Phuket with a toddler
Today is another one of those sunny Spring mornings in London which are deceivingly sharp and cold. This made me wish I was back in Phuket, Thailand. Travelling with a toddler isn’t easy but can still be enjoyable! This obviously is made easier with great summery weather. We were there 6 weeks ago, so this post is a little late. Nonetheless, it’s still an experience fresh in my mind that I would like to share.
After a cold, grey and long Winter in the United Kingdom, a break in the southern equator to warmer climates to top up our Vitamin D is a must. The last time myself and S (hubby) were in Thailand, we were still young, reckless and baby free! So this time round, how different would it be with a toddler in tow? I must admit that neither of us had been to Phuket, so it was a new experience nonetheless.
Originally, we had wanted to travel to Bangkok and other islands as well. But with just a week there and travelling heavily with a little one, we didn’t look forward to transfers, settling and non-stop madness. Also another reason for this trip was to meet up with #JasperBean’s Godparents from Hong Kong.
What did we pack?
I know I know, they always say travel light, but when you have a toddler – everything seems essential! Even the toilet seat (I’m not joking).
Me and S tried to pack as lightly as we can for ourselves and took up about a 1/3 of our 75cm Samsonite Engenero. The rest was packed full of baby paraphernalia. We are still in the ‘baby travel’ phase and haven’t quite transitioned to the ‘non-essentials’ list yet. On top of that, we had a travel buggy, the GB Pokit, which is great as it folds into the size of a backpack, a small cabin size suitcase, a backpack each and a carry on for #JasperBean. This had his nappies, change of clothes for flight and arrival, toys, snacks that probably would have lasted a whole week and not 18-hour flights, etc.
One mistake we made that quickly dawned on me is the time of travel. I’m not talking about school holidays or rush hours. When you are travelling with children, it is vitally important to travel during nap/bedtimes, it makes it so much easier and hassle free when there isn’t another person demanding all your energy and attention in a small restricted space. Also, I’m sure your neighbours will be eternally thankful for a peaceful baby. If you have a screaming baby, please don’t stress or take in the evil glares of your neighbours. You have a baby, not a robot, you can’t mute or turn him/her off, so just embrace it and enjoy your trip!
If you only managed to get a day flight, then there are ways to pass the time as stress-free as possible: magnetic toys, books, stickers, cars, iPads, whatever ticks your little one’s fancy and most importantly, lots and lots of snacks. #JasperBean was not yet 2, so he wasn’t required by law to have his own seat on the flight. However having that additional space makes such a big difference if you can fork out for that extra ticket. Otherwise, hope and prayer that you can blag an extra seat if the flights not full. We managed to get a whole row (4 seats) on our way there and 3 seats on our return journey, so we were really lucky.
We stayed at the JW Marriott Phuket Resort & Spa which is situated on the 11km long straight Mai Khao Beach, this part of Phuket is blissfully underdeveloped, so it’s not packed with tourists fighting for a nice tanning spot. When the tide is low you can actually walk quite a distance without seeing anyone else. This is great for a running toddler who likes to touch everything and peek through every hole they come across.
I can’t praise the buffet breakfast, accommodation, service and people enough. Their commitment to excellence is impeccable. I couldn’t fault them once. Even when we managed to lock ourselves out of our room, they came to our rescue so quickly and with such friendly demeanour, we felt like we were treated like royalty.
The resort is just a 17 mins drive to Phuket International Airport. This is an added bonus because it means you literally start enjoying Thailand within an hour of landing.
What did we do?
Thailand is famous for its nightlife and night markets. We could only manage to grace a few of these as we wanted to disrupt #JasperBeans’ routine as little as possible. These are some of the things we got up to that are baby/child-friendly:
We went on the full day Phuket Explorer tour on our second day. This gave us an idea of what Phuket had to offer. It was also a lazy option as we didn’t want to arrange travel, sort out the itinerary and also fit in food stops whilst everyone was still a bit jet lagged. Honestly, we could have thought this out through before we embarked on our adventure, but the word spontaneous and toddler just didn’t sound very appealing in the same sentence. Some of the activities and places we visited on the tour:
Our first stop was in the tropical rain forest where we started the tour with an elephant ride along the route of an old mining trail.
Afterwards, it was a short ride to Nekkerd Hill where we visited the “Big Buddha” which provided us with breathtaking views of Chalong and Southern Phuket. We then went to Wat Chalong, which is Phuket’s largest and most important temple, many locals and tourists still come to the temple to prayer and pay respect to the monks who founded the temple.
