Surely one place you will get to know well while in Singapore is Changi International Airport. Honestly, I’ve never thought I would be excited about an airport. But Changi is different – it will be greeting you almost every Sunday evening with Jazz music, smell of orchids and efficient immigration. So, enjoy all the many trips that you will experience! During P1-3 in Singy, I visited more than 10 new countries, and wanted to share some of my favorite destinations (in no particular order):
Sangat Diving Resort, Busuanga Island, Philippines
Philippines was on my to do list before I came to INSEAD. It’s enough to google image this place and your jaw drops. And the best part is – that it is exactly like that in reality! 20+ of us spent our P1 break in this beautiful diving resort (http://sangat.com.ph/). After P1 craziness this was a nice way to spend more time with a smaller group of people in a secluded place. First you need to fly to Manila, spend a night there (you must go to this amazing taco place – El Chupacabra). The next morning, we took a local flight to Busuanga island, and then a boat to our resort, which is the only resort on this small island. You will spend a lot of time there, but even if you are not into diving (like me) you will enjoy the scenery, kayaking, snorkeling, and just relaxing on the beach. Ask the hotel to organize a boat trip for a day – you will visit so many beautiful islands with pristine blue water. This is a perfect for relaxing, but still an active trip and a great bonding experience for everyone on this little island.
Vientiane – Vang Vieng – Luang Prabang, Laos
This was our P3 break adventure. You definitely need 5 days for this trip since to every place you will need to either take a van for 5 hrs or a night bus.
Laos is still mostly untouched by mass tourism, and you can experience genuine people with a beautiful scenery. It is probably one of the most underdeveloped countries in South East Asia, and their main income source apart from rice is tourism, so be generous with tips.
I would recommend only spending one day in Vientiane visiting the main temple, walk around the market at night and have a drink at one of the bars there. The next morning, we took a van to Vang Viene. It used to be known as a crazy party place, but now it is way quieter. You can still do tubing on the river, which is very fun and entertaining! But the highlight of our trip was a two-day trek up to the mountains organized by Green Discovery tours (https://www.greendiscoverylaos.com/eco-excursions/vang-vieng/vang-vieng-trekking/item/405-vang-vieng-challenge-zipline-waterfall) . Be ready for a challenge that involves climbing rocks, ziplining, going down the trees with ropes. The climb up is about 4-5 hrs, and you will be spending a night at a local family’s house, sleeping outside in the sleeping bags after a home cooked meal. The next day you will go down a different route in the jungle. I have to say this has been one of the most memorable and adventurous experiences during all INSEAD trips. Although we had to push ourselves couple of times to overcome our own fears, but the views, the company, the atmosphere is totally worth it!
After this challenge we needed to recover and wash off our bruises in a nice hotel. You can take a van (~5hrs) to Luang Prabang, and we stayed in Kiramara Hotel & Spa. It has a great pool, good location and nice service. During the day enjoy walking around Luang Prabang. In the evening we went up the hill in front of the Royal Palace to see the sunset, which was beautiful (although massive tourist alert). Restaurant recommendations: Blue Lagoon (more western food) and for amazing local food try Tamarind (try to make a reservation for a table by the river). We did not have enough time to visit the waterfalls, but we heard it’s worth it (although again quite touristy). But overall, it is definitely worth to visit Laos – it is very authentic and magical!
Yangon – Bagan – Inle Lake, Myanmar
Myanmar is one of those places that takes your breath away. Similar to Laos, you will need to find around 5 days to visit all the different cities. Spend a day in Yangon walking around the temples and visiting local bars. We then flew to Bagan, and as you may know the main attraction there are the temples and to see the sunrise. Some of our friends watched the sunrise in the hot air balloon (which is totally worth it!), but we took a bit of a different approach. We did sunrise biking tour organized by GrassHopper tours. Our guide was incredible, he took us to a remote temple to see the sunrise and it was only 4 of us there. Or you can even organize the sunrise viewing by yourself, however be aware that the main temples will have many tourists. After the sunrise, you will spend the day biking around various temples and markets – it’s actually a lot of fun. Then in the evening we rented motorbikes to drive around and go to see the sunset. We stayed at Bagan Umbra Hotel – definitely recommended place. For food try to visit Sanon Training Restaurant, which is a local restaurant that trains local people to become chefs.
Next stop was Inle Lake – we stayed at Inle Lake Resort & Spa – it’s a very nice hotel right on the lake. It’s beautiful, relaxing and the hotel restaurant has great food. During the day you can take the tour around the lake visiting different villages, and in the evening enjoy the sunset by the pool. This is a more chilled out part of the trip, which is very well needed after all the 5am mornings.
Embrace every experience and enjoy.