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Why You Should Visit Universal Studios Japan

Universal Studios Japan

As I was heading off to Japan this week a friend commented to me that they’d never thought of visiting Universal Studios outside of Hollywood, as this is the original studio and why wouldn’t you visit any but the original?

It was an interesting question, and I have the answer! It turns out that each Universal Studios has unique elements that are special to that location only, so visiting each park you are able to experience attractions or meet characters that you are only able to in that specific location. If you’re wondering why you should visit Universal Studio Japan, even if you’ve been to both Universal parks in Hollywood and Orlando, here is your answer.

The World of Minions at Universal Studios Japan

Minion Park
The world’s largest Minion-themed attraction opened in March 2017. Take a spin on the incredible Despicable Me: Minion Mayhem ride, try Minion-themed snacks, watch the crazy Minions street show and meet the characters afterwards. It’s all Minions, all the time! More info on the amazing Minions Park here.

Universal Studios Japan

Cool Japan
The attractions in the Cool Japan section of the park are all based on iconic anime, video game, music, and manga titles produced in Japan. They change seasonally so there is always something new to see. The attractions are based on games and movies such as Resident Evil, Godzilla and, when I visited, Dragon Quest.

The Wizarding World of Harry Potter at Universal Studios Japan

Black Lake in The Wizarding World of Harry Potter
While you can visit Hogwarts and Hogsmeade elsewhere, Universal Studios Japan is the only place where you can see Hogwarts overlooking the majestic Black Lake. Honestly, the view from here is incredible and watching the evening show with fireworks reflected on the lake is just amazing. More info on the Wizarding World of Harry Potter here.

Sesame Street
This is the place to go to meet all your favourite Sesame Street characters and take a spin on some similarly themed rides. The Count, Elmo, Cookie Monster and Abby Cadabby are all ready to meet guests with hugs. Universal Studios Japan is also home to Moppy, the adorable pink Japanese Sesame Street character.

Hello Kitty
It’s no surprise to find Hello Kitty here! She is everywhere in the park, from a life-size character you can meet and take photos with, to shops, merchandise and a design studio.

Snoopy and Friends
All the Peanuts characters are here, plus a Snoopy-themed cafe and ride for littlies. Charlie Brown, Snoopy and Lucy were all around for photo ops when we visited.

Universal Studios Japan Tickets
A studio pass grants you admission to the park and a Universal Express® Pass will shorten the waiting time for attractions. The admission ticket includes park entrance and use of all attractions in the park. You can buy tickets in advance from these travel agencies or on the day at the park. Ticket Booths are open from one hour before the park opens for business.

Hotel Universal Port, Osaka, Japan

Where to stay
I stayed at the offical Universal Studios Hotel, Hotel Universal Port, which is just a short walk from the park and about 10-15 min train ride from Osaka CBD. It has fantastic Minions theming in the lobby and a few of the rooms.

Hotel Universal Port, Osaka, Japan

There are plenty of food options outside the park as well as restaurants inside the hotels if you stay onsite. You could easily spend two days at Universal Studios Japan and if you do, it’s a good idea to stay at a nearby hotel to make the commute easier.

Get more info on my stay at Hotel Universal Port.

Universal Studios Japan
Japan, 〒554-0031 Osaka Prefecture, Osaka, Konohana Ward, Sakurajima, 2 Chome−1−33. Universal Studios Japan Online

How to get there:
Take the subway to Universal City station (JR Yumesaki line). Universal Studios Japan is about a 5-minute walk from there.

For more information on on Osaka and Universal Studios Japan, head to gdayjapan.com.au

Planning a trip to Japan? Get fantastic ideas for your Japan itinerary from Sher She Goes.

I visited as a guest of Universal Studios Japan and the Japanese National Tourism Organization. I genuinely loved the experience and all opinions are my own. Additional images courtesy of Universal Studios Japan.

Christine Knight
Christine is the editor of Adventure, Baby!

