We’ve had many inquiries for Ciao Bambino recommended properties in Asia over the past year. In order to launch Asia coverage, I needed to find a good local resource. I’m thrilled to report that I’ve found one! Diana David is an American living in Hong Kong with her husband and two kids ages 3 (Emily) and 2 (Alex). She’s passionate about travel and willing to share her insight on living and traveling in Asia with kids on Ciao Bambino. I thought the best way to introduce Diana and this new market was through an interview … a great way to learn about her background and basic tips for approaching travel to the region. I’m looking forward to her Asia-focused posts over the coming months.
Diana has reviewed a few properties she’s enjoyed with her kids and I’m working on getting them online now.
In the meantime, meet Diana!
How did you end up in Asia?
In 1999 I applied for a grant from The Luce Foundation and was selected to spend a year as a media-focused intern in Hong Kong and Mainland China. This was a cross-cultural grant that never ended … I met my husband during this period and stayed in Asia.
What are you doing now?
I’m the Regional Circulation Director of Asia Pacific for the Financial Times. I’ve traveled through Asia single, married, and now married with children. I’ve been to more than 15 countries. Travel is my passion and now that I’m a parent I understand all the different inclinations that lead people to travel — from recapturing and sharing the “backpacking days” to sharing a love of travel with children or just wanting to head to a wonderful property and relax.
What are some of the things that make living in Asia so special?
The environment here is truly multi-cultural. Last weekend we went to Disneyland in Hong Kong and went on It’s a Small World. We were able to point out all the different places around the world where people we know come from — it’s nice that our kids will grow up with such a diverse group of people from different places, speaking different languages.
There are many easily accessible cultural travel opportunities in Asia. While our nieces and nephews in the US are focused on brands and TVs shows, our kids are able to visit places like Angkor Wat and the Great Wall of China. It’s like being inside a Little Einstein show — we’re able to experience these amazing places with millions of years of history.
Asia is inexpensive compared to other tourist destinations and as a result there are many families traveling here with children. Locals are very kind to kids and excited to see them here.
What is the ideal age to travel with kids to Asia?
My kids are young, but friends tell me that from age 7 onwards kids can truly appreciate and understand what they are seeing, that the temple they are climbing on is not just fun, but part of a rich history. I can tell you about my own experience from the time I was 10 in Mexico with my family. I remember being in the back of our car with a giant Day of the Dead sculpture banging me on the head. I didn’t appreciate it at the time, but I have all of these fantastic memories of amazing experiences — the fishing nets of Patzcuaro, the Indian longhouses on Queen’s Island in Canada. For generations my family has traveled all over the world. I want to pass this family value along to my own children.
Where have you been with your kids to date?
We went to Kota Kinabalu in Malaysia to see the Orangutans. We liked the Rasa Ria Resort. It has a beautiful beach for relaxing and is located next door to the preserve. Next week we are going to Singapore, which has many kid-friendly activities — the zoo, beach, aquarium, botanical gardens, and lots of good restaurants. We’ve also been to Phuket in Thailand.
Singapore and Malaysia are at the top of the list. Singapore is a good stop-over point since many flight connections go through there. Malaysia has many things to do and great beaches. Thailand is easy and friendly, plus Americans seem to know Thailand and are comfortable with it. Japan is another option if want families want to get out of Southeast Asia. Kyoto and Nara are lovely with lots of outdoor spaces to enjoy. China with older kids is a wonderful place — the cultural sights are so rich and important to understand given China’s growing importance in the world.
I think many people are intimidated by the prospect of traveling to Asia with kids. Do you have any tips to share?
Good planning is essential. The hotels and hospitality in Asia are far and above anything in the US. Contact the hotel concierge ahead of time to have them help you. They can facilitate anything from an airport pick up to guides. People use them for everything here, particularly if they don’t speak the language. Asia is now more accessible now than ever before — airfare is as low as $400 from the US — there has never been a better time to go!
I think people are worried about feeding their kids in Asia. What are your thoughts about this?
There are lots of American businessmen with the same food phobia. There are many hotels here serve “American” food or whatever they need to in order to make people happy. Our daughter went through a phase where she would only eat bananas — we explained this to our hotel and they sent an entire platter of bananas to our room. There are always options in my experience and most international hotels here will have a kids’ menu.
What are some Asia-specific resources you recommend?
The Asia Hotels.com website has a wide range of rate specials. On HungryGoWhere you can search for kid-friendly restaurants. Cathay Pacific and Singapore Airlines both have a good network of flights to Asia with fantastic amenities including video-on-demand, toys, nappies and wet wipes for babies. The service on these flights is exceptional.
They take hospitality seriously in Asia … come here and people take care of you.