6 neighbouring cities for Malaysians to (re)visit on a short-haul flight


The Xpark aquarium has a collection of 30,000 fish from more than 300 species! — Photos: Handout

Despite the lockdowns that most countries faced, new and exciting places have popped up – pandemic be damned – whether these be restaurants, malls, places of interest, and even hotels.

While Malaysians are happy that overseas travel is finally allowed, sentiments remain cautious, so most of us are not likely to venture too far just yet. Plus, there are not too many destinations at the moment that would allow Malaysians to enter without restrictions or conditions.

Let’s take a look at some of the new openings in six popular destinations that are under six hours away from Kuala Lumpur by air, that we can plan for a visit – hopefully – soon.

Singapore (1hr 5min from KL)

Even if you think you know Singapore well, there are still new things to do and see in the country – especially if you haven’t visited since the pandemic broke out. One of these is The Museum of Ice Cream (MOIC) that opened in the lush and leafy upmarket Dempsey enclave in August this year.

The Museum of Ice Cream in Singapore is a colourful, quirky and fun place to hang out.The Museum of Ice Cream in Singapore is a colourful, quirky and fun place to hang out.

MOIC (museumoficecream.com/) started as a pop-up attraction in the United States in 2016. With interiors decked in colours like bubble gum pink and mango yellow, it soon became an Instagram sensation. The Singapore outpost housed in about 5,500sq m of space with 14 multisensory and interactive installations is MOIC’s first overseas.

In-house ice cream is par for the course at the MOIC, and also comes in dairy-free and vegan options. The Singapore outlet has also customised flavours to a local context. Flavours like lychee bandung and pulut hitam would resonate with Malaysian visitors.

But the sprinkle pool, not ice cream, is the main draw here. Lose your inhibitions, pounce into a pool of colourful sprinkles and become a child again.

Bangkok, Thailand (2hr 15min)

The capital of the Land of Smiles is one of Malaysians’ favourite destinations for shopping and eating, as well as staying in posh resorts or hotels without paying through the roof. It is good to know then that a slew of new hotels has opened in Bangkok since late 2019, and most of them are swanky with beautiful interiors.

If you’re on the hunt for some artworks or are interested in arts events, then keep an eye out for announcements from the Kimpton Maa-Lai Bangkok, which opened a year ago. The property marks the brand’s entry into South-East Asia, and features a lobby styled like an art gallery.

And while art cannot fill your stomach, the four bars and restaurants at the hotel certainly can.

Those who are on “workcations” meanwhile may want to head over to the city’s hippest street to check out the Staybridge Suites Bangkok Thonglor, which provides a residential-style hotel option for those who want to come and go as they would their own apartment.

Like any other upmarket residential project, there are common spaces including a sky pool with jacuzzi, Japanese onsen and sauna. The hotel also hosts a casual get-together every evening for guests.

Bali, Indonesia (2hr 55min)

At Indonesia’s most visited island, there is always a demand for newer and more luxurious resorts. And there’s always a new opening that caters to what you want, whether it is the soft caress of sea breeze along the Jimbaran coast or good and cheap food on the bustling streets of Kuta.

The rooftop bar at Mamaka by Ovolo in Bali is the highest in Kuta.The rooftop bar at Mamaka by Ovolo in Bali is the highest in Kuta.

Check out the rooftop bar at the new Mamaka by Ovolo urban resort on the Kuta beachfront. This is the highest rooftop bar in the area, giving party troopers splendid panoramas.

Not up for a party? Don’t worry, as there are plenty of new relaxing spa options to choose from too. Sybarites seeking seclusion may head down south to Jimbaran beach where Raffles Bali is set to open at year-end, with private pool villas overlooking the Indian Ocean. The resort’s spa is set on a tranquil hillside and offers treatments that relax and rejuvenate.

Hong Kong (3hr 55min)



Spanning across 40ha of reclaimed land, the West Kowloon Cultural District is one of the largest cultural projects in the world, with spaces dedicated to a variety of uses such as art, education, parks, hotels, offices, residential and retail developments, and dining and entertainment facilities. When completed, there will be 17 new cultural venues including the Arts Pavilion, the Xiqu Centre, Freespace, the Art Park and M+ Museum.

The first four spaces are already open, while M+ is scheduled to open on Nov 12. With a striking, inverted T-shaped structure designed by Herzog & de Meuron (the Swiss architecture firm behind London’s Tate Modern), M+ is billed to be the centrepiece of the cultural district. But this Hong Kong museum of visual culture is an even more ambitious project.

Covering 65,000sq m – nearly twice the size of the Tate – M+ has taken nearly two decades to complete. Given its size, you would want to explore it at leisure.

Bon vivants (and big spenders) may wish to check out Rosewood Hong Kong, which opened in 2019, the year street demonstrations made Hong Kong inaccessible to tourists.

Taipei (4hr 45min)



Xpark, Taiwan’s newest aquarium is not exactly in Taipei. But at iust 15 minutes away by taxi from Taoyuan International Airport, it is a convenient stop for visitors going to Taipei. Opened in August last year, Xpark (xpark.com.tw/), a Japanese-Taiwanese venture, sets itself apart from other aquariums by using digital technology to create an immersive experience.

A collection of 30,000 fish from more than 300 species are on display in 13 exhibition zones spread over 14,000sq m. In some exhibits, the aquarium has recreated the conditions of natural habitats in other environments around the world by replicating the temperature, humidity level and even the natural aroma of the vegetation.

At the Formosa zone, the museum goes a step further with piped in music. Many visitors flock to this zone simply to enjoy the theme song which is composed by Joe Hisaishi, well-known for his works for Studio Ghibli movies.

Another exhibit that pulls in the crowds is a digital installation of corals illuminated in every hue imaginable. With the use of light projection technology, a magical kaleidoscopic display that stretches across an expansive space is created, bewitching both children and adults.

Perth, Australia (5hr 45min)

The capital of Western Australia is the nearest city in Australia for Malaysians, making it a hot pick when we want to holiday Down Under. A crop of newly opened attractions now offers more reasons to fly to this city.

At just one location, the four-year-old Optus Stadium, one of Perth’s biggest tourist destinations, three new experiences have been launched this year. Those able to tackle the Matagarup Bridge Climb would enjoy uninterrupted views of the City of Lights and Perth’s Optus Stadium at 72m above the Swan River from its skyview platform.

However, reaching the bridge’s skyview platform is no walk in the park. One has to first trek up 314 steps at a 45˚ angle, then squeeze through tight spaces. If you have energy left, there is the option to use the newly launched zip-line for your descent.

To round out an exciting day out, join the two-hour HALO tour at Optus Tower. With just 78 steps to the roof, it is a cool down after the Matagarup Bridge climb.

At the roof, you would be rewarded with spectacular views of the city and tales of the stadium narrated by tour leaders.

Take advantage of the travel bubble and fly low cost to neighbouring countries with AirAsia Promo AirAsia Promo

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