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3 Generations Exploring Thailand

Travelling with a two-year-old to Thailand has its challenges, but provides a bonding experience for three generations, writes Julie Miller.


“Elephants... where?” my two-year-old granddaughter quizzes, peering out the taxi window at the grey skyline of Bangkok. It's a fair question – we’d promised her sightings of her favourite animal in Thailand – but so far there’s little evidence of trees, let alone the gentle giant of the jungle. Three days later, however, Ellie’s wish is granted, chortling with delight as an inquisitive trunk reaches for a banana. She is finally meeting her animal namesake at Elephant Hills, a safari camp in Khao Sok National Park, two hours north of Phuket in Southern Thailand.



thailand with kids

Keeping a watchful eye on our little wildlife warrior is my daughter Jo and myself (JuJu): three generations of animal-lovers, hoping for a relaxing holiday in the tropics, a jungle adventure followed by some downtime on the coast at Khao Lak.

However, relaxation and toddlers are rarely mentioned in the same breath and from the outset the enormity of travelling with a rambunctious two-year-old becomes obvious.

A long flight, change in sleep patterns, food issues and safety concerns such as lack of seatbelts all come into play, and at times, make us question the sanity of our decision to forgo standard family resorts for something a little more ambitious.

Then there are those elephants - gentle, wise and undeniably enormous - with the potential to squash a teeny-tiny human like an ant. Although the elephants are behind a fenced platform and under the control of their mahouts, we have one protective hand on Ellie constantly, with warnings of "stand back" and "be gentle!" as she pats their rough skin and darts around collecting bananas to place in their probing appendages.

Elephant Hills provides sanctuary for 12 elephants, retirees from arduous logging and trekking industries who now live a cruelty-free life in a gorgeous riverside camp.

There is no riding here; instead, tourists interact with the elephants by washing and feeding them, a respectful, educational and thoroughly enjoyable experience for all.



thailand with kids


With several of the standard inclusions unsuitable for small children in Elephant Hills’ three-day/two-night Jungle Safari, such as canoeing and jungle trekking, we instead spend that allocated time relaxing at camp, swimming in the scenic pool or chilling in a hammock outside our safari-style tent.

We also join a full-day excursion to Elephant Hills’ second base located on Cheow Larn Lake in the heart of the national park, though this too proves challenging but scenic.

The journey to this eco-friendly floating tented camp involves a lengthy bus ride followed by a longtail boat trip across the emerald waters of the reservoir, past soaring limestone cliffs swathed in thick, pristine jungle.

It’s simply stunning, and Ellie handles the trip admirably, despite being swallowed by her oversized lifejacket (the smallest available would comfortably fit a four-year-old). Unfortunately, all she wants to do when we arrive at camp is run along the wharf feeding the fish.

Over-stimulated and in need of a nap, she objects to being strapped in her pram, and refuses to sleep; so rather than fight it, Jo and I take turns keeping an eye on her, taking sneaky dips in the sublime water during breaks.

For families with older children, this Rainforest Camp would be heaven; but for us, terra firma is less stressful. So after a second round of elephant feeding the following day, we wave goodbye to our pachyderm friends and head for the coast, craving a couple of days on the beach at Khao Lak.


thailand with kids



Our destination is the Pullman Khao Lak Katiliya Resort and Spa, located on a divine stretch of white-sand beach about 15 minutes north of Khao Lak. Formerly Le Meridien, it was recently taken over by Accor, which also acquired the neighbouring villa complex to create a mega-resort offering both villa- and hotel-style accommodation.

Within earshot of the nearby lapping waves, we are staying in one of the original oceanfront pool villas. This is luxury as it should be: stylish yet understated, with a massive indoor/outdoor bathroom, plenty of space for Ellie to run around and a tempting king-sized bed. And just outside is a glistening lap-pool, flanked by day beds and massage cabana… sheer bliss.

Despite concerns about Ellie’s safety near the unfenced pool, we actually find it easy to supervise her in the confined space, and spend many hours paddling in complete privacy.

But Ellie’s favourite thing about the beach? Crabs.

Squealing with delight, she chases the darting crustaceans maniacally, endless fun in a sandy paradise. For her, the holiday really is about all creatures great and small!




thailand with kids

Information

www.tourismthailand.org


Getting there

Jetstar flies directly to Phuket from Sydney five times per week.


To Do

An Elephant Hills three day/two night Jungle Safari costs from 16,845 baht (around AU$625) for adults and 8425 baht (AU$312) for children four to 15. The price includes tented accommodation, all meals, activities and excursions and transfers.


Stay

Elephant Hills Rainforest Camp


Pullman Khao Lak Katilya Resort & Spa




This article featured in volume 48 of Holidays with kids. Enjoyed it? Subscribe to see more!

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