Tourism Authority of Thailand
If you’re thinking about heading to Thailand
for a resort holiday, it’s tempting to fly straight to Phuket – don’t be too hasty, though – stopping over in Bangkok on the way can double the fun factor for families, writes Joanna Tovia.
Family accommodation in Bangkok
I was skeptical before arriving in Thailand - nothing I'd heard about Bangkok convinced me it was suitable for children - but soon after checking into Le Meridien Suvarnabhumi Bangkok Golf Resort and Spa I realised how wrong I was. Not only is this slick new hotel mercifully close to the airport (20 minutes by shuttle) and a peaceful oasis in a big city, itï¿½s easily accessible to some seriously fun family attractions. If you can convince your kids to leave the hotel, that is.
I'm travelling with five-year-old Jarrah and the minute we open the door to our room, he gives a big thumbs up. As well as huge cookies iced with the words 'Welcome Jarrah', on his bed is a Lego car set just waiting to be constructed. Before I know it, he's ripped open the packet and is labouring happily over the instructions.
Like the rest of the hotel, the room strikes a balance between Thai style and international appeal, and it has a clever retractable wall around the bathroom - slide it away and the room feels twice as big. Every room in the U-shaped hotel has a view of the 18-hole night and day golf course.
A large infinity pool also overlooks the golf course, and we both love the giant poolside daybeds nestled into the tropical gardens - Jarrah soon meets a Singaporean friend his own age and they spend hours pillow fighting, laughing and falling over themselves on the daybeds without fear of injury.
Jarrah can hardly believe his eyes at the sumptuous breakfast spread on offer the first morning; the buffet has everything from sushi and miso soup to donuts and waffles. Even the fussiest eaters will be spoilt for choice. At dinner, the buffet is a mix of authentic and flavoursome Thai dishes, seafood galore, and plenty of healthy options.
Le Meriden Bangkok Kids Club
Thai people are known for their love of children (even the customs officer at the airport was all smiles when she saw Jarrah walk up with passport in hand) and hotel staff make an effort to greet us and bow at every opportunity.
The kids’ club has just opened at this hotel, and the new concept will soon roll out to other Le Meridien destinations with more than 100 Le Meridien hotels across the globe. The bright and colourful club emphasises old-fashioned free play and Thai-flavoured activities, and sets limits on screen time. “We wanted to bring them back to experiences that create memories,” says Starwood global brand manager George Fleck.
A vertical Lego wall, large imagination playground where kids can go wild with multi-shaped giant foam blocks, and activities ranging from language lessons to Thai-inspired craft and cooking, keep kids up to age 12 amused.
Parents are invited to join their kids in the club at any time or they can look on from the terrace of the hotel’s Italian restaurant next door. Not surprisingly, Jarrah loves it; my favourite moment was seeing him and another boy placing magnets on a floor-to-ceiling world map to show each other where they live.
Le Meriden Phuket Beach Resort
The same kids' club concept is up and running in Phuket on a larger scale, and this is our next stop. The fabulous Le Meridien Phuket Beach Resort has its own 500-metre stretch of beach in a secluded cove on Phuket's south-western coast, and manages to be completely relaxing and bustling with activity at the same time.
Valentine, the five-year-old elephant, comes to visit the resort twice a day. He's untethered and mischievous, but perfectly safe, as he takes fruit from our hands, rolls about in the sand and even plays the harmonica.
The oversized lagoon-style swimming pools flank one of the 10 restaurants and bars and offer kids a range of depths and nooks to explore. There’s also a mini-golf course, rock climbing wall, tennis, basketball and squash courts, and a range of water sports. The kids’ club is available for children up to age 12, but there’s plenty to do here for all ages.
As for the adults, babysitting is available, romantic dining is possible and the day spa is positively delightful; just be sure to book in several massages at the beginning of your stay to make sure you don’t miss out.