Our family holiday to Phuket and Singapore
My sister-in-law (who lives in Israel) invited us to join her family (my brother-in-law, their two adult sons and two teenage daughters) in Phuket for a family holiday in October 2016. We travelled around New Zealand with them in September 2015, and we all had a fantastic time travelling together, so this was a wonderful opportunity to have another family travel adventure. A trip to Thailand was also the perfect 40th birthday present for my husband.
My husband searched online for flights to Phuket for our family holiday, but I am delighted that he chose to book our flights through Flight Centre. Our travel consultant helped him to book flights that matched the needs of our family of four, gave us an excellent deal, and arranged an added bonus – a magical stopover in Singapore on the way home.
We have two small daughters (who are 1 and 4 year of age), and our consultant organised daytime flights, so that we did not need to sleep on a plane overnight. She helped us to choose our meals from the long list of options available on Singapore Airlines and Silk Air, and she booked us on a large comfortable plane (with food and entertainment included in the price). Our flight from Sydney to Singapore was delayed, and we missed our connecting flight to Phuket, so Singapore airlines paid for two rooms for us at the beautiful Crown Plaza hotel, Changi airport. This was a welcome pitstop, because we were all tired after our long flight from Sydney.
My husband booked our accommodation in Phuket at the beautiful Karon Butterfly Condominium, which overlooks Karon beach. It is a brand new, Italian designed apartment complex, with a beautiful butterfly shaped pool. My four year old had a magnificent time swimming with her older cousins in the immaculate pool each day. The condominium is a short walk from Kata and Karon beaches (however, it is at the top of an incredibly steep hill, so I would recommend taking a taxi or tuk tuk if you and your family are not keen on walking. In the high season, there is a free shuttle bus). Taxis and tuk tuks charge roughly double what a metered taxi would charge, and the price needs to be agreed upon at the beginning of your journey (it is almost impossible to find a metered taxi in Phuket). The Karon Butterfly is also a short distance from all the activities, night life and shopping complexes in Patong. This condominium was the ideal choice for our family, and it was very affordable. We made breakfasts in our apartment each morning, and enjoyed lunch and dinner at the local restaurants in Kata and Karon. Our favourite restaurants were ‘Red Onion’ (for cheap local fare. There were queues for a table, and the waitstaff were brusque at times – we were told off for walking to the ‘wrong table’, which another staff member had offered to us, and one of the waiters handed our one year old a toy and told her to ‘shush’), ‘On the Rock’ (a fine dining restaurant in the lush Marina Phuket Resort, with beautiful views overlooking Karon beach), ‘Red Chopsticks’ (an elegant Thai restaurant), ‘Eat Bar and Grill’ (delicious Western food by head chef Christer Larsson), and ‘Two Chefs’ (a good family restaurant with quality food, quick service, live music and karaoke. The teenagers and young adults travelling with us loved Two Chefs).
We stayed in Phuket two weeks before the high season, and it rained some of the time, but we had wet weather gear with us, so the rain did not interrupt our fun (and everything was cheaper because we travelled in the off season). We spent an afternoon in Patong, where we bought travellers sim cards for our phones, had a massage, did a little shopping, and enjoyed a delicious Japanese lunch at the Jungceylon Mall. We delighted in lazy days relaxing at Kata beach, drinking young coconut water, playing with our daughters in the sand and wading in the shallow water. Our four year old had a blast riding the waves on her inflatable donut (which we bought at a market stall), and my husband enjoyed renting surf skis with his nieces and nephews. They all had a lot of fun. There can be rips at Kata and Karon beaches, so make sure you swim between the flags, and that you know what to do if you are caught in a rip.
We enjoyed shopping at the Karon Temple market, which is open every Tuesday and Saturday 16.00-22.00. It is located in the grounds of the beautiful Wat Suwan Khiri Khet, which is a magnificent Buddhist temple. The market is a good place to buy local produce, try Thai street food and to buy souvenirs and clothes (without authenticity certificates). Make sure you brush up on your bartering skills before you arrive in Thailand, and it is advisable to buy produce from a stall that advertises the price per kilo. Also ensure that you check your change (the stall owner tried to short change me when I bought the donut. It was my first bartering attempt and I appreciated all the tips that I had received from my savvy sister-in-law).
