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The Elephant Nature Park in Chiang Mai, Thailand

Elephant Nature Park, Chiang Mai, Thailand

Our time at the Elephant Nature Park in Thailand was life changing. We are a family of animal lovers and visiting these elephants in Chiang Mai has been at the top of our travel list for a good 10 years. To finally see the elephants in person and learn about these magnificent creatures was an experience that none of us will ever forget.

Elephant Nature Park, Chiang Mai, Thailand

The Elephant Nature Park was established in the 1990s by Sangduen “Lek” (Thai for “Shorty”) Chailertas, a sanctuary and rescue centre for elephants. The park is located some 60km from Chiang Mai city, and has provided a sanctuary for rescued elephants from all over Thailand. There are currently around 75 elephants that call the park home, the majority of whom have been rescued, with a few born into the park. The youngest elephant at the park when we visited was five months old.

Elephant Nature Park, Chiang Mai, Thailand

In more recent years, the park operators, in conjunction with the Save the Elephant Foundation, have also opened the Erawan Elephant Retirement Park in southwestern Thailand and branch elephant parks in Suri and in Cambodia to enable them to expand their rescue operations.

Elephant Nature Park, Chiang Mai, Thailand

As the park receives no government funding, it operates under a business model in which tourists pay to visit and help care for the animals, with an option to stay for extended periods as a volunteer.

Elephant Nature Park, Chiang Mai, Thailand

While the park initially opened to rescue and care for elephants, their mission has expanded to care for any animal in need of sanctuary. Animals at the park now include over 400 dogs (many of whom were rescued from a typhoon in Bangkok), a large herd of water buffalo that started as 7 and multiplied to 80, monkeys, cats and a pig.

The park has created its own ecosystem where any scraps go to feed the water buffalo and pig. What the park doesn’t grow itself is bought from local farmers to provide them an income, and the manure from the animals is turn given back to the farmers to fertilise their crops.

Elephant Nature Park, Chiang Mai, Thailand

We chose to stay overnight at the park for the most in depth experience possible while visiting with our child. There is no age restriction on visitors to the park, but I wouldn’t recommend bringing small children who are unable to follow instructions. The park belongs to the elephants and humans are just visitors walking among them, keeping out of their way.

Elephant Nature Park, Chiang Mai, Thailand

As the park is some ways out of Chiang Mai, we stayed the night before at the Shangri La, and were picked up early in the morning by our tour guide, Deng. He is one of many locals who have been employed by the park to teach visitors about the plight of the endangered elephants.

Elephant Nature Park, Chiang Mai, Thailand

The drive takes about an hour in a very comfortable minivan, and our education starts here. We watch a video that teaches us about a cruel process called “Phajaan” where elephants are “broken in”, which literally involves crushing their spirit and often breaking their bodies in the process.

The video explains that elephants are taken from their mothers as babies or bred in forced breeding centres and then put through this barbaric process in order to make them compliment and easily trained for circuses, logging, which, despite being banned is still used in remote areas, and the popular animal trekking.

Elephant Nature Park, Chiang Mai, Thailand

Once at the park we meet the elephants. Up high on a viewing platform we feed them fruit directly into their trunks, which they throw into their mouths like candy. Elephants are herbivores that spend around 12-18 hours a day feeding, so a lot of our interaction with them involves food.

Elephant Nature Park, Chiang Mai, Thailand

There are strict rules at the park which visitors must agree to obey to be able to meet the elephants – both for their protection and for ours.There is no touching elephants unless you are feeding them at the same time, and no straying off the paths or away from the guides. The welfare of the elephants is at the heart of every rule, but these are also dangerous animals who are roaming freely. No one wants their own story to end getting crushed by an elephant in Thailand.

Elephant Nature Park, Chiang Mai, Thailand

We are taken around the park to meet the elephants up close. Some have formed new herds, some prefer to be on their own. Each elephant is at a different stage of rehabilitation. Some are more comfortable with people, some less so, and we keep well clear of these. When we hear the elephants’ stories we are brought to tears.

Elephant Nature Park, Chiang Mai, Thailand

Broken backs through carrying tourists in trekking camps. Blind eyes from tourist camera flashes and gouged by their owners for not obeying orders. Broken legs from treading on landmines while illegally logging. Our hearts break over and over and it’s impossible to hold tears back when we see ripped ears and misshapen limbs on these magnificent animals that deserve so much better.

Elephant Nature Park, Chiang Mai, Thailand

The elephants come to the park bearing a lifetime of scars. Their owners are usually only willing to part with them once they are too old and broken to be of serve any longer, and they want to buy a new elephant to replace it. While the elephants are occasionally given to the park by owners who have genuinely loved them, the majority are purchased, which is where the money visitors pay to visit the park goes to. It did not sit well with any of us that the buying of these elephants actually helps the cycle of elephant abuse continue, but it’s also clear that at the moment that there is no other way to assist the elephants while there is no government legislation to protect them.

Elephant Nature Park, Chiang Mai, Thailand

While the stories we hear about the elephants’ history are desperately sad, their future is bright. The park gives them acres to roam in freedom and plenty of nourishing food to eat. There are no more chains, no more heavy loads to carry, just days spend wandering through grassy fields, playing in rivers and taking mud baths.

Elephant Nature Park, Chiang Mai, Thailand

We watch the elephants frolic in the river, playing games and grabbing each other with their trunks. They throw mud on their backs to keep cool and rub up against each other in the shade. The elephants are joyful and playful, newly formed families enjoying their lives once more.

Elephant Nature Park, Chiang Mai, Thailand

Later in the afternoon we are taken to our room to settle in. It’s much more luxurious than the basic accommodation we had been expecting, and from the balcony we can see the elephants being taken into the large enclosures that they spend the night in, for the protection of both them and the neighbouring villages. We are in awe to be so close – but during the night when they talk amongst themselves instead of sleeping, we are a bit less glad of our close proximity – it’s like sleeping in the jungle!

Elephant Nature Park, Chiang Mai, Thailand Elephant Nature Park, Chiang Mai, Thailand Elephant Nature Park, Chiang Mai, Thailand

Our second day in the park is much like the first – meeting more elephants, feeding them more fruit, watching them play and making their food. The best moment of each day is washing the elephants in the river to rid them of the fly eggs that stick to their backs and irritate them.

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The elephants stand happily in the water munching on fruit while we are armed with small buckets and hurl water at their enormous backs. Elephants can’t smile but I swear there is a grin on the face of our grand old lady as she is cooled down by her willing minions on each side.

Elephant Nature Park, Chiang Mai, Thailand

This park is a powerful place to visit, and it’s clear that we are not the only people to have found it to be a profoundly moving experience. It’s not uncommon for volunteers to arrive with the intention to visit for a week and then stay on indefinitely, so moved by their mission and their desire to make a difference in the lives of the elephants and other animals.

Elephant Nature Park, Chiang Mai, Thailand

Our stay is only two short days. We are in disbelief when it flies by so quickly and we have to say good bye to the elephants we have fallen in love with. We are told that elephants never forget, and I hope that they can make peace with their devastating past and remember the kindness they have been shown in their new lives by the people who are so passionate about their welfare.

Elephant Nature Park, Chiang Mai, Thailand

We are all changed by our experience, including five-year-old Cheese. She tells everyone back in Sydney not to ride the elephants “because they’re blind”, which confuses many people about why we took her to see blind elephants, but nevertheless, the message is there and she’s helping spread it.

This is teaching the next generation about conservation at its finest – learning through seeing, doing, hearing, touching. The kind of teaching that encourages children to care through first hand experience, that reaches their hearts and helps them grow up to be passionate advocates for animals and the environment.

