10 travel destinations for a green and therapeutic 2024

When it comes to travelling right for your zodiac animal type this year, the theme is unequivocally green.

Aman Kyoto is located near the famed Arashiyama bamboo forest (Photo: Aman Kyoto)

The incoming Year of the Wood Dragon already gives clear signals where one should travel: wherever there is greenery, lush jungle and forests, of course. Feng shui expert Sifu Leongsir shares how everyone, regardless of zodiac sign, should make it a point to embrace nature this year. “The Dragon is a powerful symbol, so the following rules apply to all,” he says. “Surround yourself with greenery and the sounds of nature, particularly birdsong.” The Japanese art of shinrin-yoku or “forest bathing” is especially beneficial as medical studies have conclusively proved that it contributes greatly as a form of preventative healthcare.

Certain animal signs are encouraged to travel more, particularly the Dragon, Pig, Tiger and Rabbit. Monkeys are also advised to explore the world, but primarily for pilgrimages or spiritual journeys. Sifu Leongsir also has a few caveats: “Avoid water, ocean activities, high mountains and glaciers as there are high chances of avalanches and earthquakes occurring in the Arctic, especially in the month of October. It is also best to steer clear of hiking in the mountains or snow activities this year.” For those who need a little prompting in their planning, here are 10 suggestions (from the approachably priced to the definite splurge) for a green and therapeutic 2024. Let nature nurture? But of course.


What: Silks Place Taroko
Where: Taroko National Park, Hualien, Taiwan
Why: There is a renowned book by American author Norman Maclean titled A River Runs Through It. And while it describes his childhood growing up along the Big Blackfoot River in Montana, you could imagine the same — but with an Asian slant — after a stay at the Silks Place Taroko. At the only five-star hotel within the famed national park, you can spend your days breathing in the fresh mountain air, trekking thousand-year-old canyon paths or simply soothing your eyes with views of the Liwu River and towering cliffs. Be sure to book a room with a view of Taroko Gorge and enjoy your meals at the superb on-site restaurants. Mei Yuan (or “plum garden”, for the trees planted at the front of the hotel and a popular spot when Chiang Kai-Shek used to routinely tour the area in the 1950s and 1960s) serves divine Taiwanese cuisine while the all-day dining Wellesley (named after the American alma mater of Mei Ling, former first lady and one of the famous Soong Sisters) offers something for every palate.


What: The Sticks
Where: Kuala Kubu Bharu, Selangor
Why: This is ideal for those who desperately need a dose of nature but don’t have the time for a long break. Located just an hour’s drive from the Klang Valley, The Sticks is perfect for quick getaways. If you simply can’t spend the night, the resort allows day trips which offers access to the grounds from 9am to 6pm, allowing you to indulge in all that this boutique gem has to offer, including jungle trekking, white-water rafting or rubber tubing down the river. Lunch and tea are also part of the package and you needn’t fret about getting wet or dirty in the jungle as communal showers and washrooms are provided for day-trippers and include towels and basic toiletries.


What: Mangala Estate Boutique Resort
Where: Gambang, Pahang
Why: Encircled by wetlands, a vast lake, an oil palm plantation and jungle, the all-villa Mangala Estate (its name means “auspicious wellbeing” in Sanskrit) is the perfect way to rest and recover after the whirl and flurry of Lunar New Year activities.  Transformed from barren mining land to a thriving tropical retreat, it is the perfect spot for a restful break. If you are travelling in a big group, the resort has a six-bedroom pool bungalow that can accommodate up to a dozen adults and five children under the age of 12. Spanning 1,208 sq m, it is spacious, to say the least, and is surrounded by lush greenery. Just what the doctor — no, make that feng shui master — ordered.


What: Aman Kyoto
Where: In Japan’s ancient imperial capital of Kyoto
Why: The weight of the Aman brand name and its proximity to the famed Arashiyama bamboo forest (and not forgetting another dozen-plus Unesco World Heritage sites) are reasons enough to save up all your pennies for a stay here. Luxury insiders know that once you check into the Aman Kyoto, you shouldn’t wander out. Why? Because it boasts its own secret garden, spanning 32ha in size, and is wondrously planted with Japanese maples, Kitayama cedars and a riot of blossoms, including azaleas, peonies, hydrangeas and irises. The ultra-luxurious resort also has its own mineral-rich onsen baths. Round off your experience with at least one session of meditation with local Zen Buddhist monks.


