Here is a short video postcard from Loro Parque from Tenerife (Canary Islands). Niko absolutely adored it. Here it is.
Our Around the World adventure continues in Singapore.
Singapore is yet another Asian delight that we have discovered on our journey around the world. This city has proved to be a beautiful brew of Malay, Chinese, Western and Indian culture. Although most of the folks speak Mandarin at home, you can pretty much manage if you’re familiar with one of the official languages – English, Tamil, Malay or Chinese.
Where East meets West
This ultra modern city lies just 100+ km away from the equator and houses over 5 million people who have collectively made Singapore one of the richest per capita nations in the world. A glimpse into history reveals that this country was ruled by the British till 1963. Although they were briefly reunited with Malaysia, there were several ethnic, linguistic and religious differences that led to their separation towards the mid 60s.
Today, Singapore stands as an economic stronghold and contains both urban confines as well as getaways of natural beauty. Here, you’ll be spoilt for choice when it comes to high quality shopping malls and electronics stores and you’ll find that almost everyone has a mobile phone! In fact, the mobile phone penetration rate stands at 1,400 mobile phone subscribers per 1000 people.
Friendly locals, sizzling cuisine, formidable laws!
You’ll love the locals just as much as the city. They are friendly, polite and well-mannered and they seem to follow all the strict regulations that govern the country. These laws draw heavy penalties so do read up on prevailing rules before you step out.
All in all, you’ll find that the city is clean, safe, very well-organized and easy to get around especially when you travel with kids.
Singapore offers a grand buffet of mouth-watering cuisine filled with flavour yet amazingly affordable. For less than $10US you can get a whole lot of stuff. On the flip side, accommodations are expensive so you may have to dust off your wallet to get a small room.
The perfect playground for your kids!
If you plan to travel with children, then you’ll love the Singapore airport. The child-friendly venue was designed to make parents happy as it comes with custom line-ups, playgrounds and lots of attractions to keep kids entertained.
Niko thoroughly enjoyed the Singapore Zoo. In fact, we did too! This world-class facility follows an open concept so the animals are not kept in sad concrete confines.
You’ll find them wandering through beautiful greenery almost like in their natural habitat. The lions and tigers were only separated by specially designed water canals!
Things to watch out for … tips for your Singapore stay:
- Whether you travel with children or not, do check your luggage thoroughly before you enter the country or you may end up becoming ‘criminals’ like we did, as we unknowingly ‘smuggled’ chewing gum and a bottle of beer! Yes, they thankfully did let us go after a lot of explaining!
- If you’re looking for a hotel room, book well in advance. A last minute booking comes with a very heavy price tag!
Singapore is the perfect Asian base!
Being centrally located, Singapore is the perfect Asian base from where you can fly to other Asian countries nearby. Visit Singapore, especially if you want to travel with children as there’s plenty for them to see and do. You’ll never have a dull moment in this modern, clean, child-friendly and warm country which promises to be the ‘West’ of the East!
What have your experiences been like in Singapore with your children? Please share them in the comments section below. Thanks!
Here are some of our photos from our Singapore visit:
Ko Samui can be a great destination for families on their round the world trip, but not all choices are good ones.
Ko Samui is one of the most touristy places in Thailand only bowing down to Bangkok. This once backpackers’ heaven on the Gulf of Thailand is now the most developed island with over a million and a half visitors per year. Beside white sand beaches, coral reefs and rain forest, it also offers good local Thai cuisine and some truly unique buddhist temples. But is it authentic? Is it worth to add to your round the world itinerary?
More developed towns like Chewang beach are tourist traps with prices double of what you can get elsewhere including neighbouring much friendlier and quieter Lawai beach.
We came during the monsoon season (usually from September to November) so the high winds brought in cloud cover and wavy seas making it tough to enjoy the islands’ famous beaches.
We were however able to explore the more spiritual side of the island by visiting most of the temples and taking day trips to some of the hidden and less travelled corners of the island.
Here are some of the Ko Samui’s attractions that make Ko Samui a place still worth visiting.
Ko Samui Temples
Wat Plai Laem and Big Buddha Temple (Wat Phra Yai)
This holy place with three grand Buddhas is set in a man-made lake. You not only can buy your fortune from an automated fortune-teller machine but also leave a permanent mark by signing your name on tiles which will become part of the temple (we did it too).
