Asia's hottest sun and sand


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 be dark-skinned).

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 Asia.

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.


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 do.

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 lots more.
• 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 most hotels.


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 Holiday Inn.

• 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.


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 more upscale.

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.


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 Indonesia's history".

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 Spa.


By Gina Gagelonia


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 memorable.


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, low-sodium ingredients.

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 man-made assets.

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 wildlife.


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 of Bangkok.

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 US$100.

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 certified instructors.

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 Perfume River.


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 seafood.

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 surfies.

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.

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