Asia is a great destination for a family holiday. Photo / Getty Images
A for awesome: from the beaches of Bali and Thailand to the temples of Japan and Hong Kong, the markets of Singapore and Vietnam and every possible theme park in between, and however your nuclear, blended or otherwise composed family is configured, Asia really does have a holiday to suit all ages.
Our number one choice for a family-friendly holiday, it’s brilliant because it’s busting with things for all ages to do and because its blend of cultures will inspire the next generation of world citizens.
See Singapore Zoo (the night safari is a personal recommendation), Sentosa Island and Universal Studios, MegaZip Adventure Park, Gardens by the Bay, SEA Aquarium (the world’s largest), Adventure Cove Waterpark, and beach clubs… we’ve only just begun. As someone once wrote about somewhere else, the family that is tired of Singapore is tired of the world.
Families will appreciate the Lion City’s reputation for cleanliness and safety, the use of English as the common language, great food and the renowned subway that makes it ridiculously easy to get anywhere.
Added to that, the mix of Malay, Indian and Chinese cultures, as well as the colonial heritage, allow the family to immerse themselves in the streets, markets, shops and eateries of Little India, the Arab Quarter and Chinatown, as well as the contemporary city based around the river and Clarke Quay, or Orchard Road retail mecca.
On the food front, Singapore’s fabulous hawker centres might even convince your teens there’s more to cuisine than Western-brand takeaway, while there are plenty of places to find meals from the affordable to the extravagant.
Is there a downside? Singapore is not cheap. So let’s look into some options.
What’s so great about Hong Kong? Some of the same things: fantastic food, easy to find your way around, English is widely spoken, public transport is fun in itself.
The massive Disneyland is the big… whatever the local word for kahuna is. It’s focused on under-10s while Ocean Park is more suitable for teenagers, although younger kids will love its animals and many rides. Both are very affordable and easy to reach on public transport.
Hong Kong’s best-kept secret is its green spaces. That might not come to mind when you think of this city of skyscrapers, but more than 60 per cent of the territory is committed to islands, hills, forests and stunning beaches. Hong Kong has an excellent network of hiking and biking trails, as well as safe beaches and resorts.
So many of Hong Kong’s drawcards, though, are part of the city’s everyday life – The Peak, the Big Buddha, cable-car rides to impressive views, Victoria Harbour’s light show, harbour ferries, temples, streets and markets, window-shopping. On Sundays, lion and dragon dances and kung fu performances in Kowloon Park.
We can’t leave without mentioning the food. Like Singapore, this is the perfect place to broaden the nutritional education of even the fussiest eater. Menus suit all budgets, too; go as fancy or as simple as you’d like.
Famed for its beaches, hospitality and laid-back attitude, cheap luxury accommodation and travel packages make the Indonesian island one of our top destinations.
A multi-generation or multi-family group can rent villas with up to five bedrooms, private pools and butler service – living like royalty for not very much, even in Kiwi dollars. Resorts offer the same service and spectacular facilities for kids and grown-ups. When the adults want some time out on their own, licensed nannies are easy to find, and affordable.
Kids will be thrilled with activities such as the Sacred Monkey Forest Sanctuary, Elephant Safari Park, Bali Bird Park and Pura Luhur Uluwatu Temple. Other good ways to wear them out include Waterbom Bali’s waterslides and mountain biking.
Where else does ancient meet ultra-modern, often on the same block? Kids of all ages will thrill to hundreds of attractions like Hello Kitty parks; Studio Ghibli Museum, a theme park showcasing the animation studio’s movies; Tokyo Disneyland and Tokyo DisneySea; Universal Studios and Space World, the exceptional science museum. And those are just in the capital; not too far away in Osaka, enter Harry Potter World.
While Kiwis are well acquainted with Japanese-style food, you can’t beat the real thing from street stalls and the often-bizarre theme restaurants. Immersing the family in the nation’s culture can be as simple as visiting its parks, gardens, museums, castles and temples – or a sumo tournament.
Kyoto is old Japan at its finest with more than 2000 temples and shrines, a great side-trip. At Nara, kids can feed and make friends with the famous sacred deer. Both destinations have lots of free-range spaces, underscoring the nation’s reputation for safety and friendliness.
Japan is also great skiing country, with many resorts promising “powder guarantees” and package deals.
“The Land of Smiles” is one of Asia’s hottest family targets, especially for teens. Credit that to its long sandy beaches, sensational food and ultra-cheap resorts in places like Phuket, Phi Phi and Krabi.
But there’s way more to Thailand. Diverse landscapes include Chiang Mai’s lush jungles and mountains, Bangkok’s grand temples and shopping, ancient ruins and bustling night markets.
Better suited to families with teens (those still willing to holiday with the old folks), Vietnam makes an excellent budget destination. Hanoi is a lot of fun to explore, even for younger kids, with attractions like the Temple of Literature, water puppet dances or just wandering and nibbling on street food.
Ho Chi Minh City offers another level of culture and history; the Mekong Delta is a riot of colours and sounds with its floating markets; Nha Trang is blessed with sandy beaches and calm waves for island hopping, scuba diving, boarding and waterskiing.