Mummified Monk in Wat Khunaram
This monk allegedly predicted his own death and requested that if his body would not decompose after his death, for it to be put on display as a symbol of his faith and path to nirvana. He got his wish, 30 years after his death the monk’s body shows little sign of decay except for his eyes covered by Ray Ban sunglasses.
Laem Sor Pagoda
Located on the southern tip of the island, this holy place is truly unique. Rarely seen on tourist maps, this gem is a must-see.
Beautifully situated by the coast this temple is beautiful. We also drove up the hill next to the pagoda, that is home to a large Buddha statue, that apparently holds Buddha’s actual bone under its foundations. In 1903, a monk buried a fragment of the Buddha’s bone that he brought back from his pilgrimage to Sri Lanka. The statute was constantly hit by lightening and hence susceptible to fires. To cut the risk of damage, Buddha’s bone was relocated elsewhere. Not sure, how much truth is in this story (printed in badly translated English on a sign next to the statute), but it definitely helped to make this place feel extra special.
Natural and made-made wonders
Hin Ta – Hin Yai – natural coastal grandma and grandpa rock formations with a tale behind it, that surprisingly closely resemble human male and female genitals:)
Bophut’s Fisherman’s Village
A charming village that retains the original Thai-Chinese atmosphere even if already packed with many new hotels and guesthouses.
Just drive around
Many tourists rent mopeds or jeeps and we decided to get us a 4WD beast ourselves, the famous Suzuki Jimni. The drives through palm tree plantations and up to the rainforest hills are worth it! From there we enjoyed the views of Hin Lat Falls, places like the Secret Buddha Garden and a breathtaking panorama of the island.
Ko Samui for kids and families
There are a few attractions deemed kids friendly that we decided to explore including Namuang Safari Park known for its elephant trekking and shows as well as Samui Aquarium and Tiger Zoo. We can not recommend either! We were appalled by the elephant show’s MC who appeared intoxicated, sniffing what appeared to be drugs in front of the audience. We decided to leave the place mid show. Both the safari park and the zoo appeared to us of poor upkeep conditions and questionable animal treatment.
We did however read good reviews about the Angthong Marine National Park, a marine park that is a major draw for families. We felt Niko was still too little for this attraction, but it maybe suitable for older kids.
There are over 250 resorts on the island, so make sure to pick those that are kids friendly, with playgrounds, kids pools and even babysitting services.
Perhaps, it’s good that it wasn’t beach weather during our stay as it forced us to explore the very unique and perhaps the more authentic part of the island. Some parts of the island like Chewang lost its original Thai nature and succumbed to pressures of the demanding tourist, but there is still a part of the island worth exploring!
So, what’s your take on Thailand’s Ko Samui island? Please share your view in the comments section below. Thanks!
Here are some of our photos from our Ko Samui (Thailand) visit:
You quickly realize all of Phuket’s major attractions are not on Phuket. James Bond, Similan and Phi Phi Islands…This makes Phuket a great transit point on our round the world adventure.
Phuket is Thailand’s largest island on the Andaman Sea. The island formerly derived its wealth from tin and rubber, and now tourism. This island remains a major tourist attraction but not for its climate, nice temples and beaches but rather its proximity to the true wonders of the world including Similan or Phi Phi Islands. Places like Patong also give it the infamous title of one of Thailand’s sex trade capitals which, we can happily say, we didn’t experience at all.
Tsunami warning signs act as permanent reminders of the tragic 2004 tsunami at every beach entrance. We spoke to our taxi driver whose family was spared as they were on their lifetime trip to Mecca at the time of the tragic event.
Compared to other islands in Thailand, we welcomed a well developed infrastructure of roads along many affordable food joints. It is here, we learned the new definition of ‘spicy’. Even the canned, Thai flavoured tuna was delicious and lip-burning. We even found one of Thailand’s best french-thai restaurants, one of our favourite culinary highlights thus far.
Phuket for families:
We didn’t know what to expect coming here except for some preconceived notions that Phuket is not for kids nor families. However, our journey took us to a less touristy east coast of the island, Rawai Beach close to amazing beaches like Nai Naharn Beach, which we found perfect for Niko and kids of all ages.
Stay tuned for the next post about Phi Phi!
What do you prefer? The touristy or the road less travelled on? Please share your thoughts in the comments section below. Thanks!
Here are some of our photos from our Phuket (Thailand) visit: