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Give your children the best education by travelling to Asia. As the largest continent on Earth, Asia offers plenty for all kinds of travellers – including those with kids. From visiting ancient sites in Amman, Jordan, to volcanic mountains in Bali, Indonesia, and getting stuck into water sports in Phuket, Thailand, these are the best destinations for family-friendly vacations in Asia.
Think the Maldives is just for loved-up honeymooners? Think again. The tropical Asian archipelago is now positioning itself as a family-friendly destination, too. Many of the country’s top-end resorts cater to children with lavish family suites, dedicated kids clubs and splash pools. Then, of course, there’s the world-famous beaches and mirror-clear waters ideal for family beach days. Take a boat trip or snorkelling excursion, you might even spot a sea turtle.
Active families will love Sapa, Vietnam’s mountain haven near the Chinese border. Escape the heat of Hanoi on an overnight sleeper train (which kids will adore) to the former French hill station. You can give back while you travel by booking a guided trek with one of Sapa’s social enterprises to explore the alpine scenery and towering rice terraces. But to really immerse yourself in Sapa’s culture? Arrange a homestay experience with a Hmong family in their village.
Kyoto is packed with child-friendly attractions that’ll make for a fun family trip. Start at the Railway Museum, with its full-scale models, or indulge Ninjago fans with a trip to the Samurai and Ninja Museum. There are some peaceful green spaces in Kyoto where you can picnic and play; don’t miss the Imperial Palace Park which has a large playground where kids can run wild. Slip in a visit to a few of the city’s 2,000 temples and shrines for some culture.
If you’re planning a cultural family getaway, South Korea’s vibrant capital fits the bill. This concrete jungle is clean and safe, with an accessible public transport system and pay-per-hour play cafes everywhere. Spend some time temple hopping and then let the kids unwind in one of Seoul’s parks or Lotte World Theme Park. Seoul’s hotels offer stellar facilities for kids, from pools to cooking classes; the Four Seasons even has a Lego-themed lounge.
With a public transportation system that is clean, efficient and easy to use, ample places to eat out and plentiful attractions, Singapore is a firm favourite for families exploring Asia. The beaches may not be the best, but many hotels have pools and you can stroll along the sands of East Coast Park and take trips to the interesting of Lazarus, St John’s and Pulau Ubin. Singapore really comes into its own for families on Sentosa Island, with theme parks and fun activities galore. Enjoy movie-themed rides and shows at Universal Studios Singapore, see the exhibits at Butterfly Park and Insect Kingdom, ride the luge, soak up the views from the Tiger Sky Tower, marvel at the gigantic Merlion, and step back in time at Fort Siloso. Adventurous kids will love MegaZip Adventure Park, and Kidzania Singapore is perfect for younger children.
Whether you and your family are looking for lively stretches of sand with water sports or somewhere a little quieter and away from the crowds, the beaches of Thailand’s largest island, Phuket, are sure to please. Karon, Kamala and Patong are family favourites, from which you can take boat trips to one of the many nearby islands. Elsewhere, the interactive Phuket Trickeye Museum and the novel Baan Teelanka (Upside Down House) offers many marvellous photo opportunities. Play a round of mini golf at Dino Park, feel the rush at Kathu’s Flying Hanuman treetop adventure course (kid-friendly activities available) and discover aquatic life at Phuket Aquarium.
The Malaysian state of Sabah, on the island of Borneo, is a great choice for adventurous families that are looking for somewhere a bit different. A trip to Sabah will require a bit more planning and patience than many other places on this list, and it’s more suited to older kids and teenagers than toddlers. In the state capital of Kota Kinabalu, take a cultural excursion to the Monsopiad Heritage Village to learn more about the area’s past, explore the underwater world with incredible snorkelling at Tunku Abdul Rahman National Park and spot an array of wildlife at Lok Kawi Wildlife Park. The long-nosed proboscis monkeys are normally crowd-pleasers. Nearby, Rumah Terbalik (Upside Down House) is an unusual attraction.
