In August we had the opportunity to travel to Phuket for a family holiday.
When considering a destination in Asia to holiday with the kids, what do you think of, what are your must-have, are they a good beach, hot temps, hot nights, cheap food, culture, value for money, easy travel access, a swim-up bar for the adults….lol…maybe a combination of all of the above? Well, Thailand well and truly supports all of the above must-haves and on this occasion, we decided to travel to Phuket for a family holiday. Traveling as a family a nightmare many of us will have experienced is a long flight, with restless kids, taking a long way around to save a few dollars, well not tonight…lol. It was a Friday night and we decided to fly with Thai Airways on an overnight flight from Melbourne to Bangkok with a 2 hours transit before a short flight down to Phuket. Check-in procedures with Thai were very seamless and easy, as we were hurried through customs and security to finally relax at a café for a pre-flight drink and a small bite to eat for the kids. Departing at 11.00 pm and 90 mins into the flight, once diner service was complete it was time for the kids to be left to their entertainment systems so we could enjoy a few hours of sleep before arriving early morning in Bangkok. Suvarnabhumi Airport Bangkok is like many Asian airports, that is they are quick, efficient and easy to navigate, and after a short walk to our gate, we were on our way to Phuket.
On arrival at Phuket Airport, it was quick and easy to negotiate through security and retrieve baggage before we met our driver who provided the private vehicle transfer to our hotel, on this occasion the Centara Karon Resort. Located 40 minutes from Phuket Airport and set back two blocks from the beach which equates to a 90-second walk, this property is perfect for families with young children. The property is gated with 24/7 security, rated 4-star, has a kid’s club, 3 pools, waterslides, gym, and will tick most boxes when looking for a family-friendly property to stay at. Located just outside the security gate is a range of local shops, a more traditional pub, and various foodie markets for you to choose to dine at.
After checking in to our family room which consisted of 2 queen & 1 single beds looking out onto the main pool area, the 1st thing the kids wanted to do was change into their bathers and hit the pool! This became a very popular event in the morning, afternoon and evening most days, as this property has 3 pools, 1 that is specific for kids with water slides, a small waterfall and there is plenty of room for people to swim and safe for kids to play without being under the adult’s feet. The position of the swim-up bar is in the middle of the pool which makes it well-positioned for parents to give instructions or ask questions to their kids without impeding other people using the pool facilities.
The next few days were spent around the resort and pool area as we relaxed and settled in after the flight however, by day 3 it was time to leave and look around the local area. Visiting Patong was of no interest to us as we did not wish to be in the tourist throng and on this particular day decided to head north to Kata Beach. This beach is beautiful, a short 20 mins tuk-tuk journey and whilst it was busy, it was certainly less busy than Patong! With plenty of room to move, plenty of room to spread the towels out and, with a gentle swell it was a perfect beach to visit with the kids and we had hours of fun body surfing in the swell and warm water. This is a perfect beach for families to visit and swim and we highly recommend a visit to this beach when in Phuket.
We have a background in Martial Arts and I am a black belt in Tae Kwon Do. Thailand is the home to the martial art of Muay Thai and one night I decided to attend a local Muay Thai event in Patong, which was only a short 20-minute drive from our hotel location. I had pre-purchased tickets and therefore had front row seats to the event which I learned, takes place every night of the year except Xmas night. Martial Arts and in-particular Muay Thai are an acquired taste and we acknowledge not for everyone however, the setup and organization of the event were very impressive. The event lasted for 2 hours, the athleticism and honour of each athlete were to be respected, members of the crowd could buy cold beer, food and it was a pleasant evening of competition in front of a large crowd consisting of locals and foreign travelers.
The Centara Karon is gated with 24/7 security, and opposite the gate is a pub followed by a strip of shops and eateries, and it does not take long before you will be gently accosted by the locals trying to sell you their product. I remember enjoying a quiet beer mid-afternoon at the pub and then a local started talking to me and trying to sell me a pair of sunglasses. The sunnies were not required and after politely declining a number of times eventually he realized I was not in the market and left me alone. When you venture further down the street, and you have no choice if you choose to walk to the beach, you will be asked politely, to consider purchasing from their shop. Declining respectfully is the best thing to do if you are not in the market, as no doubt, another day you will engage with the same people.
