on the East Coast, are recommended,
and popular for snorkelling and diving.
NEW AND NOTABLE
Boutique Hotels: Bali's gone boutique in a big way: for
instance, Tugu Bali in Canggu is a museum hotel, which in
Archectural Digest described as "a resort which celebrates
Spa flourishes: Also visit the interior to live the life
of the "Bali Spa Experience". Ubud, with great cafes,
museums and shops is an enchanting place away from the
sand. Meanwhile, the famous Bali spa industry continues to
grow - the latest big spa being the renovated Ritz Carlton
By Gina Gagelonia
BOHOL'S BLESSED BEACHES
Bohol is one of the Philippines' best bets for nature
tripping - beach combing and scuba diving. Cosmopolitan
Cebu is a jump-off point to Bohol - just a 30-minute boat
ride away. Bohol boasts white beaches, a magnificent marine
life and underwater scenery.
Bohol Beach Club - Classified Class "AA", is recommended
to the more discerning beach person and scuba diver. There
are three cozy room types matching deep and shallow
pockets. Located in Panglao, the resort is ringed by
pristine waters in hues of turquoise and emerald, teeming
with varied marine life and corals. Majestic walls, schools
of pelagic fish and ultra-hospitable islanders with warm
smiles make your jaunt to Bohol Beach Club truly
Adjacent to Cebu City, Mactan Island has a string of
first-class resorts with scuba shops within metres of
offshore reefs. Awesome caves and cathedral are what divers
are up to once they go 20 feet or deeper down under.
Living up to its name, Pulchra, which means "beauty",
has owners who opted to bank on the "Respect for Fragility
and Raw Beauty" concept.
Noisy or destructive Aqua sports are a no-no, only the
almost sound-free ones are offered, which includes scuba
diving. The place is best noted for its nouvelle cuisine,
mostly original recipes spiced with herbs, fat-free,
Another memory that keeps ringing in one's head is
guests being treated like royalty as two ladies-in-waiting
are at the beck and call of each guest. TV sets and radio
are conspicuously missing from the guestrooms. Ahh, peace…
The eco-friendly resort is studded with tastefully-designed
native cottages and restaurants, bars, dive shops, swimming
pools and a souvenir and gift shop.
Costa Aguada Island Resort is the ultimate dream land of
the daring traveller. Catering to the more-whimsical
intrepid guest who loathes the idea of "being not wired,"
it is situated on a crocodile-shaped island called
Inalimpugan. Plus points are a hodge-podge of God-given and
Two-way radio communication is available. It has a
helipad and a wharf. Consisting of 27 double and 14 single
room bamboo cottages equipped with intercom, private toilet
and electric power. Total number of rooms available is 68.
Natural features include clean white sand beaches,
untainted transparent waters, a 851-ft long bamboo bridge
that floats with the tide, a sea forest of wild mangrove,
turtle park, a mini zoo, a jungle park with robust
centuries-old giant trees and forest vegetation with
GOOD MORNING VIETNAM
By Mark Glanville
In geographic terms it's pretty much smack in the middle
of Vietnam, halfway between Ho Chi Minh City and Hanoi.
There are direct links with nearby Bangkok, and its beaches
speak of fine sand, beckoning waters and (of course)
swaying coconut palms.
These are reasons why the coastal city of Danang is now
being pushed as the third international gateway to Vietnam
and a new beach destination in Indochina. Direct flights on
Thai Airways International link Danang with the Asian hub
Danang is home to China Beach, stretching for some 20
miles between Monkey Mountain and Marble Mountain over
three strips of beach. The city centre offers a choice of
comfortable three star hotels and small guest houses - from
US$25 to US$40 a night - but it's on China Beach where the
200-room Furama Resort Danang is located, about 20 minutes
drive from the city.
Awarded five star status by the Vietnam National
Administration of Tourism, the resort is welcoming the
growth in tourism to Danang and plans to build additional
recreation and sporting facilities, an 18-hole golf course,
small convention centre and an additional 200 rooms. The
resort is operating on an average room rate of close to
For water enthusiasts the Furama Resort offers
windsurfing, jet skiing, ocean kayaking and banana boating.
From early March to late October, the Diana Diving Base
offers a choice of diving services and courses, operated by
There's more to Danang than coastline. The city bears
testimony to colonial days past, with a mix of French and
Spanish influence. And within a couple of hours' drive of
Danang are three UNESCO World Heritage Sites - the ancient
trading port of Hoi An, sacred Cham temple remains of My
Son and former imperial city of Hue on the banks of the
By Ian Jarrett
Perth has 19 beaches spread along 35km of coastline -
little wonder that locals are known as Sandgropers. Beach
culture here is as strong as the Fremantle doctor, the
afternoon breeze that brings relief on the hottest days.
Coolest spot is Cottesloe, a hang out for the young and
trendy by day; and later for families gathering to picnic
on the grassed areas at the back of the beach.
For those who don't want sand in their pies, the Indiana
Tea House is a great spot to observe beach life while
sipping a chilled WA chenin blanc and eating local
Further north: The Blue Duck Cafe offers good food and
views, while the North Cott Cafe is a favourite for those
seeking an early morning breakfast at the beach. On Marine
Parade, Cottesloe, the funky Tropicana is a hang out for
Surf it up: For good wave action, the northern beaches
of Scarborough - home of strong Aussie surf culture - and
Trigg, are the best spots. For calmer waters, Port Beach,
off North Fremantle, Leighton Beach, City Beach and
Mullaloo are recommended for families.