By Laura Garcia

It’s hot in the city and you’re seeking a cool getaway. You’ve got your Pinterest folder full of sandy beach pictures, but you’re looking for something different – perhaps somewhere a little less known. You want to enjoy an experience not everyone has had or dream up things to do other than working on your tan or partying the night away.

While these may not be the locations you had on your Pinterest board, you should consider adding them on anyway, and here’s why:

Cameron Highlands, Malaysia

Whether you’re strolling through the sweeping tea plantations, trekking the lush, emerald green Highlands or marveling at Pinterest’s favourite “White Temple,” Sam Poh Temple, the Cameron Highlands makes for a picture-perfect weekend getaway or month-long soul-searching retreat.

On the western edge of Phang State lies the most popular of the Highland retreats in Malaysia. With temperatures around 25° Celsius during the day and 18° Celsius at night, you can be rest assured you can enjoy its beauty in comfort. 

Go hiking through The Mossy Forests of Gunung Brinchang, Cameron Highlands’ second highest mountain. Pick mouth-watering strawberries at one of their strawberry farms – Cameron is the centre of strawberry production in Malaysia and strawberries are an iconic part of the landscape. Or simply enjoy the relaxating and soothing scent of lavender, while exploring the beautiful Cameron Lavender Garden. Of course, you would be remiss to miss out on one of Cameron’s waterfalls. There’s plenty to do, and you may just find yourself coming back for more.

Sapa, Northwest Vietnam

Located 350 kilometres northwest of Hanoi in Lao Cai Province is Sapa, a small mountain town – with a population of around 3500 people, we do mean small. With trekking being the area’s main activity and arguably the best trekking in the country, there are plenty of tours to choose from. If you’re feeling adventurous, you can brave Vietnam’s tallest mountain, Fansipan, known as “The Roof of Indonesia.” 

However, as Sapa is a centre of Vietnam’s tribal culture, we can’t resist the idea of visiting one of the tribal villages. Each tribe in Sapa has its own unique language, culture, and history, and with their brightly coloured handcrafted wares and huge smiles, they are quite a sight to behold.

Chiang Rai, Thailand

Thailand is a land of lush greens, glorious temples, streets lined with food so rich in flavour you’ll wonder if you’ve grown new taste buds – and markets, plenty of markets. Bring a camera and an extra suitcase, because you won’t want to go home empty handed. 

In Northern Thailand, Chiang Rai is situated near the borders of Myanmar and Laos. If you’re a frequenter of Pinterest and Instagram, you’ve likely seen pictures of its iconic white temple Wat Rong Khun. The white signifies the purity of Buddha and the glass his wisdom. It is one of the most recognisable temples in Thailand. However, there is more to this quiet gem of a city. 

Beautiful Baandam Museum, described as a “collection of wooden houses,” sounds like a school field trip you never wanted to go on. A quick Google Images search, however, will quickly change your mind. This is a place worth seeing.

In the evenings, stroll the night market or tour it by tuk-tuk for a more Thai experience. Of course, there is also Wat Phra Kaew which “is famous throughout Thailand as the original home of the translucent green Buddha which graces the Emerald Buddha Temple in Bangkok’s Grand Palace”

Chiang Rai is a smaller, quieter city than the famous Chiang Mai, but arguably, it’s just as beautiful and has plenty to see and do. Sounds like a perfect cool weather getaway, doesn’t it?

Sagada, Philippines 

Sagada is a small mountain town that features a subtropical-highland climate with average daily temperatures ranging from around 17° to 20° Celsius. It’s not quite what you picture when you think of the Philippines. There are no white sandy beaches, but as Willflyforfood.net puts it, “What it does have is lush green mountains, cool pine-scented air, first-class food, addiktive [sic] local coffee, picturesque rice terraces, refreshing waterfalls, and more adventure activities than you can shake a stick at.”

Sagada seems to be a blogger favourite, but even Skyscanner is singing its praise, calling it “one of the country’s most scenic places” and a “traveler’s favourite”. Considering this is the Philippines we’re talking about, that’s saying something.

Willfly’s not kidding about the adventures. Check out the hanging coffins Sagada is famous for, swim through the deep Samaguing Caves, or take your pick of waterfalls – Bomod-Ok (Big) Falls, Pongas Falls and Bokong Falls are the top choices of Trip Advisor. After all that exploring, you can then feast on all the local dishes that the food bloggers are raving about.

Whether you choose to hike through the Mossy Forest in the Cameron Highlands, visit a tribal village in Vietnam or climb its largest mountain, adventure through the Samaguing Caves of Sagada or ride a tuk-tuk through Chiang Rai’s night market, you’ll get an experience you won’t forget, in a place that is simply unforgettable – and cool to boot!

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