While I certainly babbled on about our trip to Phuket, Thailand over at Expat Bostonians, I never really talked about our trip at length here, or really at length from a parental perspective over there.
I’m not really a “beachy” vacation kind of girl. I get, in theory, the idea that hanging out on a beach all day is fun, or relaxing by the pool makes for a break from reality…but it’s just never been all that high on my list. Vacation, to me, means New Orleans (4 times and counting), London (twice), Paris (once), and so on…urban; museums, restaurants, theater, and history. That’s my idea of a good time. But my in-laws were coming and they didn’t like the idea of Bangkok, so we compromised with Phuket. Having never been to Thailand, I wasn’t about to complain about a new stamp in my passport, and I eagerly dove into the guidebooks, making lists of places to shop and eat and things to try.
I ended up being in charge of picking the resort, as I was the one looking for kid-friendly digs. The first problem I encountered, though, was that resort kid playspaces almost universally didn’t accept children under the age of 4, with the exception of Club Med, which was far out of our price range. Which meant we decided to bring B, our helper, so that R and I could experience the nightlife, and that my in-laws could spa it up. We ended up the Holiday Inn Resort in Patong Beach, which is sort of the most busy and touristy part of all of Phuket. While it was across the street from the beach, it didn’t have its own private beach.
The first sign that things were not going to be as easy as they’d been in the past was when I unpacked and realized I didn’t have swim diapers beyond the 2 that I usually just have in my diaper bag on a normal day (there are so many water play areas in Singapore that it’s good just to have a few handy–luckily she’s young enough that I can just send her out in a diaper and it’s fine). After an exhaustive search of hotel guest shops (so much for “most family friendly” Holiday Inn–whose gift shop didn’t even have regular diapers), supermarkets and the local Carrefour (Americans, think Wal-Mart with a grocery store, only not as nice for reference), which was not, for the record, my preferred way of spending several hours over several days, I just declared a fuck it and tossed her into the water in a regular diaper. I tried, it was a FAIL, moving on.
A large number of restaurants were interesting, but weren’t feasible because of a lack of high chairs. It was also hard, because the water isn’t safe to drink there, which means you have to constantly be on the look-out for ice in your child’s drink (super common), and tell them no, they can’t have the street food. Unless getting travelers diarrhea is your idea of a good time.
The sidewalks were difficult to manuver a stroller through, and we often just took E out without it because it just wasn’t worth the hassle.
Other than the pool and the beach, there just weren’t really places to take a child. She was too young for elephant trekking, the zoo was consistently reviewed as small and inhumane and the aquarium was small and on the other side of the island.
In the end, I wasn’t upset that she couldn’t do the kids club…I stopped by when there was supposed to be a “cultural activity” and saw kids playing video games in one room and watching a Disney cartoon in another. There were some dingy blocks in a corner, but otherwise, aside from the wading pool and the water slide, the kids club was not a place I would have wanted E wasting her time anyway.
E thought the hotel pool was the most exciting thing since sliced bread, and she loved the sand at the ocean even more. The actual ocean was not quite her cup of tea, especially after being knocked over by the somewhat aggressive waves. She was happy to hang out with us wherever.
While I would argue it’s not really on my list of places I ever feel a need to see again, Elanor might disagree. After all, she got to swim and play with her parents and grandparents every day, and that’s a huge rarity for her. However, I would counter-argue that aside from the people, we can swim in a pool in our backyard and go to a beach 15 minutes away any time we want.
If you’re considering a trip to Phuket, I’d say it’s one to leave the kids behind for, or to wait until they’re older and up for things like jetskis, hair-braiding on the beach, elephant trekking, and such.