5 weekend getaways under S$500

By Winifred Tan It is barely a quarter through 2012 and you’re already dying to catch a breather from all the drama and stress at work. What better way to take a break from the hustle and bustle of city life than grabbing a travel bag and packing for a short jaunt somewhere? We list down 5 exotic destinations that you can consider for that weekend getaway. Nikoi Island, Indonesia 2.5 hours away by ferry is Nikoi Island, long regarded as one of the most stunning unspoilt coasts in the Indonesian archipelago. Featuring an indigenous Banyan tree rainforest and coastline studded with beautiful white granite boulders, the island is an untouched slice of paradise, the only signs of civilisation being the 15 driftwood beach houses and a spectacular pool offering uninterrupted views over the South China Sea. The Nikoi community prides itself on environmental conservation and social responsibility. Eco-friendly visitors can rest assured that the resort practises responsible tourism and has even established an Island Foundation to support village development programmes on Bintan.

Visit http://www.nikoi.com/about.html for more information about Nikoi Island. Hanoi, Vietnam Forget Ho Chin Minh City (formerly named Saigon) and head instead to Hanoi, the thousand-year-old capital of Vietnam. Like a grand old dame, Hanoi is an interesting juxtaposition of history and modernity. Cultural aficionados will find much to appreciate at this cultural crossroad, where the exotic chic of Parisian architecture blends with the dynamic face of new Asia. Soak in the pulse of the city starting from the Old Quarter, tailor yourself an exquisite silk outfit at Hang Gai Street, visit wartime sites such as the French-designed Hoa Lo Prison, and be sure to catch a water puppet theatre performance. For the gastronomically adventurous, Hanoi is second only to Beijing as an exotic food paradise – street delicacies run the gamut from cobra blood wine and giant water bugs to boiled duck foetus eggs. Bon appétit! Siem Reap, Cambodia This once quaint town located in northern Cambodia is today a major tourist destination, drawing troves of international visitors. It is the primary access point for the Angkor Archaeological Park, Cambodia’s eighth wonder of the world and home to the ancient temples of Angkor Wat, Bayon and the other ruins of the Khmer Empire. To gain a deeper appreciation for how far Cambodia has come since the 1970s Khmer Rouge regime, consider a side trip to Phnom Penh to visit the Killing Fields and Toul Sleng Genocide Museum. Although much of the Cambodian population still subsist on less than US$1 a day, they never fail to impress visitors with their generosity and peace-lovingness. Chiang Mai, Thailand What better place to experience famous Thai hospitality than the old city of Chiang Mai? One weekend is insufficient to fully explore this “Rose of the North”, but you can start by tracing her pretty moat, crumbling bastions and ruined pagodas towards Wat Phrathat Doi Suthep, a sacred gold-gilded temple said to date back to 1383. Sporty wayfarers are welcome to river raft, ride on elephants, and trek to the various hill tribes, while avid shoppers should definitely patronise the Night Bazaar for authentic art and handicrafts. As the locals say, you have not experienced Chiang Mai until you’ve seen the view from Doi Suthep, eaten a bowl of khao soi (“cut rice”), and purchased an umbrella from Bo Sang. Sanya, China Fondly referred to as Asia’s very own Hawaii, sunny Sanya offers a great beach experience with a twist. The island is famous for its 7.5km stretch of white sand beach at Yalong Bay and the luxury hotels that continue to crop up, though first-time visitors are likely to be equally tickled by the whimsical attractions nearby, such as the Rocks of Sun and Moon and Luhuitou Park. The latter is an especially popular hangout for lovers; legend has it that a hunter fell in love with a deer-turned-beautiful-lady there, so it has become a tradition for visiting couples to leave a padlock on top of the park mountain as a symbol of everlasting love. Come 2013, a gargantuan ocean harbour theme park will also be added in the mix of fairy caves and shell aquariums. If all that isn’t attractive enough, consider this: Sanya is a recurring favourite destination of the Miss World pageant and has hosted legions of international beauties no less than 5 times. The beauty of both nature and nurture on display – now that will be one exotic weekend to remember. -- Our intrepid travel-loving Editorial team used the following sites to source for the best travel deals. Travelpear Plenty Rooms Tripzilla Wego Singapore With the March school holidays drawing near, it is best to book your travel destination now before all vacancies are taken up. Which places are you intending to visit? Share with us in the comments box below! The JobsCentral Group, a CareerBuilder company, is the owner of JobsCentral.com.sg, one of Singapore's largest job and learning portals. Get a free career personality test and more career- and education-related articles at JobsCentral and JobsCentral Community.