In the surrounding area families, couples, or individual travelers have a plethora of choices to dine at. A short 5-10-minute walk from the resort is a series of open-air seafood restaurants and hawkers’ stalls that are part of a local market. We dined here on several occasions supporting many of the local stalls and experiencing the many different cuisine options. Each evening it was not expensive to feed the family and enjoy a couple of cold beers with a warm evening breeze blowing and a nice way to enjoy your evening meal.
The sand from the road to the water’s edge on this stretch of beach is quite deep, and the beach was in great condition. Unfortunately, during the time of the year we were visiting, several storms passing through the area and therefore the ocean swell was too large to swim in both for kids and adults, so the resorts swimming pools were well used by us during our stay. Throughout the year the ocean swell is not large and easy to swim in and would be enjoyable however, it was not possible during our visit.
We decided one day to enjoy a day trip out to nearby Raya Island. Still to this day, each family member considers this day to be one of the highlights of any day we had on holidays and we all look back on the day with fond memories. Our hotel tour desk made a great recommendation of which company to use for the day trip and they were spot on! The day started early with the minibus picking us up at 7.30 am and drive us to their jetty for departure. After a short tour and safety briefing which was conducted in English and Mandarin, it was time to board the speedboat for the 30-minute drive to our first snorkelling location. The boat ride out was an experience itself, as one particular member of our family gets sea-sick in the bath…lol. The boats are in great condition, over 6 meters long and our boat was powered by 3 x 300HP Yamaha’s, so as I knew sea-sickness may be an issue we sat down the back as this is the position on a boat whereby you have the least amount of movement. Traveling at 70kmph powering through the 3-4 meter swell we thankfully arrived at our 1st snorkeling location without a sea-sick incident….lol.
The water here was spectacular, crystal clear, warm, with great visibility. For those people that can swim, a set of goggles, mask and flippers is provided and for those weaker swimmers or younger people, a life jacket is also provided. We had 45 minutes designated at this location to explore the surrounding area and the sea-life was plentiful. The visibility was excellent so viewing the sea-life was very special. This was a magic time, warm sun, warm water, clear water, great sea-life, and all the kids on board has a great time exploring. Once we were all safely back onboard the board the crew bought out a large fruit platter and cold bottled water for us to enjoy, which was a perfect way to rehydrate after the swim. From this location was a short 10-minute drive to another location and anyone on board to try their luck fishing. As a keen fisherman myself along with other family members, we did try our luck however, only small fish were biting at this time so after 25 mins or so it was time to move to Raya Island itself and on arrival, we were ferried to Patok Bay to enjoy lunch and another chance to enjoy a relaxing swim. There were other groups on the beach however, it is long and wide enough, so you are not under each other’s feet. Lunch was enjoyed at a local restaurant and after lunch we decided to move to another beach on the island for the afternoon. It was mid-afternoon and after enjoying a lovely day of snorkeling, fishing, swimming and exploring Raya Island it was time to board our speedboat again for the 45-minute drive back to port. By the time we left the wind was up, and the swell was up so the ride home was a lot of fun with the fresh spray of salt air regularly visiting us on the way home as the boat sliced through the growing well…lol On arrival in our port we were quickly and orderly alighted from our boat, and waiting for us was our minibus ready to return us to our resort. We had a great day and can highly recommend that when in Phuket, please allocate a day to visit Raya Island, you will not regret it.
Our time was coming to an end and after enjoying a few more days relaxing by the pool at the resort it was time to check out and start the journey home. We found the location and the Centra Karon Resort utterly perfect for a relaxing family holiday and given the affordability, the age of our kids at the time and travel time from/to home, we left Phuket relaxed and with fond memories that will last a lifetime!