Short getaways in Southeast Asia that are long on romance

Similan Islands in southern Thailand. (PHOTO: Getty Images)
Similan Islands in southern Thailand. (PHOTO: Getty Images)

By Desiree Koh

Looking to whisk your Valentine away for some alone time? There is no shortage of romance-rich hideouts in the region that are far from the crowds and less than five hours away.

Love, Naturally: Bawah Reserve, Indonesia

Travel time: 3 hours 30 minutes, including all transfers

The Bawah Reserve, on one of the islands in Indonesia’s Riau archipelago, is a private island getaway that’s all about romance. An 80-minute trip by private seaplane from Batam International Airport will take you to this idyllic clutch of islands that sits in clear turquoise waters. Three blue lagoons brimming with coral reefs and 13 pristine beaches promise ultra-personalisation and all-inclusive luxury. Take a private kayak to an uninhabited island for a picnic on the beach, book a couple’s suite at Aura Spa, or escape into nature for the day. Top it all off with a candlelight dinner under the stars on your villa’s private verandah – with a menu specially planned for you.

Le Petit Paris: Dalat, Vietnam

Travel time: 4 hours 45 minutes

Dalat, South Vietnam’s quintessential colonial hill station, boasts many of the trappings of the City of Love. French villas flank streets, vineyards overflow with local wines, and swan-shaped pedal boats take you across the iconic Xuan Hong Lake. With the Langbiang mountain providing a fantastic vista, tuck into high tea at the Dalat Palace, book in tee time for two at Dalat Palace Golf Club, or take your love to new heights on the 2000m-high Dalat cable car.

Set Sail on the Love Boat: Luang Prabang, Laos

Travel time: 3 hours 10 minutes

Laos’ former royal capital exudes romance, and the Gypsy, a luxury vessel that voyages into the heart of the Golden Triangle, levels up on the love factor. Set sail into the Mekong sunset on the four-day cruise, which brings you up close to remote fishing villages, hill tribes and lavish jungles. On board, lounge in lush interiors, savour cocktails under the stars, or sign up for tailor-made-for-two activities, including cooking and dancing. Venture further on guided excursions to the holy Pak Ou caves, a northern Thai elephant sanctuary, or learn the art of Lao whiskey making.

English Enchantment: Pahang, Malaysia

Travel time: 3 hours 30 minutes

Time stands still at Cameron Highlands’ The Lakehouse, a 19-room Tudor-style boutique resort overlooking Pahang’s Sultan Abu Bakar Lake. Dotted with old English armchairs and artefacts that include old gramophones and typewriters, it makes for an idyllic getaway. Try the hilltop Fosters Suite, eponymously named for the British colonel who built his dream bed-and-breakfast here more than 50 years ago. Set in a wing separate from the main manor, it comes with a four-poster bed complete with sheer drapes, and a rustic log wood fireplace.

Take The Plunge: Similan Islands, Thailand

Travel time: 3 hours 30 minutes

If you’re looking to give your love life new depth, Thailand’s Similan Islands provide the perfect setting. Their surreal underwater universe teems with fish in technicolour hues and awe-inspiring coral architecture. Go on day excursions or multi-day live-aboard adventures that will take you to Elephant Head Rock, where curious sharks congregate, or Christmas Point, a gathering of arches for swimming through. It makes for a perfect escape, and an unforgettable backdrop for a proposal witnessed by manta rays and seahorses.

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