It’s almost that time; hundreds of SAS students are preparing to take their annual pilgrimage to Bali, Indonesia. The trip is normally taken by seniors during Spring break, but this year, many are discouraged due to the coronavirus outbreak. SAS student Ruhaan Pius has concerns, stating, “Everyone goes to Bali. I just want to go somewhere to relax after a stressful senior year.” On top of this, Bali is crowded during Spring break, with a crowd of Australian tourists constantly funnelling into the crowded city.
So. there’s the issue of health under the pending threat of travel bans. But this predicament also offers an incredible slew of discounted deals and last-minute travel opportunities. So, let’s say that you’re more in line with the thinking of Ruhaan and I: you want to travel, but you don’t wan’t to go where everybody else goes. Here is a list of five (relatively) cheap alternatives for you and your friends to escape the crowds and avoid the crowds (and virus) this Spring Break:
Nestled in a valley at the confluence of the Mekong and Nam Khan rivers, this town is known for its strong ties to Buddhism and hiking opportunities. The town is a mix of Southeast Asian heritage and modern colonial structures, providing an abundance of opportunities for exploration.
A day in Luang Prabang could look like this: wake up early to watch the sunset over nearby hills before heading down to main street, where locals pay morning alms to monks on their way to the monastery. Take a cruise down the mighty Mekong, stopping at the Kouang Si waterfalls, where miles of trails wind their way to crystal clear water. End the day at a local restaurant, taking in the views of a bustling town.
Old Bagan is a UNESCO world heritage site, having a rich history that dates back to the 9th century AD. The town was the center of immense wealth during this time period, allowing the rulers to order the construction of over 30,000 religious monuments. A day in Bagan might include: renting a motorbike and meandering through the countless temples and monasteries, taking a cruise down the Irrawaddy river and interacting with locals, or just walking through the expansive landscape of thousand-year-old temples.
Darwin is Southeast Asia’s gate to Australia; it is only a four hour flight from Singapore. Its position as a coastal city means that it has beaches dotted along its shores, providing some valuable relaxation. It also lies near the massive Kakadu National Park, a 20000 square kilometre park home to rich wildlife and landscapes. There are thousands of trails to explore that snake around the rock formations and wetlands.
By far the best thing to do in Darwin is Crocosaurus Cove. This place offers a unique look at one of Australia’s mightiest creatures: the saltwater crocodile. Submerge yourself into a glass capsule as you are slowly lowered into a tank full of some of the largest crocs in the world.
One of the least visited countries in Southeast Asia, Brunei doesn’t often make it onto travel lists. The country is divided into two regions, with the east holding the majority of the population. The west is home to the most well-preserved rainforests in Asia. Walking through the forest, you can find an abundance of animals such as the famous proboscis monkey and the rhinoceros hornbill. Heading back into the city, you can visit the centrepiece of the city: the Omar Ali Saifuddien mosque. Over all, this country is a bustling secret in the heart of Southeast Asia, with little tourists to get in your way.
On the edge of the Annapurna range, Pokhara is a popular destination all year round. It is known for beautiful views of the Himalayan mountains and provides access to thousands of hiking trails and extreme sports. Nepalese markets snake through town, with tourists flocking to buy souvenirs before heading into the vast mountains.
Spring break is a time to relax with friends in the middle of a busy semester. Instead of going with the worn out tradition and travelling to Bali, consider these less-known options, actually learning about the country you are in and getting to know the amazing people that call it home.