Five off-the-beaten-track destinations

31 Jul 2013 by Clement Huang

Chiao Lan Reservoir

WHERE? Surat Thani, Thailand

WHY VISIT IT? Nestled near Khao Sok National Park, the reservoir was constructed in 1982 to help generate hydro-electricity to the city and other nearby towns. Upon completion, over 150 islands formed. The 739 sq km Khao Sok National Park, established in 1980, has pristine moist evergreen forests that abound with wildlife and fascinating plants. Activities include visiting caves on a bamboo raft, hiking or swimming in the crystal clear waters. The best time to visit is December to April.

HOW TO GET THERE? The nearest airport is Phuket International Airport. From there it takes about three hours to drive to the dam. Renting a car independently costs about 1,000 baht (US$32) a day, but if you organise the trip with a tour group the van transportation is included.

ACCOMODATION A recommended accommodation option is the very basic bamboo bungalows that float on the lake, which can only be reached by longtail boat. What they lack in creature comforts they more than make up for in charm and spectacular surroundings. Three meals are provided a day, and the electricity is turned off at 10pm. Local tour operators such as Monkey Fun Travels (, organise trips to the dam that cost approximately 2,500 baht (US$80) per person.

Tian Shan Astronomical Observatory

WHERE? Almaty Province, Kazakhstan

WHY VISIT IT? Located 11,000 ft (3,353 metres) above sea level, the observatory is a remnant of a Soviet Union outpost. Astronomers are available to provide lectures, and there is even accommodation onsite.

HOW TO GET THERE? The observatory is roughly a 30-minute drive from the city. Be sure to hire an experienced driver who is familiar with the route as the trail is potentially dangerous. The International Bio Exploration Society ( also offers guided tours of the vicinity. The observatory itself also offers transportation for groups of 10 people and above at US$5 per person. 

ACCOMODATION A hotel is located within the observatory premises. Accommodation amenities are very basic but it costs only US$15 per night. Three meals per day can be included at an additional US$10 charge.

Lugu Lake

WHERE? Yunnan Province, China

WHY VISIT IT? The lake's shores are home to the Mosou people. They are a small ethnic minority group with unique ideas about sex, marriage and how society should function. Experience an interesting and highly matriarchal society and learn about the “walking marriage” tradition that is present even today.  

HOW TO GET THERE? The lake itself is so remote that even today it takes 20 hours on public bus, or nine hours in a jeep from Lijiang.

ACCOMODATION Lige Village is a small town on the north side of the lake that has several hotels and inns. Padma Hotel for instance offers rooms along with complimentary breakfast and wireless internet. Prices are from RMB220 (US$35).

Photo courtesy of Wikipedia

Kam Chung Ngam

WHERE? Jin Island, Hong Kong

WHY VISIT IT? The island itself offers a trail for hiking enthusiasts. However, the main attraction here is a sea cave that is nicknamed “Goldfish Wagging Tail”. Shaped like a fish, tourists are able to capture a perfect view of it upon looking down from the top of the hill.

HOW TO GET THERE? There are no public ferry services to the islands. Interested parties can take boat tours by hiring ferries at Sai Kung Pier. Another good alternative is to employ the services of one of the Hakka ladies operating sampans along the Sai Kung promenade. Expect to be asked for a fee of about HK$150 (US$19).

ACCOMODATION Considering the relatively small size of Hong Kong, we would recommend staying in one of the nearby cities. Sha Tin is only 6.4 kms from Sai Kung, and hotels such as Courtyard by Marriott and Hyatt Regency are located there.

Photo courtesy of Chensong at The Hong Kong Less Traveled

Las Casas Fiipinas de Acuzar

WHERE? Bataan Peninsula, The Philippines

WHY VISIT IT? Described as a “Genesis Heritage Resort”, the resort is a living museum of Philippine customs and traditions. Featuring historical noble class mansions that have been rebuilt from different parts of the country, these landmarks stand against a backdrop of mountains, rice fields and a running river that flows to the sea.

HOW TO GET THERE? The resort is situated 151 kms north of Manila, and is therefore a two-to-three hour drive through North Luzon Expressway and Subic-Clark-Tarlac Expressway.

ACCOMODATION The resort offers two different forms of accommodation – Paseo De Escolta and its Heritage Houses. Room rates at the Paseo De Escolta start at PHP 3,825 (US$88) for a studio deluxe room (two persons), while a night at one of the Heritage Houses will set you back PHP 15,750 (US$363) at the two bedroom Casa Baliug (eight persons).

Clement Huang

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