Destination: Phuket with My Tots

Editor’s note:  Steven Lim, an F&B executive, loves Phuket.  Little wonder we suppose, that for his babies’ first overseas trip, the family decided to visit Phuket with their tots.  Here, Steven shares with us tips on navigating the island, places to visit with the kids and his fave seafood haunt.  We agree the seafood looks just fab!


Phuket with My Tots

phuket with my tots - island hopping in Khai island

I love Phuket. It’s an island I’ve visited multiple times, before the kids came along.   When we decided it was time to take the kids on their first flight our, on our first family vacation, it was Phuket that came to mind too. Turns out our kids love it as much as we do.

Bella was just about 18-month old when we took her on her maiden flight in Jan 2014.  In the recent trip in July 2015, the kids were 3 and 4, and definitely there were even more we could do together with them.


Things We Did that My Kids Enjoyed in Phuket

There are lots to do on Phuket Island. Pre-kids, the massages and the seafood are the main draw – still are.  But now going to Phuket with my tots, what’s most important to us is to plan in activities that the kids can enjoy. Here are three things we did that my kids enjoyed in Phuket.

Phuket Fantasea

Personally I think this attraction is definitely worth ONE visit – also only one visit. We went together with my parents during our Jan 2014 trip, and all of us, including the kids, enjoyed the experience.

Phuket with my tots

The stage performance was great – the highlight of the whole evening. It was an impressive show with live animals, such as elephants as well as chickens and ducks, and acrobats too. What we didn’t like too much, was having to surrender our mobile phones and camera before going into the theatre.

A BIG tip – go online and decide which package you want, and buy it online. Buying the tickets at the door itself will cost you 15% – 20% more, and the ticket agents would pile on the pressure to push you to go for an upgrade. So buy online and save yourself the hassle!

Editor’s note: Fantasea’s tickets can be bought on their website, www.phuket-fantasea.com/eng/reservation/ticketing.php.


Island Hopping Cruise

This is a classic Phuket day trip – island hopping cruises to take you around the many islands surrounding Phuket. With the kids we chose to do the Khai Islands cruise, on a speedboat.

Things I did with my kids in Phuket

My kids loved it.

The Khai Islands Cruise will typically take you to Khai Nok, Khai Nai and Khai Nui. All three are small islands and we get to spend 1 – 2 hour at each island’s beach.

I have done several of these island hopping cruise over the years – Phi Phi, James Bond and Similan.  Frankly the Khai Islands cruise was the most boring. The 3 islands were all very small, with only basic facilities. There’s no tap water on the islands and the toilets were really dirty. That is alright for us men, but it might be a problem for the ladies.

things to do in Phuket with little tots

My kids though, they loved the islands, loved the cruise, loved the beach hopping and had a blast!  We did this during the July ’15 trip, just my wife, our helper and I to Phuket with my tots, and this was their absolute favourite day out.  They had a blast!

My little diva used the speedboat as her charging station. She kept falling asleep whilst on the boat, but woke up ready to play once we reached the islands!

My 4yo son Tristan had a go at “driving” our speed boat. He called himself, “Captain Tristan”. :)

Phuket with my tots - Island hopping

But don’t go to Khai Island during the monsoon season. The waves would be too strong, the sea choppy. You need to get off the speedboat on the beach itself (no docks) and with wave rocking the boat it can be really challenging, especially with the kids.

On this cruise our kids didn’t need the seasickness pills – but our helper did!

We have been on better island hopping cruise, but the kids enjoyed this experience – and that’s what what it’s all about, experiencing Phuket with the tots we were happy when they are happy too!


Kok Chang Safari

Another attraction unearthed by my wife. Kok Chang Safari is recommended by the Lonely Planet as a well-ran elephant camp, regarded as the best in Phuket. We were not disappointed. My kids really enjoyed getting to feed the baby elephants here.

Phuket with my tots feeding the baby elephants

We also did an elephant ride through the jungle.

Phuket with my tots

The elephants here looked well-treated, healthy and happy. While I noticed that the mahouts carried hooks, I did not see the hook being used when we were there.


Big Buddha Phuket

This is an unmissable landmark in Phuket, and we visited on both trips to Phuket with our tots.

Phuket with my tots - views from the Big Buddha Park

The Buddha sits on top of a hill, commanding a great view of the whole island.  It is a very peaceful place, great for a slow stroll to take in the view.

Phuket with my Tots - around the Big Buddha Park in Phuket
On the trip with my parents, we took the time to stroll through the temple and surrounding area.  My parents were happy to be touring Phuket with my tots, their grandchildren, too.

