The experiences you gain when traveling are unforgettable and often a formative experience for children. Families in Shanghai are blessed with having many incredible destinations right at their fingertips and the opportunity to share these wonders with their children. We asked families around Asia to tell us their most treasured memories and favorite family-friendly destinations. Read on for some fun stories and insider tips!
If a holiday is supposed to end on a high, which suggests it started from a somewhat lower point, then I planned Vietnam like a genius. After a horrific experience at an airport hotel in Hanoi (I won’t say it’s the worst hotel I’ve stayed in, but it is), the rest of Vietnam experience was superb.
The Famiana Resort on Phu Quoc Island was marvellous, with all you need for a relaxing week at a resort: a nice beach (even for this Australian beach snob), including inflatable play structures for the kids, a good pool, lovely grassed grounds, and superb Vietnamese food all day, as well as the French-influenced wine and cheese list.
Phu Quoc – best known as the home of fish sauce – is an unsung gem of Southeast Asia, where you’ll find a vibrant village and market and a thriving pearl trade. While our snorkelling day trip was underwhelming (crowded, and not much to see), the island is recommended as a developing location, and with a sparkling new airport.
Hanoi had changed greatly in 10 years. My wife kept insisting we should get to the Old Town. I kept insisting we were already in it. There’s a lot more bustle these days, but that’s a sight in itself. You watch, and dodge, regiments of motor scooters charging down roads five abreast, while you buy your charming and cheap wares, from silk tablecloths to ceramics and wooden bowls.
Again, the food was stupendous; we had pho coming out our ears. Besides a range of fine to very local eating options, the Old Town also has many interesting art shops that sell compelling old propaganda posters.
No visit to Hanoi would be complete without seeing its famous (and slightly odd) water puppets. We day-tripped out of town to see silk and pottery production, which was engrossing for the kids. One night I took one daughter to a performance of ‘Beethoven’s 9th’ in the Hanoi Opera House, a charming miniature of the Paris Opera, which was a great though not very ‘Asian’ thing to do.
We ended (on that high) at UNESCO-listed Ha Long Bay. It’s crowded but a must-see, for the staggering sight of limestone karsts rising from the sea, and to witness the water-based lives of the inhabitants. The sight of their kids operating motorboats to get home from school had ours in awe. Dau Go and other caves are well worth a look.
For its cultural diversity, natural beauty, food and relative economical value, I’d rank Vietnam as my favorite Southeast Asian destination – regardless of the airport hotels.
Insider tip: Avoid Hanoi airport hotels
Best age group: 7-12 years
Travel time from Shanghai: 3 hours
Suggested minimum stay: 7 nights
Read more Family-Friendly Travel Destinations here.