Elephants, Beaches & Our First Family Holiday
This is a long overdue post- sorry! And it's not sponsored. Not by the hotel, or by the elephants. It's just a quick one about our get away to Phuket in May for Mother's Day and Clara's birthday. Just in case anyone's thinking about Phuket, or riding elephants (or not!). Or even whether we actually get to travel around the region we live in! Read on...
The extent to which we have travelled as a family, up until now anyway, has been either crossing the Irish Sea or the English Channel. The journeys are always a bit naff, but the destinations - to either my parents or Karl's - have always been top notch. Plus we lived in Devon. So basically, without ever having to try very hard we were able to see some of the most beautiful parts of the world. And we have never, EVER, gone somewhere just because. Because we wanted to getaway. Or because the pictures in the brochure looked amazing. Or because there was something we wanted to do nearby.
Until this year that is.
This year, brimming with a newfound adventurous streak as a family, we jetted off on our first holiday. Together. In an actual hotel.
The Destination: Nai Yang Beach, Phuket
To be specific, we stayed at the Phuket Marriot Resort and Spa, Nai Yang Beach. And it was PERFECT. It's a new resort and was pretty quiet when we were there (apart from a wedding party), with seemingly only a handful of other families and young couples. I say seemingly because with a stretch of beach, a pool, a few food and drink places and a spa, nowhere ever felt particularly busy. And it was really, really lovely. We stayed for five days/four nights which was just enough time to totally destress but not too much time that we (aka the kids) got bored. The Kids Club might have helped that though- with the relaxation and the lack of boredom that is!
The beach is huge and the tide is really calm and shallow. It's brilliant for kiddies, basically. Plus you can sit enjoying happy hour at the beach front bar and watch the little's running riot on the beach chasing hermit crabs. We stayed in a Garden Cabana Room with Pool Access with two double beds in it. In theory one bed for the kids and one for us adults. But it didn't quite work out like that each evening come bedtime. Classic family holiday rookie error. However, the room itself was plenty big enough for the four of us for sleeping. It was a little tricky on the night we ordered food to the room as we only had one chair. But apparently the kids love having peanut butter sandwiches in bed, so...!
So look, this isn't a sponsored post and I'm not going to bang on about this resort. It's close to the airport (big tick for families), is a grown up resort that caters brilliantly for kiddies (yay!!!) and the spa is a total indulgence but worth every penny. It's almost impossible not to lose yourself a little here, and even though we only stayed for a short break I came home feeling very, very relaxed. The ultimate praise is that we would (and will) go back.
What Did We Do?
Ok so this is something I will bang on about. Sorry. We'd had a little request from the kids to go and see some elephants whilst there. Which is totally do-able because they're actually everywhere. However - and this is a big however - we knew we were only willing to take the kids to somewhere that treated the elephants well.
Thailand has a well known, and well documented, problem with elephant tourism. We did not want to be part of that. And look, it's difficult to avoid it altogether, especially when there is conflicting advice given online. For example, Lonely Planet is suggesting that it's ok to ride on an elephant's back. But how is a tourist to know when it is and isn't ok?
Even as we drove along, there were elephants chained at the side of the road ready for the passing tourist trade. This is the Thailand that has long be exploited by those driving tourism numbers, and it won't be shaken for a long, long time. Certainly not whilst there's money to be made from it, a lack of societal and cultural willingness to rethink the trade, and a steady stream of tourists anyway.
So we didn't do the elephant experience the kids were expecting. They didn't get a ride on some throne arrangement, propped up on an elephant covered in sores. No. We took the kids on a day's experience of elephant care. And look I am not so naive as to think these elephants have always been well cared for. But I'd rather encourage, and put my money into, a local business who were trying to rectify errors of the past. Yes, these elephants - their elephants - HAD been treated appallingly. But they were doing their part in trying to turn things around in the industry.
It is possible to be a part of the elephant trade in Thailand, and to do so responsibly. PLEASE, put your money where your mouth is and support an ethical business. You can find a great list here of elephant experiences that stand up to scrutiny.
We had a brilliant time learning not just about elephants themselves, but also about the manner in which they have been treated. The kids loved making and feeding them snacks, watching them wallow in the mud, and washing them down in the watering hole. Us adults took away a far more sinister lesson from the experience. We handled the weapons used to break the elephants spirit when only a calf. Horrendous. And seeing the scars up close and feeling the sadness in their eyes after a life of servitude at the hands of humans stays with you.
Other than that though, we mainly just lounged around the pool, chased crabs on the beach, drank 2-for-1 cocktails and ate our own body weight in food that I didn't cook. Pretty much the perfect five day get away. No, DEFINITELY the perfect five day get away. Even if Finn did cost us a small fortune in call out fee's for a Nurse. Literally, a small fortune though, healthcare in Thailand for straight forward stuff is pennies compared to Singapore.
All in all, a pretty lovely time away from the daily grind here. And honestly, I'm looking forward to going back again. And it's SO surreal that popping to Phuket for a long weekend is something that we can do. I haven't got my head around living in South East Asia yet. Bali is our Blackpool. How weird is that?