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SBS Food presenter Adam Liaw’s favourite family travel adventures

Born in Malaysia to an English-Singaporean mother and Hainanese Chinese father, Adam Liaw lived in several countries when he was young. The chef, SBS Food television presenter and cookbook author loves travelling with his Japanese-born wife Asami Fujitsuka and their children Christopher, 7, Anna, 5, and Benji, 1.

adam and his family in stockholm
Adam and his family in Stockholm

What do you love about travelling with your family?

It’s time we can all spend together without the administration of daily life getting in the way. No school, no work, no appointments.

Where is the best place you’ve holidayed to with your family in Australia?

Cape Leveque north of Broome in Western Australia’s Kimberley region is definitely our favourite place to visit. It’s exciting for both children and adults, and it really gives the kids a new perspective on the Australia they know and their connection to nature.

adam liaw and his kids in broome
Adam Liaw and his kids in Broome

What about overseas?

We love a resort holiday and I think our favourite so far has been to Hainan Island in the South of China. It has amazing food and resorts.

You were born in Penang in Malaysia. Have you been back there with your kids?

Yes, we holidayed there a couple of years ago when my mum was living there. It was fabulous to show them around where I was born and let them experience it, but they just loved the food and swimming in my mum’s pool!

You’ve also travelled extensively in Japan. What is it you love about the country?

I lived in Japan for eight years and have travelled the entire country a few times. The thing I love most about Japan is how the food culture is so varied from city to city and prefecture to prefecture. I think the theme parks are fabulous for families. Disneyland and Universal Studios Japan are great. And they’ve just opened Super Nintendo World there as well.

Why is it a great family travel destination?

It’s safe and everything is easily accessible by public transport. We have three kids and we usually travel by public transport on holidays. A lot of restaurants aren’t particularly family-friendly in Japan, but I think you need to manage your expectations. The great thing about Japan is that a restaurant doesn’t have to be fancy to be good. A good chain izakaya is still a great meal. Even the convenience store food is good there.

Any tips on getting children to try new foods while travelling?

Don’t force them. Kids travel very differently to adults. I love trying new foods around the place but the experiences kids enjoy when travelling aren’t necessarily about food.

adam liaw and his kids in hong kong
Adam Liaw and his kids in Hong Kong

Any really family-friendly hotels you’d like to mention?

We love the theme park hotels at places like Disneyland. It takes all the stress out of the logistics of visiting the theme parks and the kids absolutely love them. A few years ago, we stayed at the Interalpen Hotel in Tyrol, Austria, and the kids still talk about swimming through the automatic doors of the indoor-outdoor pool, from warm water into falling snow.

What’s been the worst thing that’s happened on a family holiday?

On a trip to Langkawi my wife pinched a disc on the plane from Sydney to Kuala Lumpur, went straight to hospital in KL by ambulance and spent our entire holiday there. Luckily my sister was living in KL in an apartment with a fabulous pool complex, so the kids had a great time anyway.

And the best?

My brothers and sisters live all over the world, so we all try to get together for Christmas at least every second year. We had one fabulous family Christmas in Thailand where we had about 30 of us in the one place at one time (which is rare for my big family), and then we did it all again in Penang a couple of years later.

Why do you think travelling with kids is important?

Kids learn from new experiences, and travelling is the ultimate in new experiences. We notice our kids grow so much with every trip we make. Their vocabularies and perspectives change dramatically, even if we just go interstate for a few days.

What’s your best packing tip?

It’s OK to wear the same outfit multiple times. We change up our outfits at home because the people and surroundings are the same, but when travelling it’s the surroundings that change, so you don’t need to bring so many clothes.

on the plane to tokyo
On the plane to Tokyo

Any tips for surviving long-haul flights with kids?

We’re pretty strict on screen time at home, but my view is that on the plane all bets are off. I’m happy for them to watch as many movies as they like, just like adults do. And don’t have too active a day before getting on the plane. Some people try to tire their kids out before flying, but really travelling is tiring enough so you don’t want them exhausted before you start.

Where would you like to go for your next family holiday?

We’d love to go back to Japan to see family. We’ve missed them a lot.

The Cook Up with Adam Liaw airs at 7pm weeknights on SBS Food.

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