Elephant Nature Park, Chiang Mai, Thailand

Months afterwards, my daughter is still bringing up moments from our visit. “Do you remember when we fed the elephants?” she asked me on the way to school one morning, out of the blue. “And we washed them in the river?”. She says it in wonderment, like she can’t believe that those amazing experiences in her memory are real. I absolutely do remember. There is no way I will ever forget.

Elephant Nature Park, Chiang Mai, Thailand
Elephant Nature Park, Chiang Mai, Thailand
Tips for visiting the Elephant Nature Park
  • The only way to visit the park is by booking on a day tour, an overnight tour, or a week long volunteer stay through their website. You cannot turn up on your own without a booking.
  • Pack and apply plenty of mosquito repellant.
  • Pack shoes for walking through fields as well as going into the water. Shoes like Crocs that are slip on and off and water resistant are ideal.
  • Bring Thai or US power adapters.
  • There is plenty of water available and you will be given a reusable water bottle.
  • The food served is all vegan.
  • Book as far in advance as you can as the park is extremely popular and tours book up fast.
  • Bring some spare money for buying snacks and souvenirs. We bought some gorgeous wood elephants carved by the mahouts of their charges. We had no problems bringing these back into Australia.

Elephant Nature Park, Chiang Mai, Thailand

Tips for visiting with kids

  • Kids of any age can visit the park for the day or stay overnight. This includes babies.
  • Judge wisely whether your kids are the right age and temperament to visit. Are they old enough to follow directions and keep out of harms way?
  • Visiting the Elephant Nature Park is only possible through their guided tour programs, which involve a lot of talking and walking. Ensure that kids are able to keep up with the group on foot (we had to carry Cheese a fair bit when her legs got tired) and either listen to the guides or quietly entertain themselves while the guides are talking to the group.
  • Dress them to get dirty! Expect to get filthy, sweaty and wet and dress accordingly. Part of the tour involves going into the river knee deep to wash the elephant so bring water shoes, as well as sneakers to walk around the grounds in.
  • Pack food they will eat. If you have a fussy eater like ours, bring food they will eat if they turn their noses up at the delicious vegan food on offer. We had some nut bars and the like that kept our fussy five-year-old going.
  • For their own safety, ensure that your kids understand the rules of the park regarding behaviour around the elephants. Repeat them frequently with little ones!
  • The park is one giant teaching moment for kids, so use the opportunity to talk to them about the situation with elephants in terms they can understand if they’re little like ours. Topics to discuss include not only the issues facing elephants in captivity in Thailand, but the loss of habitat for the Asian elephant and what that means, including their classification as an endangered animal, how elephant families operate and the differences between Asian elephants and African elephants, for example.

Elephant Nature Park, Chiang Mai, Thailand

How do you know if a sanctuary is legit?
It can be really hard to tell as many places who call themselves an elephant sanctuary still mistreat elephants for tourists. I suggest looking at reviews and photos on TripAdvisor to do some research and look for the following things which are harmful to the elephants, they you won’t find in a true sanctuary:

1. The elephants are in chains. The elephants should never be chained.
2. The elephants have people riding them, with or without a chair. Elephants should never be ridden.
3. The baby elephants have been separated from their herd. The herd values babies above all else and do not willing let people get close to them.
4. The elephants perform tricks. They should never perform tricks!

Elephant Nature Park, Chiang Mai, Thailand Elephant Nature Park, Chiang Mai, Thailand Elephant Nature Park, Chiang Mai, Thailand Elephant Nature Park, Chiang Mai, Thailand Elephant Nature Park, Chiang Mai, Thailand Elephant Nature Park, Chiang Mai, Thailand Elephant Nature Park, Chiang Mai, Thailand Elephant Nature Park, Chiang Mai, Thailand Elephant Nature Park, Chiang Mai, Thailand Elephant Nature Park, Chiang Mai, Thailand Elephant Nature Park, Chiang Mai, Thailand Elephant Nature Park, Chiang Mai, Thailand

Elephant Nature Park, Chiang Mai, Thailand Elephant Nature Park, Chiang Mai, Thailand Elephant Nature Park, Chiang Mai, Thailand Elephant Nature Park, Chiang Mai, Thailand Elephant Nature Park, Chiang Mai, Thailand

Get more information about the plight of the endangered elephants in Thailand from the Save The Elephant Organisation.

Elephant Nature Park Office
1 Ratmakka Road, Phra Sing,
Chiang Mai 50200, Thailand
elephantnaturepark.org

Christine Knight
Christine is the editor of Adventure, Baby! She loves cake, her tolerant husband and her busy preschooler.

Thailand Travel Guide: The Best Bits of Phuket

Thailand Travel Guide: The Best of Phuket

Phuket is a large island in the south of Thailand. It’s so big, at 49km long, that it doesn’t actually feel like an island at all. Famous for it’s stunning beaches and tourists who love to party, the beautiful hospitality and rich culture of this part of Thailand can be overlooked.

Whether you spend a few days or a week in Phuket, here are five ways to spend your Thailand vacay that will leave you feeling refreshed, enriched and enlightened.

Karon Beach, Phuket, Thailand

Beaches
There is no doubt that the beaches in Thailand are just stunning and you can’t write a guide to Phuket without mentioning them. White sand and clear blue water –  the beaches in Phuket are just heavenly. Depending on the time of year you visit swimming at the beaches may or may not be an option. During the wet season, box jellyfish are more prevalent, so keep a look out. Some of the Phuket beaches are also known for heavy rips, so be safe when you swim.

Big Buddha, Phuket, Thailand

Big Buddha
It’s hard not to notice Phuket’s Big Buddha from around the island. The imposing 45 metre tall statue and temple sits on top of is one of the the Nakkerd Hills between Chalong and Kata and is one of the island’s most important and revered landmarks.

Big Buddha, Phuket, Thailand

The view from the top of the hill is also stunning, making it a popular place to watch the sunset.

Phuket Old Town, Thailand

Old Phuket Town
Take a stroll through Old Phuket Town to discover shrines, temples (Buddhist and Chinese), beautifully preserved ‘shophouses’ and little cafés. The town was built during Phuket’s tin boom of the 19th Century and has several excellently preserved, grandiose Sino-colonial mansions once lived in by the tin barons over a hundred years ago.

Phuket Old Town, Thailand

While you will need to hire a car to get to Phuket Old Town, it’s small enough to walk around in when you get there. If it’s raining or too hot, the Phuket Trickeye Museum is a fun place to stop by in Old Phuket Town with kids.

Wat Karon, Phuket, Thailand

Wat Suwan Khiri Khet (Karon Temple or Wat Karon)
Wander through the main road in Karon and you’ll find the stunning Wat Karon. This relatively new temple is a stunning place to visit any day of the week. We met kind monks who introduced us to one of their chickens, George.

Wat Karon, Phuket, Thailand

On Tuesdays and Saturdays, from 4pm the Karon markets pop up inside the compound.

Phuket Day Trips: Phang Nga Bay & James Bond Island

Day trip: Phang Nga Bay
The islands surrounding Phuket are just gorgeous. We took the Two Sea Tour sea kayaking around Phang Nga Bay. You can read more about it here.

What to avoid:
Please don’t ride elephants, watch an elephant show or have your photo taken with an animal on the street (such as monkeys). These animals are treated cruelly and participating in these activities enables the businesses to continue to run. More info on animal cruelty in Thailand here.

When to visit Thailand:
We visited Phuket at the end of monsoon season (early October), and did experience quite a lot of rain. The rain was mostly in the mornings and late afternoon/evening, however, so there was still enough of the day that was try to get out and enjoy.