We had a wonderful day in Old Phuket Town, feasting on the set menu at the famous Blue Elephant restaurant, strolling around the streets, browsing in the beautifully renovated ‘shophouses’ and delighting in exploring Baan Chinpracha – the only Sino-Colonial mansion that is open for viewing by the public. It is next door to the Blue Elephant restaurant, and it provided a fascinating glimpse into the life of a wealthy Phuket family, and how they lived decades ago. In the evening we enjoyed feeling like locals as we strolled through the Vegetarian Festival food stalls and watched the raising of the Lantern Pole, which is the first event of the festival. The celebrants believe that the Hindu god Shiva descends the pole, bringing spiritual power to the event. My four year old was delighted with her Elsa balloon, which was made with great skill by a vendor in the market, and the vegan gelato was delicious too.
We had a fun day just walking around Karon. We began the day with breakfast at the Hilton Phuket Arcadia, followed by time spent at the kids club (while my husband and I took turns having a massage at TK Massage just outside of the resort – on Patak Road). We took our four year old to have a massage at TK too, and it was so relaxing and enjoyable for her that she fell asleep. The staff were delightful and the massages were excellent. The most outstanding massage I had in Phuket was at Blind Massage, Karon -379/1 Thanon Patak. The massage was therapeutic, and much deeper than all the other massages I enjoyed on our holiday. A one hour Thai massage in Phuket costs 300 baht ($12.50).
My daughter and husband had haircuts in the immaculately clean ‘Beauty Barber’, and then we all had a good laugh as we experienced a fish spa at Kawinthip Massage across the road. The therapists thoroughly washed our feet before the fish spa, and they were generous with the length of our spa treatment. They did not charge us for our four year old, even though we offered to pay for her. She only left her feet at the top of the tank for a couple of minutes and the little fish did not swim up and nibble on her sweet little toes. The feeling was enjoyable (my husband found it ticklish and hilarious), but it did not leave us with silky smooth feet (which is what I expected). Make sure you choose a salon that washes your feet, and changes the water regularly. The fruit seller next door to Kawinthip Massage was delightful and generous. We returned to buy produce and coconut water from him whenever we passed by his stall. We bought designer sunglasses and spectacle frames at Eye Class – 532 Thanon Patak, Karon (they has a two for one deal, and excellent prices). The assistants were helpful, honest and kind to our children. They entertained the kids while we tried on glasses.
On our last day in Phuket we did a day trip on a speed boat with Anda Varee to Phi Phi Island (Phi Phi Ley and Phi Phi Don islands). We chose this company because they offered a discount to guests at Karon Butterfly. The tour guide was excellent, and very funny, and the hot lunch provided was delicious. We visited Maya Bay (where the movie ‘The Beach’ was filmed), did sightseeing at ‘Loh Samah Bay’, ‘Pileh Cove’ and ‘Viking Cave’, visited the adorable newborn baby monkeys in Monkey Bay, snorkelled at Tonsai Bay, and relaxed at Khai Nai Island before returning to Chalong Bay. It was a wonderful day, however, at times it was rough on the boat, and it would have been fun to have had more time at each location (this is something to enquire about before booking an Island day trip).
We enjoyed two nights and one day in Singapore on the way home. We stayed at the Southbridge Hotel, which is a historic boutique hotel in the heart of Chinatown (within the CBD), and a short distance from the MRT. The rooms were modern, luxurious and soundproof, and they were also the smallest hotel rooms I have ever seen (which is typical for Singapore). On the first evening we watched part of the Navarathi Festival at the Sri Mariamman Temple (they were reenacting the slaying of demons with bows and arrows. Devotees, rushed to catch flying wooden arrows as they flew gently into the crowd). We then went to Chinatown for dinner at Fatty Weng, ice-cream at the Nice Cream Shop (checkout the durian and chilli crab flavours), and for a stroll through the markets on the way home.
We had one full day to explore Singapore. In the morning, I returned to the Hindu temple to take photos, we enjoyed tea and cake at TWG (Ion Orchard), wandered around Raffles and had a delicious lunch at Soup Restaurant (where they charged us for the wet wipes and ‘free peanuts’ on the table). We then walked to the Marina Bay Sands Hotel (which has the highest and largest rooftop infinity pool in the world), followed by ‘Gardens by the Bay’. My four years old was thrilled to play in the water park of the Children’s Garden, and we all enjoyed eating dinner and fresh fruit at ‘Satay by the Bay’. The grand finale to our family holiday was ‘Garden Rhapsody’, a free light and music experience in the Gardens. We enjoyed ‘An Evening of Musical Theatre’, singing along to all the famous tunes.