There is something appealing about the familiar. I know repetition and routine can breed complacency and boredom, but they can also mean liberation and release. For me, on a family holiday relaxation and comfort take precedence over adventure and the unknown. So with its dry, sunny days and warm, balmy nights the destination of Phuket, Thailand is my idea of the perfect summer holiday. In the dry season of December to February, the water is crystal clear, the swell flat and the rainfall minimal and the beautiful conditions are guaranteed almost everyday. Earlier this year, we returned to Thailand’s largest island and once again the place exceeded our expectations.
With a new baby, a toddler and four other kids ranging in age from 14 to 5, a family holiday to suit all needs is a bit of a long shot. However, experience has taught us that Phuket is one of those places that work. It ticks my boxes in that it is a short plane ride from Singapore, less than two hours; we stay at a place where everything is within a short walking distance; there is an abundance of delicious fresh food on offer and the beach is perfect for paddling, swimming and snorkeling. My husband likes it for much the same reasons and the kids love the freedom and buzz of the location. In addition, the trump card for them this year was our eldest daughter took a friend, who subtly changed the dynamic between the older three and virtually eliminated the bickering that tends to happen when they spend too much time together.
From the time of departure everything flowed smoothly. We flew a budget airline, which is always full of kids so we slotted in perfectly. The transition through Phuket airport was refreshingly smooth; immigration was quick and by the time we arrived at the baggage carousel our luggage was already unloaded. I love that. A staff member from the resort, who remembered us from our last stay, picked us up in a minivan and the journey to our destination was less than 30 minutes. I love that too. The scenery from the car window of rubber tree plantations, pineapple crops and the occasional working elephant made us instantly aware that we were in Thailand.
We stayed at The Chava Resort located at Surin Beach. It is a low-rise collection of fully serviced, self-contained apartments run by an Australian who also serves as the honorary Australian Consulate to Phuket. The position was created following the 2004 Tsunami, when it was decided Australian diplomatic representation was required on the island. Because of our large family, we find serviced apartments work well. They have fully equipped kitchen facilities, separate sleeping and living areas and I like to order some basic groceries prior to our arrival. The complex is small enough to know most of the service staff and we enjoy this familiarity, which is a rarity in most holiday resorts.
Surin is a small, family friendly beach located in the north of Phuket. Its fine white sand leads into clear blue water and is framed at either end by magnificent tree topped rock formations. Although there is plenty of activity and dining along the beach, by Phuket standards it is quieter and more intimate than many of beaches in the central part of the Island, which are renowned for their party atmosphere. We spent our days simply, either lying on beach chairs, playing in the water with the kids or, during the younger ones’ sleep time, indulging in a beachside massage. I managed to have one of these everyday and by the end of the holiday my body has never felt better. Our older children enjoyed the freedom and independence offered by the surroundings. When they were not swimming and snorkeling in the water, the bamboo cafes and shops that line the beach kept them busy. The two older boys have become very skilled at haggling for the ‘best price’ and would return each day with a variety of spoils and a detailed account of their encounters with the local hawkers.
Despite our kitchen, we ate out every night and alternated between Thai street food from the market at the end of the beach, Western from the ritzy beach club or a delicious Italian, which we were introduced to by some resident expats. On our last night we ventured into Patong to take in the atmosphere and witness the ‘other side’ of Phuket. When we arrived the place was buzzing. The markets, bars and massage palours were in full swing and the streets were heaving with tourists. As we passed bar after bar, we saw girls with vacant stares in little tops and skimpy shorts swaying next to poles on podiums. It is both shocking and sad, and just as the pristine beach where we stay is Thailand, so is this. It is a confronting image that highlights the massive differences of the world we live in.
The next day our annual summer holiday came to an end. But eight days was the perfect length of time for us to feel sufficiently refreshed and relaxed to go back and embrace the year ahead, while the kids looked suitably sun-kissed and worn out to ensure a peaceful journey home.
Do you have a regular holiday destination that caters perfectly to your family?