Monday, March 19, 2012

Travel With Kids: 7 Indoor Attractions in Southeast Asia

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These attractions make traveling with kids much more fun.
First, a disclaimer: I don't have a child of my own and I have not adopted some adorable orphan. I'm just one of those reliable adults who can tolerate traveling with kids. (Yes, we exist  and we're a rare specie). And by kids I don't mean whining babies or tots 3 years old and below. Now if you're a seasoned parent traveling with kids, your recommendations are welcome at the comments section. :) 

Let the truth be told: Southeast Asia is a great place to explore with children. Yes, there's heavy traffic, weird toilets and the crazy language barrier. Yet this region also boasts of fantastic scenery, a bounty of fresh food and delicious treats, as well as some of the friendliest and most generous people on this planet. If you have kids who love adventure, they'll love the beaches, rivers, hills and mountains of this region. Here, they can feed adorable monkeys that are not in cages (Malaysia), see gentle whale sharks in the sea (Philippines), swim with sea turtles on the beach (Indonesia) and even ride on big elephants that are not in zoos (Thailand). But if you're still hesitant to let them try outdoor activities in a foreign country, then consider bringing them to these indoor city attractions: 

HONG KONG:

The Peak
Let the journey begin by taking the kids to the Peak Tram Historical Gallery so that they can learn a bit about the tram's history. Then, take the tram ride to the Peak Tower and let your kids experience how things look like when Spiderman scales on walls. Once you arrive at the tower, you can do the following with your kids: Enjoy a panoramic view of Hong Kong from The Sky Terrace 428, goof around with celebrities (and introduce them to Bruce Lee, WHAAAA!) at Madame Tussauds Wax Museum, enjoy a hearty meal at any of The Peak's restaurants, shop at The Peak Market for souvenirs and explore any of the trails at the Nature Walk.
Take crazy photos with these wax figures and more at Madame Tussauds.
Operating Hours: The Peak Tram and Peak Gallery are open from 7:00 a.m. to 12 midnight daily. The Peak Tower and The Sky Terrace are open from 10:00 a.m. to 11:00 p.m . (Monday to Friday) and  from 8:00 a.m. to 11:00 p.m. (Saturday, Sunday and Public holidays). Madame Tussauds is open from 10 a.m. to 10 p.m. 

Getting there: Take the Peak Tram Shuttle Bus No. 15C at the Central Bus Terminus (Near Star Ferry Pier 8) to reach the Garden Road Peak Tram Lower Terminus. If you're taking the MTR, get off at the Central Station, make your way to the J2 exit and walk up to the ground level. Turn right, passing through Chater Garden then cross Queen's Road Central to reach the Garden Road Peak Tram. 

Tip: Make sure to check for promos or fun deals at The Peak 's or Madame Tussauds website to save on costs. 


Hong Kong Disneyland
Yes, it's smaller and has less attractions than Tokyo Disneyland. But what it lacks in size, it makes up for in  activities. Start by taking the MTR Disneyland Resort line and let the kids enjoy the sights while inside a Mickey mouse-inspired passenger car. Then, let the young ones see their favorite Disney princesses and other characters come to life while strolling around the theme park, exploring the castle, dining at a cafe,  or even while swimming in Disney's hotel pool. Afterwards, try the different attractions such as the Space Mountain, Autopia, Tarzan's Tree House and PhilHar's Magic, a fun 3D show. Later, see Disney's stars perform at The Golden Mickeys and at the Festival of the Lion King. Try learning animation with your kids, too, at the Art of Animation. Then, let the kids take photos and dance with adorable Disney movie characters at the Flights of Fantasy Parade. Cap the day by watching the amazing fireworks display at Main Street.
Let the kids meet their favorite Disney characters at Hong Kong Disneyland.
Operating Hours: 10 a.m. to 8:00 p.m. daily.

Getting there:  Take the MTR and alight at Sunny Bay Station. From Sunny Bay station, proceed to the Disneyland Resort line interchange. Another option is to take Citybus R11, R22, R33 or R42 which operates daily to and from Disneyland.

Tip: Bring something to keep the kids warm if you're staying until the evening to watch the fireworks as it could get very cold at night. Also, if you're kids are major Disney fans, consider staying overnight at any of the HK Disneyland hotels.

KUALA LUMPUR:

Petrosains: The Discovery Centre, Petronas Twin Towers
Although Malaysia is better known for its outdoor activities, the Petrosains inside the Petronas Towers is one indoor attraction that does not disappoint. It's a showcase of one of Malaysia's most valued resource - oil.  The journey starts with the Dark Ride, an oil drop shaped ride that transports kids and adults through an audio-visual hall featuring Malaysia's natural resources and advancements in technology. Afterwards, visitors can explore on foot the different interactive exhibits on petroleum exploration, geology, earthquakes, molecules, latest inventions and F1 sports. And did I mention there's a talking dinosaur at Petrosains? (It's not Barney!)

The Skybridge  isn't the only attraction for kids
at the Petronas Twin Towers.
Operating Hours:   The Petrosains is open from Tuesday to Friday, 9:30 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. Last admission is at 4:00 p.m. On weekends and public holidays, its open from 9:30 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. Last admission  is at 5:00 p.m. The center is closed every Monday and during Hari Raya Puasa and Hari Raya Haji.