Bali, one of Indonesia’s most popular islands, attracts many people throughout the year. If you want a change from the more popular, and busier beach resorts, like Kuta and Sanur, check out pretty Nusa Dua, where older children might like to try their hand at surfing. While in the area, visit The Pirates Bay to let your kids’ imaginations run free and take a pirate-themed dinner cruise. There are a couple of great water parks in Bali as well, including Waterbom Bali Park and Splash Water Park, plus volcanic mountains, rice terraces, waterfalls and wildlife-rich forests to explore. Thrill-seeking families should add Bali Treetop Adventure Park to their itinerary.
The island of Phu Quoc is a great place for families looking for some laidback beach time in Vietnam. Many spend days sunbathing, swimming and playing on the numerous beaches. Long Beach is the most popular, and where you’ll find the greatest selection of amenities and facilities, while other top beaches include Bai Thom, Bai Sao and Vung Bao. Boat trips and snorkelling are fun and, for something a bit different, how about an evening of squid fishing? The Coi Nguon Museum provides an educational experience, as is a visit to one of the island’s famous fish-sauce factories and pearl farms. The Ganh Dau Trail offers great hiking and the Suoi Tranh waterfall is a scenic sight.
Colourful and busy, Tokyo is a wonderland for kids and adults. There are theme parks galore – with something for all ages. Favourites include Hanayashiki, which is believed to be the oldest amusement park in Japan; Tokyo Disneyland; DisneySea, combining all your favourite characters and water-based attractions; and the cute and kitsch world of Hello Kitty at Sanrio Puroland. Kids will love watching creatures from across the world at Ueno Zoo, getting creative at Legoland Discovery Center and walking with dinosaurs in Kodomo no Mori Park. There are tonnes of fun educational experiences in Tokyo, too, including the National Museum of Nature and Science, the Tokyo National Museum, and the National Museum of Emerging Science and Innovation.
Wide streets, great transportation and many attractions make Taipei a great place to explore as a family. Many of Taipei’s major cultural sites are interesting for everyone, like the Chiang Kai-shek and Sun Yat-sen Memorial Halls, the Longshan Temple and the National Palace Museum. Get up close with pandas at Taipei Zoo, soak in the natural hot spring of Beitou and spend an evening shopping and eating at the bustling Shilin Night Market. A hike along the Nangang District Hiking Trail up Elephant Mountain is a great way to burn off excess energy, while Taipei Children’s Amusement Park has an assortment of rides and play areas and the popular Leofoo Village Theme Park – complete with rides, shows, animals and a water park – is an easy day-trip from Taipei.
Tick off theme parks, cultural sites, museums and shopping centres in Shanghai, one of China’s most modern cities. There are many child-friendly places to stay and finding something tasty to eat won’t be a problem; try the themed restaurants for unusual dining experiences. Shanghai Disneyland often tops the list of must-do things in Shanghai, as does the Dino Beach Water Park, Shanghai Wild Animal Park and Shanghai Zoo. Shanghai Ocean Aquarium also boasts the longest underwater tunnel in the world. Watch your kids’ faces light up as you hop on the rail car that travels through the Bund Sightseeing Tunnel, and soak up the views from the observation deck of the iconic Oriental Pearl Tower.
As a fairly small country in the Middle East, Jordan isn’t generally top of mind when thinking about where to take the family. But the capital, Amman, is a must-visit for its history, culture and ancient sites. Rent a car (with a private driver) or book a tour from a central base; almost everywhere can be reached from the capital on a day trip. Immerse your kids in a new culture with a stroll along Amman’s Rainbow Street and a visit to the lively souks. Other highlights of the capital include The Children’s Museum, with many hands-on activities; the lush King Hussein Gardens, where kids can burn off excess energy; the open-air museum of Jabal Al-Qalaa; and the Abu Darwish Mosque. The Roman ruins of Jerash are a short drive from Amman.
Amy Blyth contributed additional reporting to this article.