Take the kids to... Asia
By Corinne Homer
Of all the faraway places to have your family in tow, you’d be hard-pressed to find more child-friendly adventure than in Asia. With throngs of wildlife, tropical seas and an air of spiritual adventure that even kids will appreciate; Asia is an all-rounder of a continent that everyone can enjoy.
Taking your family on a long haul trip can be a daunting prospect, and it definitely needs preparation. But after cycling through rice paddies, observing processions of orange-robed monks, bonding with rescue elephants and gorging on noodles, you’ll find that your worries were probably unfounded.
We take a look at just a few Asian hotspots to scribble onto your ‘Take the kids’ travel list.
With varied scenery and plenty to be amazed by, adventurous families can get a lot out of a trip to Vietnam. The famous Old Quarter of Hanoi - with its streets of zippy mopeds balancing anything from piles of fruit to pigs - can be a lot for children (and adults!) to process. Regardless, facilities and restaurants are aplenty, the nearby Hoan Kiem Lake offers a spot of respite, and the traditional water puppet shows offer a charming distraction. Further south, lantern-lined Hoi An retains a magical, Disney-like atmosphere and is perfect for shopping, cooking classes, cyclo-riding and beach-going. Surrounding Ho Chi Minh, there are a range of waterparks and theme parks to really let the kids run free - while a boat ride on the Mekong Delta makes for a river jungle adventure to amaze the whole family.
If diving into the sensory explosion of India feels ‘too much, too soon’ for your young family, nearby Sri Lanka is an enchanting and wonderful alternative. Dazzling delights the kids are sure to love include train journeys through Ella’s shimmering tea plantations, encounters with wild leopards and elephants in the national parks, and exciting yet doable hikes at Sigiriya. When exploration gets tiresome, the pristine beaches offer snorkelling and surf opportunities galore, with the chance to watch turtle hatching at Kosgoda. Gorgeous scenery, enticing cultural differences and Sri Lanka’s wild inhabitants will enthral your little ones. What's more, children are a delight to Sri Lankan locals.
Bali and the Gili islands
Indonesia’s 17,000 islands are an overwhelming prospect for most travellers, with huge disparity in infrastructure from Java to Sambawa. For an Indonesian adventure with the kids in tow, you can’t go wrong with Bali. Its popularity with Australians means the island has all the facilities you would need - but rest assured, it’s not all about partying here. If the emerald rice fields, mystical dance shows and cheeky monkeys of Ubud aren’t enough to enchant your children; there are nature hikes for little legs in the leafy surrounds of Mount Batur, and the white sands, clear seas and giant turtles of the Gili islands. The Balinese love children so much that it will feel you have babysitters at every turn - but if you really want to relax, there are some beautiful, bamboo-fringed resorts with child-friendly pools all over Bali, and plenty of waterparks and treetop adventure experiences if you feel like going wild for a day.
Having only opened up to tourism in the last few years, Myanmar is one of the more challenging destinations for a family sojourn, but can be one of the most worthwhile. Western children are seen as somewhat of a novelty to the Myanmese so you’re sure to be met with a warm welcome, as well as plenty of young local playmates. Little ones will be dazzled by a myriad of journeys they’ve only heard about in stories. Hire some bikes to explore the mystical temples of Bagan; take a flat-bottomed boat past the charming stilt houses on Inle Lake, and observe the goings-on of the city streets from a horse-drawn cart or tri-shaw. Busy markets selling everything from spices to durian make for an explosion of colours, sounds and smells for curious kids. Later, take it down a few notches on the calm, stretching beaches of Ngapali; the perfect way to wind down the trip.
Tips for taking your children to Asia
- Long journeys in much of Asia are especially tough for toddlers, as there aren’t usually seatbelts on public transport and baby seats aren’t provided. For this reason it may be better to bring your own seat and use a private car, such as the ones used frequently on our tailor-made trips. This way, you can also take everything at your own pace.
- Nappies, wipes etc are usually available in big cities, though it’s worth bringing a stock of your own, and buying in bulk before heading out to more remote areas.
- Pavements are a bit of a luxury in developing countries, so bring a baby carrier for when a pushchair becomes more trouble than it’s worth.
- Changing facilities will often come in the form of a flat surface, wherever is available!
- Be sure to get your little ones vaccinated, bring medication for tummy upsets, teach them to wash their hands regularly, and prepare them (and yourself) for the natural culture shock.
- Ask in advance if it’s recommended to bring toddlers and babies to a destination in Asia. Though children are welcomed by locals and even seen as a novelty, it’s worth doing some research as to whether the lack of health and safety precautions and fewer facilities is worth the mental stress to you as a parent, or if it would be better to wait until they’re older.
- Though travelling with children is a world away from hitting the road as a young backpacker, with the right preparation it can be a brilliantly rewarding experience, creating formative memories for your kids that they will surely carry into their adult lives.
Make it happen
If you are thinking of planning a trip with your family, check out our Asia pages. Don’t hesitate to send an enquiry to our local operators by clicking on the country links above - they can enlighten you on any queries and create the perfect trip for you. Alternatively, call 0117 325 7898 to talk to someone in the TravelLocal office.