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Animal show at Jurong Bird Park, Singapore. Image courtesy of Mike Aquino.
Animal show at Jurong Bird Park, Singapore. Image courtesy of Mike Aquino.

Southeast Asia can – and should – be a family affair. Don’t let its scruffy, backpacker-friendly reputation fool you: kids are welcome all over Southeast Asia, with adventures of all kinds ready and waiting.

From Singapore’s zoos to Indonesia’s cultural treasures, you can take it all in in this kid-friendly itinerary that connects Singapore, Thailand, Cambodia and Indonesia in a trip the whole clan can enjoy without a hitch.

Singapore: Compact Family Destination

As one of Southeast Asia’s most modern countries, it follows that this small island-state is also one of its most family friendly. You can spend a full three days exploring Singapore’s highlights – and not even scratch the surface!

No family trip to Singapore would be complete without a visit to one of Singapore’s zoos, concentrated in the island’s far west: Singapore ZooNight Safari, and the River Safari cluster around the Upper Seletar Reservoir, where kids can learn about animal conservation efforts across the three themed wildlife reserves. Alternatively, visit the Jurong Bird Park for animals of the finely-feathered kind.

Marina Bay offers the flipside to the natural scene out west: glistening glass and steel structures evoke a futuristic skyline. Hop with your kids onto the Singapore Flyer to take it all in from the air, or check out plants from all over the world in the Gardens by the Bay‘s two conservatories.

Finally, spend a whole day living the Hollywood dream at Singapore’s Universal Studios on Sentosa Island or explore the other family-friendly offerings on this island, including (but not limited to) Adventure Cove Park, S.E.A. Aquarium, Kidzania Singapore, Trick Eye Museum, Skyline Luge and the Mega Adventure Park.

Wind down with dinner over wine at Marina Bay, Singapore

Temple at Ubud Monkey Forest, Bali, Indonesia. Image courtesy of Mike Aquino.
Temple at Ubud Monkey Forest, Bali, Indonesia. Image courtesy of Mike Aquino.

Indonesia: Museums & Monkeys

On Indonesia’s Bali Island, the art and culture scene welcomes participants of all ages.

While the southern part of the island offers plenty of kid-friendly diversions – from learning to surf on Kuta Beach to having a splashing good time at the Waterbom Park – you’ll need to go to the center of the island to immerse in Bali’s cultural riches.

The art galleries around Ubud – among them NEKA art museum and Agung Rai Museum of Art – show the majesty of Bali’s ancient and modern art traditions, nurtured by generations of artists resident in this gentle hilltop town. Many of these art galleries ofter hands-on art workshops for kids and grownups.

After exploring the little artisanal shops that line Jalan Monkey Forest running from Ubud’s town center, explore the Ubud Monkey Forest, site of a Balinese Hindu temple guarded by armies of mischievous macaques.

Bali’s art scene comes to a head during the Bali Art Festival

Sightseeing at the floating market, Bangkok, Thailand. Image courtesy of the Tourism Authority of Thailand.
Sightseeing at the floating market, Bangkok, Thailand. Image courtesy of the Tourism Authority of Thailand.

Thailand: River Sightseeing

From Thailand’s capital Bangkok, families can experience an exotic Asian culture first-hand, on a long-tail boat: these water taxis cruise down the Chao Phraya River at Bangkok’s heart, cruising past the city’s highlights including the Grand Palace or Wat Phra Kaew, and a fabulous view of the towering spire of the magnificent Wat Arun temple, also known as the Temple of Dawn, one of the most famous landmarks of the city, situated on the west banks of the Chao Phraya river.

Enjoying canalside views while having delicious food at the floating market is one of experiences you should not miss. Damnoen Saduak and Amphawa floating markets are easy to access from Bangkok.

You can hire a paddling boat into the inner core of the floating market, or cycle into the orchards nearby to try sweet pickled fruits. At night, you can arrange for a boat trip to watch fireflies in cork trees: a fascinating sight at the end of your day.

Take an alternative itinerary that combines Bangkok with Yogyakarta and Bali in Indonesia.

Curtain call at Phare Ponleu Selpak, Siem Reap, Cambodia. Image courtesy of Mike Aquino.
Curtain call at Phare Ponleu Selpak, Siem Reap, Cambodia. Image courtesy of Mike Aquino.

Cambodia: Temples & Circuses

The family-friendly diversions in Cambodia’s top tourist town – Siem Reap – go far beyond the spectacular Angkor Archaeological Park and its sprawling temple plain.

Start your jaunt back in time at the Angkor Museum in downtown Siem Reap, before hiring a local tuk-tuk to take your family to the remnants of the Khmer Empire nearby. Start by visiting Angkor Thom through the South Gate, and proceed to the other temples, including Baphuon Temple, Phimean Akas Temple and Angkor Wat itself.

(You won’t need any other transport in Siem Reap beside the tuk-tuk – each can seat a family of four in comfort.)

For a final spectacle, visit a circus tent in downtown Siem Reap to watch the circus come to life. Phare Ponleu Selpak (PPS), a charitable organization that uses the performing arts to educate and rehabilitate children and youth, stages a nightly Phare show that mixes Cambodian folklore and culture into a dazzling acrobatic performance. 

Read about Phare and other responsible travel experiences for conscientious tourists.