Hotel Universal Port, Osaka, Japan

Hotel Universal Port, Osaka, Japan

The Hotel Universal Port is the perfect place to stay for a visit to Universal Studios. Located a short stroll from the entrance to the park, it’s an easy place to stay for quick access and a fast homecoming – perfect for when you’ve had a long day at the park and just want to get back to your room and rest.

Hotel Universal Port, Osaka, Japan

Theming is something Universal Studios does particularly well, and the Hotel Universal Port is no exception. The outside has fantastic Jurassic Park theming, while the inside has a T-Rex-themed cafe plus the new Minions all over the main foyer.

Hotel Universal Port, Osaka, Japan

Minions statues, plushes and images are displayed all over the lobby, as well as playing the movies on a TV screen near a small soft play area for small children.

Hotel Universal Port, Osaka, Japan Hotel Universal Port, Osaka, Japan Hotel Universal Port, Osaka, Japan Hotel Universal Port, Osaka, Japan Hotel Universal Port, Osaka, Japan Hotel Universal Port, Osaka, Japan Hotel Universal Port, Osaka, Japan Hotel Universal Port, Osaka, Japan Hotel Universal Port, Osaka, Japan Hotel Universal Port, Osaka, Japan Hotel Universal Port, Osaka, Japan

If you are particularly mad about Minions you can stay in a Minions-themed room as well.

The regular rooms, which is where I stayed, are standard hotel rooms. Mine had two twin beds, but there are larger rooms available that suit families in size. Each room has a standard bathroom, free Wifi, a TV, fridge and tea making facilities.

Hotel Universal Port, Osaka, Japan Hotel Universal Port, Osaka, Japan

I found the room to be comfortable and contain everything I needed for a short stay. I also enjoyed the excellent view of the park out of the window! It put me right into the mood for visiting the park.

Hotel Universal Port, Osaka, Japan

Breakfast was included in the package and was a highlight each morning. The breakfast buffet served up around 90 dishes, all of which were traditionally Japanese as the hotel caters mostly to local tourists. A map available at the entrance explains the layout in both Japanese and English so it’s easy to understand where everything is, and each dish is labelled both with a name and ingredients in both languages too. A word of warning – the labels are not 100% accurate so approach items like dumplings with caution if you have dietary restrictions.

Hotel Universal Port, Osaka, Japan

The hotel has a casual cafe in the lobby area that serves traditional Japanese food such as udon noodles and so forth, which is great to grab dinner from after a long day at the park. They also serve amazing looking cakes if you’ve got a sweet tooth like me.

Hotel Universal Port
Japan, 〒554-0031 Osaka Prefecture, 大阪市此花区Konohana Ward, Sakurajima, 1 Chome−1−111
http://www.hoteluniversalport.jp/en

I stayed at the hotel as a guest of Universal Studios Japan. All opinions are my own. 

Christine Knight
Christine is the editor of Adventure, Baby!

The Wizarding World of Harry Potter at Universal Studios Japan

The Wizarding World of Harry Potter at Universal Studios Japan

The magical world of Harry Potter at Universal Studios Japan is a must-visit for fans of the books and movies. Inside the Wizarding World of Harry Potter, the village of Hogsmeade and Hogwarts have been faithfully recreated for fans to immerse themselves inside the story.

From the entrance to the world, it’s clear that this is a distinctly seperate part of the park from the other attractions. Harry Potter theme music plays as you walk up the path, lined by trees and featuring the famous Flying Ford Anglia from Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets. It flashes its lights and honks as it lies crashed into a tree – a sign that you’re about to embark on a magical adventure through the world of Harry Potter.

The Wizarding World of Harry Potter at Universal Studios Japan

Inside the entrance to Hogsmeade lies the Hogwarts Express steam train. You can take a photo next to the train and with its conductor, or if you walk around the corner you can have your photo taken inside a replica of one of the train’s carriages.

