From Bali to Seoul, Sydney and Beyond, Weekend Vacation Vibes Are Still Going StrongBy Dana Ter
A quirky neighborhood you never got around to exploring, less-trodden trails and beaches, and secret gardens bursting with fantastical plants: Now is the time to rediscover your backyards.
Across Asia and Australia, here are some ideas to extend the good vibes for a late-season summer or winter (we see you, Australia!) weekend getaway, though be sure to check for travel restrictions or closures before packing your swimwear and hiking shoes.
If you’re looking to escape the usual tourist hangouts of Kuta, Canggu and Ubud, you’ll still find much lush, uncrowded terrain to traverse in Bali.
Sidemen Rice Terrace is an hours drive east of busy Ubud but feels worlds apart, especially when the sun casts a majestic yellow glow on the green rice paddies.
For something farther afield, visit Munduk Village in the north; it’s known for Munduk Waterfall, but there are two other waterfalls and a lake, as well.
Or rent a car and discover Bali’s wild west, starting from the black-sand Soka Beach, then driving up to the fishing town of Perancak with its remarkable hand-painted wooden boats, and ending at West Bali National Park, a wildlife conservation area suited for swimming and hiking.
A good distance away from Koh Samui’s tourist drag, Maenam Beach’s soft white sand and slanted coconut trees make it a wonderful sundown spot.
Thirsty? Take the circular road to the south of the island to Magic Alambic Rum Distillery. The thatched-roof outpost fringed with palm trees is Thailand’s only rum distillery, and its coconut rum and other Caribbean-inspired concoctions taste almost magical.
For a secluded escape from the main island, the almost uninhabited Koh Taen is just a 20-minute boat ride away. Bring snorkel gear, as Koh Taen means “Coral Island,” and it teems with tropical fish and colorful coral reefs.
Yeonnam is the quirky, low-key spinoff neighborhood of nearby Hongdae, best known for birthing Seoul’s underground youth culture, with its live music and pop art. Besides the neighborhood’s iconic cartoon café, Yeonnam’s streets — cluttered with bookstores, craft shops and art collectives — are delightful to explore.
Late summer in Seoul is cool and pleasant — a perfect time of year to hit the great outdoors. Drive an hour from Seoul to Ansan, which has myriad parks and hiking trails colored by wildflowers and dotted with ponds.
Then, step back in time to the Joseon Dynasty at Eunpyeong Hanok Village. Seoul has many hanok, or traditional houses, but Eunpyeong is barely visited, and thus it’s lovely to wander the interlacing paths connecting old black-roof houses.
Sydneysiders love their beaches, even during winter, and just north of the popular Manly Beach is the quieter Dee Why Beach, where restaurants including Corretto Dee Why offer takeout options such as burgers and tacos.
Unsurprisingly, Sydney has many green nooks, but unbeknownst to some is Wendy’s Secret Garden. A local artist opened her backyard to the public in the 1990s, and this charming, pint-sized garden full of big trees with crawling roots is the idyllic storybook setting for a picnic.
In step with the botanical theme, make a day trip to Heathcote National Park, which houses the whimsical open-air Sydney Wildflower Nursery.
It’s easy to spend hours in Taipei’s Qing Dynasty trading hub of Dadaocheng, where centuries-old teahouses exist next to craft breweries and gin bars housed in 19th-century Baroque buildings.
If a contemporary scene is your beat, check out Maji Square. This outdoor square has an oyster bar, ramen stands and beer shops. While away an afternoon here watching people walk their dogs and teenagers practice dance routines in the shade.
The heat in the city is oppressive, so a beach escape to the North Coast is necessary. Start with brunch in Qianshuiwan at one of the cafés that overlook the bay’s white sand and tidal pools.
Head northeast to Baishawan and trace the curve of the coast to Laomei. Brilliant green algae appear in late spring, but the bay is ideal for swimming until the fall. End in Jinshan for a food truck dinner and watch surfers pack up for the day.
A splash of color on a staircase or on the outside wall of a shophouse always livens up a neighborhood. In addition to the well-known Art Lane and Hollywood Road, there are more than 40 mammoth-sized murals of flowers, fishes, kaleidoscopes and more in eclectic Wan Chai, where new and old architecture, along with snazzy bars and noodle stalls, coexist.
Dreaming of a beach break? Take the kaito, or small ferry, to Lamma Island for the chance to relax along the golden shores of Shek Pai Wan.
After the ferry docks at Mo Tat Pier, it’s a 30-minute walk — first along the coast of Sok Kwu Wan bay, then down the mountain trail adjacent to Tin Hau Temple — to reach the beach’s soft sands hugged by dramatic cliffs.
For something even more quaint, Po Toi island, just off Hong Kong Island’s southeast tip, is home to less than 200 inhabitants and boasts vast, unspoiled nature and quiet swimming beaches. Look for local favorite, Ming Kee Seafood Restaurant, which serves black pepper squid and seaweed soup right on the sand.