31 May 2022

5 Family Getaways From Singapore Less Than 5 Hours Away

Let your tan lines speak of a perfect getaway when you’re back in the Lion City.


by Tamlyn Richards Tamlyn just wants to binge her slice-of-life TV shows and to go to the beach on a sunny day.

Image credit: blueorangestudio

You know what makes my heart sing? Food. Nature. Shopping. Quintessential Singaporean must-haves. But this summer, it may be time to trade local delights for international experiences again, and quite literally get away. Preferably somewhere near and convenient, so you can enjoy a trip abroad and still cut back on travel time. We promise, there’s no need to chiong through your to-do list. Don’t say we bojio, here’s the ultimate guide of five family trips less than five hours from Singapore.

1. Traipse through the islands in Langkawi

An island full of history, folklore, and nature, Langkawi offers endless fun for you and your family. Known to the locals as the “Jewel of Kedah,” which represents a place of immense beauty, it is home to the only UNESCO geopark listed in the Southeast Asian region.

Brahminy Kite eagles are emblematic of Langkawi. In fact, the eagles are the namesake of Langkawi — helang for eagle and kawi for the eagles’ red-brown shade. So, take this rare chance to feed the gorgeous king of the skies on an island-hopping adventure. Start at Pulau Singa Besar (Big Lion Island). From there, make your way to the rolling hills of Dayang Bunting Island and the crystal clear waters of Beras Basah Island (Wet Rice Island).

Jet to mysterious islands

If that isn’t thrilling enough, hop on a jet-ski and cut through the waves at Dayang Bunting Island. The island will be your second stop in your island-hopping adventure, so opt for a private boat to adjust the duration of your stay at each island. Shrouded by a green tropical forest, the island is home to the Lake of the Pregnant Maiden, named after the rolling hills which form an outline of a pregnant woman lying on her back.

Image credit: Langkawi GeoPark Official Site

If you can’t make the jet-ski experience because of time constraints, fret not. Instead, eat like a Langkawi islander on a jet ski food tour from MegaWaterSports to Machinchang Geoforest Park. You will pass by the sights of small islands, local villages, local fisherman ports, boat marinas, hotels, and resorts by the sea. Indulge in local delights like pajeri nenas (pineapple curry), ayam masak merah (chicken in spiced tomato sauce), and nasi tomato (tomato rice). Having a delicious meal after time out in the sun and water? Shiokness guaranteed.

While you’re at MegaWaterSports, let your kids go bananas (in a good way) as you board banana boats to the soft white sand and cool waters of Intan Kecil. Known as a mystery island, it’s a secluded paradise, perfect for lazing the day away.

Zip through a cable car to reach a shopping paradise

On the way to your shopping trip, enjoy the invigorating bird’s-eye view of the edge of Thailand in the North and Indonesia towards the South-West. The cable car ride is 920-metres long and descends onto the summit of the famous Mount Mat Cincang, the second-highest peak in Langkawi and the oldest rock formation in Southeast Asia.

What’s even better than the Great Singapore Sale? Duty-free shopping. A duty-free retail experience with bargaining as the norm? Huat ah. Hop on a cable car to a retail haven at Oriental Village. The open-air village offers over 470 brands and 17,000 products on sale. Prepare your wallet; you’ll find spoils for the whole family here.

How much you’ll spend in Langkawi

The trip from Singapore to Langkawi will only take one and a half hours. Here are some costs to keep in mind — airfare: SGD $190, accommodation: SGD $150 per night, and pocket money: SGD $700 for a week’s stay.

2. Revisit the splendours of Bangkok

You can’t miss out on our long-time favourite shopping and eating destination. Bangkok is teeming with attractions old and new to visit and well worth the revisit. Score a bargain at Bangkok’s vibrant floating market after a walk through the rural Maeklong Station Market, a vibrant place to see the various fresh fruits and vegetables from the region. Catch the iconic Damnoen Saduak Floating Market in the early morning and siam before the crowd sets in.

