Singapore, Penang, Bangkok, and Bandung – what do these cities have in common? Well, they’re some of the most popular destinations for those in the region looking for a quick getaway.
And it’s not hard to see why. These cities have it all, from cosmopolitan city centers and awe-inspiring natural wonders to rich cultural remnants and divine local delicacies.
So if you’ve only got 72 hours to spend in any of these cities, then this guide is for you!
Each 3-day itinerary is designed to help you make the most of your visit. Let’s not waste another minute, shall we?
Getting around the island republic is easy with its well-connected public transportation system. If you’re mainly using the MRT, LRT, and bus, then it’s a good idea to purchase an EZ-Link card, a prepaid card which offers a fare slightly lower than the usual.
Day 1: The Colonial District by day and Marina Bay at night
Take a walk down the scenic Singapore River, or if your feet are feeling tired, hop on a bumboat and cruise towards the bustling downtown area in style.
Just north of the old river mouth is the Colonial District, which is peppered with British-style colonial buildings. Prime examples of such architecture would be Raffles Hotel and the Old Parliament House, now known as the Arts House.
Later, don’t forget to get a picture with the iconic Merlion statue, which overlooks Marina Bay. Once the sun has set and the lights begin to illuminate the city, head up to any of the chic bars and restaurants at Marina Bay Sands for an unparalleled view of the glittering nightscape.
Day 2: Explore ethnic enclaves and trendy neighborhoods
To get a feel of Singapore’s melting pot of cultures, check out its ethnic enclaves, which each have their own unique atmosphere. Grab a traditional Singaporean breakfast of kaya toast at a kopitiam in Chinatown, listen to strains of Bollywood hit songs in Little India, and browse the trinket shops at Kampong Glam.
There are also the neighborhoods of Joo Chiat and Tiong Bahru – the former is a throwback to the heritage of Singapore’s Straits Chinese (also known as the Peranakan community), where you can sample some of the best Nyonya cuisine, while the latter is lined with rows of charming art deco shophouses and hipster eateries.
Day 3: Singapore Botanic Gardens, Gardens By the Bay, and Sentosa Island
Get out from the city and surround yourself with all the best greenery that Singapore has to offer. You can easily spend hours walking the paths and gardens at the Singapore Botanic Gardens.
For a taste of sun, sand, and surf, troop down to Siloso Beach at Sentosa Island. To see how nature and technology can work together hand-in-hand, visit Gardens By the Bay for the cutting-edge Supertrees and Cloud Dome.
Catering to the millions of domestic and foreign tourists flocking to the island, Penang operates a free shuttle bus service that will take you to all the popular tourist hotspots around the UNESCO World Heritage City of Georgetown.
Day 1: Discover Georgetown’s heritage and cuisine
Known as the Jewel of the Orient, Penang is a treasure trove of heritage and culture, with Georgetown at its center. Visit its famous landmarks, such as Cheong Fatt Tze Mansion (the Blue Mansion) and Pinang Peranakan Mansion, a mansion-turned-museum where you can learn more about how the Straits Chinese community lived.
See the elaborate Chinese clan homes, also known as kongsi. The centuries-old Khoo clan and Cheah clan homes are among the most-visited.
After a day of tramping around town, you’ll have worked up quite the appetite. Luckily for you, Penang is known as one of Malaysia’s top food destinations – its street food is second to none, so try a bit of everything at New Lane Hawker Center or Gurney Drive Hawker Center, such as satay, char kuey teow, or mee goreng mamak.
Day 2: Go hunting for street murals
In 2012, Lithuanian-born street artist Ernest Zacharevic left his mark on Georgetown’s weathered walls with stunning murals depicting scenes from every-day Malaysian life. While some have faded away, several have stood the test of time and remain as tourist magnets.
Go on a treasure hunt and see if you can find all of them! Since Zacharevic’s works, many more colorful murals have also appeared, adding a pop of color to the age-old buildings.
Day 3: Penang Hill and Penang National Park
Get a breathtaking view of the island from up high at the top of Penang Hill (also known as Bukit Bendera). You can either take the funicular train or trek up the hill on foot. The start of the trail can be found at the Moon Gate at the Botanic Gardens.
If you want something even more challenging, try the trails at Penang National Park, which features a canopy walkway and Monkey Beach, a gorgeous remote beach.
If you’re headed to another destination over land via the mainland peninsula, be sure to take the ferry from the island to Butterworth and watch as the island gradually recedes from view.
You could take the usual forms of public transportation around the traffic-laden capital of Thailand, such as buses and taxis. But why would you want to when you can speed off from location to location via the ubiquitous tuk-tuk?
Day 1: Get lost among golden temples and olden canals
Take in the grandeur of the Grand Palace and the city’s many temples in the old royal district, such as Wat Phra Kaew (Temple of the Emerald Buddha) and Wat Arun (the Temple of Dawn). Then jump into a canal boat and explore the maze of khlongs – Bangkok wasn’t known as the Venice of the East for nothing.
After the sun has set, check out the city’s buzzing nightlife at its hottest night spots like Patpong, Silom, Nana, and Sukhumvit.
Day 2: See a greener side of Bangkok
Avoid the congested main streets and go on a cycling tour around Bangkok’s green spaces. There are plenty of bicycle tours on offer, which will take you through narrow backstreets and historical quarters, offering you a glimpse of the everyday lives of locals.
Afterwards, lay down a mat and rest amidst the lush splendor of Lumpini Park, the city’s largest green lung. You can also take a stroll around the lake and enjoy the music of local musicians.
Day 3: Shop ‘til you drop
No visit to Bangkok is complete without a shopping spree, be it at modern, air-conditioned shopping complexes or the lively street markets.
For all the latest items from top brands, the gleaming retail palaces of MBK Center or CentralWorld fit the bill.
However, if it’s a true Bangkok experience that you’re after, then enter the labyrinthine sprawl of Chatuchak Weekend Market, one of the world’s largest street markets. There, you can find anything you need, from last-minute souvenirs to quirky knick-knacks.
Bandung’s public transportation system isn’t known for being tourist-friendly, so most visitors will opt for taxis, which are reasonably priced. If you’d like a guide to show you the sights, you can also hire a car and driver to take you around.
Day 1: Get inspiration from Bandung’s art scene
Marvel at the larger-than-life brass and copper structures of famous Indonesian artist Nyoman Nuarta at NuArt Sculpture Park. The 3-hectare park beautifully blends art and nature.
Next, visit Dusun Bambu, a tranquil oasis of paddy fields, flower beds, and creative structures made using bamboo. You can even enjoy your meal with a view while seated in hanging pods inspired by bird’s nests.
Day 2: Venture out to Kawah Putih and Tangkuban Perahu
Though set about 2 hours away from town, Kawah Putih (“White Crater”) is worth the trip, as the pastel-hued crater lake offers a spectacular vista.
At Tangkuban Perahu, you can walk right to the edge and peer into an active volcano’s smoldering crater. Translated literally from Sundanese, Tangkuban Perahu means “overturned boat”, stemming from ancient lore.
Day 3: Immerse yourself in Indonesian culture
Bring back a piece of Bandung with you by shopping for a unique outfit that you won’t be able to find elsewhere. The city is a popular shopping hotspot, thanks to its many factory outlet stores along Jalan Riau or Jalan Dago selling hard-to-find clothing and accessories from local fashion labels at bargain prices.
Before the end of your trip, you should definitely catch a cultural show with traditional dances and performances. Saung Angklung Udjo Show is a popular one, featuring the angklung, a traditional musical instrument made from bamboo.