February 21, 2024

Batu Caves, Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia. (Photo: Meimei Ismail via Unsplash)

India is the flavour of the travel world now more than ever. In the last few months alone, four countries around us decided to withdraw visa requirements for Indian travellers in quick succession; currently, Indians can travel close to 60 countries either without a visa or get one on arrival. But what makes the new batch enticing is that they are all within a couple of hours away from various parts of the country, making them ideal last-minute getaways. So as the year winds to a close and resolutions lists are made, if plans to ring in the New Year are still on the drawing board, then these ideas might help. To the list of four are two more additions – Nepal, because it is so close and Bhutan, because it is culturally and experientially so rich. So from the cityscapes of Kuala Lumpur to the serene beaches of Sri Lanka, from the delectable food of Thailand to charming Vietnamese cities, from the boisterous revelry of street parties to the peace of an intimate cruise, here some mesmerising experiences that travellers can look forward to.

Thailand

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Bangkok, Thailand. (Photo: Anita Rao Kashi)

Always an Indian favourite, the removal of visa restrictions has made it even more attractive. From the bustling streets of Bangkok to the serene beaches of Phuket, Thailand boasts a number of experiences to make your celebrations unforgettable. Visitors can plan to join the cosmopolitan crowd at Central World Square in Bangkok, where a massive countdown party culminates in a dazzling fireworks display. Alternatively, Patong Beach in Phuket is home to an uproarious beachside party where attendees release floating lanterns into the sky at midnight.

Food market, Thailand. (Photo: Anita Rao Kashi) Food market, Thailand. (Photo: Anita Rao Kashi)

Indulge in the tantalising flavours of traditional dishes like Pad Thai and Green Curry, and savour authentic street food at bustling night markets in Bangkok or Chiang Mai.

Vietnam

Begin your Vietnamese adventure in the bustling capital city of Hanoi, where you can explore the historic Old Quarter and immerse yourself in the lively atmosphere of street-food lanes; better still opt for a walking food tour spread over three hours where you can sample over 15 dishes and beverages. Don’t miss the chance to witness the spectacular fireworks display at Hoan Kiem Lake, whether from the waterside or in one of the numerous viewing spots in Unity Park. For a quieter evening, head to the stunning Halong Bay for a cruise through its emerald waters and an intimate celebration on the water.

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Halong Bay, Vietnam. (Photo: Anita Rao Kashi) Halong Bay, Vietnam. (Photo: Anita Rao Kashi)

Vietnamese food. (Photo: Anita Rao Kashi) Vietnamese food. (Photo: Anita Rao Kashi)

Don’t miss the chance to indulge in the delightful flavors of Vietnamese cuisine, such as fresh spring rolls and savory pho, at local eateries in Hanoi and stunning banh mi in Ho Chi Minh City.

Sri Lanka

Buddha, Hikkaduwa, Sri Lanka. (Photo: Anita Rao Kashi) Buddha, Hikkaduwa, Sri Lanka. (Photo: Anita Rao Kashi)

Amid the cerulean waters of the Indian Ocean, Sri Lanka is an unforgettable tropical paradise.  Colombo, the capital city, is full of buzz – from vibrant year-end street markets to the dazzling fireworks display at Galle Face Green. Head to the pristine beaches of Mirissa and indulge in a magical beachside celebration under the starry night sky, complete with bonfires, dancing, and floating lanterns.

Nuwara Eliya, Sri Lanka. (Photo: Anita Rao Kashi) Nuwara Eliya, Sri Lanka. (Photo: Anita Rao Kashi)

Delight your taste buds with mouthwatering Sri Lankan cuisine, from fragrant rice, string hoppers, sambal and curry to delectable seafood, at renowned eateries like Ministry of Crab in Colombo or The Curry Leaf in Negombo.

Bhutan

Tiger's Nest, Paro, Bhutan. (Photo: Anita Rao Kashi) Tiger’s Nest, Paro, Bhutan. (Photo: Anita Rao Kashi)

Known for its rich culture and heritage, Bhutan is the ideal choice for travelers that look forward to immersing themselves in new and unique experiences. Thimphu is home to numerous ancient monasteries and temples that beckon to be explored. Vibrant local markets present an opportunity to shop and eat local street food, such as Ema Datshi and Momos. For a serene escape, head to the picturesque valleys of Paro and hike up to the iconic Tiger’s Nest monastery, perched high on a cliffside. But Indian travellers need to note that while it is easy enough to travel here, the only niggling condition is that there is a daily fee (Rs 1,200) for Indians which is used to keep tourism sustainable; however, this is way less than the amount charged for other nationalities.

Malaysia

Khoo Kongsi, Cannon Square, Georgetown, George Town, Penang, Malaysia. (Photo: Nirmalan Nims via Unsplash) Khoo Kongsi, Cannon Square, Georgetown, George Town, Penang, Malaysia. (Photo: Nirmalan Nims via Unsplash)

Known for its vibrant year-round nightlife, Kuala Lumpur transcends itself during the New Year. The city comes alive with dazzling fireworks displays and lively celebrations at popular spots like KLCC Park and Bukit Bintang, with live music and street parties. Explore the UNESCO-listed George Town in Penang and immerse yourself in its vibrant street art scene. For a serene escape, head to Langkawi Island and relax on its pristine beaches while enjoying stunning sunsets. Be sure not to miss out on the local cuisine, such as Nasi Lemak and Satay, at local eateries like Jalan Alor in Kuala Lumpur or Gurney Drive Hawker Center in Penang.

Nepal

Kathmandu, Nepal. (Photo: Tobias Federle via Unsplash) Kathmandu, Nepal. (Photo: Tobias Federle via Unsplash)

Nestled at the base of the breathtaking Himalayas, Nepal’s scenery and culture are unparalleled. Go to Pokhara for an exciting getaway and enjoy the views of the Annapurna mountain range while sailing on Phewa Lake. Savor the tastes of momo dumplings and dal bhat at neighborhood restaurants like Moondance Restaurant in Pokhara or Krishnarpan in Kathmandu. Or, for those that prefer the city, spend your days exploring the many Hindu and Buddhist temples and monuments scattered across Kathmandu.