The temple is usually seen as a place of respect and prayer and is mostly quiet and peaceful. In Thailand, firecrackers are lit in clay ovens that look like huge beehives. Why? Thai people believe the loud sound scares away evil, so don’t worry if you have a noisy little one like mine.
We also visited the Cashew Nut Factory and saw how the cashew nuts were traditionally harvested. After a spot of alfresco Thai lunch, we visited a 100-year-old Chinese Mansion built in a Sino-Portuguese style where “Young Indiana Jones” and “Heaven and Earth” were filmed.
After a full day of cultural emersion, there was one last stop at a local farmhouse. We saw how farmers once lived in Old Phuket and how rice was grown and harvested. Afterwards, a short buffalo cart ride took us to the rubber plantation. They demonstrated how rubber sheets were made along with some monkeys picking coconuts.
(A sling is very important when travelling with a baby/toddler! I prefer the old Mei Tai styles. They are ultra light, fold up to literally nothing and baby is super comfortable and everyone wins when it comes to the cotton fabric – no thick paddings that soak up every drop of sweat, very important in hot climates!)
Prices: Adult 2650 THB, Child (4-12) 1950 THB. Price includes transfer to and from hotel (booked directly through JW Marriot Phuket Resort & Spa)
Exclusive Trip to Phang Nga Bay
This excursion was also a full day but started at 1 pm rather than early morning. This suits those who wants a lie in after a late night in town. Departure is at Ao Por pier in the North East of Phuket where after about an hour we arrived at Hong Island of Phang Nga. The scenery along the way was spectacular as we passed many limestone karsts and also caught a few glimpse of jellyfishes too.
We thought sea-kayaking would be a no go with a toddler. Yet surprisingly, they were well equipped with life jackets for everyone and also provided us with waterproof dry sacks for our valuables that we didn’t want to leave unattended on the boat. Sea-kayaking provided us with the perfect opportunity to explore the lost world inside caves and also beautiful opened sky caverns covered in limestone and greenery. Nature at it’s best.
After a light lunch, we descended on Khao Phing Kan – James Bond Island. This was one of the locations for the 1974 James Bond movie, The Man with the Golden Gun, hence making it a very popular tourist destination. This is also where there are no Pokemon. A breath of fresh air coming from London where everyone is so absorbed into their phones catching these pocket monsters. They don’t realise they’ve missed all the beauties around them.
Prices: Adult 3900 THB, Child 2900 THB. Price includes transfer to and from hotel (booked directly through JW Marriot Phuket Resort & Spa)
This is no ordinary zoo! There are literally animals coming at you left, right and centre! You can pay a bit extra (200 THB) to take close ups with animals like snakes, tigers and elephants!
Price: Adult 500 THB Child 300 THB
The trick eye museum is exactly what it says it is. A 3D optical illusion museum that comes to life behind your camera lenses. We all had so much fun re-creating scenes and is perfect when the weather takes a turn for the worse.
Price: Adult 500 THB, Child 300 THB (101-140cm)
Sea Gypsies Fish Market in Rawai Beach
A good selection of fresh seafood on one side and opposite that, restaurants! They take your freshly brought selection of delicacies to cook just the way you want them done. Part of the fun is seeing tanks and buckets of live seafood and picking your fancy. The other part is bargaining hard for what you have chosen! If you are not sure how you want your purchases cooked, you can happily ignore the menu and go with the chef’s recommendations. If you aren’t there for the food and just wanted to see what it’s all about, the market stall owners are happy for tourists to pose with one of their lobsters for a photo. Everyone leaves happy.
We really wanted to go to the Phuket Fantasea Show which was inspired by Thailand’s rich and exotic heritage and involves over 400 people, 44 elephants, 3 tigers, 40 goats, 40 chickens and 400 pigeons!! The show starts at 9 pm, but before that, you can visit the Festival Village for a bit of shopping and dining. Unfortunately, loud music and bedazzling lights and entertainment do not mix well with our under 2. Hence we had to give this fantastic show a miss. We promise we will be back taking in all the bright gems, street performers and feasting on royal Thai dishes next time.
Would we do it again?
Most definitely. However, next time, we will have an older child who will be able to take in the sights and sounds of the city. He will appreciate the culture, the beautiful architecture, friendly people and most importantly the spicy food.
Please share with your family and friends! Let me know if there was anything else you would have done differently or recommendations for other places to visit!
Until next time,
*Prices were correct at the time of posting.
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