Family Travels: Malaysia

Tuesday, 23 September 2008

The travellers: Hong Kong couple Jacob Yip, Yoko Wu and their son Jaden (15 months Ed - in July 08).

The plan: The family flew to Kuala Lumpur then traveled to Johor Bahru for their friend’s April 2008 wedding. They later joined the couple, along with other guests, for their honeymoon at a resort on Redang Island, one hour from KL by air.

How they did it: Yoko booked the flights direct with Air Malaysia ( and believes she got the best deal possible this way. She suggests researching flight costs for babies, as there are several price ranges and conditions.

KL cool spots: At first glance, Kuala Lumpur doesn’t seem like a kid’s wonderland, but this Malaysian capital might just surprise you. The twin Petronas Towers are a must-see, until recently (2004) the tallest buildings in the world. Take the lift to the Skybridge for great views over the city, but get your tickets in advance – they sell out early in the day. The children’s water park at the foot of the towers is a great spot for kids (age 12 and under) to cool off while mom and dad loll in the shade, with waterfalls and stepping stones galore. Afterwards, they can dry off in the fabulous playgrounds nearby (

For a little science and technology, the Natural Science Centre (complete with Children's Exploration Centre;, National Planetarium (Jalan Perdana, 00 60 3 2273 5484, open Sat-Thu 10am-5pm) and Petrosains Discovery Centre ( all feature exciting hands-on exhibits like disgorging volcanoes, helicopter-in-a-tropical-storm simulators, live science demonstrations and observatories to the stars.

KL for animal lovers: Yoko recommends the National Zoo, which has an extensive array of wildlife including the Sumatran tiger and the world's longest venomous snake – the king cobra. Kids can even ride an elephant or shake hands with an orangutan ( Aquaria KLCC contains over 5,000 watery creatures, as well as reptiles and insects (, and Kuala Lumpur Bird Park is one of the biggest in the world – a 20-hectare aviary where birds fly free. Kids can even hold an eagle or macaw (

KL’s famed Butterfly Park is home to more than 6,000 fluttery friends who just love to alight on the hair, shoulders and noses of little ones (Jalan Cenderawasih, 00 60 3 2693 4799, open 9am-6pm daily).

KL waterfests: For kids of all ages, KL is the king of water parks. Sunway Lagoon has giant twin-speed water slides, a waterfall garden and an Extreme Park and Wildlife Park on the side ( Sunway’s Lost World of Tambun will delight everyone, with Malaysia's longest river ride for the young-ones and Tambun Hot Springs for the oldies (

A' Famosa Water World is surrounded by a resort, golf course and several other theme parks, and if that’s not enough to wet your whistle, test your speed-endurance on a pair of water slides 7-storeys high (! Wet World in Shah Alam also has an impressive array of water terrors including the Monsoon Buster ride, a 225-meter rollercoaster which propels riders upwards with powerful water jets (

KL on a theme: Theme parks in KL are also awesome. Try Genting Theme Park for fast-paced excitement and a Ripley's Believe It or Not! museum. Mom and Dad might enjoy the Casino de Genting, Malaysia's only licensed casino ( Cosmo's World Theme Park is the largest indoor theme park in Malaysia, located in Berjaya Times Square, with heart-thumping rides including the 800-meter Supersonic Odyssey roller coaster (

Getting around: KL’s taxi drivers notoriously refuse to use the meter and being stranded in the Malaysian heat is not fun. Try to find a cab rank and insist on using the meter or ask your concierge to organize a car. KL also abounds with mass transit systems; see for information on transport options.

Shopping: Food is Malaysia’s top draw, but local handicrafts are really worth a few ringgits. Older kids will enjoy Chinatown's Petaling Street, especially in the evening when it transforms into a lively night market. Pick up a bargain at the Central Market (Pasar Seni) – a treasure-trove of Malaysian arts and crafts, housed in a gorgeous art deco building. Kids can also enjoy shadow puppet plays (wayang kulit), traditional music and dance, art exhibitions and batik painting at the market.

Accommodation: In KL, the family stayed in a three-bedroom serviced apartment at the Berjaya Suites (from 450MYR, KL Plaza I, Jalan Bukit Bintang, 00 60 3 2145 6988). At the Berjaya Resort on Redang island, the family loved staying only meters from the stunning white-sand beach and lucid waters – perfect for toddlers. They enjoyed the resort’s friendly staff and the food was delicious, with loads of luscious fruit. The baby pool at the resort was such a hit with Jaden, it was tough to get him out of the water (

Redang Island: Part of the stunning archipelago of islands off the north-east coast of Malaysia, Pulau Redang is reached by boat or ferry from the coast near Terengganu. Boat transfers need to be booked in advance (ask your travel agent or hotel) and take about 45 minutes. If you stay at the Berjaya Resort like the wedding party did, you can purchase packages that include accommodation, breakfast and flights to the island on a light aircraft. This is a particularly convenient option if you’re traveling with kids (

Island-hopping: The family really enjoyed their boat trips around the islands, and on one boat trip, the boatsman insisted on holding Jaden while he slept so Yoko and Jacob could go snorkeling a few meters away. Turtles and baby reef sharks are a real attraction, and kids can feed fish from the boat. Trips can be organized daily from your hotel.

Food glorious food: Malaysia’s striking range of delectable foods really impressed Jacob and Yoko, with the traditional bukude stew – ribs and Chinese herbs, eaten with rice – a firm favorite. Yoko recommends the Klang area in KL for restaurants and food stalls, and adds that food safety in general is not a worry in Malaysia, where street food is cheap but excellent quality. Her only disappointment was the lack of seafood dishes on Redang Island, mainly due to heavy fishing regulations protecting Malaysia’s marine life.

The family found it easy to find food for Jaden, who loved both the chicken and rice, and the enormous range of exotic fruits. Other local favorites included beef jerky and kaya (coconut jam). The food was so fantastic, Yoko was even converted to the notoriously stinky fruit – durian. In fact, she highly recommends the durian popsicles sold on food streets, yet another local delicacy that made the family’s trip a culinary adventure to remember.

First published, in part, in beijingkids magazine and on the beijingkids website.

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