What to pack:
Mosquito repellant
Sunscreen
Scarf to cover shoulders if visiting temples
Loose, light layers
Hat, swimmers, sunglasses, goggles
Comfortable walking shoes

What to wear:
The Thai people tend to dress quite conservatively. Tourists can wear shorts and tanks tops, but avoid showing too much skin when you’re not at the hotel. If you’re visiting a temple, wear pants or a skirt that covers your knees. Some temples will also require shoulders being covered.

Money in Thailand
1AUD is about equal to 30THB. A plate of Thai food at a local restaurant will cost about 50-60THB.

Getting around: common forms of transport
Red buses: We caught one and it cost 40THB for the three of us. It’s basically a small bus with the back area wide open. Please jump on and off when they need to.
Tuk-tuk: Around 100THB for a short distance. Ask for the cost in advance and wedge kids in the middle, tight.
Taxi: Arrange the amount in advance. Call for a taxi from hotels.
Hire car and driver: We hired a car and driver to take us to Old Phuket Town and Big Buddha. It was quite pricey, at 700THB an hour, with a minimum of three hours plus the fourth hour for free.

Hotel Review: Novotel Phuket Karon Beach Resort & Spa

Where to stay:
In Phuket we were hosted at the Novotel Phuket Surin Beach Resort for three nights, and the Novotel Phuket Karon Beach Resort and Spa for three nights. Both hotels were gorgeous, 4-star properties.

Christine Knight
Christine is the editor of Adventure, Baby! She loves cake, her tolerant husband and her busy preschooler.

Thailand Travel Guide: 5 Must-See Temples in Chiang Mai

Thailand Travel Guide: 5 Must-See Temples in Chiang Mai

Chiang Mai is a city for those who want to experience the beating heart of Thailand’s history and culture. The city was founded in 1296 as the capitol of Lanna kingdom – a state centered in present-day Northern Thailand from the 13th to 18th centuries. Surrounded by mountains and jungles, Chiang Mai is naturally beautifully – add in the hundreds of elaborate Buddhist temples that are built within it, and you have the best of nature and culture in the one spot.

Chiang Mai Old City, Thailand

Many travellers, including ourselves, visited Chiang Mai to see the Old City area, which is surrounded by an actual moat and still retains pieces of walls – a reminder of its important history as a centre for culture and religion in northern Thailand.

Chiang Mai Old City, Thailand

The majority of the ancient monuments in Chiang Mai were ruined over the years, through earth quakes and wars, and what we see today in the city is the result of an extensive restoration project by Unesco and the Japanese government in the 1990s.

While there are hundreds of temples to visit, you can’t (and probably don’t want to) see them all. Here are the five that our family enjoyed visiting the most. (See the end of the post for tips on visiting the temples with kids.)

Thailand Travel Guide: 5 Must-See Temples in Chiang Mai

Wat Suan Dok
This monastery was build on a flower garden in 1373, and features a large, gilded chedi, that lies behind a sea of white memorial chedi that each honour a member of the Thai royal family.

Thailand Travel Guide: 5 Must-See Temples in Chiang Mai Thailand Travel Guide: 5 Must-See Temples in Chiang Mai Thailand Travel Guide: 5 Must-See Temples in Chiang Mai

Wat Suan Dok was the furthest temple away from where we stayed, so we had it first on our list to visit one day, and caught a red bus from it to the old city.

Thailand Travel Guide: 5 Must-See Temples in Chiang Mai Thailand Travel Guide: 5 Must-See Temples in Chiang Mai
Location: outside of the moat

Thailand Travel Guide: 5 Must-See Temples in Chiang Mai

Wat Phra Singh
The 14th-century Wat Phra Singh is perhaps the most popular temple to visit in Chiang Mai owing to it’s lavish exterior.

Thailand Travel Guide: 5 Must-See Temples in Chiang Mai

The temple is also an important religious site, attracting a large amount of worshippers both to the main building and also inside Wihan Lai Kham, a small chapel in the rear of the temple grounds that houses a famous Buddha image known as Phra Singh (Lion Buddha).

Thailand Travel Guide: 5 Must-See Temples in Chiang Mai Thailand Travel Guide: 5 Must-See Temples in Chiang Mai Thailand Travel Guide: 5 Must-See Temples in Chiang Mai Thailand Travel Guide: 5 Must-See Temples in Chiang Mai Thailand Travel Guide: 5 Must-See Temples in Chiang Mai Thailand Travel Guide: 5 Must-See Temples in Chiang Mai

Thailand Travel Guide: 5 Must-See Temples in Chiang Mai Thailand Travel Guide: 5 Must-See Temples in Chiang Mai

Location: inside the moat

Thailand Travel Guide: 5 Must-See Temples in Chiang Mai Wat Chedi Luang
Built in the 15th-century, Wat Chedi Luang has a towering Lanna-style chedi which was once possibly the largest structure in ancient Chiang Mai.

Thailand Travel Guide: 5 Must-See Temples in Chiang Mai

Wat Chedi Luang also once held the famous Phra Kaew (Emerald Buddha) that has since been removed for safety reasons. A jade replica of the Buddha sides in its place, a gift from the Thai king in 1995 to celebrate the 600th anniversary of the chedi.

Thailand Travel Guide: 5 Must-See Temples in Chiang Mai Thailand Travel Guide: 5 Must-See Temples in Chiang Mai Thailand Travel Guide: 5 Must-See Temples in Chiang Mai Thailand Travel Guide: 5 Must-See Temples in Chiang Mai Thailand Travel Guide: 5 Must-See Temples in Chiang Mai
Location: inside the moat

Thailand Travel Guide: 5 Must-See Temples in Chiang Mai

Wat Pan Tao
This temple carved from teak wood dates back to the mid 1880s and was formerly part of a royal palace.

Thailand Travel Guide: 5 Must-See Temples in Chiang Mai

Take a stroll through the gorgeous compound, full of fluttering orange flags, and look for the striking peacock and dog image on the temple’s facade – it represents the astrological year of birth of the royal resident who once lived here.

Thailand Travel Guide: 5 Must-See Temples in Chiang Mai Thailand Travel Guide: 5 Must-See Temples in Chiang Mai Thailand Travel Guide: 5 Must-See Temples in Chiang Mai

Location: inside the moat

Thailand Travel Guide: 5 Must-See Temples in Chiang Mai
Wat Chiang Man

Our favourite temple, Wat Chiang Man is the oldest in the city, created by its founder, Phaya Mengrai, around 1296.

Thailand Travel Guide: 5 Must-See Temples in Chiang Mai

The temple is tucked away in a corner of the old city, off the beaten path, so doesn’t see as many tourists as Wat Phra Singh or Wat Chedi Luang.

In front of the ordination hall lies an impressive chedi on top of a stone slab, carved with dragons, elephants and an engraving from 1581 that is the earliest known reference to the city’s origin.

Thailand Travel Guide: 5 Must-See Temples in Chiang Mai

Chiang Mai’s oldest temple was established by the city’s founder, Phaya Mengrai, sometime around 1296. In front of the ubosot (ordination hall), a stone slab, engraved in 1581, bears the earliest known reference to the city’s founding. Inside the hall lies a Buddha image cast in 1465, making it the oldest-known image created by the Lanna kingdom.

Thailand Travel Guide: 5 Must-See Temples in Chiang Mai Thailand Travel Guide: 5 Must-See Temples in Chiang Mai  Location: inside the moat

Thailand Travel Guide: 5 Must-See Temples in Chiang Mai

Visiting temples with children
We took our five-year-old with us to Chiang Mai and she really enjoyed our temple treks. It was a great opportunity to discuss religion, Buddha, faith, prayer and so forth. The temples are all in use and have many Buddhist visitors who come to pray in them, so if you’re visiting with your kids, please ensure they are respectful to the religious meaning and use of them. This means keeping a close eye on what they’re up to and touching, making sure they speak in soft voices and not letting them run around. Kids should also dress appropriately – so same rules for kids as for adults, which is cover your knees, and, in some temples, also cover your shoulders.

