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Heavenly Havens

Lim Hui Jie
Lim Hui Jie • 5 min read
Heavenly Havens
These stunning setpieces from the 2020 Mulan film are some that you can put on your travel list once travel bans are lifted.
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These movie filming locations make for picturesque destinations for your first trip after the travel restrictions are finally lifted

For most of us, our travel plans for this year (and maybe even 2021) have probably been shelved after the pandemic hit and global travel collapsed. The International Air Transport Association (IATA) have said that air travel will not return to pre-crisis levels until 2023. So while we are currently cooped up at home, here are some places we can consider to put on our travel lists. After all, it never hurts to be prepared for when tourism can restart and we can finally get our passports stamped at airports.

IATA has also noted the recovery in short haul travel is still expected to happen faster than for long haul travel. When that happens, we recommend these two great places to explore once travel restrictions are finally lifted.

When the travel bans are lifted and you finally had enough of your reflection staring straight back at you from the numerous video calls made while on lockdown, take a trip to the cinema to catch the live action remake of the popular 1998 Disney animation Mulan. While there are no songs, no Mushu the dragon or even Captain Shang, the remake features set pieces that are simply stunning. But they do not just need to remain on the movie screen: Award-winning travel operator Scott Dunn has put together an itinerary to New Zealand’s South Island (pictured, above) and China’s Fujian province to let you experience the gorgeous scenery that the movie showcases.

Their two-week Active South Island tour, designed for guests looking to reconnect with nature after the Covid-19 lockdown, takes you to the off-the-beaten-track gems within the South Island. Sites include the remote sheep farm at Lake Heron Station, the picturesque Fiordland region and the Ahuriri Valley — all of which are easily spotted in the film.

Travelling around the island in a four-wheel drive, you will be able to witness the beauty that New Zealand has to offer, and spot locations that appear in the new film. Guests will follow in Mulan’s footsteps with guided hikes over the South Island’s sweeping hills and enjoy other outdoor activities such as kayaking, canoeing, horse riding and quad biking. The trip also is rounded off with an overnight stay on the fjord of Doubtful Sound, retracing the steps of early explorers who navigated these often-foggy waters in search of a landing point on the island.

If New Zealand is not your cup of tea, you could also head to China to get a glimpse of the film’s other scenery as well. The operator has a five-day itinerary for guests to stay in a Unesco-listed Tsingpu Tulou Retreat in Zhangzhou, where the architecture of the houses can be seen in Mulan’s hometown in the film.

These traditional properties offer an authentic countryside experience of Rural China with endless views and modern comforts including a yoga room. Dunn has said this trip was designed for the most discerning travellers to discover the wonders of Fujian in style. There are also day excursions to visit both Meizhou (the spiritual hometown of the Hakka people with its Thousand Buddha Pagoda and Hakka Weilong House) and Nan An County, home to the Caishi architectural house complex and another one of Fujian’s residential wonders.

These places — as Mulan’s matchmaker might have said — are definitely an “auspicious match” for your travel itinerary.

Desaru destination for the family
Other places that are nearer to home that you could consider is a getaway at the newly opened ultra-luxurious resort One&Only Desaru Coast in Malaysia. A two-hour drive from Singapore, the resort is spread across 128 acres of prime beachfront property. The all-suites resort comprises an intimate collection of just 42 junior suites, two expansive two-bedroom grand suites and the exclusive four-bedroom known as Villa One.

At the resort, guests can partake in a curated range of active and mindful pursuits to reconnect with nature, like the Call of the Gibbons expedition to hear the morning chatter of the White-Handed Gibbons in the nearby Panti Forest Reserve.

No getaway will be complete without a gastronomic extravaganza. A variety of restaurants and bars at the resort showcases the seasonal bounty of the region’s land and sea. This includes the Mediterranean Ambara restaurant, incorporating fresh produce from local farmers and the Chef’s Garden, and open-air Dusky Monkey bar, serving straits-in- spired bites with tailor made cocktails and artisanal spirits from the region.

If you wish to bring your parents for a break, or just give the kids occupied while you unwind, the resort also boasts activities for every age and interest, from state-of-the-art tennis and padel courts, intimate lessons into the traditional Malaysian martial art of Silat Melayu and fun and educational programmes at KidsOnly, where your young ones can learn about the local ecosystem at the EcoLab.

To dream of travelling now is really unthinkable, but it does not hurt to prepare. And remember, air tickets are always cheaper when bought earlier!

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