The Wizarding World of Harry Potter at Universal Studios Japan

Nearby, Butterbeer, in various varieties, is available for sale, as are plenty of other Harry Potter-themed food, clothing, and, of course, wands. Hogsmeade village is lined with shops each selling various items.

The Wizarding World of Harry Potter at Universal Studios Japan

Visit Honeydukes sweetshop to buy your own Bertie Bott’s Every-Flavour Beans™ and Chocolate Frogs™, and Ollivanders™ for your very own wand. A small alleyway next to Ollivanders is where you can line up to see a wand choosing a wizard.

The Wizarding World of Harry Potter at Universal Studios Japan

The main restaurant in this part of the park is Three Broomsticks™, a tavern-themed eatery where you can buy Butterbeer in a collectable take-home mug and traditional British dishes such as fish and chips and shepherd’s pie.

The Wizarding World of Harry Potter at Universal Studios Japan

Outside, the dining area has the best view of Hogwarts castle in the park, overlooking the Black Lake – a feature that is unique to Universal Studios Japan. The dining area is a great place to watch the evening light show from as there are minimal crowds.

The Wizarding World of Harry Potter at Universal Studios Japan

A brand new feature of the park when I visited was “Wand Magic”. After buying a special magic wand from Ollivanders, visitors are able to cast their own spells in the village.

The Wizarding World of Harry Potter at Universal Studios Japan

The Wizarding World of Harry Potter at Universal Studios Japan

At various points around Hogsmeade such as a window, stone wall and in a back alley, muggles wishing to be magicians can chant special spells, wave their wands and, if they’re performed the words and actions correctly, watch magic happen before their eyes.

The Wizarding World of Harry Potter at Universal Studios Japan

There are two rides in the Wizarding World of Harry Potter: Flight of the Hippogriff™, which is a small, family-friendly rollercoaster, and Harry Potter and the Forbidden Journey™ in 4K3D, which is the main attraction.

The Wizarding World of Harry Potter at Universal Studios Japan

To enter this ride, one must walk through Hogwarts™ School of Witchcraft and Wizardry, which as been recreated with extraordinary attention to detail. Pass through Dumbledore’s office, the Gryffindor™ common room and the Defence Against the Dark Arts classroom before embarking on a thrilling journey on Harry Potter and the Forbidden Journey™. The ride is incredible, and completely immerses riders in a magical journey.

The Wizarding World of Harry Potter at Universal Studios Japan

A new evening light show is also on offer for guests. The show plays twice and I would strongly recommend arriving early to mind a place at the front where you can see the action.

The Wizarding World of Harry Potter at Universal Studios Japan

The show takes place above eye line however, with projections on the castle, so even if you’re not right at the front you’ll be able to see the magical experience very well.

The Wizarding World of Harry Potter at Universal Studios Japan

The Wizarding World of Harry Potter at Universal Studios Japan The Wizarding World of Harry Potter at Universal Studios Japan

The light show is a perfect way to end a day at Universal Studios Japan – it’s exciting, awe inspiring and extravagant, and leaves guests on a high as they make their way to the exit.

The Wizarding World of Harry Potter at Universal Studios Japan The Wizarding World of Harry Potter at Universal Studios Japan The Wizarding World of Harry Potter at Universal Studios Japan The Wizarding World of Harry Potter at Universal Studios Japan The Wizarding World of Harry Potter at Universal Studios Japan The Wizarding World of Harry Potter at Universal Studios Japan The Wizarding World of Harry Potter at Universal Studios Japan

Note: On weekends and busy days, guests must collect a free, timed entry ticket for entrance into The Wizarding World of Harry Potter™ at a designated time.

Universal Studios Japan Tickets
A studio pass grants you admission to the park and a Universal Express® Pass will shorten the waiting time for attractions. The admission ticket includes park entrance and use of all attractions in the park. You can buy tickets in advance from these travel agencies or on the day at the park. Ticket Booths are open from one hour before the park
opens for business.