I would advise mapping out the temples you want to visit and seeing them in order from furthest from your hotel to closest – that way if your kids get sick of seeing temples and you want to call it a day early, it’s fast to get home and easy to resume the following day where you left off.

When to visit Thailand
We visited Phuket at the end of monsoon season (early October), and did experience quite a lot of rain. The rain was mostly in the mornings and late afternoon/evening, however, so there was still enough of the day that was try to get out and enjoy.

What to pack
Mosquito repellant
Sunscreen
Scarf to cover shoulders if visiting temples
Loose, light layers
Hat, swimmers, sunglasses, goggles
Comfortable walking shoes

Thailand Travel Guide: 5 Must-See Temples in Chiang Mai

What to wear
The Thai people tend to dress quite conservatively. Tourists can wear shorts and tanks tops, but avoid showing too much skin when you’re not at the hotel. If you’re visiting a temple, wear pants or a skirt that covers your knees. Some temples will also require shoulders being covered.

Money in Thailand
1AUD is about equal to 30THB. A plate of Thai food at a local restaurant will cost about 50-60THB.

Tuk-tuk, Chiang Mai

Getting around: common forms of transport
Red buses: We caught one and it cost 40THB for the three of us. It’s basically a small bus with the back area wide open. Please jump on and off when they need to.
Tuk-tuk: Around 100THB for a short distance. Ask for the cost in advance and wedge kids in the middle, tight.
Taxi: Arrange the amount in advance. Call for a taxi from hotels.

Shangri-La Hotel, Chiang Mai

Where to stay
We loved our stay at the Shangri-La Hotel Chiang Mai.

Christine Knight
Christine is the editor of Adventure, Baby! She loves cake, her tolerant husband and her busy preschooler.

The Shangri-La Hotel Chiang Mai, Thailand

Hotel Review: Shangri-La Hotel, Chiang Mai, Thailand

The lobby of the Shangri-La Hotel Chiang Mai smells like heaven. There is no other word for it. As we walk in from the hot Chiang Mai street outside, the blast of air conditioning hits us, fragranced sweetly with we-have-no-idea-what, but boy does it smell incredible. We take a deep breath, sigh, and know that we are going to love this hotel.

Hotel Review: Shangri-La Hotel, Chiang Mai, Thailand

A 5-star hotel situated perfectly near to Chiang Mai’s old city and night bazaar, the Shangri-La is paradise for the weary traveller. Decorated beautifully in a contemporary Northern Thai style, the hotel is luxurious, elegant and feels completely indulgent.

Hotel Review: Shangri-La Hotel, Chiang Mai, Thailand

Our room is the most basic available, with a king bed and rollaway. It’s spacious, bright and airy, with a gorgeously big bathroom including shower and full-size bathtub. The complimentary wi-fi is fast and easy to use.

Hotel Review: Shangri-La Hotel, Chiang Mai, Thailand

Hotel Review: Shangri-La Hotel, Chiang Mai, Thailand

The package we booked includes daily buffet breakfast, which we enjoy every morning in Kad Kafe, an impressive room with soaring ceilings and bold lighting fixtures.

HOtel Review: Shangri-La Hotel, Chiang Mai, Thailand

The buffet offers a wide assortment of Western and Asian cuisines, with our favourite stations being the made-to-order omelettes (mine), the made-to-order noodle soup (the husband’s) and the pastry and pancakes (the child’s).

Hotel Review: Shangri-La Hotel, Chiang Mai, Thailand

Hotel Review: Shangri-La Hotel, Chiang Mai, Thailand

The chef in charge of the pancakes makes Mickey Mouse-shaped pancakes for my daughter every day and she almost squeals with excitement – especially when he adds a bow one morning and turns it into Minnie Mouse for her.

Hotel Review: Shangri-La Hotel, Chiang Mai, Thailand

The staff offer us endless delicious drinks – tea, coffee, hot chocolate and special Thai juice made from a local flower that is especially good to get the digestive system going in the morning.

Hotel Review: Shangri-La Hotel, Chiang Mai, Thailand

One of the chefs pops by our table with local dishes to sample – sticky rice wrapped up in leaves. They offer Cheese colouring in sheets and crayons to occupy her while we are savouring our meals. The food is delicious, the atmosphere relaxing, and we are in heaven.

Hotel Review: Shangri-La Hotel, Chiang Mai, Thailand

If you’re planning on dining frequently at the hotel during your stay, you can select the Children’s Meal Plan, which gives kids under the age of 6 complimentary buffet meals in All Day Dining and Pool Cafes when accompanied by a paying adult, up to a maximum of 2 children. In excess of 2 children under the age of 6 and for all children above 6 and below 12, a 50% discount of the buffet price will be given.

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The Shangri-La is known for it’s gorgeous pool, so we head there as soon we can to check it out. The one large pool is set in grounds with plenty of lush greenery surrounding, giving it a distinctly jungle feel.

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There is a large shallow end in the pool, perfect for our preschooler, and a small kiddie pool nearby for babies and toddlers. If you’re not the designated swimming parent, choose from plenty of plenty of beach chairs to relax in.

Hotel Review: Shangri-La Hotel, Chiang Mai, Thailand Hotel Review: Shangri-La Hotel, Chiang Mai, Thailand Hotel Review: Shangri-La Hotel, Chiang Mai, Thailand Hotel Review: Shangri-La Hotel, Chiang Mai, Thailand Hotel Review: Shangri-La Hotel, Chiang Mai, Thailand

If the weather turns foul there is a decent sized kids playroom inside the hotel. There is no child minding, however – the room is available for parents to take their kids and stay with them while they play.

Hotel Review: Shangri-La Hotel, Chiang Mai, Thailand

We use the hotel as our base over the next two days to explore Chiang Mai. It’s about a 25 minute walk to the Thapae Gate of the old city, which is now pedestrianised and most people’s starting off point for exploring the historic part of Chiang Mai. With little legs in our part, we catch a cab to the gate and walk from there (160THB or about $6AUD). To get back to the hotel, we catch a tuk-tuk (100THB or around $4AUD).

The hotel is also close to Chiang Mai’s airport, so on our last morning we take a quick 15 minute cab trip to catch our plane home. Three nights wasn’t anywhere near long enough to explore this gorgeous city.

Hotel Review: Shangri-La Hotel, Chiang Mai, Thailand Hotel Review: Shangri-La Hotel, Chiang Mai, Thailand Hotel Review: Shangri-La Hotel, Chiang Mai, Thailand Hotel Review: Shangri-La Hotel, Chiang Mai, Thailand Hotel Review: Shangri-La Hotel, Chiang Mai, Thailand Hotel Review: Shangri-La Hotel, Chiang Mai, Thailand Hotel Review: Shangri-La Hotel, Chiang Mai, Thailand Hotel Review: Shangri-La Hotel, Chiang Mai, Thailand

Shangri-La Hotel
89/8 Muang, Chang Klan Rd, Chiang Mai 50100, Thailand
Shangri La Hotel Chiang Mai, Chang Khlan, Chiang Mai, Thailand
We booked their current best rate package including room plus breakfast, from 4,500 THB per night. This offer is available from 4 Mar 2016 through 20 Dec 2016. Rates are subject to 18.7 % service charge and government taxes.

This post contains affiliate links. If you book a room through my link I will receive a small commission. Our stay at the Shangri-La was self funded. Thanks for supporting me and my site!

Christine Knight
Christine is the editor of Adventure, Baby! She loves cake, her tolerant husband and her busy preschooler.

