One of the things we love most about living in Singapore is the opportunity to travel in South East Asia. And while we love the big vacations, sometimes we just want to pack a bag and escape somewhere quick and easy. We especially love a cheeky little trip to somewhere we only dreamed about on rainy days in Europe.
Indonesia, Malaysia, and Thailand are all just a stone’s throw away. Here’s our pick of 6 great family destinations for a quick getaway.
Travel to Phuket, Thailand
Phuket is a great travel destination for families and only a 2-hour flight away from Singapore.
The south coast is famous for its beaches. The water sports are excellent for windsurfing, snorkeling and diving. Be careful of tides, especially during monsoon season (May-October) by paying attention to warning signs.
As well as the big family attractions, such as Splash Jungle Water Park and Phuket FantaSea, there are also some great sights that all the family will enjoy. Make sure you visit the 45m tall Big Buddha to get a great view of the area. Take a tour to Phang Nga Bay to visit the famous James Bond Island (from the movie, The Man With The Golden Gun). Visit Phi Phi Island for snorkeling and the picturesque Koh Panyee fishing village on stilts.
Elephants are a huge part of Thai life, and it really is an experience to visit these magnificent animals in their natural habitat. Be careful to do your research to find a safari where they are well cared for.
Travel to Bali, Indonesia
Of all the places we have in South East Asia, Bali is definitely one of our favorites. Only a two-hour flight from Changi, it feels like entering another world.
The beautiful landscape of rice terraces, mountains and beaches, the intricately carved stonework, the vibrant flowers, the fragrant food, the welcoming, spiritual people, all make for a trip you’ll never forget.
There’s a wide range of accommodation available, including high-end hotels and competitively priced villas. If you choose a villa you’ll usually have staff on site to look after you. Many offer catering services and are a font of knowledge about places to eat and things to do in the area. They’ll also make your life nice and easy by booking taxis for you.
Ubud itself is famous as an arts center. Visit the bustling art market to pick up some bargains and don’t be afraid to barter. Keep your eye out too for the galleries selling more specialist and better quality pieces including art, photography, and textiles. If you’re into yoga, you’ll be in heaven as there are a wide range of sessions available, or if you’re in a villa, you can get a teacher to come to you. Don’t forget to get a massage or two, because they really are the best in the world.
Ubud is fairly central, so it’s a great place to use as a base to explore the country.
Tanah Lot and the Tegalalang Rice Terrace are unmissable experiences. If you can take in a coffee plantation, do so, and don’t forget to sample the famous Luwak coffee. Try to fit in a cookery course. Not only will you pick up some new techniques, you’ll get a great meal and learn so much about Balinese family life and culture too.
There’s plenty to keep the more adventurous happy too, with excellent whitewater rafting, mountain biking, and hiking. No trip to Ubud is complete without visiting the Monkey Forest but beware of those cheeky light-fingered macaques.
Travel to Bintan
If you’re in need of a quick getaway Bintan is the perfect location. Only a 50-minute ferry ride away from Singapore, Bintan is famous for its sandy beaches, golf courses, and resorts. It would be very easy to grab a cocktail and spend your whole time chilling out by the pool or paddling on the pristine beaches, but try to drag yourself away occasionally because there’s plenty more to this Indonesian Island that you’d think.
Indonesian people are really welcoming and it’s a real privilege to spend some time in their communities. The Orang Laut (or Sea Gypsies) traditionally lived a nomadic life on their boats in and around Indonesia, but while many have now settled on land they have kept their traditions alive. Visit Panglong Village at Berakit to see how their lives still focus on the sea, with fishing as their main source of income.
Nature lovers should make sure to take in a mangrove tour, either by day for some wildlife spotting or in the evening to enjoy the magical fireflies.
Indonesian food is always a treat, and the seafood in Bintan is amazingly fresh and delicious. The best place to sample local food is the night market at Akau Potong Lenbu.
There’s plenty for thrill-seekers to enjoy in Bintan too.
Enjoy soaring over the pristine waters on seaplane ride with Air Adventures Bintan, Jetovators at Treasure Bay or the flying fox at Nirwana’s Happy Valley. And with archery, paddle boarding, scooters, ATV, kayaking and wakeboarding available on the island, there’s certainly plenty to do here.
Finally, no trip to Bintan is complete without visiting the mysterious 500 Lohan Temple. You’ll love the Chinese architecture and will be stunned to see the 500 arhats (religious statues). Who knew such sights existed in Bintan?
Travel to Siem Reap
The best way to see the magnificent Angkor Wat is to be up early and there to see the sunrise. It’s certainly a sight you’ll never forget. It’s worth hiring a guide to take you around and explain the history of the world’s largest religious structure. If you are there early in the morning, be sure to visit the Ta Prohm or Tomb Raider Temple which is slowly being consumed by nature. The nearby Bayon Temple or Temple of Many Faces is also very impressive.
Although the temples are quite rightly the main attraction of this trip, try to make some time to visit the tranquil West Baray Lake for swimming, sailing, and hiking. The Phnom Kulen National Park is also a great day out with a beautiful landscape of mountains and waterfalls to explore and some lovely pagodas as well.
Finish up your trip with a visit to the Phare Circus to see thrilling acrobatics, dance, and theatre, all performed with reference to Cambodian tradition and history. A truly magnificent sight.
Travel to Rawa Island, Malaysia
If you’re looking for a long weekend away and don’t feel like flying, the islands off the east coast of Malaysia are worth a visit. Our favorite is Rawa Island, which you can either drive to from Singapore or hire a taxi to take you. From Mersing, you’ll catch a speedboat to the island.
Rawa is a great destination for families, as you really can relax and let the kids go wild.
As soon as you arrive, you’ll feel the tension ebb away. You’ll stay in a lodge near or on the beach, eat at a fabulous buffet every night and spend all day on the beach. The equipment for snorkeling, kayaking, and scuba diving is available from the resort at very affordable prices. A huge (and easy) hit!
Travel to Sabah, Borneo
Sabah is another great holiday destination with a wide range of family-friendly activities to choose from.
one of the biggest attractions of Borneo is the joy of seeing magnificent orang-utans in their natural habitat.
Book in advance for a trip to Sepilok Orangutan Sanctuary, and learn all about this magnificent animal and the conservation work that is being done to protect it. The Sun Bear Sanctuary is another opportunity to see a wonderful rare species up close, and your entrance fee helps fund conservation work. Similarly, there is the opportunity to visit Turtle Island to see turtles laying eggs and the work done to preserve the eggs while they hatch and release the hatchlings to the sea.
To see animals in their natural habitats take a boat trip on the Kinabatangan River. If you’re lucky you’ll see crocodiles, proboscis monkeys, pygmy elephants, wild boar, beautiful hornbills and lots of Macaques. You may even see an orang-utan in the wild. Don’t forget your zoom lens!
Borneo is also famous for Mount Kinabalu. You shouldn’t underestimate the climb which is challenging and takes 2 days, but the views are magnificent and worth every step.
What is your favorite destination for a quick family get-away from Singapore? Please share!
Unless otherwise stated, all images are courtesy of pixabay.com.