Phuket for Kids
First published 22nd October, 2006
Parents should not hesitate for a moment to bring their kids of any age with them on their trip to Thailand -- especially to Phuket. Thais are fantastic with children and Phuket is full of curiosities and wonders your kids will always remember, even if they're too young to remember anything aside from the elephant that just walked past their dinner table... So here's some tips to milk the most out of your family holiday to Phuket.
Finding the right room
Accommodation in Phuket isn't just for backpackers and jetsetters. There are plenty of hotels and resorts with facilities set up for families with kids.
Some favourites include The Kamala Bay Garden Resort, on Kamala Beach -- every room here is a family suite, with a large living area and a full-kitchen -- they also have a great pool with a huge slide for the kids. Another good spot is the Central Kata Resort, on Kata Beach -- ditto on the pool and slide, and good rates on family rooms.
Patong is a seedy den of inequity at night, but during the day it's just a beach town, and the kids'll be in bed before the goblins come out: the Holiday Inn has some of the best family rooms we've ever seen -- the kids' rooms have TVs, DVD players, X-boxes, and fun touches like beds in the shape of race cars. A bit steep, though, so if you're staying in Patong and funds are getting tight, check out the Swiss Palm Beach, which has great, reasonably priced family suites and a very decent pool.
Attractions and activities
Phuket isn't exactly Disney Land, but there are few attractions with exploring -- and a few worth avoiding. All are easily accessible on day-trips no matter where you choose to stay.
The one thing you must do is go see the show at Phuket FantaSea on Kamala beach -- it's a cross between a circus and a Vegas floor show that kids and adults alike give rave reviews. Right between Kata and Karon beaches you'll find the Dino Park, with it's Jurassic-themed miniature golf course -- families that vacation here regularly make this a yearly ritual.
Kids never seem to get tired of monkeys, so seek out the Gibbon Rehabilitation Centre near the Khao Phrao Thaew Royal Wildlife and Forest Reserve, and learn a little something about the mistreatment of animals (which you may have just paid to see elsewhere...) An easier trek if you're in Phuket town for a bit is to take Surin Road until it terminates on the top of a hill -- Khao To Sae -- where there's a collection of TV broadcasting towers and enough monkey's to earn it the nickname 'monkey hill'.
On the southern tip of the peninsula you'll find four good opportunities to do something with the kids -- of course, there's the Phuket Zoo, with it's monkey, elephant and crocodile wrestling shows -- be sure to consult the schedule before you go, so you arrive in time to catch the shows. Not too far to the south-west, there's Phuket Paradise, which specializes in ATV tours (kids can ride along on the back for a reduced fee), but also provides a snake show and a monkey show -- gotta love those monkeys, especially while riding a tricycle with a chicken. Elephant treks are also available -- and are commonly offered on a lot of tours, but here's a heads up -- 10 minutes is more than enough time to ride an elephant. After that, well, it gets little old.
Also in the same area is the Laguna Riding Club which has some especially gentle horses in their stable for kids and beginners, and offers sun-set horse-back rides along the beach too, if Mom and Dad want to slip out for an evening and refresh their memories as to why they got married in the first place. Also, due south of Phuket Town at lands' end, there's the Phuket Aquarium -- not a world-class aquarium by any means, but quite good, and though there are no sharks on display, the walk-through tank of manta rays and the giant grouper display compensate nicely.
There are a couple of places outside Phuket Town, on the road to Patong, that get a qualified approval, more so for older kids. Bungy Jumping is always a blast, and Jungle Bungy Jump has never had an accident of any kind, so we'd give them a hearty recommendation, except that the leap doesn't come cheap. Likewise Phuket Offroad Fun Park with it's go-kart track certainly isn't a budget attraction -- the go-karts and track look like a lot of fun, but not everyone feels it's worth the price.
Two tourist traps to be avoided are the Phuket Butterfly and Insect Museum, and the Phuket Seashell Museum, which both of which tend to disappoint most.
All of the amusements oriented towards tourist families in Thailand are expensive by Thai standards, though not when compared to what you'd pay back home. Attractions aside, don't forget that Phuket has some of the best beaches in the world, with mega-tons of sand on offer to play in, free of charge. A bucket, a shovel, a little imagination...
Lastly, for 15 or 20B an hour, you can plop them down in front of a monitor at one of the many internet cafes that offer computer gaming. You can duck out and get a well-earned massage or some aromatherapy.
They'll still be there when you get back.
Phuket Fantasea, 99 Moo 3, Kamala Beach, Phuket. T: (076) 385 000, F: (076) 385 333. http://www.phuket-fantasea.com/.
Dino Park Mini Golf, On the Beach Road, between Kata and Karon beaches, Phuket. T: (076) 330 625. http://www.dinopark.com.
Phuket Paradise Trip, 24/1 Moo 1 Viset Rd, Rawai, Phuket. T: (076) 288 501. Tour rates: Adult: 1,500B Child: 1,000B.
Laguna Riding Club, 95 Viset Rd., Rawai (1.5 km from Chalong Circle going toward Rawai Beach), Phuket. T: (076) 288 213.
Phuket Zoo, 23/1 Moo 3, Soi Palai, Chaofah Rd, Phuket.T: (076) 381 227, F: (076) 381 337. Open daily: 08:30 to 18:00 http://www.phuketzoo.com.
Phuket Aquarium, T: (076) 391 1126, F: (076) 291 406. Open daily: 08:30 to 16:30 Entrance Fees: Adult: 100B Child: 50B, Adult (Thai): 50B Child (Thai): 20B
Jungle Bungy Jump, T: (076) 321 351. Open daily: 09:00 to 18:00. http://www.phuketbungy.com
Phuket Off-road Fun Park, 118/5 Vichitsongrkram Rd, Moo 7, Phuket. T: (076) 321 949, F: (076) 321 949. Rates start at 500B for 10 minutes.
Story by Don Morgan
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