From spa retreats to shopping weekends, who doesn’t love a getaway with their gal pals? When we can fire up our passports again, here are some great spots for your next girls’ trip to add to your list!
“One of my favourite girls’ trips was to Hoi An, Vietnam with my bestie. Our flight took us through Ho Chi Minh City before landing in Da Nang. From our hotel, Lantana Boutique Hotel & Spa, we could walk across the Thu Bon river to explore a myriad of shops, discover delectable food and make regular leisurely stops for steaming cups of robust Vietnamese coffee. We stumbled upon a restaurant named “Good Morning, Vietnam” (yes, like the movie) and found, much to our surprise, that it served Italian food. We had some pretty yummy pizza there!
Our personal tour of The Marble Mountains was booked through Hoi An Express. As we scaled the 156 steps and explored the summit, our tour guide shared the legends of the mountains and the area’s history. He also brought us to a local village to meet an elder who creates, and now sells, his own authentic fish sauce. The recipe has been in his family for generations – it didn’t smell so good but the flavour was incredible. We also marvelled at the sculptures, statues and artefacts at the Sa Huynh Culture Museum.
Hoi An certainly has all the makings of a great bonding trip – comfortable pace, friendly people, unique shopping, diverse food and rich history to explore.”
– Faith Chanda
“We planned our all-girls’ trip to China’s biggest city for several special reasons. It was a 40th birthday, a reunion with ex-expats and a leaving celebration all rolled into one. We stayed at the centrally located Renaissance Shanghai Yu Garden Hotel.
We really packed it in, walking the French Concession, visiting the boutique shops down the narrow alleyways of Tianzifang, The Bund for city views on the water and then up the Shanghai Tower (the world’s second-tallest building) for views and a cocktail before dinner. Another day, we went to the beautiful City God Temple and Yuyuan Garden, followed by a traditional tea ceremony. We also stopped by the Marriage Market in People’s Park. Our guide (Jenny’s Shanghai Tours) was fabulous at sharing the city’s history and culture! We took a guided trip by bus to the ancient water town of Zhujiajiao with her.
Our main focus was eating all the yummy food: giant soup dumplings (fried in a big pan so the bottom gets crispy) at Yang’s Fried Dumplings, onion pancakes along the street and taking on a long queue for the best crab and pork xiao long bao at Jia Jia Tang Bao. We even took a class to learn how to make our own shrimp dumplings! We came home exhausted and full.”
– Rhiannon Berenbaum
“We ventured to SEN Wellness Sanctuary in Tangalle, Sri Lanka, for a schedule of eat, sleep, treatment, repeat. Walking in felt like entering a warm and welcoming hug (remember those?!), which is just what my friend and I were looking for from our girls’ trip last year. Both fans of yoga and holistic medicine, we signed up for a five-day retreat.
After being met at Colombo International Airport and driven for two hours past rice paddy fields and bustling villages to the south coast, we arrived at the ultimate secluded hideaway. The staff at SEN don’t stop smiling, the vibe is calm and intimate (just 16 guests at a time) and the cosy daybeds beg you to recline with a book. Our stylish ensuite room – a dome-shaped stilted cabana – had treetop views and a soundtrack of the sea.
Every guest at SEN meets with an Ayurvedic doctor who prescribes a personalised programme of daily spa treatments – think ancient massage techniques, acupuncture, herbal therapies and body scrubs. I was overwhelmed by my soothing herbal flower petal bath. Pampering aside, we filled our days with yoga sessions, beach walks, rock pool dips, cooking classes, temple visits and meditation with a local monk. We feasted on delicious vegetarian food and lights out was at 8.30pm – bliss!
When we left, we did so with renewed energy, gorgeous memories and lovely new friends from around the world. What I wouldn’t do to be back there now (sitting two metres apart from everyone, of course!).”
– Jo Upcraft
“A decadent spa day is always a great one for a girls’ trip! The Red Carnation Hotel Collection in South Africa offers various beautiful locations, each with an idyllic spa. For a milestone birthday, I treated my circle of friends to a spa day at The Oyster Box in Umhlanga. In regular times, there are direct flights from Hong Kong to Cape Town or Johannesburg and then you can connect to Durban. The Oyster Box has gorgeous sea-facing rooms, plus you can pick your colour palette; I loved the sublime aquamarine rooms.
While there, we enjoyed lazing on red striped loungers near the hotel pool. It overlooks the crashing waves of the Indian ocean and you can watch passing dolphins behind the iconic lighthouse. You should also pay a visit to the Twelve Apostles Hotel and Spa in Cape Town, whale-watch while sipping locally produced wines and enjoy the terraced hotel pool, which is surrounded by an impressive vista of mountains.”
– Lara Sage
“Our fun, two-night girls’ getaway to the popular Malaysian island of Penang was jammed with vibrant food, drinks and sights. We stayed in Georgetown at the charming Seven Terraces hotel, which has colonial shophouse apartments beautifully decorated in Peranakan style.
After wandering the streets of Georgetown, we checked out the famous Penang street art, grabbed lunch in Little India and did some boutique shopping. We ended the day at the beautiful Eastern & Oriental Hotel for a drink at Farquhar’s Bar. The next day, we took a private tour of the Penang Peranakan Mansion, a house-turned-museum with plenty of history and culture. The Blue Mansion (Cheong Fatt Tze Mansion) courtyard, which was featured in Crazy Rich Asians, offered a great stop for delicious cocktails. We ate at the fab restaurant at our hotel (Kebaya Dining Room), which serves great Peranakan food, and at an outdoor hawker food stall serving Penang-style laksa before heading home with our goodies, pictures and memories.”
– Sarah Kelly and Rhiannon Berenbaum
“I visited Seoul with a couple of girlfriends a while back and we had a great time! We did a six-day getaway in mid-October and stayed in an Airbnb that was one subway stop away from Myeong-dong, a popular food and shopping district. The weather in October was nice – we enjoyed cool and relatively sunny days throughout our time there. Autumn is a great time to visit South Korea, with beautiful autumn leaves filling the trees and pleasant weather to enjoy (a light jacket was good enough for me).
We visited cultural sites such as Gyeongbokgung Palace and Namsangol Hanok Village, explored local markets and spent loads of time eating street food. We also allocated a lot of time for shopping – it was truly skincare heaven. Besides street fare, some other local food we enjoyed was the abalone porridge at Migabon, ginseng chicken soup at Tosokchon Samgyetang and barbecue meats at Maple Tree House (they were kind enough to grill veggies on a separate plate for the vegetarian in the group). On one of the days, we headed out of town to Nami Island, the Garden of Morning Calm and the Gapyeong Rail Park.”
– Lindsay Yap
This article first appeared in the Autumn 2020 issue of Expat Living magazine. Subscribe now so you never miss an issue.