Six places to see reliably mind-blowing sunsets in SE Asia
8th August 2014 | by Guest author
South-East Asia is richly stocked with killer sunset spots. Today's Selective Six lists our absolutely favourite places to settle into a comfy sofa or wiggle our toes under the sand while Mother Nature struts her stuff.
So, order a kitsch cocktail and watch candy floss colours streak across the sky, or grab a cold beer while the horizon turns a raging red - either way, you’re in for a natural light show to really remember.
Halong Bay, Vietnam
With over 2,000 islets and a handful of floating villages scattered across its emerald waters, Halong Bay is a real heart-stealer. Translated as ‘The Bay of the Descending Dragon’, it carries a deeply mystical atmosphere that seems magnified at dusk. The craggy limestone islands, caves and lagoons are breathtaking at any time of day, but sunset lifts the experience to whole new level.
If you’re sleeping aboard a traditional Chinese junk boat, you can jump off for a swim as colour tints the skies, or simply relax on deck as the sun sinks between the jungle-topped cliffs. Silhouetted junk boats will bob in the distance, their lights flickering in the dusk. However you choose to celebrate the sunset on Halong Bay, it’s something that you won’t forget in a hurry.
Kep is a sleepy slice of the simple life along the shoreline of southern Cambodia, very near to the border with Vietnam. It’s a rustic pocket of the 'real' Cambodia, and an unbeatable spot to catch a blazing sunset. All of the action centres around the Crab Market, where fresh seafood sizzles on makeshift BBQs and fishermen wade out to their crab pots at dusk.
The Crab Market is home to a string of ramshackle restaurants on stilts above the sea, filled with bamboo easy chairs and cheerful cushions. Settle into one of these seats with an Angkor Beer as dusk begins to fall, and you’re in for something really quite special. The sun sinks into the ocean directly in front of these restaurants, sending rosy hues blooming across the horizon. It’s absolutely stunning.
Penang Hill, Peninsular Malaysia
Perched 833 metres above the city, Penang Hill offers fresh air, heady hilltop tipples and 360 degree sunset panoramas. It’s a wonderful place to swap the sticky, sun-baked streets for cooler climes, and will give you a whole new perspective of Penang. The peak of Penang Hill has a breezy holiday atmosphere, with restaurants, bars, colourful temples and plenty to entertain the kids.
A funicular runs back and forth between bottom and top, but it’s best to go early to beat the sunset crowds. Alternatively, if you’re in the mood for a challenge, you can hike up to the top of Penang Hill from the Botanical Gardens below. It’s a 5km climb and the first two kilometres are pretty punishing, but you’ll be rewarded with a spectacular sunset and you’ll feel 100% deserving of a super-sized ice cream when you reach the top.
Railay Bay, Thailand
The very suggestion of a tropical sunset brings Thailand to mind. With dozens of islands sprinkled with stretches of white sand, hidden coastal lagoons and cut-off coves, it’s a timeless choice for sunset-seekers. While it’s fair to say that you’ll be spoilt for sundowner spots wherever you are in Thailand, West Railay Bay quite possibly takes the biscuit.
A narrow peninsula near iconic Krabi, accessible only by boat, West Railay Bay is a heady place for a head-on sunset. Flanked by crumbling limestone fingers rising from calm seas and backed by thick jungle, it’s a little nook of beach nirvana. Here, the small crescent beach fills with people towards dusk, all armed with blankets and beer. As flashes of rich orange and red fill the sky, the setting sun silhouettes the cliffs and sends shadows of long tail boats sailing across the horizon.
Jimbaran Beach, Bali
Jimbaran Beach has a real twilight buzz. On the southern coast of Bali, it’s famed for its fiery sunsets, al fresco seafood restaurants and fruity cocktails. Here, bright colours paint the sky and surfers catch their final breaks as the sun sinks beneath the waves. At the same time, fishermen drag their nets onto the sand or set sail in search of a cool evening catch.
While Jimbaran’s sunsets are no longer a secret, it’s still a great spot for an indulgent dusk. The atmosphere is lively and although it is undeniably touristy, there’s a warmth about the whole place. Somehow, authentic fishing village and plush tourist playground sit together in perfect harmony. It feels like a community of people celebrating something as simple and beautiful as the sunshine, making it easy to sit back, look out over the ocean and genuinely relax.
Kota Kinabalu, Borneo
It’s not possible to pick a single place in Kota Kinabalu to watch the sun go down. There are just too many contenders. Stretched out along the northwest coast of Borneo and looking out over the South China Sea, the city offers dreamy sunsets full of drama. There are viewpoints a-plenty, each one providing a new perspective and an overload of photo opportunities.
Tanjung Aru beach is a local hangout and sunset hotspot. It’s a great place for a scenic twilight stroll between tasty street food stalls. If you’re in the market for something upmarket, try the sunset bar at the Tanjung Aru Shangri-La Resort. Marooned on its own little jetty with ocean breezes and live music, the views from the bar stretch as far as the outlying islands of the Tunku Abdul Rahman Park.
Alternatively, if you head for higher ground in Kota Kinabalu, you’ll find yourself surrounded by sunset panoramas on all sides. Signal Hill Observatory Platform is the highest point in Kota Kinabalu, supplying serious skyline views from its airy deck. Alternatively, climb the steps through scenic Bukit Padang and when you reach the viewpoint, the whole city will stretch out before you. It’s hard-going but wholly worth the effort.