Hotel Universal Port, Osaka, Japan

Where to stay
I stayed at the offical Universal Studios Hotel, Hotel Universal Port, which is just a short walk from the park and about 10-15 min train ride from Osaka CBD. There are plenty of food options outside the park as well as restaurants inside the hotels if you stay onsite. You could easily spend two days at Universal Studios Japan and if you do, it’s a good idea to stay at a nearby hotel to make the commute easier.

Get more info on my stay at Hotel Universal Port.

Universal Studios Japan
Japan, 〒554-0031 Osaka Prefecture, Osaka, Konohana Ward, Sakurajima, 2 Chome−1−33
Universal Studios Japan Online

How to get there:
Take the subway to Universal City station (JR Yumesaki line). Universal Studios Japan is about a 5-minute walk from there.

For more information on on Osaka and Universal Studios Japan, head to gdayjapan.com.au

Thinking of heading to the Wizarding World of Harry Potter in Orlando? Get tips on saving money, time and hassle here via the Barefoot Nomad, and here for an excellent overview of visiting with kids via the Kid Bucket List.

I visited as a guest of Universal Studios Japan and the Japanese National Tourism Organization. I genuinely loved the experience and all opinions are my own. Additional images courtesy of Universal Studios Japan.

Christine Knight
Christine is the editor of Adventure, Baby!

Minion Park at Universal Studios Japan

Minion Park, Universal Studios, Osaka, Japan

The mischief-loving Minions have a new home at Universal Studios Japan.

“Minion Park” has recently opened inside Universal Studios, and is proudly the largest Minions-themed attraction in the world.

The World of Minions at Universal Studios Japan The World of Minions at Universal Studios Japan

The World of Minions at Universal Studios Japan

Inside the plaza, the mayhem of Minions reigns supreme. Try a Minion-themed snack, pose for a photo, watch a Minions show and jump on the brand new Despicable Me Minion Mayhem ride.

The World of Minions at Universal Studios Japan

The plaza is so full of Minions that it’s difficult to know what to look at first. Do you pose for a photo with a Minion?

The World of Minions at Universal Studios Japan

Or do you try a snack? I absolutely loved these Minion-inspired cookies from the Delicious Me store. They have a biscuit base and a choice of fillings. I selected the cream with fruit and the cookie tasted like a delicious fruit tart.

The World of Minions at Universal Studios Japan

The World of Minions at Universal Studios Japan

Other Minion-themed snacks include a fluffy pork bun, banana and caramel-flavoured popcorn in the cutest collectable carrier, and Minions-themed hamburger at The Happiness Cafe.

The World of Minions at Universal Studios Japan The World of Minions at Universal Studios Japan

The Despicable Me Minion Mayhem ride is the centerpiece of the plaza. It’s an incredible ride featuring hyper-realistic projections that takes you whirling through the chaotic world of Minions. It’s a heart-stopping, thrilling ride that is fun, fantastical and you’ll absolutely want to jump straight back on and ride it all over again.

The World of Minions at Universal Studios Japan

The World of Minions at Universal Studios Japan

Dotted around the plaza are Minion-themed shops and statues that are incredibly fun to shop for Minions goodies and get a great selfie with.

The World of Minions at Universal Studios Japan

Stop by Sweet Surrender for unique Minions plushies, food, clothing and toys. They’re incredibly cute and make for great souvenirs to take home.

The World of Minions at Universal Studios Japan The World of Minions at Universal Studios Japan

A Minions street show completes the new attraction. The show is performed multiple times a day and is filled with chaos, fun and mayhem, just what you would expect from the Minions!

The World of Minions at Universal Studios Japan The World of Minions at Universal Studios Japan The World of Minions at Universal Studios Japan The World of Minions at Universal Studios Japan The World of Minions at Universal Studios Japan The World of Minions at Universal Studios Japan

After the show you can get a photo with the Minions if you feel like braving the crowds. I would advise seeing if you can find out what times the Minions appear in the plaza for photo opportunities throughout the day instead of lining up after a show.