Thailand Travel Guide: Phuket With Kids

Thailand: Phuket With Kids

Thailand is famous for it’s stunning beaches, beautiful hospitality and enriching culture. In recent years Thailand has become a popular place for families to vacay – a part of which might be attributed to how strong the Aussie dollar is against the Thai Baht. In Thailand, it’s very possible to stay at a 4 or 5-star resort for a fraction of the price of a similar hotel in Australia.

In addition to being an affordable holiday, Thailand is very welcoming to families. We visited Phuket with our five-year-old and found plenty to see outside of the resorts that spanned nature, culture and religion, all in just a few short days.

Karon Beach, Phuket, Thailand

Beaches
There is no doubt that the beaches in Thailand are just stunning. White sand and clear blue water – just heavenly. Depending on the time of year you visit swimming at the beaches may or may not be an option. During the wet season, box jellyfish are more prevalent, so keep a look out. Some of the Phuket beaches are also known for heavy rips, so be safe when you swim.

Big Buddha, Phuket, Thailand

Big Buddha
It’s hard not to notice Phuket’s Big Buddha from around the island. The imposing 45 metre tall statue and temple sits on top of is one of the the Nakkerd Hills between Chalong and Kata and is one of the island’s most important and revered landmarks.

Big Buddha, Phuket, Thailand

The view from the top of the hill is also stunning, making it a popular place to watch the sunset.

Phuket Old Town, Thailand

Old Phuket Town
Take a stroll through Old Phuket Town to discover shrines, temples (Buddhist and Chinese), beautifully preserved ‘shophouses’ and little cafés. The town was built during Phuket’s tin boom of the 19th Century and has several excellently preserved, grandiose Sino-colonial mansions once lived in by the tin barons over a hundred years ago.

Phuket Old Town, Thailand

While you will need to hire a car to get to Phuket Old Town, it’s small enough to walk around in when you get there. If it’s raining or too hot, the Phuket Trickeye Museum is a fun place to stop by in Old Phuket Town with kids.

Wat Karon, Phuket, Thailand

Wat Suwan Khiri Khet (Karon Temple or Wat Karon)
Wander through the main road in Karon and you’ll find the stunning Wat Karon. This relatively new temple is a stunning place to visit any day of the week. We met kind monks who introduced us to one of their chickens, George.

Wat Karon, Phuket, Thailand

On Tuesdays and Saturdays, from 4pm the Karon markets pop up inside the compound.

Phuket Day Trips: Phang Nga Bay & James Bond Island

Day trip: Phang Nga Bay
The islands surrounding Phuket are just gorgeous. We took the Two Sea Tour sea kayaking around Phang Nga Bay. You can read more about it here.

What to avoid:
Please don’t ride elephants, watch an elephant show or have your photo taken with an animal on the street (such as monkeys). These animals are treated cruelly and participating in these activities enables the businesses to continue to run. More info on animal cruelty in Thailand here.

When to visit Thailand:
We visited Phuket at the end of monsoon season (early October), and did experience quite a lot of rain. The rain was mostly in the mornings and late afternoon/evening, however, so there was still enough of the day that was try to get out and enjoy.

What to pack:
Mosquito repellant
Sunscreen
Scarf to cover shoulders if visiting temples
Loose, light layers
Hat, swimmers, sunglasses, goggles
Comfortable walking shoes

What to wear:
The Thai people tend to dress quite conservatively. Tourists can wear shorts and tanks tops, but avoid showing too much skin when you’re not at the hotel. If you’re visiting a temple, wear pants or a skirt that covers your knees. Some temples will also require shoulders being covered.

Money in Thailand
1AUD is about equal to 30THB. A plate of Thai food at a local restaurant will cost about 50-60THB.

Getting around: common forms of transport
Red buses: We caught one and it cost 40THB for the three of us. It’s basically a small bus with the back area wide open. Please jump on and off when they need to.
Tuk-tuk: Around 100THB for a short distance. Ask for the cost in advance and wedge kids in the middle, tight.
Taxi: Arrange the amount in advance. Call for a taxi from hotels.
Hire car and driver: We hired a car and driver to take us to Old Phuket Town and Big Buddha. It was quite pricey, at 700THB an hour, with a minimum of three hours plus the fourth hour for free.

Hotel Review: Novotel Phuket Karon Beach Resort & Spa

Where to stay:
In Phuket we were hosted at the Novotel Phuket Surin Beach Resort for three nights, and the Novotel Phuket Karon Beach Resort and Spa for three nights. Both hotels were gorgeous, 4-star properties.

Christine Knight
Christine is the editor of Adventure, Baby! She loves cake, her tolerant husband and her busy preschooler.

Hotel Review: The Novotel Phuket Surin Beach Resort

Hotel Review: Novotel Phuket Surin Beach Resort

For first timers to Thailand like us, the Novotel Phuket Surin Beach Resort is a great place to stay. The 4-star resort is a short walk from Surin Beach, a quiet beach area about 25 minutes from Phuket airport.

Hotel Review: Novotel Phuket Surin Beach Resort

Hotel Review: Novotel Phuket Surin Beach Resort Hotel Review: Novotel Phuket Surin Beach Resort

The resort is large without feeling overwhelmingly huge – it’s big enough to have a lot of great facilities, but small enough to get to know the staff and for them to learn our names.

The 254 rooms, ranging from standard rooms to two-bedroom suites, are airy and light, with polished wooden floorboards, tea and coffee making equipment, mini fridges, flat-screens and free WiFi.

Hotel Review: Novotel Phuket Surin Beach Resort

We arrive after a long flight from Sydney, extremely tired and ready to lie down. The staff meet us at the lobby with friendly, welcoming smiles, a special welcome drink and the sweetest smelling flower bracelets. It’s clear from the start that the caring staff at the Surin Beach Resort will do anything they can to make our stay happy and memorable.

Hotel Review: Novotel Phuket Surin Beach Resort

In our rooms await surprises that make us forget our exhaustion. Adorable towel animals on the beds, pastries to revive us and a little surprise for Cheese to excite her about the activities that await her the following day.

Hotel Review: Novotel Phuket Surin Beach Resort Hotel Review: Novotel Phuket Surin Beach Resort Hotel Review: Novotel Phuket Surin Beach Resort Hotel Review: Novotel Phuket Surin Beach Resort

Our room is huge – so much space for our luggage, and then even more for us to all spread out. We have a poolside terrace suite that has direct pool access and a sitting area that doubles as a second bedroom. It’s light and bright and has very powerful air conditioning.

Hotel Review: Novotel Phuket Surin Beach Resort

Hotel Review: Novotel Phuket Surin Beach Resort
Photo © Matt Burns http://www.southeastasiaimages.com S.E.A Images Co Ltd

Hotel Review: Novotel Phuket Surin Beach Resort

While we have the option of dining at one of the hotel restaurants, we order from the 24-hour room service menu because we are too tired leave our room.

Hotel Review: Novotel Phuket Surin Beach Resort

We are up before sunrise the next morning and are the first to the breakfast buffet. It’s an incredible spread that includes food of various ethnicities – something to make everyone feel at home.

Hotel Review: Novotel Phuket Surin Beach Resort Hotel Review: Novotel Phuket Surin Beach Resort Hotel Review: Novotel Phuket Surin Beach Resort Hotel Review: Novotel Phuket Surin Beach Resort Hotel Review: Novotel Phuket Surin Beach Resort

We sample dishes from every table. The “Popcake” mini pancake machine is a favourite with my daughter, while I love the fresh fruit, yoghurt and eggs. Alec tries the Asian breakfast options and loves the noodle soup, and we all try the donuts (who can resist?!).

