While most come to Asia’s – and particularly Southeast Asia’s – many coasts, isles and cities to revel in sunny splendours, sunset reveals just as many treats. Whether you’re in the middle of Bangkok or Kuala Lumpur, or feeling the sand between your toes on Bali or Koh Samui, you will see stunning night skies glowing in that lovely tropical aura that descends at night.
Recent travels reminded me of some after-eve afterglows and viewpoints you might enjoy across Southeast Asia. Ask locals about their favourite places; it’s a good way to find good viewpoints, as is driving around at night, if you know the area or have a guide who does.
Angkor Wat has over a dozen large sites and hundreds of less significant but still enchanting temples and ruins, all well worth visiting. Clearly – no pun intended – you’ll best see façade features of the many sculptures during the hottest time of the day, from 1-2pm, but be sure to allow for at least one trip during dusk when the glare fades, leaving the ruins bathed in a soft, orange hue.
The main temple, resplendent in sunsets and remarkable as a silhouette against sundown-lit clouds, comes to life at night. The show “The Legend of Angkor Wat: When History Comes to Life” lights up the temple, giving life to the ancient ruins. Local performers dress in costumes adapted from the temple’s own sculptures, lending a mysterious sense to the surroundings. See the show to appreciate what sacred beauty and wonder the temple represents.
Any street in Singapore is a feast for the eyes, day or night for me. Colonial style buildings fit in comfortably with new, exciting architecture, just as modern cuisine in the city’s sleek restaurants co-exists with hawker stalls serving time-honed recipes passed down for generations. The city is a literal melting pot and home to countless cultures each with their own history, heritage and tradition.
One of the most spectacular views you will find in Singapore is that of the city from the Marina Bay Sands SkyPark. Designed by award-winning Israeli architect Moshe Safdie, the Marina Bay Sand’s upper structure spans across three rooftops that make up the hotel grouping. Equivalent in size to the Eiffel Tower laid on its side, or three football fields connected end-to-end, this 380-meter-long park is well worth visiting for the US$20 entry fee.
Daytime provides a perfect opportunity to enjoy the 150-meter length infinity swimming pool. To take in such breath-taking scenery during a swim is really something, but it’s not for everyone. During the night, however, when the sun starts to set, Singapore’s widespread beauty lays before you, lit up by thousands upon thousands of lights.
Top of the world in Thailand
Want to feel on top of the world in Bangkok? It’s not that hard at the Centara Grand at CentralWorld. Just make your way up to Red Sky, one of the most chic rooftop spots in the world in one of the planet’s most exciting cities. Night views of the City of Angels are fantastic, whether you’re ensconced in the air-conditioned area or perched, jaw-gaped, in the outdoor area. For a perfect start of the evening, get there around 6pm and watch the city come to life as traffic winds around the central shopping district. You’ll also hit the happy hours which run from 5-7pm. Reservations are recommended.
Bar snacks are available in the Red Sky bar, which livens up the view with a live jazz band every night, set above the bistro area for good sound and great effects. One of Thailand’s tallest buildings, the Centara Grand’s roof top boasts giant arches composed to resemble an opening lotus flower. LED lights change colours to add dimension to already stunning spaces.
If you’re on Koh Samui, Thailand’s third-largest island and a great lifestyle destination, have a night drink at the Jungle Club, a bar hanging off a point high above Chaweng Noi beach and offering great views of the coast from there to the southern town, Lamai. Sunset is stunning, but watching the fishing boats ply the distant waters is hypnotic. You might need a reservation, as the place is getting more popular. Prices to stay at a room or bungalow are reasonable, if you want to awake to the same view.
There’s enough entertainment to keep you occupied for many blazing hot days and cooler evenings in Bali. Water sports alone can eat up an entire holiday. But if you want amazing nighttime views, skip the wet stuff and head to the rice fields of Ubud. You’ll be amazed at how the lack of shore lights makes this place the perfect spot to appreciate the magnificence of tropical skies.
Shining the light on Kuala Lumpur
Kuala Lumpur’s many treasures are endless but if you seek great entertainment at night, see the Water and Light Show at Kuala Lumpur City Center. With two of Asia’s tallest and most spectacular structures, the Petronas Twin Towers, reflecting the lights, you’ll be mesmerised by the vibrant show complete with unusual water and light features.
Keep these things in mind, night and day:
- In Siem Reap, take a tuk tuk ride to Pub Street and the Old Market section of town for plenty of food kiosks with noodle, rice, curry and meat dishes of every type, cheaply priced. To sample sublime fare of a higher order, try The Dining Room at Park Hyatt (formerly Meric and Hotel de la Paix), where you can savour traditional Khmer food. www.siemreap.park.hyatt.com
- For Angkor Wat visits, get the ticket that grants access to the entire temple complex to see more for less. Passes cost UD$20/single day, UD$40/three days and US$60/week. Tip: buy your pass in the late afternoon; that day won’t count against your pass days, you’ll get cooler temperatures, and enjoy the best lighting to see the bas reliefs in late-day sunlight. www.autoriteapsara.org
- You’re vacationing at Krabi, not Koh Samui? Not a problem. Picnic on Ao Phranang beach, and you’ll get a double treat – good daytime views of the geologically spectacular karst formations lining the shore and even better panoramas as the skies light up and add an eerie element to the karsts. www.tourismthailand.org/krabi