My husband and I relocated from New York City to Singapore nearly three years ago. We quickly took advantage of the city state’s proximity to destinations we’d only dreamed of visiting. When our daughter, A, was born in 2012, we continued to explore the region, albeit at a different pace.
A is now eighteen-months-old and we’ve found it fairly easy to travel in South East Asia with a young toddler. Fares from Singapore to nearby cities are plentiful and affordable, due to the proliferation of low-cost, no-frills regional carriers. Flights are short and in less than two hours, we can be in Malaysia or Thailand or Vietnam, making weekend trips to Kuala Lumpur or Ho Chi Minh City a possibility.
We spent this past weekend in Phnom Penh, Cambodia’s storied capital city.
Over the past few months, after coming to the not-so-profound realization that my time with her is slipping away, I’ve taken to taken to slowing down and following her lead. And even more so when we travel.
So, instead of hiring a local guide to walk us around the magnificent Royal Palace and Silver Pagoda, we gathered fallen jasmine flowers in the shade of the buildings and watched tadpoles dart about in lotus ponds. Instead of taking a tuk-tuk to the Killing Field of Choeung Ek, we romped in the city’s many playgrounds. Instead of hopping on a ferry to Siem Reap with only our backpacks, we ran with abandon from quay to quay and watched the sun set over the mighty Mekong River.
Taking trips at a toddler’s pace has allowed us to slow down and be present–to look around and really see and hear and smell things for the first time in a long time. As we left the grounds of Royal Palace and Silver Pagoda, I pocketed two jasmine blooms that A stuck behind my ear. I’ll not soon forget the sweet smell of those flowers.
Le Jardin Café (No. 16, St. 360) is set up specifically with families in mind; it has a sand-pit and a children’s menu. Picnic at Phsar Reatrey, the weekend Night Market (Sisowath Quay, St. 5). Grab some local street fare and join a family or group of friends on the market’s communal floor mats.
Both Royal Palace and Silver Pagoda and Wat Phnom offer young ones space to run. The Royal Palace’s garden’s topiary trees–carved into the shapes of animals–are a delight. There is a glorious playground just south of Wat Phnom.
Boutique hotel The Kabiki (No. 22, St. 264) has an extensive garden, a shallow baby pool, and rooms with king size beds and cribs or toddler beds upon request.
Pooja Makhijani is a writer, editor, teacher, and New Yorker living in Singapore. She blogs about arts and culture in Singapore at Notabilia.