A Twin-centre Family Holiday in Malaysia and Singapore
However good a flyer you are, and however fabulous the airline, a 13-hour flight is no small undertaking with children in tow. So my philosophy has always been that you need to justify the travel time with a truly sensational holiday at the other other.
A two-centre holiday starting (or finishing) with a few days in the buzzing island-country of Singapore followed by a week or two on the tropical archipelago of Langkawi off the west coast of Malaysia is just such a sensational trip. It’s made easy by flying with child-friendly Singapore Airlines, who depart London Heathrow and Manchester daily and connect with SilkAir flights to Langkawi three times weekly (the latter taking less than 90 minutes).
'Our afternoon jetski tour was a blast, with riders taking it in turns to drive and to play passenger as we whizzed over the turquoise waters. Several stops en route allowed us to swim and/or explore – including Beras Basah Island, which is like a scene out of Robinson Crusoe. Here we watched locals shimmy up trees to cut down ripe coconuts amidst a cluster of rustic stalls.'
Langkawi is a fabulous family beach holiday destination, with white-sand beaches backed by coconut groves and masses of fantastic activities for those who can tear themselves away from their beach or poolside lounger. Staying at the fantastic, family-friendly Meritus Pelangi Beach Resort & Spa, we couldn’t have been better placed for watersports on lively Pantai Cenang beach on Langkawi Island’s south-west coast.
Best among these is a jet-ski tour of local islands, run by Mega Water Sports and including excursions tailored to those with kids aged four and up (you have to be 14 to drive one of the machines, but exceptions can be made if the amiable guides are convinced a child is capable of listening to and acting on instructions).
Our afternoon tour was a blast, with riders taking it in turns to drive and to play passenger as we whizzed over the turquoise waters (you can pay more to get a jetski to yourself and hence more driving time). Several stops en route allowed us to swim and/or explore – the main one being Dayang Bunting (Pregnant Maiden) island, where you can go boating or kayaking on Malaysia’s largest freshwater lake (just beware of the mischievous monkeys trying to grab your backpack!). We also stopped on Beras Basah Island, which is like a scene out of Robinson Crusoe, and watched as locals shimmied up trees to cut down ripe coconuts amidst a cluster of rustic stalls.
Of course, there’s more than enough to keep you occupied at the Pelangi Beach Resort itself with its stylish rooms in low-rise buildings, many of them beachfront. The dinosaur-themed children’s splash area is among the best I’ve seen anywhere, while activities at the free kids’ club feature lots of outdoor fun including fishing on the resort lakes with traditional bamboo rods, kite-flying, nature walks/beach discovery and visiting the goats and other animals at the on-site petting farm. Christmas is a big deal at the Pelangi too, with a carnival as of this year. Childcare staff – as Malaysians tend to be – are wonderfully warm and empathetic with kids.
While the kids play, you might slope off to the lovely spa or take part in one of the weekly cookery lessons so you can replicate some of the delicious food served in the sleek Spice Market, including chicken rendang. Poolside dining (and massages!) are also available, and there’s a swim-up snack bar at one of the pools. But don’t miss a sundowner and beachfront dinner at CBA, where global classics are given an Asian twist to stunning effect.
As for breakfast, I can honestly say that in all my years of travel I’ve never seen a spread like it. Eating indoors or out, you can choose from an astonishing array of cuisines and dishes including Malay curries, Chinese dumplings, kopitiam-style eggs with toast and kaya (coconut) jam, other eggs cooked to order, tropical fruits, and even bread-and-butter pudding, plus many other treats too numerous to mention.
From the Meritus Pelangi Beach, it’s a half-hour drive to the Royal Langkawi Yacht Club, departure point for sunset dinner cruises aboard the Sea Falcon catamaran with Naam Adventures. This a much more chilled affair than the jetskiing, but kids love it, especially when the net is unfurled at the back for you to swim in the sea, and when funky tunes are blasted out on the way home. The buffet dinner is also tasty and good quality.
Back at the Pelangi, sitting on your terrace watching the bats flit around the night sky, or waking to the sweet song of golden orioles in the trees in the morning, is a world away from bustling Singapore. But that’s part of the point. And if you don’t spend at least a couple of days in the ‘Lion City’ or ‘Garden City’ en route to Langkawi, do so on the way home. Though we didn’t make it to big-hitters such as Universal Studios Sentosa Island, we loved exploring the futuristic Gardens in the Bay, wondering at the orchids in the UNESCO-listed Botanic Gardens, and shopping for trinkets in Chinatown. And we had some fantastic meals – Singapore is a foodie paradise.