Hotel Review: Novotel Phuket Surin Beach Resort

Since we’re done with breakfast by 7:30am, the pool is the next stop. We spend almost five hours straight in the various pools, swimming, playing and enjoying the slides. The pools are just gorgeous – large enough to accomodate lots of people without feeling crowded, and of varying depths so kids of all ages can find an area suitable for them and their swimming abilities. While there is no actual shade cover, the plants surrounding the pools throw plenty of shade so we never feel too hot.

Hotel Review: Novotel Phuket Surin Beach Resort Hotel Review: Novotel Phuket Surin Beach Resort Hotel Review: Novotel Phuket Surin Beach Resort Hotel Review: Novotel Phuket Surin Beach Resort Hotel Review: Novotel Phuket Surin Beach Resort Hotel Review: Novotel Phuket Surin Beach Resort Hotel Review: Novotel Phuket Surin Beach Resort Hotel Review: Novotel Phuket Surin Beach Resort Hotel Review: Novotel Phuket Surin Beach Resort Hotel Review: Novotel Phuket Surin Beach Resort Hotel Review: Novotel Phuket Surin Beach Resort Hotel Review: Novotel Phuket Surin Beach Resort Hotel Review: Novotel Phuket Surin Beach Resort

We are supremely waterlogged after the morning and we take Cheese in the afternoon to the kids’ club, called Kids’ World, for activities that don’t involve getting wet. The staff are delightful, incredibly sweet ladies who are very accomodating and help us find fun things to do.

Hotel Review: Novotel Phuket Surin Beach Resort

There are scheduled activities hourly every day for kids to enjoy, and we try nail painting (Cheese gets cupcakes painted on her nails) and then painting on what I think was rice paper, which was our favourite.

Hotel Review: Novotel Phuket Surin Beach Resort Hotel Review: Novotel Phuket Surin Beach Resort Hotel Review: Novotel Phuket Surin Beach Resort Hotel Review: Novotel Phuket Surin Beach Resort

The facilities include an area with computers and games, a TV room with bean bags to relax in, and a large upstairs section with a ball room, soft play area and craft tables. Kids can be dropped off at the kids’ club, or parents can accompany their kids to play and relax together.

Hotel Review: Novotel Phuket Surin Beach Resort

While Cheese and her dad continue to play games at the kids’ club, I take a well-earned break at Breathe, the spa facilities at the resort. I choose a 90 minute relaxation massage that is such heaven that the time just races by (900TBH or $33 AUD). It’s completely affordable bliss and I wish it would last forever!

Hotel Review: Novotel Phuket Surin Beach Resort

We stay three nights in total at the Novotel Phuket Surin Beach Resort, and during our stay we enjoy dining at their main restaurant, Asia Alive. The head chef, Jason, is a friendly American who is happy to chat about the local dishes, and is especially accomodating to vegetarians, which I highly appreciated.

Hotel Review: Novotel Phuket Surin Beach Resort

On our last night we enjoy delicious two-for-one Mai Tais at happy hour while Cheese watches a Barbie movie in the kids’ entertainment area next to the bar, followed by divine local dishes at the restaurant – spring rolls, deep fried corn fritters, Pad Thai and a beef and asparagus dish that had my husband swooning.
Hotel Review: Novotel Phuket Surin Beach Resort Hotel Review: Novotel Phuket Surin Beach Resort Hotel Review: Novotel Phuket Surin Beach Resort Hotel Review: Novotel Phuket Surin Beach Resort

Cheese chooses a Pokemon-themed dish that was a cleverly disguised plain pasta noodles and tomato sauce with parmesan cheese on the side, and was presented with an incredible dessert that looks like a monkey.

Hotel Review: Novotel Phuket Surin Beach Resort

Hotel Review: Novotel Phuket Surin Beach Resort

Other dining options include the Champion Bar & Grill (which serves American-style food like burgers and has a pool table that we can’t keep Cheese away from), and the Board Walk Pool Bar, which has a great range of light meal options great for lunch and afternoon hunger attacks.

Hotel Review: Novotel Phuket Surin Beach Resort

If you desperately need something light or sweet to keep you going, there is also the food store in the lobby, which serves pastries, salads and other take away food, plus has a variety of toiletries for sale that travellers usually forget to pack.

Hotel Review: Novotel Phuket Surin Beach Resort

The Novotel hotels pride themselves on being family-friendly, and this Novotel was no exception. For 299THB per child per day ($11AUD), kids at the resort can enjoy an all-inclusive kids’ menu, smoothies and soft drinks, a welcome surprise and daily treats (we found milk and cookies to wish us sweet dreams one night!), kids’ club and in-room kids’ movies and daily kids’ activities at the hotel including handkerchief batik painting, jelly candle making, photo frame making, hair braiding and bracelet making.

While a lot of guests enjoy staying at the resort and don’t feel the need to go anywhere else, the resort offers a free daily shuttle to Patong, the largest area for dining, shopping and entertainment – one round trip per day with pick up at 11am and return at 4pm (Advance reservation is recommended).

Surin Beach, Phuket

If you want to get some beach action, Surin Beach, across the road from the resort, is a very quiet spot with stunning clear water and soft sand. It’s too dangerous to swim while we are there, unfortunately, due to the large waves, but it’s still a gorgeous, quiet spot.

If you’re after a quiet taste of Thailand, with plenty of amenities and at an affordable price, then the Novotel Phuket Surin Resort can’t be beat.

Our stay was over far too quickly, and we were sad to leave such a friendly and welcoming resort.

When to visit Thailand:
We visited Phuket at the end of monsoon season (early October), and did experience quite a lot of rain. The rain was mostly in the mornings and late afternoon/evening, however, so there was still enough of the day that was try to get out and enjoy.

What to pack:
Mosquito repellant
Sunscreen
Loose, light layers that offer additional sun protection and also cover knees and shoulders if you are planning on visiting any of the temples.
Hat, swimmers, sunglasses, goggles

Thinking of visiting the Novotel Phuket Surin Beach Resort? See their current promotional offers here.

Novotel Phuket Surin Beach Resort
106/27 Moo 3, Cherngtalay, Talang, Surin Beach, 83100 Phuket, Thailand
PHONE +66 76 303 300 FAX +66 76 300 303
E-mail : info@novotelphuketsurin.com
novotelphuketsurin.com

Thank you to the Novotel Phuket Surin Beach Resort for hosting our stay. All opinions are my own. Additional images thanks to the Novotel.

Christine Knight
Christine is the editor of Adventure, Baby! She loves cake, her tolerant husband and her busy preschooler.

Phuket Day Trips: Kayaking in Phang Nga Bay & James Bond Island

Phuket Day Trips: Phang Nga Bay & James Bond Island

Phang Nga is a shallow bay spanning 400 km² in the Strait of Malacca, between the island of Phuket and the mainland of the Malay peninsula of southern Thailand. A large section of the bay has been protected as the Ao Phang Nga National Park since 1981.

Phuket Day Trips: Two Sea Tour of Phang Nga Bay & James Bond Island

While many visitors know this area as “the place with the James Bond Island” there are actually 42 islands in the bay, many of which are more spectacular than the movie set location and well-worth visiting.

Phuket Day Trips: Two Sea Tour of Phang Nga Bay & James Bond Island

We discovered geological formations that awe awe inspiring: soaring limestone cliffs, secret caves, forested wetlands, mangroves and wildlife galore. Mudskippers, fruit bats, fiddler crabs, monkeys, kingfishers and sea eagles were just some of the wildlife we encountered during our day at sea.

Phuket Day Trips: Two Sea Tour of Phang Nga Bay & James Bond Island

In order to see this beautiful part of the world, a boat is obviously required. We chose the highly rated tour group Two Sea Tours – a company unique in this particular tour with their extremely early departure time. The majority of tour groups leave mid morning and all arrive at the same locations at the same time, making them crowded. In contrast, we were picked up at our hotel at 5:30am. By 6:30am we were speeding through the emerald-green waters, watching the sun rise.

