Have time, will travel – With these four (plus two) family-friendly destinations, there are more reasons to jump on a plane during the upcoming long weekends. From arts and culture to adventures in nature, there’s something for everyone to experience and explore.
TEXT: MANDY LIM BEITLER
Not to be confused with the capital city of Jakarta, Yogyakarta is known for its UNESCO World Heritage sites: Borobudur, a 9th century Buddhist temple, and the 10th century Hindu temple compound of Prambanan (top).
To explore the city, consider a stay at Greenhost Boutique Hotel (www.greenhosthotel.com, above right) in the artsy Prawirotaman area. Navigate popular sights such as the Taman Sari Water Castle and the Malioboro traditional day and night markets.
For a more relaxing family getaway, consider heading to laid-back beach town Pattaya. About a 90 minutes’ car ride from Bangkok’s Suvarnabhumi Airport, there are lovely stretches of beach lined with hotels, resorts, restaurants, night markets and shopping malls, much like its more popular islander cousin, Phuket.
Take your pick from a wide range of accommodation; the Hard Rock Hotel Pattaya (pattaya.hardrockhotels.net) and Mercure Pattaya Ocean Resort (www.mercurepattaya.com) offer excellent amenities for kids, for instance. Pattaya is an ideal launch point to go island-hopping, where you can go fishing, discover pristine beaches and snorkel in crystal-clear waters. Back on land, there are a surprising number of theme parks and fun activities for families to enjoy.
Visit the adorable Teddy Bear Museum (www.teddybearmuseumpattaya.com), then feed lambs and alpacas at the Swiss Sheep Farm (www.swisssheepfarmpattaya.com). The Nong Nooch Tropical Garden (www.nongnoochtropicalgarden.com) is a must-see for gardening enthusiasts and Jurassic Park fans alike! To escape the heat, head to Harbor Land Family Entertainment Centre (www.harborlandgroup.com), with nine play zones spread across an entire mall, or make a splash at Cartoon Network Amazone (www.cartoonnetworkamazone.com), the world’s first Cartoon Network-themed water park.
If you’re visiting Tokyo, work in a day trip to the rural Echigo-Tsumari region of the Niigata Prefecture (below left). It’s home to approximately 160 artworks created by Japanese and international artists dotting the Echigo-Tsumari Art Field (echigo-tsumari.jp/eng), spanning 760sqkm across the countryside and incorporated into the local environment. The artworks can be found in rice fields, town centres, and even abandoned buildings and schools.
The Echigo-Tsumari Satoyama Museum of Contemporary Art is a good starting point. Families will enjoy the Museum of Picture Book Art at the former Sanada Elementary School in Hachi, given a new life by artist and writer Seizo Tashima. The school narrates the story of its last three students before it closed due to depopulation.
CHIANG MAI, THAILAND
Due to its higher elevation, Chiang Mai tends to be much cooler than most of the nation. Night-time temperatures can fall to 10 deg C during the cool and dry season, making December to February an ideal time for chill-seekers to visit.
Explore the lush greenery, impressive waterfalls, native Hmong village and famed royal twin pagodas on Doi Inthanon, Thailand’s highest mountain. Or plan your trip during the full moon in November for a two-in-one cultural immersion.
During Loy Krathong, join the Thai people as they light and launch krathongs (small containers traditionally made from pieces of banana-tree trunk, each holding a candle, incense and flowers) into the city moat.
Escape the hectic pace of the city and luxuriate in the 18 to 26 deg C temperatures atop Penang Hill.
Take an early ride to the summit on the fastest, steepest and longest funicular in the region for a misty sunrise, then get an aerial perspective of lit-up George Town at dusk. Reconnect with nature at The Habitat Penang Hill (www.thehabitat.my). Explore trails on the 130-million-year-old rainforest floor, along the Langur Way Canopy Walk and Curtis Crest Tree Top Walk (left), Penang’s highest viewing point. Thrill-seekers can take on an adventure course, complete with five zip lines through the rainforest.
Explore museums, colonial bungalows and other attractions on Penang Hill. Make it a day trip from the city, or stay at the colonial-style Bellevue Hotel (www.bellevuehotel.my).
While picture-postcard Maldives have always been every honeymooner’s dream, things are a-changing and more resorts are going all out to attract families with kids. Ocean villas over crystal-clear azure waters, complete with pristine private beaches and excellent kids’ clubs – it’s the idyllic holiday paradise for young and old.
The number of resorts across the Maldivian islands is staggering. Good options for families include Taj Exotica Resort & Spa (www.tajhotels.com/taj-exotica-maldives), about 15 minutes by speedboat from Malé International Airport. Or take a scenic 35-minute seaplane ride to the Anantara Kihavah Maldives Villas (www.anantara.com/en/kihavah-maldives), another family favourite. While warm and sunny all year round, the dry season from November to April is the best time to visit the Maldives.
Adults can dive into water sports or relax at the spas, safe in the knowledge that children and teens will be happily engaged in age-specific activities designed just for them. For more family bonding adventures, go on a dolphin cruise and be enchanted by the playful mammals in their natural habitat, snorkel among manta rays, or visit wildlife sanctuaries and witness the conservation efforts on the islands.