Take in local delights and iconic historical buildings

While you’re on a roll, sail through an ancient Thai morning market in the latter part of the morning. You’re probably famished at this point, so have a meal at one of Bangkok’s ancient markets. You know you’re in for a treat when the snack and dessert vendors make their dishes with recipes passed down over 200 years. Pile your plate high with snacks like bird’s nest soup, dim sum, roast duck, egg noodles, and other traditional Chinese delicacies. Marvel at the extraordinary 700-year-old golden Buddha image made from over 3000kg of gold in Wat Traimit if you have time to spare.

Spend the early evening beholding the royal chambers of the Grand Palace, previously a royal residence adorned with exquisite artwork. Step through one of the most beautiful examples of an ancient Siamese court. The sprawling complex includes the Funeral Palace, the Reception Palace, the Throne Hall, the Coronation Hall, the Royal Guest House, and the beautiful Emerald Buddha Temple.

A 10-minute drive from the Royal Palace, this luxurious chocolate buffet at The Sukhothai Hotel Bangkok is worth the stop. This is going to be the highlight of your kids’ day.

Cool off and wind down with a street-food venture by tuk-tuk. The street market comes alive after dark, so zip through the famous street eats on the iconic three-wheeled vehicle. Thai-Isan food, pad thai, and Michelin-star guay tiew gai are the must-try foods.

Take in the unique ambience of the city and its iconic landmarks along the way. You might be quite tired  by this point so end your night with a hidden bar by the river. Crack open an ice-cold can of Thai beer over spectacular night-time views of the Chao Phraya River and the glittering Temple of Dawn.

Image credit: UNESCO Bangkok Official Site

Spend the next day at the otherworldly UNESCO temple ruins at Ayutthaya Historical Park. In Thai, the official name of Bangkok retains “Ayutthaya as a part of its formal title, emphasising the influence of the city.

Notable sights include the gigantic bronze statues of Wat Mongkol Bophit (Buddha of the Holy and Supremely Auspicious Reverence), Wat Phra Sri Sanphet (Royal Monastery), and Wat Yai Chai Mongkhon (Monastery of Auspicious Victory). Painstakingly preserved mural paintings serve as a peek into Thailand’s art history from the 14th to 18th centuries. Take to the water to visit the former Bang Pa-In Royal Palace by boat. This architectural masterpiece contains fine examples of Thai and European-style buildings and houses several local cafes and restaurants.

How much you’ll spend in Bangkok

Flying to Bangkok from Singapore will take less than three hours. Consider setting aside these amounts — airfare: SGD $300, accommodation: SGD $100 per night, pocket money: SGD $600 for a week’s stay.

3. Explore the cultural hub of Ho Chi Minh City

Ho Chi Minh City surrounds the Saigon River and is the largest city in Vietnam.

Ride up to dizzying heights to Ho Chi Minh’s first observation deck 178 metres above the ground. Take in the breathtaking 360-degree views of Ho Chi Minh City and the Saigon River.

Be transported to Paris in central Ho Chi Minh

Hop on or hop off a tour bus for an unlimited ride for 24 hours or 48 hours, for an own time, own target sightseeing experience. You won’t be lost in translation as the recorded commentary onboard comes with a multilingual audio guide.

Image credit: Apaha Spi

The tour starts off on a high note, with a visit to the lively Ben Thanh Market, the city’s largest retail market. Wind through the expansive site to Saigon Notre Dame Cathedral. You’ll be transported to Paris as you gawk up at the astounding gothic spire-tipped twin towers. Famously known for the “sighting” of the Virgin Mary statue shedding tears in 2005, crowds have swarmed this French Colonial architectural beauty since.

Drop by the Saigon Central Post Office, War Remnants Museum and many more sites a stone’s throw away.

The entire fam will love this humorous Water Puppet show, a unique show imparting knowledge of Vietnamese culture. Be intrigued as the puppets fly across the stage, with expressive gestures and performance paired with orchestral music so immersive that it seems as though the puppets have taken a life of their own.