My wife and I at the Big Buddha Park in Phuket with my Tots (sleeping in the car)
On our second trip, my kids have fallen asleep on the way up; so my wife and I left them sleeping in the rental car with our helper, and went in for a quick prayer.

The Buddha was built after the 2004 Boxing Day Tsunami.  He sits facing the sea, to protect the island.  It is a work in progress, and the local authorities are still working on completing it.

If you are planning to self drive to the Big Buddha, you must be a confident, experienced driver – the road is quite narrow, and curves uphill all the way. You also have to deal with tour buses going up and down the hills on the same road.  GPS coordinates – N7 49.720′ / E98 18.644′


Seafood Galore

We cannot visit Phuket and not have seafood!

I have to say that the food at Swissotel was not great – but that’s ok because here Phuket, there’s no lack of great seafood stalls!

Our regular haunt

We always go to Banzaan Fresh Market (181 Rat-U-Thit 200 Pee Rd, near Patong Beach) for our seafood fix.

Phuket with my tots - having seafood in patong beach

On the 1st floor of the complex, there is a wet marketing selling live seafood and fresh vegetables. You choose and buy what you want – it’s literally like shopping at the wet market. After which, bring the seafood and the vegetables up to the second floor where you can get a store to cook all these ingredients for you at a very reasonable price (like around SGD90 for a feast with prawns, lobster, sotong for five adults!).   All the stores will have a menu, so you can choose how you want your food cooked – there are lot of styles of cooking, and many stores to choose from. We always return to Store No.1.

A New Find

On our recent trip, my wife found Bang Pae Seafood Restaurant. It is quite a drive to get there, literally in the middle of nowhere.  It’s located near a mangrove, and you can see the sea from the restaurant.  It’s not far from Bang Pae Waterfall, near Thalang.

Yes, it is quite out of the way for most tourists, but the food was good, cheap (by Singapore standard) and the atmosphere, great. Well worth the drive and we enjoyed a delicious meal there.

Getting there, a gps is a must if you are self driving. The address is 66 Moo 3 Muang Mai-Pa Khlok,Pa Khlok, Phuket 83110.


Logistics

Some tips on travelling smart in Phuket.

1.  Get SIM Card on arrival

Once you arrive at the airport, go to one of the minimarts and get a local sim card. I got mine at 495THB , and the package offers unlimited data for a week. I don’t have a preference for any particular telco – just any SIM available at the airport would be good. It is easier and less costly to stay in touch via Whatsapp and GPS on your phone thereafter.

I also like to bring along two phones on my trips. One to carry the local SIM card, the other for my Singapore SIM for any calls or emergencies from home.


2. Getting Around Phuket

Over the years we’ve gotten around Phuket in many ways – flagged down cabs, hired private drivers, scooted around and drove too.  If travelling with the family, and if you are exploring Phuket with kids my tots’ age, I’d recommend either to self-drive or to hire a reliable driver.

Self Drive

On our recent trip in July 2015, we drove.  Phuket is an easy island to get around on wheels, traffic away from the main Patong Beach Area is manageable, never too heavy.

We booked our wheels from Phuketwheels.com; the car was very new and in good condition and we were happy with it.

For navigation – I used the Garmin app I have installed on my iphone. For the trip I bought and uploaded the Thailand map onto my phone. The system is great – accurate and the Thailand map only cost like $34! Great value.

…Or Hire a Driver

On our earlier trip in January 2014, we were travelling with a bigger group – my wife and I, our two kids, our helper and my parents, seven of us in total.  I turned to my long-time driver and guide, Nont. Nont is a lady taxi driver I met by chance. I liked that she is honest – on the excursions she took us, she never tried to take us to factories or tourist shops. That’s quite a common practice amongst drivers and guides – just so they could earn some quick commission. Nonk took great care of my parents and young kids on our trip last year. She even took the time to buy 3 packs of my favourite mini pineapples and left them at our hotel reception for us to enjoy. She is really nice and I would happily recommend her service to anyone looking for a driver in Phuket. In fact she will be arranging transport for my team in Nov ’15 when I head back to Phuket for a soccer tournament with my mates.

Her HP number: +66 89 475 1095 (tell her Steven from Singapore sent you!)


Accommodation

Going to Phuket with my tots is quite different from coming here without them.  Generally, we prefer staying at Kamala beach, a bit further up from Patong beach. It is a quieter area, more relaxed and suited for families, away from the rowdiness of Patong Beach.

Swissotel

We stayed here in a two-bedroom apartment during the recent trip (July 2015).

Phuket with my tots stay at Swissotel

Spacious, comfortable and clean, we had a good stay. However, do note that it’s a 4-storey building, with no lifts – so dragging the luggage up the stairs can be quite bothersome.

