By The Nation (sponsored news)
Although he wrote these words some 2,400 years ago, they have arguably never been truer than today. Even without a global pandemic, our fast-paced urban lives often disconnect us from the planet we inhabit.
But as we gradually recover from Covid, we can take the time to reconnect with nature - and with it find a sense of purpose and peace, benefitting both the body and mind.
A growing body of evidence suggests that spending time outdoors can reduce stress and anxiety, as well as lower blood pressure and heart rate.
So whether it's swimming waters teeming with life or hiking peaks, the only question is which of these brilliant outdoor escapes to choose to help you re-set and relax like never before.
Snorkel in the Andaman Sea’s crystal-clear waters
The tropical paradise of Krabi in Thailand is home to Phulay Bay, a Ritz-Carlton Reserve resort which lets you discover Hong Island, Paradise Island and Pak Bia Island by traditional longtail boat. This island-hopping excursion to visit some of the Andaman Sea’s best-kept secrets provides secluded havens for swimming in crystal-clear lagoons that teem with wildlife. Back at the Phulay Bay resort, guests can relax further in the stunning natural beauty of Krabi that surrounds them, be that exploring the surrounding virgin rainforests, glistening beaches and majestic waterfalls where the only timepiece you'll need is the sun.
When you stay at Vana Belle, a Luxury Collection Resort, Koh Samui, you'll enjoy a complimentary round-trip boat excursion to Koh Madsum, better known as Pig Island. The tiny spot takes its name from the pigs that roam freely on the sand and in the jungled clad interior. It's an idyllic environment in which to enjoy the perfect white sand beach, bathe in the clear blue ocean and marvel at the underwater world. The resort's convenient location also makes it the perfect base to explore Koh Samui's surprising and diverse landscapes and seascapes.
Hiking the trails of Taiwan
Taiwan's mountainous hiking trails continue to draw walkers from around the world, visitors seeking the surprising and stunning walking routes which criss-cross the island. The capital is a fast-paced and buzzy urban metropolis, where W Taipei in hip Xinyi – the Manhattan of Taipei –provides a sanctuary of serenity and energy. But the city is also brilliantly connected to let you escape quickly to the hills. Located in the picturesque Yangmingshan National Park, Mt. Qixing, literally “Seven Star Mountain,” is the highest point in Taipei and offers outstanding views at 1,120m above sea level.
Close to the capital sits another spot enveloped in magnificent nature, Taoyuan, home to The Westin Tashee Resort, Taoyuan. Located in the forested hills, it's perfect for 'forest bathing' as you immerse yourself in nature, but Taoyuan’s mountain range comes calling. Our choice would be the Full Moon National Forest Recreation Area. There, in the upper reaches of the Big Leopard Creek in the Three Gorges, on a tributary called the Gnat Creek, there is a beautiful world with stunning waterfalls and red maples to truly put the mind and soul at rest.
Hiking Hong Kong's Trails
As a densely populated city with literally thousands of skyscrapers, it's easy to forget that Hong Kong is also a natural wonderland, with countless trails, beaches, mountains and parks to keep even the most experienced hiker busy for a lifetime. The newly-opened Sheraton Hong Kong Tung Chung Hotel, situated in picturesque Tung Chung on Lantau Island, could not be better positioned to let you explore. The iconic Ngong Ping trail, Big Buddha and the challenging - but truly breathtaking - Sunset Peak are all right on your doorstep.
Over on the south side of Hong Kong Island, Hong Kong Ocean Park Marriott Hotel is another green urban retreat from the city center which reinforces the stunning diversity of the city’s landscapes. Connecting with nature doesn't get easier as beautiful Deep Water Bay and Repulse Bay are minutes away, while picture-perfect hiking and jogging trails lead through some of Hong Kong’s finest coastlines and country parks. Don't miss the splendid coastal views of Sham Wan, Ap Lei Chau and Lamma Island, all while breathing in the fresh country air.
Exploring Japan's mountain ranges
A magnificent destination for those seeking time in nature, Japan dazzles both first time and regular visitors alike with its panoramas, hot springs, coastlines, forests and mountains. Hidden in Japan’s northern Kanto region and set along scenic Lake Chuzenji, The Ritz-Carlton, Nikko offers a pristine haven where nature is revered. Your accommodations overlook Lake Chuzenji or Mount Nantai, while there are endless opportunities to connect with the natural world. The surrounding waterfalls, lakes, wetlands, hot springs and plateaus of Okunikko were shaped by long-ago eruptions of Mount Nantai, a revered landmark that rises high above you. Dynamic beauty awaits explorers, be they hikers, cyclists or paddlers.
The Ritz-Carlton, Okinawa offers the magical island's plethora of natural escapes and activities. Traces of the Ryukyu Kingdom era remain in the form of nine World Heritage Sites while beaches offer snorkeling, scuba diving and fishing. Accompanied excursions include a 30km Cycle Tour of Cape Manza with a Hotel Guide, as you travel from hotel to a scenic spot known as “Manzamo” or 'elephant nose!'. Alternatively, for adrenaline on water join their Mangrove Kayaking tour on the Hija River to see completely untouched wilderness at its very finest, or discover the remarkable preserved Yanbaru forest.
Fairfield by Marriott Michi-no-Eki offers multiple locations from which to explore untouched wilderness, whatever your preferred mode of transport. The newly-opened Fairfield by Marriott Mie Odai, southeast of the historic city of Nara, lets guests immerse themselves in nature by swimming in the crystal-clear waters of Miya River or spending the day fishing for ayu sweetfish in the river. For those who prefer mountains, the hotel is near some of the most famous hiking trails in Japan, including Osugidani and Mount Somon, while the breathtaking Nanatsugama Falls are also close by.
Bali’s waterfalls and rice terraces
Located in Nusa Dua, The Ritz-Carlton, Bali is set on 12.7 hectares of expansive and beautifully manicured beach-front and cliff-top land. This expansive property is already a natural wonder in its own right, thanks to unobstructed views of the Indian Ocean and its dramatic location along the sweeping coastline. The luxury resort reinforces The Ritz-Carlton’s commitment to inspiring life's most meaningful journeys, including in Nusa Dua's lush volcanic mountains and verdant rice paddies. These experiences highlight and reinforce the healing power of nature - but guests are also encouraged to discover why Bali is a destination where people seek peace and quiet in every sense of life.
Finally, to the magical Indonesian island of Bali, renowned as one of the most spiritual destinations anywhere, as well as an island of extraordinary natural diversity. The Westin Resort & Spa Ubud, Bali sits in the historical royal capital, nestled in stunning tropical terraces
lush green hillside and picturesque rice paddle fields. As if that wasn't already enough, then abundant natural beauty can also be seen at Ubud Monkey Forest and Campuhan Ridge Walk, a free and easy nature trek which takes you through temples, bridges, shrines and rice paddies. Other easily accessible outdoor adventures include mountain biking, rafting and ecotours.