Ensure the best ending to the night by dining at a traditional Vietnamese restaurant, where you’ll get to try mouthwatering local dishes like Pho, banh khot (Vietnamese pancake), and nom hoa chuoi (banana flower salad).

Languidly sunbathe at Dam Sen Water Park

Beat the heat and make a splash at Dam Sen Water Park located in an Oriental landscape garden in the heart of the city. The park is surrounded by a community of leisure centres such as Dam Sen Park, Dam Sen Plaza, and Dam Sen Sports Club. Try swimming facing the strong current of the mechanically-produced wave inside the 3000 square metre pool.

How much you’ll spend in Ho Chi Minh

You’ll only be up in the air for a little over two hours flying from Singapore to Ho Chi Minh. Better safe than sorry, allot these sums — airfare: SGD $180, accommodation: SGD $150 per night, pocket money: SGD $600 for a week’s stay.

4. Sun’s out, school’s out in Bali

Ah, Bali. The city of beaches and, well, beach life. Though we’re spoiled for choice at which beaches to spend our time at, Bali has many fascinating and unique experiences besides its sandy spectacles. Keep you and your kids enthralled at Bali’s uniquely special activities.

Skip the long queues for a taxi to your Bali stay and reserve a private airport transfer before touching down.

Once you’ve settled in, hit your first green escape with the famous Ubud Monkey Forest Sanctuary. The sanctuary is home to 500 free-roaming long-tail macaques, a picture-perfect jungle swing 20 metres above ground, and one of Indonesia’s UNESCO-listed rice paddies,  the Ceking Rice Terrace.

All foodies know a day trip isn’t complete without a full stomach. Enjoy an intimate local Balinese lunch at the luxurious resort of Dua Dari, a residence by Hadiprana – the former private residence of the late Mr. Hendra Hadiprana (an acclaimed Indonesian architect, who built and designed a 20-villa property set among the paddy fields of Ubud).

Roadies and car fiends can opt to discover Ubud at their own time. Lay back and trail through Ubud on a Vintage VW Safari Convertible Wagon. You won’t lose your way as you’re guided on a half-day tour through the hidden treasures of Ubud and beyond.

Enjoy breathtaking views and take pictures that’ll last a lifetime.

Enter the Gates of Heaven in Eastern Bali

Pass through the Gateway to Heaven in front of Mount Agung for a magical view located near the majestic Lempuyang Temple. After snapping some Insta-worthy pictures, wind through long stretches of lush rice paddies against a staggering backdrop of mountains.

Your next stop? Tirta Gangga, the most extraordinary former royal palace (also known as the water palace). Feast your eyes on views of Mount Agung, Telaga Waja River, and rice fields as you feast on a scrumptious afternoon buffet. The day-long tour wraps up with a visit to Balis biggest and holiest Hindu temple, Pura Besakih, the mother temple of Bali. The holy site has even survived a catastrophic volcanic eruption in 1963.

Enter a world of surreal views and natural history on a UNESCO World Heritage Tour. Uncover astonishing ancient discoveries in inland Bali. Be enchanted by Taman Ayun Temple of Mengwi and the Bratan Temple, a major Shaivite water temple.

Stand in awe of the UNESCO-nominated site of Jatiluwih, which translates to beautiful teak, comprising over 600 hectares of beautifully contoured rice terraces. Off the island of Bali, stare off at Tanah Lot, a majestic rock formation.

A trip to Bali wouldn’t be a trip to Bali without an exciting blend of water spots and relaxation.  Start a party on a beach club cruise to Nusa Lembongan as you enjoy five hours on the unspoiled charms of Mushroom Bay. Touted as an idyllic and relaxing atmosphere, bars, restaurants, and shops are aplenty here.

For those wondering “can, meh?” if they can catch some R&R while travelling with kids, the answer is can. 

