On my recent trip back to Phuket, our first four nights were spent at the Novotel Karon which only opened in mid-October. I really enjoyed this hotel and would recommend it to anyone who wants a relaxing break away from the hustle and bustle of Patong. The hotel itself offers a kids club and separate children’s pool (complete with waterslide!) to keep the youngest of the family busy. For the adults, there is a great pool with plenty of deck chairs (both in and out of the sun) and a swim up bar offering all sorts of drinks and snacks. There is also a pool side restaurant for something more substantial. The rooms are spacious and really comfortable with all the expected mod-cons. The included buffet breakfast was a great start to the day with something for even the fussiest of eaters! The staff were definitely a highlight of this hotel and are some of the friendliest I have met. As was explained by the restaurant manager, this is a new hotel and so they are able to train the staff in their own way, without any bad habits coming over from previous hotels. The hotel manager was really present too and welcomed guests to breakfast on a couple of occasions to make sure everyone felt welcome. Having lived in Phuket for 6 years, his suggestions on local restaurants (the do’s and don’ts) came in really handy! As for the local area, there is a taxi rank (Thai style) directly in front of the resort and for THB300 (approximately AUD10) you could get to Patong for a little shopping. Across the road and a little rickety bridge and you were at the start of the Karon Beach. This is a nice stretch of beach and far more relaxed than the overcrowded Patong Beach area. From here you can actually walk all along the beach right down to Kata! A couple of minutes walk from the Novotel Karon and you have a multitude of local restaurants and little market type shops. We tried a few of the restaurants for dinner during our stay, my favourite was Noi Restaurant (turn left at the white roundabout and it’s about half way down the road on your right).
The last four nights in Phuket we stayed at Club Med Phuket which is down in the Kata area. This was my first stay at a Club Med Resort and I was interested to see exactly how “all inclusive” it really was. We stayed in a deluxe room which I would recommend, they are only slightly more expensive but are really very spacious and some offer a balcony or terrace. I had read reviews online before we arrived that mentioned the beds were hard and they were not wrong, they were quite firm! The meals at Club Med were buffet style and had a wide variety of options from all over the world including French, Korean, Japanese and Western meals. I do have to say though I was a little disappointed there were so few Thai inspired options, it seemed to cater more to the nationalities of the clientele that were visiting rather than promote the local cuisine. There is also an a la carte restaurant available, book the day prior as seating is limited. Drinks were also included in the package with Club Med and included a choice of several cocktails, tea and coffee, fruit juices, beer, wine and soft drinks. The main pool at Club Med is quite large, although it doesn’t offer any shaded areas in the water so make sure to pack plenty of sunscreen. It was never overcrowded though and the resort was almost full to capacity when we were there. There are plenty of deck chairs too to sit and relax and the bar area was a nice place to watch the sunset over the beach. Something I would highly recommend for those over 18 years is to make sure you head to the Zen pool (picture attached). This is strictly for 18+ and opens at 10am (there were always people waiting at 10am too so get there early!). This area is so peaceful and has private cabanas set up to sit back, relax, read a book and take a dip in the infinity pool. This was my favourite part of the resort! As for the local area, there are plenty of little family run restaurants just outside Club Med that serve the usual Thai dishes if you prefer to have something more local. Right across the road too there is the usual mix of bars, Thai massage shops and beauty salons. For those who have never had a Thai massage before they are not for the feint hearted! Don’t worry though, less extreme options are also available.
We did head into Patong too as I had heard they have cleaned up this area recently. The usual market type shops are still there with the catch cry’s the same as always sprouting “good luck”, “it’s too much”, and “what’s your best price?”. I did notice a bit of a change though in the shopping landscape with different nationalities, not just Thai, joining the markets. I didn’t feel quite as comfortable with these new stall holders as I did with the Thai locals; they were quite pushy and at one point were actually verbally abusive to my partner. Needless to say, we didn’t spend an awful lot of time there after that experience, we went back to our quiet and picturesque Karon and Kata.
And finally on our two night stop in Singapore for a little shopping, we stayed at the Holiday Inn Orchard City Centre. This was a great hotel and will definitely be my hotel of choice in Singapore from now on. Just around the corner there was a strip of little cafés and restaurants for dinner, and famous Orchard Road was literally at the end of our street! Location, location, location! For a shopping extravaganza this is definitely the place to stay. The room was really quite large, although they did upgrade us to a suite which was nice! The pool area on the 8th floor had a bit of a resort feel to it too, unusual for a city hotel. They were just revamping the gym so this should be up and running over the coming months too. Singapore has some great shopping, although it is not as cheap as some other Asian destinations with prices being similar to what you pay in Australia. They do, however, have the advantage of having several European and US stores that we don’t have yet here so you have far more choice. Again, if you would like to do as the locals do, head out to one of the many Hawker Markets for dinner – they are full of atmosphere and some great food! We went to the Newton Hawker Centre which according to several locals we asked was the best in Singapore. It is easily accessible by MRT or just jump in a taxi (about $6 from the city centre). Head to stall 66 and visit Stanley – he’s a real character of the market and is even featured in Lonely Planet Guide (as I am sure he will be pleased to tell you all about!)