Summer vacations don’t always have to be theme parks and beaches – take the kids around South East Asia’s historical gems and get a glimpse of its rich culture. Explore any of these four destinations this summer!
1. Angkor Wat, Cambodia
South East Asia’s major claim to fame – in terms of historical places – is the ancient temple complex at Angkor Wat. The archaeological park has hundreds of temples that date between the 9th and the 15th centuries, and spreads over 400 square kilometres. It is not as daunting a task as it sounds, even with children. Once the kid brigade figures that there are ruins, a waterfall, and a jungle involved, it’s a piece of cake – especially if your brat pack has been fed on a diet of Indiana Jones’ movies.
All you have to do is shortlist the temples that you intend to visit – we suggest Angkor Wat, Ta Prohm, and Bayon; but you could add Beng Meala to the list if exploring ruins in the jungles is the stuff of your kids’ summer vacation dreams. There are elephant rides that they can get on to and boat rides to see floating villages. Siem Reap is well connected by tuk-tuks, English-speaking guides are easily available, and many restaurants serve non-local food for picky eaters.
Weather wise, May is not exactly the best of times to make your South-East Asian memories. But in June, Cambodia’s fierce summer is on the ebb and the rains are about to make an entry. So humidity apart, the weather is bearable for your excursions. On the upside, the tourist horde is largely absent and you should be able to get good prices.
2. Bagan, Burma
Bagan could easily be one of the most memorable airborne historical experiences ever – we are talking floating above an entire ancient temple city on the banks of a river in a hot air balloon. There is also the option of touring the temples on a pony trap or even biking around the complex – but considering that your trip will be in June, it is best to get onto that balloon and reduce the time that you and the kids have to spend in the unforgiving Myanmar sun. Bagan is best explored at sunrise or sunset – views are the stuff of legend – and it will be much cooler as well.
With hundreds of temples to admire, you can get a bit of a pagoda overdose and yet miss out on the best stuff. If you are on the ground, it would be a great idea to swap your laced shoes for flip-flops – you need to be barefoot for a temple visit. Visit the restored and gilded Ananda Temple; get a surrounding pagoda view from the massive Shwesandaw Temple; or admire the frescoes at Sulamani Temple.
With April and May temperatures pushing the mercury to 40 degrees on an average, June promises to be more bearable. A constant supply of sun protection – physical as well as chemical – is needed to supplement frequent water breaks! The good news is that the bargain flight and hotel rates offset the exorbitant ballooning rates.
Travel planning tip: If you’re interested in collecting miles, then make sure you get the DBS Altitude Card or Citi Premiermiles Visa Card. These cards give you additional miles for travel bookings and offer attractive sign-up bonus for new applications!
3. Borobudur, Indonesia
Borobudur – set in the backdrop of volcanoes and buried under volcanic ash for centuries – is an ancient Buddhist temple that can only be described as staggering. Staggering not only in size but in beauty and concept too. Borobudur makes for an educational summer vacation trip when the kids are old enough to appreciate its magnitude.
Consider, for example, the fact that a structure this size is actually blocks of stone interlocked and stacked one on top of the next – without the use of cement or mortar. An eye-opener in terms of construction for all the Lego lovers out there! In the vicinity is the equally impressive Hindu temple complex Prambanan, another ancient site with dramatic Hindu art and architecture. Quite the complete history tour for one vacation.
With Indonesia being on the equator, it is either wet or dry season that you can visit in – and June is bang in the middle of dry season. Prepare the kids for hot, outdoor excursions but you could lessen the pain by booking the only hotel on the Borobudur complex that will give you priority access to the compound. This translates into exclusive (read tourist-less) access to the structure at sunrise and cooler, happier kids!
4. Ayutthaya, Thailand
Ayutthaya, once the capital of the Kingdom of Siam and a thriving international trading port, is one of the most accessible historical site trips in South-East Asia. A short drive from the current capital Bangkok – around 80 kilometres – Ayutthaya’s ruins make for an interesting visit. Buddhist temples, statues, palaces, and monasteries of a once powerful city lie waiting to be explored.
The Ayutthaya Historical Park is a good place to begin – you can do one part of it on a bike/bicycle but the part across the river is best experienced on an evening boat tour. You could also choose to do a sunset bike tour of the place – the ruins are beautifully illuminated in the evening.
Again, June is certainly not the ideal time in terms of weather to head to Thailand, so keep yourself and the kids hydrated and protected from the sun. On the other hand, rock-bottom rates for accommodation could help in extending your trip to one of Thailand’s famous beach cities or hooking up an extended luxurious stay in Bangkok.
When travelling with kids, it is best to get travel insurance to ensure a stress-free holiday. And don’t forget to include your HSBC Visa Infinite Credit Card in your packing for that extra boost to your vacation budget!