Monday, February 23, 2015

XANA Beach Club: Where Family is Cool

Sexy, cool, sophisticated, chilled, place-to-be-seen: these are words synonymous with Phuket's Beach Club scene. "Family" and "babies" are not.

But having a child doesn't automatically exclude you from the beautiful people. In fact, at XANA, Phuket's most stylish beach club, kids are as welcome as adults at the Sunday Fun Brunch, with special activities for small folk.

And as we recently discovered, it's also the perfect place to recover from jetlag.

There's only four hour's difference between Sydney and Thailand, but that's enough to mess with your body clock and leave you dozing at inconvenient times during the first few days of your holiday. And if you're only 11-months-old like my granddaughter Ellie ... well, forget trying to stick to regular sleep patterns!

So when we were offered passes to XANA Beach Club for our first full day in Phuket, we snapped them up, with the notion of chilling by a beachfront pool very tempting indeed.

Coco Jamboo at XANA Beach Club

The Sunday Fun Brunch is a recent addition to XANA's impressive lineup of entertainment (which includes sets by leading international DJs, including Ministry of Sound alumni, Paul Oakenfold, Paul Harris and the Black-Eyed Peas' apl.de.ap.) Featuring the dulcet tones of Grammy Award-winning saxophonist Coco Jamboo, the brunch kicks off at 11.30am, with a fabulous array of food cooked up fresh at live stations. There's fresh seafood, sushi, several huge woks sizzling with noodles, a salad bar, tandoori station, pasta - you name it. The dessert station is equally delectable, with a cotton candy machine for the kids (big and little). Diners can choose a "free flow" drink deal or order by the glass, while children under the age of 6 dine for free.


The noodle station at the Sunday Fun Brunch

Ellie enjoying her lunch


Dessert station

After lunch, we retreat poolside to a double day bed under a red umbrella, big enough for all four of us. After a dip in the infinity pool, Ellie snoozes in her pram while the adults drink at the swim-up bar, walk along the beach or join the baby in slumber. It's truly blissful, so ridiculously relaxing with the gentle sea breeze, perfect sunshine and the sound of the waves lapping the shore.


Jo, Nic and Ellie in XANA's pool

Relaxing poolside

Meanwhile, children are entertained in a tent at the far end of the property (well away from the adults) with face painting, hair braiding and sand sculpture. At 3pm, Nam Chok, Angsara Resort's resident baby elephant, pays a visit, much to the wide-eyed astonishment of our own little Ellie, who doesn't quite know what to make of this huge beast! 

I hope this beautiful little person retains the memory of meeting her namesake, feeling its rough skin and experiencing that incredible sensation of a long trunk gently stroking her arm.


Ellie meets Nam Chok

XANA'S Sunday Fun Brunch is held every Sunday from 11:30am – 3:30pm.
Price: THB 1,450++ for brunch
THB 2,250++ including free flow of house wine, sparkling wine, beer, & signature cocktails
Kids below 6 dine free with 50% savings from 6-12 years.

Make reservations at info@xanabeachclub.com or call 076 324 101.
www.xanabeachclub.com





Monday, February 9, 2015

Where Babies Rule

As I discovered this week, travelling with a baby is a huge undertaking. Packing light is near-impossible, you have to compromise your itinerary to negotiate sleeps and feed times, and some activities just aren't practical when you have a small one in tow.

Even accommodation choices needs to be carefully considered. I don't mind roughing it if I'm travelling solo - but I shudder to think how I would have coped with some of my more rustic beds if I was concerned for the comfort of a child.

On our first "inter-generational" family holiday, my daughter, son-in-law, grand-daughter and myself stayed at Sunwing Kamala Beach. This large, beachfront resort is not just your standard family resort - its main focus is young kids, specifically babies. As well as spacious two-bedroom family suites, it also features 30 Happy Baby Studios which come with everything you could possibly need for your little one - a cot, high chair, Bumbo, play mat, change mat, baby bath and potty. There are clean tiled floors for baby to crawl on, kitchen facilities for heating up bottles and washing dishes, and a fenced play area with a locking gate to prevent wayward toddlers from stumbling into the pool area. There are even thoughtful touches such as protectors on the edge of the coffee table to save baby from bumping her chin.


Ellie enjoying her Bumbo

Best of all was the use of a pram - and not just a cheap, fold-up stroller either, but a proper pram with shade-cover, adjustable seating, seatbelts and brakes. The pram is yours for the duration of your stay and can be taken off the premises during family outings.


Ellie, Jo and Nic with a Happy Baby Studio pram

Sunwing's Happy Baby Studios easily accommodate a couple and bubs; adding granny was a bit of a squeeze, but the lounge doubles as a comfy single bed if you don't mind living in clutter.

While there is an active kids' club at the resort, it's more suitable for older children who enjoy time away from their parents. The resort mascots Lollo and Bernie (oddly enough a giraffe and bear ... not exactly Thai, though the children trailing along behind them didn't seem to care!) make twice-daily appearances. The playroom seemed adequately equipped (if slightly soul-less), while outside there is a sandpit area as well as seven (yes, count them!) pools, four of which have water slides.


Ellie looks a little unimpressed with the resort mascot

On check-in, families are given a sheet listing children's (and adults) activities. Unfortunately, none of these reflected Thai culture whatsoever - it would have been nice to see activities such as Thai dance, martial arts or even cooking on the agenda. Even their evening program seemed more about pandering to the largely Scandinavian clientele, with an Abba tribute show and some thankfully brief caterwauling resembling bad Scandi rock ... best avoided.


Kids' entertainment at Sunwing Kamala

The Thai staff at the resort, however, were simply delightful, and treated our 11-month-old like a princess. She had cuddles galore, and was greeted daily with cries of "Ellie! Ellie!" The ladies in the massage sala were particularly smitten, taking Ellie off our hands while Jo and I indulged in some much appreciated relaxation.


Massage staffer looking after Ellie. Pics: Julie Miller

Other ticks for this resort include an expansive breakfast buffet and its family-friendly beachside restaurant Fino, which provides complimentary main meals for under 12s.

While we seemed to be the only Aussies staying at Sunwing Kamala during our visit (which fell outside of school holidays), this resort should certainly be on the radar for Australians travelling to Phuket with small children.



For more information, visit www.sunwingkamala.com

*NB - the writer travelled as a guest of Sunwing Kamala.