The New Family Getaway
Tired of Bangkok or Bali? These previously unexplored places are on their way to becoming top holiday spots for families.
PAI This small town near the Chiang Mai border is in a mountain valley, so it boasts scenic surroundings. Among the attractions: Mo Paeng Waterfall; Mae Yen Waterfall, which is about 6.5km out of town; elephant camps that offer rides on the huge creatures; ponds where you can pay to fish; hot springs; Tham Lod cave; and mountains and rice fields you can explore by bicycle. Pai is about a threehour minivan ride from Chiang Mai.
SURAT THANI This town in the south of Thailand is a gateway to Koh Samui and Koh Phangan, so visitors rarely spend more than a couple of days here. Yet, there is quite a lot to do, from relaxing on palm-fringed beaches to taking cruises or boat trips to nearby islands.
Surat Thani offers many cultural attractions, including monasteries, temples and museums. It also has national parks, waterfalls, caves and wildlife sanctuaries. Khao Sok National Park is home to endangered animals such as leopards, sun bears and wild elephants. You can rent a tent here or stay at a private bungalow. Other highlights in Surat Thani: oyster farms (the town is famous for oyster cultivation), and Ban Phumriang, a quaint handicraft village.
WANG NAM KEAW Rolling hills and a cool climate give this town the nickname “Switzerland of northeast Thailand”. Go birdwatching and trekking, or head out to the many waterfalls (like Huay Yai, Huay Kamin and Suan Hom), which are especially breathtaking during the rainy season. You may also like to spend a day visiting organic farms, vineyards and orchards.
NHA TRANG This city on the south-central coast of Vietnam is home to Vinpearl Land, the country’s answer to Disneyland. Its sprawling five-star resort and entertainment complex has something for all ages: a shopping mall, water park, amusement park, aquarium and food village.
Sometimes called the Riviera of the South China Sea, Nha Trang also has several good beaches offering snorkelling and other water activities. Active kids and adults can go on cycling tours, too.
BEN TRE You’ll find temples, pagodas and handicraft markets, as well as natural attractions the kids will like, at this southern province in the
Mekong Delta. Visit the Vam Ho Bird Sanctuary, a shelter for wildlife, or walk around beekeeping villages and fruit orchards. With so many green areas, camping is becoming a popular activity here.
HUE Once the capital city of Vietnam, Hue on the north-central coast is a Unesco World Heritage Site. It will appeal to history and culture buffs – the city is full of monuments, emperors’ tombs and pagodas that tell the story of its role as a religious, political and cultural centre.
Hue boasts some beautiful beaches, such as Thuan An and Lang Co. It also has mineral hot springs that you can relax in after a long day.
KEP A coastal province overlooking the South China Sea, Kep has beautiful white-sand beaches – many of them empty. More boutique hotels are opening here, to cater to the growing number of travellers. It’s the perfect place to relax in, and if you love seafood, Kep has many good restaurants serving a fresh catch (pepper crab is a speciality in Kep). Some 20 minutes’ drive away is Kampot, another old colonial town, which has waterfront cafes, shops and galleries.
BATTAMBANG This is Cambodia’s second-largest city, located in the north-west. Much like other cities in the country, Battambang features well-preserved French colonial architecture and ancient temples like Barseat, Wat Ek and Banan. It’s known for its rice production, but is also an excellent starting point for exploring nearby cultural villages.
Organise an ox-cart ride through the rice fields and villages, where 100-yearold houses on stilts still stand. Also check out Kamping Puoy, a popular picnic site.
SEMARANG On the north coast of Java is this city with several historical monuments worth seeing, like Tugu Muda, a landmark commemorating the five days of battle between Indonesian freedom fighters and the Japanese during World War II, and Gereja Blenduk Church, one of the oldest churches in Central Java, built by the Dutch.
For your kids, Tinjomoyo Zoo and Mangkang Zoo promise to be a fun experience. Many places also feature traditional Javanese dance and puppet shows, and you’ll enjoy markets and malls like the Semawis Night Market in Chinatown, DP Mall and Matahari Plaza.
GILI ISLANDS Three islands make up this remote archipelago off Lombok – Gili Trawangan, Gili Meno and Gili Air. The islands are largely undeveloped and unspoilt by mass tourism. Cars and other motorised vehicles are not allowed here. You will find a range of accommodation options, from budget to luxury, and a host of outdoor activities, like snorkelling with sea turtles, scuba diving, biking, sea kayaking, fishing, and horse riding along the beach.
BALIKPAPAN This is the second-largest city in Kalimantan and is a major centre for oil, mining and timber. In recent years, it has become a popular destination for travellers from the region. You can relax at great beaches (Manggar, Lamaru and Kemala, for example), go on a river safari, or visit orang utan and sun bear sanctuaries, as well as a crocodile farm. SH
The small town of Pai in Thailand. An artistic wall display in Pai. A traditional bus stop beside
a rice paddy in Pai.
The historical city of Hue.
A view of the Battambang countryside.
A white-sand beach in
the Gili Islands.
A beach in Nha Trang.
Grilled squid at a
market in Kep.
The Gili Islands
Crabs fried with green peppercorns