What: Tai O Heritage Hotel
Where: The prized fishing village of Tai O, Lantau Island, Hong Kong
Why: Should you be more partial to a spot of luxury, the nine-room Tai O Heritage Hotel offers a Hong Kong experience that is far from the norm. Converted from an old marine police station that dates back to 1902 and coddled by greenery, it has been restored beautifully, even earning the prestigious Unesco Award of Merit for cultural heritage conservation. Luxuriate for hours in your sumptuously appointed suite, nibble on traditional treats like pork chop buns with shrimp paste and rice bowls with local salted fish and meat patties or watch the sunset while sipping the hotel’s signature Mangrove Elixir, a tangy detoxifier made using mountain begonia.


What: Buahan, a Banyan Tree Escape
Where: Bali, Indonesia
Why: This stunning, holistic retreat set in mystical Ubud is already a winner on all counts but a first-of-its-kind women’s retreat headlined “Nature & Self Growth” is scheduled from March 22 to 26. Designed to guide you inward, enrich your reality and leave one feeling deeply connected, empowered and rejuvenated, the five-day-four-night experience includes a pre-retreat wellbeing assessment; daily group sessions and workshops with a life coach and yogini; local experiences connected to Balinese culture; a spa session; wellbeing activities like meditation, breathwork, an ice bath and a waterfall ritual; accommodation in a jungle pool villa; daily brunch, dinner and refreshments; and roundtrip airport transfers.


What: Mulu Marriott Resort & Spa
Where: Gunung Mulu National Park, Sarawak
Why: Ancient rainforest, lush nature and five-star comfort? Sign us up, please. From now until end-May, take advantage of the resort’s special Clarity & Peace of Mind wellness retreat package which includes integrative yoga; forest immersion and movement sessions; signature massage; clear water bathing; and medicinal walks, complete with meals and shuttle service from both Mulu Airport and Mulu National Park. Choose from stays of three to seven nights. The longer the better as there is so much to discover in this natural treasure trove, from watching the daily bat exodus at dusk to swimming at the Clearwater Cave springs or simply relaxing at the river bar with a cocktail in hand.


What: InterContinental Khao Yai
Where: Khao Yai, about three hours’ drive from downtown Bangkok
Why: For fans of nature and Bill Bensley’s inimitable style, there’s no better place to indulge in both than at the InterContinental Khao Yai. Nestled amidst Khao Yai’s verdant landscape and historic mountain range is an ode to Thailand’s locomotive history. Nostalgia, a sense of whimsy and expected Bensley brilliance come together to create a full storyboard that follows the life of Somsak, an imaginary train conductor. And while the romantic rail travel DNA permeates the entire resort, you will not forget that you are on a paradisiacal escape either. There are local vineyards (yes, you read that right) to discover in the area and the resort itself sits on the cusp of a national park and Unesco World Heritage Site.


What: Tiger Rock
Where: Pangkor Island, Perak
Why: It’s so easy to forget just how blessed a country Malaysia is. From gin-clear seas to swim in and emerald forests to explore, we as a people really do have it all — and more. One bijou gem right on the doorstep (almost) for most people on the Peninsula would be artist Rebecca Duckett’s gorgeous island getaway, Tiger Rock. Comprising two villas built in the style of a tropical bungalow, eight rooms and two swimming pools, come one, come all to relax in casual, barefoot style or go all out with the jungle bonding. The on-site staff serve up local meals fit for kings and the only problem you might have to worry about is the troop of cheeky macaques who are ever-ready to steal your poolside snacks.


What: Keemala
Where: Phuket, Thailand
Why: Going green is de rigueur this year but who’s to say you can’t swagger about an architecturally stunning resort either? If you’re thinking along the same lines, consider the otherworldly but amazing Keemala, tucked away in Phuket’s forested hills. Choose from four villa types that look as if a Hobbit, an elf or a 10ft-tall Na’vi from Pandora might step out from at any moment. The architects who conceived Keemala actually divided the property into four distinct dwelling concepts based on a quartet of fictitious island settlers. If we had to pick one, however, it would be the Tree Pool Houses (created for the imaginary We Ha clan who loved to observe the universe and hence live closer to the heavens) tucked amid the towering trees.

This article first appeared on Jan 29, 2024 in The Edge Malaysia.


Follow us on Instagram