Drop your little ones off at the Kids Club, and a team of dedicated professionals will entertain them while you sunbathe on bright beaches or kick back on a sun-bed in a private garden. Hint: a wide range of cocktails awaits at Beach Club Bar. Delight in a BBQ lunch at a pool-side cabana.

Thrill-seekers can snorkel in tropical waters, kayak, scuba dive, or parasail, amongst other options.

Explore the seabed on foot with a sea walker experience —  an ingenious approach to diving. Perfect for your little ones who aren’t experienced swimmers, you can navigate through marine life in the fishes’ natural habitat without even getting your hair wet.

How much you’ll spend in Bali

Most flights to Bali from Singapore take around two hours and 40 minutes. Before hopping on a flight, consider these costs — airfare: SGD $400, accommodation: SGD $200 per night, pocket money: SGD $700 for a week’s stay.

5. Discover the hidden facets of Kuala Lumpur

Image credit: Esmonde Yong

KL, the city filled with the perfect mix of good food and sunny sights. It’s a city that doesn’t cross Singaporeans’ minds often but is definitely full of surprises.

Discover local grub off the beaten track

To get the full experience of Kuala Lumpur as a local would, drop by one of the largest wet markets in KL. Bask in the vibrant sights, smells, and flavours of the different cultures of Malaysia. Try the popular local dishes such as satay (grilled skewered meat), pan mee (handmade noodles served in soup), and roti canai (an Indian-influenced flatbread dish). Try out some yummy Indonesian dishes to spot the similarities and differences between Malaysian and Indonesian food. 

Explore the pre-war buildings with distinctive façades along the road of Jalan Tuanku Abdul Rahman, a one-way road where a traditional shopping district and the textile centre of KL lie. 

Gape at the glorious rolling hills and strawberry fields

Skip through strawberry fields at Cameron Highland. Malaysia’s biggest hill station, Cameron highlands, is a charming getaway from the city with its farms, plantations, and gardens. 

Escape from the chaos of city living and enter a restorative refuge at one of the many farms, plantations, and gardens in the area. Pick your own freshest strawberries, test out your haggling skills at a fresh produce market, visit the astonishing Lata Iskandar waterfall, and explore bee and butterfly farms. 

Watch the largest firefly colony in the world

Cruise through the night skies as the fireflies put on a breathtaking light show. Hop off the cruise to visit the historical Fort Altingsburg, which dates back to the 18th century, to feed silvered leaf monkeys and macaques, and to feast on a local seafood dinner in Kuala Selangor.

Be enamoured by the beauty of Putrajaya on a Scenic River Cruise

About 25km south of Kuala Lumpur, Putrajaya is a city admired for its architecture and impressive man-made lake. Hailed for its inspiring late-20th-century architecture, notable buildings include the rosy Putra Mosque, made from rose-colored granite and topped with a pink dome. A short walk leads you to the green-domed Perdana Putra, which houses the prime minister’s office complex. Admire the three-tiered Putra Bridge with four minaret-type piers overlooking the Putrajaya Lake

All aboard a City of Lights Tour

Create lifetime memories on KL’s Hop On Hop Off city tour bus, where you’ll set the pace for your drive around the illuminated city. Witness iconic national buildings light up the night sky as you listen to the buzz and bustle of KL after dark. 

Embark on an exhilarating white water rafting adventure

Calling thrill-seekers: Take on the challenge of sailing across nine major rapids spanning about seven kilometres. You’ll have worked up an appetite, so stop off at Ulu River Lodge to feast on a mouthwatering lunch before you head off to explore some dark and historical caves. 

How much you’ll spend in KL

This is probably the fastest flight on this list at an hour and five minutes. Just the duration of a quick nap. Before you go consider these costs — airfare: SGD $120, accommodation: SGD $100 per night, pocket money: SGD $600 for a week’s stay. 

I bid you safe journeys; let your tan lines speak of a perfect getaway when you’re back.

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