We have had another amazing year of travel this year. Here we look back at all our family travel highlights of 2016.
Unfortunately 2016 was a difficult year for me. I lost both my parents in the first half of the year, and so many of our travel plans were put on hold in the first half of the year while I travelled back and forth to the UK to spend time with my family and make necessary arrangements. Despite this, we still managed to fit in some amazing trips. My parents were both avid travellers and so I have taken solace in the fact that their travelling spirit lives on in both me and their grandchildren.
We saw in 2016 on the beach in Phuket, Thailand. We hung out on Kamala Beach, visited Splash Jungle water park, had lunch at Xana Beach Club, Catch Beach Club (sadly no longer around) and Bliss Beach Club, and checked out various family-friendly beaches around Phuket. A fun way to start the year.
Kota Kinabalu, Borneo, Malaysia
The last time we visited Borneo was ten years ago, in 2006 – obviously before our kids came along. We loved returning this year for the Easter holidays and exploring the rainforest with the kids. We stayed at the fabulous Shangri-La Rasa Ria Resort & Spa, which was the perfect base with its amazing beach, swimming pool with slides and kids club.
We teamed up with Amazing Borneo to explore the countryside and learn about life in Borneo. We took a sunset cruise, went island hopping around the Tunku Abdul Rahman Marine Park, learned about traditional Borneo life at the Mari Mari Cultural Village and explored the canopy walkways of Kinabalu Park. What an adventure! You can read more in our article Things to do in Kota Kinabalu with Kids.
Koh Samui, Thailand
We spent a long weekend in June winding down and de-stressing on Koh Samui in Thailand. We hung by the pool at the gorgeous family friendly Anantara Bophut Koh Samui Resort, took walks along the beach, explored the Fisherman’s Village, and drank cocktails at the fun Coco Tam’s Beach Bar. Just what the doctor ordered after a difficult six months.
Pulau Joyo, Indonesia
We kicked off our Summer holiday with an incredible weekend trip to Pulau Joyo, a private island resort just a few hours travel time from Singapore. This tiny tropical island comprises just seven beach palaces and two bale houses. It is the ultimate in barefoot luxury, where you can totally let your Robinson Crusoe fantasies run wild.
We had an amazing time hanging out at the pool, kayaking around the island, stand-up paddle boarding, tracking monitor lizards on the sand and snorkeling in the incredibly clear water.
We just can’t keep away from our former hometown of Singapore. It is definitely one of our favourite cities to visit with kids. This year we spent some time on Sentosa Island, trying out two of Singapore’s best family friendly hotels: the gorgeously styled Sofitel Singapore Sentosa Resort & Spa, and Shangri-La’s Rasa Sentosa Resort & Spa, with all its fun water slides and family friendly activities.
We also spent some time visiting some of Singapore’s best family friendly attractions including Singapore Zoo, Universal Studios and the SEA Aquarium. Read our article 50 Things to do in Singapore with kids to see why this is one of our favourite family travel destinations.
Bali, Borobudur and Lombok, Indonesia
From Singapore we headed straight on to Bali. Bali has always been one of our favourite holiday destinations, but we usually plant ourselves in Seminyak in order to partake in all the fabulous Seminyak restaurants, bars and boutiques. This year we decided to mix things up a bit, and spent four days in Ubud instead. We stayed at the beautiful Padma Resort Ubud, with its incredible infinity pool.
We spent time exploring the Ubud countryside, including visiting the monkeys in the Monkey Forest, trekking along the stunning Tegalalang Rice Terraces and wandering around Tirta Empul holy water temple. Of course we found time to visit our favourite Ubud restaurant – Naughty Nuri’s for barbecue ribs and martinis!
From Bali we flew to Yogyakarta in Central Java. Our main reason for coming here was to tick off a major item off my bucket list – watching the sunrise at Borobudur Temple. Despite incessant whinging from our tired children who were made to get out of bed at 4.30am, it was a magical experience, and one I won’t forget.
Our home in Central Java was the homely and unique Villa Borobudur, a luxury private retreat with amazing personal Javanese hospitality. They also helped us to arrange a visit to the local pottery and batik villages with a horse and cart, and a fun adventure doing a lava tour by jeep up Mount Merapi – Indonesia’s most active volcano.
We flew from Yogyakarta on to Lombok to finish up our Indonesian adventure with a few days of beach relaxation. We stayed at the stunning Oberoi Lombok, where the staff treated us like royalty and we relished the luxuriant tropical surroundings.
We loved that the Oberoi Lombok was just a ten-minute boat ride from the Gili Islands, where we went snorkeling on the reef and spotted our first sea turtle.
Our Indonesia Summer adventure was matched only by our trip to Myanmar, another big tick for my travel bucket list. Myanmar was incredible! Having lived in Asia for nine years, and travelled extensively throughout the region, I was worried that Myanmar wouldn’t have much new to offer – but how wrong I was. The temples here will blow you away, and the rich culture and local way of life was amazing to experience.
We spent 10 days in Myanmar in total, teaming up with tour company THAHARA. For our one day in Yangon we spent the day exploring the Shwedagon Pagoda, the Colonial District and Bogyoke Aung San Museum. We found a fabulous place to stay too – the Belmond Governor’s Residence, a former 1920s colonial mansion.
In Bagan, we explored the incredible temples, visited a local village, learned how to make lacquerware, took a horse and cart ride, and even went hot air ballooning above the temples. Read more about visiting Bagan with Kids here.
Inle Lake was another amazing destination in Myanmar, where we zipped around in a long boat, spent a day at an elephant sanctuary and went way off the beaten track to stay in a little lodge in a place called Samkar.
Ho Chi Minh, Vietnam
I managed a cheeky few days away on my own this year, popping down to Ho Chi Minh City to catch up with my brother who was travelling through Vietnam. I had a ball – and managed to fit in a few things I wouldn’t have done with my two small kids in two.
We had a really interesting day trip to the Cu Chi Tunnels, visited the War Remnants Museum and of course checked out the fun Saigon nightlife.
We squeezed in a quick weekend trip to Taipei at the beginning of December. I loved Taipei! We only had 48 hours to explore, so it was a bit rushed, but we managed to see visit the Taipei Zoo, take the Maokong gondola up to the tea plantations and seek out the famous Yao Yue teahouse for lunch. We also made it up the Taipei 101, the world’s 6th tallest building, checked out the night markets, had dinner at the original Din Tai Fung restaurant and did an awesome street food tour with Taipei Eats.
Phew! Thank goodness we had the gorgeous Shangri-La Taipei to relax in at the end of the day.
Our last trip of the year will to Langkawi in Malaysia. This is one of our favourite island getaways in Southeast Asia, and we intend to spend Christmas and the New year period lazing around by the pool, playing golf, making sandcastles on the beach – and perhaps exploring the rainforest a little.
What a year! Here’s to more fabulous family travel adventures in 2017.