Two Sea Tour owners Mam and Philippe both have extensive experience in the travel industry – which is evident in their very-well thought out tour of Phang Nga Bay. While the boat is registered for 55 passengers, the maximium they will take out at a time is 16, so the boat and also the stops on the way, are never crowded.

Phuket Day Trips: Phang Nga Bay & James Bond Island

Our first stop was Panak Island, where we canoed with our guide, Suk, a local Thai national, through caves filled with fruit bats to an internal lagoon. The silence in the lagoon hung like a mist on us – to say you could hear a pin drop would be an understatement.

Phuket Day Trips: Two Sea Tour of Phang Nga Bay & James Bond Island

Phuket Day Trips: Two Sea Tour of Phang Nga Bay & James Bond Island

In hushed awe we paddled through the lagoon, each wondering, “Are we on a film set? A new Jurassic Park movie, perhaps? How was it possible that such a stunning and solitary place on Earth existed?”. With mud skippers flapping in the shallow water around us, and a brightly coloured fiddler crap marching among them, it felt like we had jumped back into a time from long ago.

Phuket Day Trips: Two Sea Tour of Phang Nga Bay & James Bond Island Phuket Day Trips: Two Sea Tour of Phang Nga Bay & James Bond Island Phuket Day Trips: Two Sea Tour of Phang Nga Bay & James Bond Island Phuket Day Trips: Two Sea Tour of Phang Nga Bay & James Bond Island Phuket Day Trips: Two Sea Tour of Phang Nga Bay & James Bond Island Phuket Day Trips: Two Sea Tour of Phang Nga Bay & James Bond Island Phuket Day Trips: Two Sea Tour of Phang Nga Bay & James Bond Island Phuket Day Trips: Two Sea Tour of Phang Nga Bay & James Bond Island Phuket Day Trips: Two Sea Tour of Phang Nga Bay & James Bond Island Phuket Day Trips: Two Sea Tour of Phang Nga Bay & James Bond Island Phuket Day Trips: Two Sea Tour of Phang Nga Bay & James Bond Island Phuket Day Trips: Two Sea Tour of Phang Nga Bay & James Bond Island Phuket Day Trips: Two Sea Tour of Phang Nga Bay & James Bond Island

Phuket Day Trips: Two Sea Tour of Phang Nga Bay & James Bond Island Phuket Day Trips: Two Sea Tour of Phang Nga Bay & James Bond Island

The second stop on our sea kayaking adventure was Hong Island, kayaking past the spectacular limestone karsts that jut vertically out of the water into another private lagoon. Our private paradise was occasionally disturbed by the odd person or two with a private boat, but we pretty much had the bay to ourselves.

Phuket Day Trips: Phang Nga Bay & James Bond Island Phuket Day Trips: Phang Nga Bay & James Bond Island Phuket Day Trips: Phang Nga Bay & James Bond Island

Stop number three was Khao Ping Gan, also known as “James Bond Island”. The famous rock, Koh Tapu, only briefly featured in the 1974 film, The Man with the Golden Gun, but it was long enough to attract a steady influx of daily visitors ever since.

Phuket Day Trips: Phang Nga Bay & James Bond Island

Phuket Day Trips: Phang Nga Bay & James Bond Island Phuket Day Trips: Phang Nga Bay & James Bond Island Phuket Day Trips: Phang Nga Bay & James Bond Island Phuket Day Trips: Phang Nga Bay & James Bond Island Phuket Day Trips: Phang Nga Bay & James Bond Island Phuket Day Trips: Phang Nga Bay & James Bond Island

A quick walk around the island is long enough to spend there, and within half an hour we are speeding off again on our boat, enjoying a delicious, freshly cooked Thai buffet lunch, on the way to our last stop for the day, Lawa Island.

Phuket Day Trips: Phang Nga Bay & James Bond Island

Lawa Island is a tiny, remote island jutting out in the bay with a private sandy beach for us. We spend a peaceful hour swimming, canoeing and watching a wild monkey stalk his way up and down the beach in search of snacks.

Phuket Day Trips: Phang Nga Bay & James Bond Island Phuket Day Trips: Phang Nga Bay & James Bond Island Phuket Day Trips: Phang Nga Bay & James Bond Island Phuket Day Trips: Phang Nga Bay & James Bond Island Phuket Day Trips: Phang Nga Bay & James Bond Island

We are back at our hotel at around 2:30pm, tired from our early start, but with eyes full of the breathtaking scenery we witnessed during our day.

What memories to be made, indeed.

This is Thailand as we had hoped to find it – a small slice of paradise leaving us speechless with wonder.

Phuket Day Trips: Two Sea Tour of Phang Nga Bay & James Bond Island

More info:
We booked our tour directly through Two Sea Tours twoseatour.com.

Fresh fruits, snacks, pastries, cookies, soft drinks and water were provided (free) all day.

If giving a tip (and we recommend that you do), the suggested amount is around 200 to 500 baht with a minimum of 100 baht.

Tour price: for 2 adults and one child in one canoe, 10,400 TBH ($390AUD)

Where to stay:
In Phuket we stayed at the Novotel Phuket Surin Beach Resort for three nights, and the Novotel Phuket Karon Beach Resort and Spa for three nights. The tour picks up from both hotels.

Thanks to Two Sea Tours for use of the additional pics.

Christine Knight
Christine is the editor of Adventure, Baby! She loves cake, her tolerant husband and her busy preschooler.

Hotel Review: Novotel Phuket Karon Beach Resort and Spa

Hotel Review: Novotel Phuket Karon Beach Resort & Spa

When choosing a Phuket hotel to relax and indulge with the family, the Novotel Phuket Karon Beach Resort and Spa is an ideal choice.

Hotel Review: Novotel Phuket Karon Beach Resort & Spa

This beautiful Phuket resort has a fantastic location for travellers wanting to be close to tourist attractions such as the Big Buddha, but far enough away to feel like you’re staying in a small village. Really, it’s the best of both worlds.

Hotel Review: Novotel Phuket Karon Beach Resort & Spa

The Novotel Phuket Karon Beach Resort and Spa is about an hours drive from Phuket airport, 10 minutes from Patong, and directly across the road from gorgeous Karon Beach. The low-rise resort sprawls around three pools, with a distinctly jungle-feel to it thanks to all of the gorgeous plant life.

Hotel Review: Novotel Phuket Karon Beach Resort & Spa

Our Plunge Pool Suite was just divine. We had a main bedroom with a king bed plus tent for the little one to play in, overlooking our own private plunge pool. Swoon.

Hotel Review: Novotel Phuket Karon Beach Resort & Spa Hotel Review: Novotel Phuket Karon Beach Resort & Spa

The connecting living area had a rollaway bed for the kiddo to sleep in, but she often ended up sleeping in the big bed with us.

Hotel Review: Novotel Phuket Karon Beach Resort & Spa

The little details told us loud and clear that families were incredibly welcome at the resort. The tent in our bedroom was filled with toys for our daughter to play with, she found a little treat on arrival and discovered a scavenger hunt trail to get her busy around the resort.

Hotel Review: Novotel Phuket Karon Beach Resort & Spa

Phuket is crazy hot when we visited, so the powerful air conditioning was very welcome! Our room also featured a massive bathtub, rain shower, free wifi and tea and coffee making facilities.

Hotel Review: Novotel Phuket Karon Beach Resort & Spa

Hotel Review: Novotel Phuket Karon Beach Resort & Spa

Each morning of our three-night stay we enjoyed breakfast at the Horizon Cafe, where a buffet served up Asian and international cuisine.

