Travel: Winter Escapes

China is a stone’s throw from snowfields, idyllic sandy beaches and tropical jungle retreats. Sophie Loras looks for the best deals in Asia for escaping the winter blues.

As winter takes a firm hold in China, the options for escape are limitless, cheap and in most cases, just a few hours away by plane.

Kate Healy-Smith, from FCm Travel Solutions Flight Centre office in Hong Kong says the business’s most popular Asian destinations out of China during the winter months are Thailand (Krabi, Phuket, Koh Samui), the Philippines (Cebu and Boracay), Bali and the ski resorts of Japan’s Niseko and Sapporo.

“If you don’t want to travel too far to escape the cold I would recommend Thailand.  Here you can find a holiday to suit every taste and budget and it’s a reasonable flying distance from China,” Kate says.

Phuket is famous for its beaches and clear waters and has options for those who love to party all night, as well as families or people looking for a quiet relaxing. Then there is Koh Samui, an idyllic tropical retreat with its white-sandy beaches, “sapphire-blue sea, tantalizing Thai cuisine and friendly people,” says Kate.

Krabi on the other hand is less crowded than Phuket and more laid back than Koh Samui, and is teeming with natural attractions: “gorgeous scenery, snorkelling and diving spots, a coastline with over 200 islands sitting offshore and a jungle-clad inland area with tall limestone cliffs, waterfalls and tropical wildlife,” she says.

It’s a sentiment backed by Marko Soltys, General Manager, Intrepid China and India who says now is the ideal time to be visiting Thailand.

intrepid_travel_thailand_chiang-mai_doi-suthep_web

“This is the ideal time of the year to go trekking in the north of Thailand, outside of Chiang Mai while the temperatures are a bit cooler,” he says.

Intrepid has been taking tours to Thailand for the past 21 years, “so we know it like the back of our hand!”

* Right: Chiang Mai’s Doi Suthep Temple, Thailand. (Courtesy Intrepid Travel).

Marko says the northern winter months are also the best time to visit Borneo and climb Mt Kinabalu.

“February is the driest time of the year and visibility is great,” he says.

Intrepid’s number one selling destination over winter however, is Vietnam.

“I recommend travelling to Vietnam in December as it’s not so humid compared with other times of the year. Come January, the temperatures drop,” says Marco.

Marko, who has been based in Asia for the past six years, says at this time of year, the ski fields of Japan remain a favourite.

“Like many other Beijing expats I’ve loved my mini-breaks in Thailand to escape the cold, but the trip to Niseko to ski in Japan last year with a bunch of friends was brilliant and is a trip we plan to repeat in years to come.”

A highlight is the February Sapporo Snow Festival.

“It is one of Japan’s largest winter events and attracts two million people each year. Hundreds of snow statues and ice sculptures line Odori Park in Sapporo turning the place into a winter dreamland of crystal-like snow and ice.”

Marko Spends much of his time between India and China these days, and says that for travellers with an open mind, India is “colourful, crazy, challenging, fun, and as exotic as can be imagined.”

“It’s a great and popular time to travel to this region and the southern parts have plenty of great beaches!     

Despite the cold, China can’t be ruled out either. Marko says Intrepid’s 20-day Beijing toHong Kong trip remains popular and enticing for anyone wanting to experience the big sights and cities of China but also have time in rural villages. 

intrepidtravel_borneo_descending_mt_kinabulu_webFCm Travel has an array of winter packages available for travel during Christmas and Chinese New Year for departures ex Hong Kong, Shanghai & Beijing.
For more info visit: www.flightcentre.com.hk or www.flightcentre.com.cn

Intrepid has numerous trips in the region over the winter including its Treasures of the South in Thailand and Cycle Vietnam. For more information visit: www.intrepidtravel.com

*Above: The best time to visit Borneo’s Mount Kinabulu is in February (courtesy Intrepid Travel).

Sake and Snow Bunnies in Sapporo
Dalwyn Bateson, General Manager AustCham Beijing, loved her first trip to the Japanese ski fields so much, that she went again the following year. To read about her experience, click here.

Back in Time in Burma
Amanda Duggan, the Group Manager for Strategy and Business Development with Telstra Sensis in Beijing, had Burma on her travel list for years before she finally visited the isolated Southeast Asian nation over Chinese New Year in January 2009. To read Amanda’s story, click here.

 

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