The World of Minions at Universal Studios Japan The World of Minions at Universal Studios Japan The World of Minions at Universal Studios Japan The World of Minions at Universal Studios Japan The World of Minions at Universal Studios Japan The World of Minions at Universal Studios Japan

The World of Minions at Universal Studios Japan The World of Minions at Universal Studios Japan

The World of Minions at Universal Studios Japan

Tips for visiting Minions Plaza
Be early! The Minions area is incredibly popular and was busier when we visited than the Harry Potter section of the park. I would recommend heading there as soon as the park gates open.

Get into the spirit! Wear anything Minions-themed that you own and you will fit in well with the crowd.

Try a bit of everything! The snacks are all quirky and fun. I loved the biscuit and popcorn as I have a sweet tooth.

Get to the show early. It’s super popular too with people sitting on the ground in preparation well in advance of the show time.

The World of Minions at Universal Studios Japan

Universal Studios Japan Tickets
A studio pass grants you admission to the park and a Universal Express® Pass will shorten the waiting time for attractions. The admission ticket includes park entrance and use of all attractions in the park. You can buy tickets in advance from these travel agencies or on the day at the park. Ticket Booths are open from one hour before the park opens for business.

Hotel Universal Port, Osaka, Japan

Where to stay
I stayed at the offical Universal Studios Hotel, Hotel Universal Port, which is just a short walk from the park and about 10-15 min train ride from Osaka CBD. It has fantastic Minions theming in the lobby and a few of the rooms.

Hotel Universal Port, Osaka, Japan

There are plenty of food options outside the park as well as restaurants inside the hotels if you stay onsite. You could easily spend two days at Universal Studios Japan and if you do, it’s a good idea to stay at a nearby hotel to make the commute easier.

Get more info on my stay at Hotel Universal Port.

Universal Studios Japan
Japan, 〒554-0031 Osaka Prefecture, Osaka, Konohana Ward, Sakurajima, 2 Chome−1−33. Universal Studios Japan Online

How to get there:
Take the subway to Universal City station (JR Yumesaki line). Universal Studios Japan is about a 5-minute walk from there.

For more information on on Osaka and Universal Studios Japan, head to gdayjapan.com.au.

I visited as a guest of Universal Studios Japan and the Japanese National Tourism Organization. I genuinely loved the experience and all opinions are my own. Additional images courtesy of Universal Studios Japan.

Christine Knight
Christine is the editor of Adventure, Baby!

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.

elephants-42

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, ThailandElephant Nature Park, Chiang Mai, ThailandElephant Nature Park, Chiang Mai, ThailandElephant Nature Park, Chiang Mai, ThailandElephant Nature Park, Chiang Mai, ThailandElephant Nature Park, Chiang Mai, ThailandElephant Nature Park, Chiang Mai, ThailandElephant Nature Park, Chiang Mai, ThailandElephant Nature Park, Chiang Mai, ThailandElephant Nature Park, Chiang Mai, ThailandElephant Nature Park, Chiang Mai, ThailandElephant Nature Park, Chiang Mai, Thailand

Elephant Nature Park, Chiang Mai, ThailandElephant Nature Park, Chiang Mai, ThailandElephant Nature Park, Chiang Mai, ThailandElephant Nature Park, Chiang Mai, ThailandElephant 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!

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.

Looking for more ideas for things to do in Phuket? Head this way!

Christine Knight
Christine is the editor of Adventure, Baby!

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, the city 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 thought were must-see temples in Chiang Mai. (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 MaiWat 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.

If you’re travelling to Chiang Mai with kids, get more great tips 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

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!

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.

shangri-la-2-4

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.

shangri-la-4-3

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!

Travel Guide: Phuket For Kids, Thailand

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. There are plenty of things to do in Phuket with kids! 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. We found plenty in Phuket for kids to entertain us for several 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!

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!