A FAMILY HOLIDAY IN ASIA
Some of the world’s best attractions can be found in Asia. We take a kid-friendly journey to Singapore, Malaysia, Hong Kong and Bali, a quartet of destinations that guarantee an experience your years to come.
Words by Angela Richardson
Asia could be the world’s best-kept secret when it comes to family entertainment. From my own personal childhood memories, nothing quite beats the plethora of Singapore’s fun-tastic attractions, so that’s where we will begin our adventure.
I remember being eight years old and beaming with awe while tugging on my mother’s dress as I pointed overhead to a giant manta ray gracefully gliding through the water above us at S.E.A. Aquarium, home to more than 100,000 marine animals. And shouting, “Look, Daddy!” when I caught a glimpse of a rare fishing cat from on board a tram at Night Safari, the world’s first nocturnal zoo and still one of Singapore’s most popular tourist attractions.
Families taking a holiday in the Lion State today are even more spoilt for choice, with an array of attractions to choose from. Not one to miss out on reliving my childhood, I took a trip to Sentosa Island, ‘The State of Fun’, to let my inner kid come alive.
Sentosa Island is accessible by taxi, but there’s no better way to get here than by cable car. On a sunny weekday morning, I hopped on at Singapore’s highest point of Mount Faber (105m) for a relaxing 20-minute cruise through the air, which allowed me to soak up the sights of the city skyline.
Hopping off at Sentosa Station, I instantly felt as though I were on holiday. A group of tourists dressed in shorts, caps and sunglasses were walking around, smiling and taking photographs, while a local couple with two children were excitedly inspecting their island map to decide which attraction to visit first.
“Do you want your photo taken by the tiger statues?” a woman asked me, promptly apologising once she realised I wasn’t who she thought I was. We had a laugh and started chatting. Her husband joined us, and I learnt they were on vacation from New Zealand and were visiting Sentosa to experience Universal Studios.
Opened in 2011 and set within Resorts World Sentosa, Universal Studios Singapore has 28 rides, shows and attractions, set on an impressive 20 hectares divided into seven themed zones: Far Far Away, Hollywood, The Lost World, Madagascar, New York, Ancient Egypt and Sci-Fi City. The zones are all positioned around a manmade lake, and you can experience the multitude of attractions in each one on foot, starting from Hollywood.
Not only do park-goers queue to experience the rides, but they also queue for a chance to take photos with their favourite Hollywood characters, from the Minions to Elmo. If rides aren’t your thing, there are plenty of street performances to enjoy, from the body-popping dance troupe on the Rhythm Truck to a date with Marilyn Monroe in her iconic white dress.
Leaving the streets of old New York behind, I entered Sci-Fi City, and the atmosphere changed. I could hear screams coming from the rollercoaster ahead and looked up to see people’s legs suspended in the air on the world’s tallest duelling rollercoasters, Battlestar Galactica: Human vs. Cylon, a white-knuckle ride that climbs to a dizzying 42.5m. The ride was nearly enough to put this old lady on her knees, but I came off feeling like a teenager again.
Not all rides are this hair-raising, however. In the whimsical streets of Madagascar, I watched on as younger kids rode King Julien’s Beach Party-Go-Round, with their smiling parents snapping family shots at every opportunity.
In the hot midday sun, people cooled down at one of the many indoor shows like ‘Oscar’s Grouchmas’, or sought shelter at one of the numerous cafés and canteens. I left Universal Studios looking forward to the day my one-year old would be a little bit older, so we could return together, and I could experience the park through her eyes.
Back on the mainland there is a plethora of parks for the animal lover, including the Singapore Zoo and Night Safari. Unlike other zoos that reverse the circadian rhythms of their night animals, the Night Safari uses lighting that resembles moonlight. Animals are separated using natural barriers in an open-air tropical forest open only at night time.
Conveniently situated just across the border from Singapore, about an hour’s drive from Singapore city centre or Changi Airport, is Malaysia’s first international theme park, the gloriously delightful LEGOLAND Malaysia
From Miniland, where true-to-life miniature versions of Asia’s iconic landmarks such as Angkor Wat in Cambodia and Pura Tanah Lot in Bali can be seen, to the fictional land of Ninjago, built from millions of LEGO bricks, even non-LEGO enthusiasts will find something to enjoy here. There are more than 70 rides, slides, shows and attractions, divided into themed areas including LEGO Kingdoms, Imagination, Land of Adventure, LEGO City and LEGO Technic. There’s also a LEGO-themed water park, and even a hotel with LEGO décor.
From Malaysia, it’s a four-hour flight to Hong Kong, the home of Hong Kong Disneyland. One of the most iconic Disneyland rides for me is ‘It’s a Small World’, which takes you on a boat ride through a world of singing children in traditional dress. Older kids can head to Tomorrowland and rocket into a Star Wars battle, dodging blaster fire in a fight between Rebel X-wing starfighters and Imperial TIE fighters. Other popular attractions include the Jungle River Cruise, the Fairy Tale Forest and the Big Grizzly Mountain Runaway Mine Cars. Don’t forget to get your picture taken with your favourite Disney character!
Back on what I consider to be home soil, the island of Bali has so much to offer families. Starting in Ubud, we spent a couple of hours at Bali Bird Park, which has been around since I was a child. Still well maintained, the park is home to 250 species of colourful birds from around the world that are visibly well cared for. During our visit, some enclosures were being upgraded, which will mean an even better experience in the future. The aviary was very big and the birds, small deer and even bats seemed to be cohabiting happily. There are also hatcheries with baby birds on display.
In the afternoon, we headed to one of the world’s best waterparks, Waterbom Park, which last year gained the title of ‘Number 1 Waterpark in Asia’ in TripAdvisor’s Travelers’ Choice Awards. People young and old come here from all over the globe to experience its splashing thrills.
This international-standard water park is set in and among lush tropical gardens, and with its very helpful and friendly staff, it stays true to Bali. We spent the whole afternoon here with our little one in tow, renting a gazebo for us to rest in whenever we needed respite from the sun’s tropical rays. While adults and older kids enjoyed The Climax, a 16-storey vertical-drop slide, I was happy splashing around at Funtastic water playground, letting our daughter climb, explore and get drenched with a huge smile on her face, giggles abound.
With our toddler all bundled up in a towel at the end of the day, you could see that she had had the best time. Once you have children, holidays will never be the same, and memories of lounging by the pool reading a good book seem so alien to me now. I breathed a sigh of relief knowing we were all going to have an uninterrupted night’s sleep, and mentally started planning our next family adventure
5 Senses – Taste
Breakfast with the wildlife
On the terrace at Singapore Zoo’s Ah Meng Restaurant, your family can have breakfast while being watched by a curious and free-roaming family of orangutans. The buffet offers a selection of continental and Asian delights with fresh fruit and strong brewed coffee.