What are the key ingredients to a perfect beach holiday? It turns out that for my kids it is curry spices, fresh seafood, slithering serpents and selfies with Spiderman. Wait, what?
No, the kids are not having acid flashbacks. And neither am I. They’ve just fallen more than a little in love with the unique offerings of the Novotel Phuket Karon Beach Resort and Spa.
There’s no question that accommodation can make or break a family holiday because let’s face it, when you’re travelling with young kids, you’re going to be spending a fair chunk of your time in it, and your activities can be fairly restricted by it’s location.
The Novotel Phuket Karon Beach Resort and Spa is most definitely a maker, not a breaker. A fun-filled, family-friendly resort that’s conveniently close to all the shopping, dining and beach action of Karon Beach – a much more family-friendly locale than Patong and its ping pong princesses – it cooks up a truly unique family break for my tribe.
Novotel always treats kids like VIP’s but the Novotel Phuket Karon Beach kicks it up a notch with extra special treatment and loads of activities for their littlest guests.
Raffles particularly enjoys a Thai cooking lesson with the resort’s Executive Chef.
Chef Cyril takes Raffles step by step through the process of making a delicious and extremely spicy massaman curry, a local speciality, and then steps back and watches in awe as Raffles devours it like a wild animal.
There’s also the opportunity for a private Muay Thai Lesson where Raffles kicks some serious butt.
Sugarpuff lets Raffles do the kicking and the cooking, instead choosing to focus on crafts and games at the excellent free kids’ club. She elects to spend an hour getting creative with the lovely trained staff each morning, after filling up on a fabulous buffet breakfast.
Raffles, not normally a fan of kids’ clubs, also puts his hand up for this one, which surprises me… at least it does until I spot the purpose built video game area.
But it is the resort’s awesome swimming pools that win their hearts. There are three to choose from. One is exclusively for the use of adults, one for kids and one massive lagoon style resort pool that’s for everyone.
The kids’ pool has a built in water slide, which they fly down at speed repeatedly, as well as a fountain area, which Sugarpuff delights in dancing under.
Located next to the kids’ club, there are plenty of supervised activities happening during the day. Raffles even gets an opportunity to show off his Zorbing skills … which are dubious at best.
And it is here, for reasons I will never quite be able to fathom, that everybody’s favourite human arachnid mutate enters our Phuket holiday equation.
I guess it would be quite hot work being a superhero in steamy Thailand, but we’re all a little stupefied when, after rowing across the kids pool in an inflatable dinghy, the wacky webslinger himself leaps into the pool for underwater selfies with my bemused boy, before silently slinking off to fight crime.
Though it remains superhero free, the resort’s enormous lagoon style pool is also a hit with the kids, and while Raffles explores its nooks and crannies, Sugarpuff gravitates towards the kid-friendly shallow end and the free house made popsicles that are served daily around the resort.
Me? I gravitate towards the happy hour two-for-one Pina Coladas at the pool bar.
I manage to lure my pruney kids from the watery lure of the pool to walk the five minutes to the Karon Temple Market, where we munch on street food and the kids stock up on cheap souvenirs.
After filling up on quail eggs, bbq fish and unexplained things on sticks, the kids decide to explore the temple, Wat Suwan Khiri Khet. Raffles faces off with the two huge blue monsters (yak) that stand guard, and is enchanted by the never-ending bright green serpents (naga) that wind their wily way around the colourful confection of a temple.
Sugarpuff? Well she’s more entranced by the profusion of random chickens and stray dogs that call the temple home.
But Phuket is in the midst of a mighty heatwave and it’s 41 degrees in the shade. We have no choice but to answer the siren call of the swimming pool, so we give our blessings to Buddha, bid goodbye to the livestock and head straight back to the resort to splash the afternoon away.
As the temps drop in the late afternoon we cross the road to gorgeous Karon Beach, a three kilometre stretch of squeaky fine sand where we watch parasailing daredevils do their thing.
The kids take on the beach MacGyver style, cunningly fashioning buckets and digging utensils from coconut shells to build monumental sandcastles and frolic happily in the sand, the sea breeze cooling us of a little from the intense heat of the day.
Until the incoming tide washes their creation away and they turn their attention to playing chicken with the surf and watch as the sky above the beautiful blue waters of the Andaman Sea turns a fiery orange.
That first night we continue along the beach to the main strip of Karon to dine on local seafood delights, but quickly realise that the prices at our resort are just as reasonable and the food just as good. While we’re usually the first to suggest people should get out into the street for meals, the food in Karon, aside from that in the twice weekly market, seems the same from one establishment to the next, and it’s all a little too touristy and inauthentic for us to get excited about.
For the remainder of our stay we elect to dine in at Novotel’s TAI Asian restaurant, and scoff Thai treats (and ice cream) at Joe Kools Pool Grill, where Raffles also treats our fellow guests to some impromptu live Green Day.
The hotel’s Songkran buffet feast, laden as it is with all you can eat curries, incredible Thai salads, impossibly fresh seafood and made to order Pad Thai – and overseen by Raffles new best buddy, Chef Cyril, also gets a look in.
And by look in, I mean Raffles gorges himself to bursting point while his sister and I look on with a combination or disgust and respect. Seriously, if eating were an Olympic sport, the kid would win gold very time.
Afterwards we roll Raffles back to our suite. It is beautifully designed, modern, and far more luxurious than one would expect from a four-star resort. The bathroom is gorgeous, with a huge designer tub and a family-sized shower to wash the sand away. There’s also a massive private balcony where we enjoy kicking back and just watching the world go by.
When it’s time to sleep there is a separate bedroom as well as a comfortable lounge area with a couch that converts into beds for the kids. At least it would if they actually slept in it instead of leaping into my king size bed where they perform acrobatics all night, while I attempt to snooze.
With one set of feet in my face and another in my back, I don’t catch all that many z’s but I don’t really mind, it’s not like I’ll need all that much energy for another day of being ferried around by buggy, lolling in the pool and drinking bargain pina coladas.