Hotel Review: Novotel Phuket Karon Beach Resort & Spa

My fave was the omelette station, but I also couldn’t resist the pancake machine. There was a wide variety of food to try: pastries, bread, brioche, muffins, yogurts, cereals, fruits, salad, cheese, pancakes, crepes, sushis, congee, stir fried noodles, fried rice … there wasn’t enough time to try it all.

Hotel Review: Novotel Phuket Karon Beach Resort & Spa Hotel Review: Novotel Phuket Karon Beach Resort & Spa Hotel Review: Novotel Phuket Karon Beach Resort & Spa

The resort has five restaurants including the Horizon Cafe. During the day, we enjoyed lunch at Joe Kool’s Poolside Grill, where our choices include traditional Asian cuisine or more Western fare – perfect for fussy little eaters like our daughter.

Hotel Review: Novotel Phuket Karon Beach Resort & Spa Hotel Review: Novotel Phuket Karon Beach Resort & Spa Hotel Review: Novotel Phuket Karon Beach Resort & Spa

One evening, we indulged in a fancy dinner at TAi restaurant, where we were served upmarket, traditional Thai cuisine.

Hotel Review: Novotel Phuket Karon Beach Resort & Spa Hotel Review: Novotel Phuket Karon Beach Resort & Spa Hotel Review: Novotel Phuket Karon Beach Resort & Spa Hotel Review: Novotel Phuket Karon Beach Resort & Spa Hotel Review: Novotel Phuket Karon Beach Resort & Spa Hotel Review: Novotel Phuket Karon Beach Resort & Spa

While the husband and I love all the Thai food our fussy daughter is happy to dine on fish and chips, pasta and very cheesy pizza.

Hotel Review: Novotel Phuket Karon Beach Resort & Spa Hotel Review: Novotel Phuket Karon Beach Resort & Spa Hotel Review: Novotel Phuket Karon Beach Resort & Spa

We dined almost every meal at the resort and thought the prices were extremely reasonable. An average adult meal would cost around 250THB (around $10AUD), and we were extremely happy with the quality of the food, as well as of the resort itself.

As you can’t drink tap water in Thailand, the hotel provides plenty of complimentary bottled water in the rooms every day. If you dine at any of the restaurants, however, and ask for water, you’ll be charged 45THB for it. A small amount, but you can also just carry the bottles from your room around with you for free.

Hotel Review: Novotel Phuket Karon Beach Resort & Spa

There are three gorgeous pools to keep visitors cool. The main pool, the Lagoon, has a swim up bar and fun activities during the day such as the “walking on water” blow up balls, or water volleyball.

Hotel Review: Novotel Phuket Karon Beach Resort & Spa

The Oasis Pool is quiet, set in a secluded area with a jacuzzi.

Hotel Review: Novotel Phuket Karon Beach Resort & Spa

Lastly there is the Kids’ Pool, where a twisting waterslide and mushroom shower have been built to entertain the little ones. The slide is sadly closed for renovation, but the pool is so shallow that it’s still a fave.

Hotel Review: Novotel Phuket Karon Beach Resort & Spa

When the heat gets too much, there is the fantastic kids’ club, Kids World, to provide entertainment.

Hotel Review: Novotel Phuket Karon Beach Resort & Spa

Parents are welcome to join their kids, or drop them off if they are over four years of age.

Hotel Review: Novotel Phuket Karon Beach Resort & Spa

Daily scheduled activities run to keep kids amused, such as umbrella painting, fan painting and pop up card making – or kids can just play with the toys, take time out watching a movie and play video games (this was a huge hit with the dads!).

Hotel Review: Novotel Phuket Karon Beach Resort & Spa

Kids who enjoy cooking can try a pizza making class. We’ve been cooking a lot at home so this was a fun activity to try. Cheese made her own pizza from kneading the dough to putting on the toppings, placing it in the oven, and then, of course, eating it when it was done.

Hotel Review: Novotel Phuket Karon Beach Resort & Spa Hotel Review: Novotel Phuket Karon Beach Resort & Spa Hotel Review: Novotel Phuket Karon Beach Resort & Spa

The Novotel hotels pride themselves on being family-friendly, and this Novotel was no exception. For 299THB per child per day ($11AUD), kids at the resort can enjoy an all-inclusive kids’ menu, smoothies and soft drinks, a welcome surprise and daily treats, kids’ club, in-room kids’ movies, and daily kids’ activities at Kids World.

We found this to be a particularly good deal as it would cover our daughter’s lunch and dinner plus any snacks/drinks she wanted during the day.

Hotel Review: Novotel Phuket Karon Beach Resort & Spa

It’s not a relaxing holiday without a visit to the spa, and the Novotel’s In Balance Spa was just what I needed. After choosing my oil from one of five “scents” (I went with relaxing lavender) my 90-minute stress relief massage flew by. At 1600 TBH ($60AUD) it’s an incredibly reasonable deal.

Hotel Review: Novotel Phuket Karon Beach Resort & Spa

Our stay at the Novotel Phuket Karon Beach Resort and Spa was over way too quickly. It’s such a gorgeous spot with so much to do that it’s easy to see why so many families with little kids come to enjoy themselves and never leave the resort! If you do, however, feel like exploring there’s plenty to see.

Places of note nearby:

Hotel Review: Novotel Phuket Karon Beach Resort & Spa Wat Suwan Khirikhet

Karon Night Markets

Hotel Review: Novotel Phuket Karon Beach Resort & Spa
Karon Beach (with playground)

Hotel Review: Novotel Phuket Karon Beach Resort & Spa
Karon village

Patong is a short car or shuttle away

Big Buddha, Phuket, Thailand

Big Buddha (depending on traffic, 15-30 minutes drive)

Old Phuket Town, Thailand

Old Phuket Town (30 minute drive)

We rented a car through the hotel to take us to Big Buddha and Old Phuket Town. The cost was 700THB per hour, with a minimum of three hours required for booking, and the fourth hour free.

Hotel Review: Novotel Phuket Karon Beach Resort & Spa Hotel Review: Novotel Phuket Karon Beach Resort & Spa Hotel Review: Novotel Phuket Karon Beach Resort & Spa Hotel Review: Novotel Phuket Karon Beach Resort & Spa Hotel Review: Novotel Phuket Karon Beach Resort & Spa Hotel Review: Novotel Phuket Karon Beach Resort & Spa Hotel Review: Novotel Phuket Karon Beach Resort & Spa Hotel Review: Novotel Phuket Karon Beach Resort & Spa Hotel Review: Novotel Phuket Karon Beach Resort & Spa Hotel Review: Novotel Phuket Karon Beach Resort & Spa Hotel Review: Novotel Phuket Karon Beach Resort & Spa

When to visit Thailand:
We visited Phuket at the end of monsoon season (early October), and did experience quite a lot of rain. The rain was mostly in the mornings and late afternoon/evening, however, so there was still enough of the day that was try to get out and enjoy.

What to pack:
Mosquito repellant
Sunscreen
Loose, light layers that offer additional sun protection and also cover knees and shoulders if you are planning on visiting any of the temples.
Hat, swimmers, sunglasses, goggles

Novotel Phuket Karon Beach Resort and Spa
568 Patak Road, Karon, Muang Phuket, Phuket 83100
Tel: +66 (0) 76 358 666
Fax +66 (0) 76 358 645
E-mail: H8825-RE@accor.com
Website: novotelphuketkaron.com

Thinking of staying at the Novotel Phuket Karon Beach Resort and Spa? They are currently offering this this half board promotion.

Thank you to the Novotel Phuket Karon Beach Resort & Spa for hosting our stay. All opinions are my own.

Christine Knight
Christine is the editor of Adventure, Baby! She loves cake, her tolerant husband and her busy preschooler.