Escape the January Blues on These 3 Beaches in Southeast Asia

Tired of shoveling snow yet? Are those once delicate flakes now just a pile of grey slush? Snow is beautiful while it’s falling; who doesn’t like a romantic snowy day next to the fire? But that glorious vision ends abruptly when you have to trudge outside, dig out your car, and get to work. For a lot of people, it’s enough to make them want to leave for warmer environs.

That certainly wasn’t the only reason we moved from Chicago to Penang, Malaysia, but it doesn’t hurt that when my family and friends are grumbling about the below freezing temperatures, I’m figuring out which beach to go to (and trying not to rub it in).

Before we moved here, we had no idea that Malaysia has some of the best beaches in the world. But now we’re sorry it took us so long to discover them.

The term snowbird has been around for ages but takes on a bit of a dramatic meaning when you fly across the globe to chase the sun for a month or two. Many snowbirds go to Florida or Arizona, but there are so many exotic options in Southeast Asia that they are missing out on. It is also much more affordable than the warm weather spots in the U.S. And what better way to research your retirement abroad than a one-month break in Southeast Asia? Florida is certainly closer, but with the money you spend for one month there, you can live like a rock star for many months on the beaches here.

Not all beaches in Southeast Asia are ideal in January but the ones below certainly are and rival any of those in Florida. Here the waters are clear and run the gamut from Caribbean blue to sea glass green. The sea life is phenomenal and not just for scuba divers; snorkelers won’t miss a thing either.

1.Phu Quoc, Vietnam

Phu Quoc, Vietnam
©iStock.com/RyanTruong

This little island off the southern coast near Cambodia, in the Gulf of Thailand, is fringed by light tan sand beaches and refreshing green waters. More than half of the island is part of the Phu Quoc National Park, so taking a day to explore it is rewarded with wildlife sightings, dense jungle, and mountainous terrain. The main town, Duong Dong, has a night seafood market that is not to be missed. Pick a stand that is full of locals and eat; they know the best place. Getting in and out of the island is easy as there are daily, direct flights to Ho Chi Minh and Hanoi, as well as flights to nearby Siem Reap, Phnom Penh, Singapore, and more.

2. Phuket, Thailand

Phuket, Thailand

Phuket is Thailand’s largest island in the turquoise blue Andaman Sea. The Patong area has the sizzle of a hot, beach party town, while the northern tip, Nai Yang, is a quiet, sleepy little village with more palms on the beach than people. You can find luxurious accommodation for hundreds of dollars a night or affordable beachfront bungalows for $40 (or less, depending on how long you stay). The island is chock full of places for sunbathers as well as swanky spas, so you can have it all here and you certainly won’t be bored. There is an international airport, but the island is connected to the mainland via a bridge, so exploring the dazzling neighboring regions of Thailand is a must…if you can get out of your lounge chair long enough.

3. Langkawi, Malaysia

Langkawi, Malaysia

Langkawi is also in the Andaman Sea, off the west coast of Malaysia. Besides snorkeling and lazing about on the various beaches, there are a lot of land activities to choose from, making this island a great stop if you are more of an explorer than a beach bunny. There is a cable car and a sky bridge that offers incredible views of the island. It is a duty-free island so shopping is a common past time. Take a mangrove tour and see otters, macaques, tons of bird life, and flying squirrels. There is even a movie theater playing the latest Hollywood flicks.

Getting off the island to explore is affordable and easy with direct flights to Penang and Kuala Lumpur starting at $27.  Within half a day you could be in Bali, Hong Kong, Bangkok, or Kota Kinabalu.

So remember, when the tears in your eyeballs are freezing, and you can’t feel your toes, it’s easy to escape the cold winter weather. Get out there, explore these beaches, and you might never see another shovel again.

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