Tip:  If you plan to go up the Petronas Twin Towers Sky Bridge, get tickets for that first at the Concourse Level before buying your tickets for the Petrosains. Entrance to the Petrosains is at the Suria KLCC mall.

MANILA:

Museo Pambata
Let the kids explore a museum that allows them to play! This children's museum along Roxas Boulevard has interactive, hands-on exhibits that will help the young ones learn about Philippine history and culture, environment, the human body, children's rights, among others. The museum also offers various activities to keep the children occupied from storytelling to cultural presentations.

The non-traditional Museo Pambata looks like a house.
(Photo from panoramio.com)
Operating Hours: Museo Pambata is open Tuesday to Saturday from 9:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. and is closed during  lunch time (12:00 p.m. to 1:00 p.m.). On Sundays, it's open from 1:00 p.m. to 5:00 p.m. The museum is closed to the public every Monday and during select public holidays.

Getting there: The museum is located at the corner of South Drive and Roxas Boulevard. One can take the LRT or jeepney (A.Mabini route), alight at U.N. Avenue, then walk towards Roxas Boulevard. It's right beside the US Embassy of Manila. 

Tip:  It's usually best to visit Museo Pambata on weekends as the museum's outdoor plays, art workshops and shows are typically held on Saturdays and Sundays. 

SINGAPORE:

Sentosa Island
This island resort calls itself Asia's playground as it offers both indoor and outdoor attractions that appeal to the young and young at heart  Personally, I think the indoor attractions take front and center stage in Sentosa (the beaches are ho-hum in my standards). You can let kids travel back in time at Images of Singapore, get inside a Merlion's head at The Merlion, enjoy a spectacular view of Singapore at the Tiger Sky Tower or experience the thrilling attractions inside Universal Studios.

Sentosa is for kids and the young  at heart.
Operating Hours:  Sentosa's ticketing booths operate from 9:00 a.m. to 6:00 p.m. daily. However, the attractions at Sentosa have different operating hours, check their website for details.

Getting there: There are many ways to get to Sentosa. The most fun and the quickest way is via a cable car ride. Another option is to take the MRT, alight at the HarbourFront Station then ride the Sentosa Express.

Tip:  You can't explore all the attractions in one day! Do your homework and prioritize what you want to see with your kids so that they won't get tired and frustrated. Sentosa also offers a whole day pass and a half-day pass (2:30 to 7:00 p.m.) which can help you narrow down the attractions you want to see. 

Personal advocacy: If you believe that Dolphins should be in the ocean, please do not patronize the Underwater World at Siloso Point and the Marine Life Park at Resorts World Sentosa.

TAIPEI, TAIWAN:

The Maokong Gondola
Here's where your kids can feel like Kung Fu Panda flying through the air. This is a cable car ride to the scenic mountains of the Maokong area in Taipei. You can choose to ride a regular cabin or the Eyes of the Maokong Gondola, a cable car with a glass bottom. At the end of the ride, you can treat your kids to some shaved ice, take a short stroll or let them witness the art of tea-making in any of the tea houses near the area (Perfect for young girls!). 

Below's a short clip of my Maokong Gondola ride last year. To find out more about the Maokong Gondola and how to get there, check my post here. 

                                 

Tip:  It's definitely not for those afraid of heights as the Gondola ride can be quite shaky. If your kids start panicking, you can alight at the Taipei Zoo South Station. There are bus rides back to Taipei from that station. Also, don't go to the Maokong Gondola on weekends as there's bound to be a long queue.  

The National Palace Museum
Seeing ancient Chinese artifacts and artworks may not appeal to all kids but the National Palace Museum (NPM) has gone to special lengths to make its younger visitors more interested in history and the arts. If you have kids age 7 to 12 years old, make sure to accompany them to NPM's Children's Gallery for an interactive and fun learning experience that will help them appreciate the treasures housed at the museum. The staff also provides a Family Guide (such as "Treasure Hunting at the National Palace Museum") which can help you in exploring NPM's collections with your kids.

Go treasure-hunting  at the National Palace Museum in Taipei.
Operating  Hours: The National Palace Museum is open daily from 8:30 a.m. to 6:30 p.m. Its operating hours are extended every Saturday from 6:30 p.m. to 9: 30 p.m.  The Children's Gallery is closed every Wednesday after 1:00 p.m.

Getting there: Take the MRT Wenhu Line and alight at Dahzi station. Outside the station, take bus B13 (Brown 13) to the National Palace Museum and alight before the Front Facade Plaza of the museum. You can also take the MRT  Danshui  line to Shilin Station then take bus R30 (Red 30) to get to NPM.

Tip: There's a scheduled time of entry to the Children's Gallery. Each session is 50 minutes long so make sure to check this site for the schedule before visiting. Also, admission is FREE during extended evening hours.

So, which of these indoor attractions would you most likely visit with kids? Which ones would you visit even without kids?  Share your thoughts below!  

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P.S. I made a conscious effort not to include in this list any zoos, theme parks with casinos or indoor facilities with endangered marine animals.  

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