Ask Lonely Planet: Tot-friendly tour of culture and colour

Culture, scenery and kids' attractions in Malaysia can all be packed in without too much travel. Photo / Jim Eagles
Culture, scenery and kids' attractions in Malaysia can all be packed in without too much travel. Photo / Jim Eagles

My husband and I are thinking of travelling to Malaysia with our two-year-old for two to three weeks later this year. We'd like to incorporate a range of experiences including city, beach, shopping and culture. Can you recommend an itinerary that won't mean lots of domestic travel but will enable us to get a good taste of the country?
-Janine Baldwin

Monique Choy, co-author of Lonely Planet's Travel with Children, writes:

You've picked a great destination for kid travel. In Malaysia you can pack in loads of scenic and cultural travel experiences within spitting distance of each other - which means a lot less spitting the dummy.

Travelling for two to three weeks, you can take in some family-friendly beach resorts and the pleasures of the fabulous city of Kuala Lumpur. I'd also recommend you take the chance to see Singapore, which has lots of great facilities for kids, and it's hard to beat for shopping.

A good itinerary would be to fly into Singapore and head straight for Sentosa Island which is chock-full of amusement parks, animal parks and an aquarium, though for a two-year-old the major attraction will be the crowds of Singaporean big kids to watch. Slightly out of town you can take in MacRitchie Reservoir which has a jungle treetop walkway where you're guaranteed to spot long-tailed macaques.

Leaving Singapore, head for Malaysia's best family beaches on the north coast - Cherating is a good choice. It's a laidback town to relax in and take in local culture - lots of travellers pull up here for a day or two and find themselves staying for weeks.

From here, head to KL where you can visit the lovely Lake Gardens with its aviary, butterfly park and playground or cool down at Sunway Lagoon's waterslides and kiddy pool. But if it's cash you want to splash, head for Suria KLCC at the foot of the sky-high Petronas Towers. It's great for designer clothes, shoes, arts and crafts and yes, there are several great toy shops.

Beijing top to toe

With a friend of mine, I will make a quick stop in Beijing after flying home from studying and travelling around New Zealand for six months. We will stay in Beijing for a week, but there is so much to do. Can you give us any tips as to what the must-see activities are in Beijing? What is the best way to plan this without missing out on six nights of sleep?
-Anneloes ten Pas

Damian Harper, coordinating author of Lonely Planet's China, writes:

A week in Beijing is not a huge amount of time, but it's certainly possible to experience much of what the city has to offer in seven days. Here's an itinerary for you that offers variety and covers the main sights and experiences.

Day one: Forbidden City and Tiananmen Square, followed by shopping along Wangfujing Dajie. For evening snacking, try nearby Donghuamen Night Market.

Day two: make an early morning departure for the Great Wall walk from Jinshanling to Simatai; ask at your hotel as it could have regular expeditions. In the evening, dine and drink at one of the many restaurants and bars around Houhai Lake.

Day three: hire a bicycle and explore Beijing's hutong (old alleyways), commencing with lively Nanluogu Xiang and its neighbouring lanes. In the evening, return to Nanluogu Xiang for its buzzing bar and restaurant scene.

Day four: head off to both the Summer Palace and Old Summer Palace for exploration, but aim to reserve more time for the epic Summer Palace; spend the evening in the bars and restaurants of Sanlitun.

Day five: peruse the art galleries of 798 Art District and try to visit the Poly Art Museum on your return, rounding off the day with a Beijing roast duck dinner at Beijing Dadong Roast Duck Restaurant.

Day six: visit the Temple of Heaven in the morning and compare it with a visit to the Lama Temple and the nearby Confucius Temple in the afternoon. In the evening head along Ghost St (Dongzhimennei Dajie) to sample a hot pot meal.

Day seven: admire the architecture of the CCTV building, the National Centre for the Performing Arts and Capital Museum, all three of which lie along Line 1 of the metro.

You shouldn't be ripped off if you weigh up prices carefully, keep your wits about you and learn how to convert speedily between renminbi and your home currency; remember to haggle in markets. Avoid at all costs unsolicited invitations from English-speaking locals in major tourist zones to teahouses, restaurants or art exhibitions.

I would advise taking along a good guidebook with Chinese characters in it (eg. the Lonely Planet Beijing City Guide) which you can show to locals for directions.

- NZ Herald

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