The facilities are great! The kids enjoyed the kids club, and so did my wife.

Phuket with my tots, we stayed at Swissotel

The kids also loved the swimming pool. I loved it too – the pool comes with a bar, just what I need!  My little princess enjoys the adult pool best – but she only gets to go with me.

Phuket with the kids - stay at Swissotel

On our last morning, before checking out, the kids spotted a rainbow.

Kamala Regent Condotel

If travelling in a bigger group like we did in Jan 2014, the Kamala Regent Condotel, an apartment hotel located just a bit off the beach, is good. It offers bigger apartments – we had a three-bedroom apartment that worked better on that trip.


I love Phuket. We really enjoyed too travelling around Phuket with my tots. We would be back again, but for now, we are thinking – maybe a cruise with the kiddos next!

Editor’s note: Thanks Steven – great tips! Have you been on any of the popular cruises recently? Do you have a review or travel tip to share with Steven? Leave us a comment or share your review here, and we’d be sure Steven gets your review.  You’d be helping him plan his next trip with the kids too!

 

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27 Comments on “Destination: Phuket with My Tots

  1. We love Phuket as well, and plan to go back in the not too distant future. We loved FantaSea, an elephant trek, visiting the Phuket town night markets on the weekend, we stayed in the Laguna region but thought next time we would stay closer to Patong for more choice in restaurants and shopping.

  2. Thank you for sharing this on Travel Tuesday. This brings back memories of MF’s first elephant ride when he was 18 months old. He was totally freaked out (and actually so was I). Haha… And that Swissotel looks fab.

  3. Phuket seems like the ultimate tropical paradise especially this summer. I would probably enjoy the food and going to the beach the most!

  4. Wow. You have given us a very comprehensive account about your sojourn in Phuket. I also remember my summer getaway in Phuket two years ago and I’ve visited some of the places you enlisted in here and I definitely loved the experience.

    Thailand has a lot of other places to offer, maybe you should try North next time.

    • Hi Enzo,

      Thanks, indeed we have plan to bring my parents back again and this time round will drive around other part of Phuket where we never been before.

  5. I was in Phuket with my family last week and guess what? We stayed at Kamala Regent as well and enjoyed it so much. We also visited most of the places you mentioned here. Our next destination is Krabi. I heard it’s more beautiful than Phuket.

    • Hi John, yeah, we enjoyed our stay at Kamala Regent the last time. Just have to take care of those mosquitoes in the apartment. The last time i bought 4 electric mosquitoes repellents.

      Yeah, will plan for Krabi near future!

  6. I’m listing the places you’ve visited in Phuket, I also have kids and you know how hard it is to plan a getaway with the kids. We should always consider if the places we visit are kid-friendly.

  7. Phuket is known for its great beaches. But reading your post, the place has great scenery too. Perhaps, I should add this to my bucket list.

  8. This is such a very detailed and informative post about what we can expect upon visiting Phuket. I can’t wait to travel with my kids as well. Just have to wait a bit more till my son gets a bit older so he could appreciate the places we’ll be visiting :)

    • Hi Tiffany,

      Yes, it is really fun. Lots of great seafood n massage for the adults. Beaches and island tour for the kids. Hope you will enjoy Phuket the next time you visit. Between July to Oct will not be a good time to visit. Its monsoon season.

  9. Wow! Phuket looks like a great place to bring the kids to! Would love to visit Fantasea, the safari and of course the Bang Pae Seafood restaurant! I’m just a sucker for fresh seafood!

  10. the only thing that would draw me into this place is the elephant encounter. I would love to see and touch them personally.

  11. Wow, what a great trip! You seem to have had a blast with your family, I would have definitely enjoyed the island hopping tour.

  12. Since we live in a tropical country ourselves with beautiful beaches, I do not exactly look forward to going to another beach outside the country. I have heard of Phuket though so I won’t say no if an invitation to go comes along.

  13. Places like this makes me want to thank God for putting me in the Philippines. We also have treasures like this. :-) I tried to visit Phuket last year, but wasn’t able to fit it in my sked. :-)

  14. I did hear a lot of good vacations held in Phuket. The beaches they say is really wonderful and relaxing. Though I haven’t heard anyone who has been to the Fantasea, I would love to go there when I get the chance to. By the way, thanks for the tips on how we can score great deals online. :)

  15. Phuket sounds lovely. I like the activities on the island but I would avoid riding on the elephant though… I read that it isn’t a good idea to be sitting on their backs because the seats are placed on their spinal bones. Otherwise, the trip looks fantastic.

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