Trapeze flying, batik painting, and organic vegetable planting. Milk and cookies at turn-down. A bakery with a selection of old-school American candy. A pool with water fountains, giant turtles, a life guard-assisted slide, and continuous bubbles. Free popsicles from noon until three every day. Two baby elephants walking the resort’s extensive property and occasionally playing in the surf. A newly-renovated kids club. Giant scoops of ice cream atop home-made waffle cones. You guys, this is the place: the JW Marriott Phuket.
It only took us two and a half years to make it farther south than Pran Buri, but I must say – it was worth the wait. With friends and family in town earlier this month, we took a super-easy and convenient flight on Bangkok Airways to Phuket. The flight was so nice, it inspired me to write an “Ode to Asian Air Carriers,” which you’ll have to check out if you haven’t already. Seriously, on less than a one-hour flight, that airline gave my son a set of stickers twice (once for take-off and once during meal time – so he could decorate his meal box) and a real kids’ meal. They gave my one-year old a real baby’s meal. We were all in heaven. But that’s not what I’m here to talk about, so let me move on.
For our first trip to the islands we decided to go luxe — JW Marriott luxe — and boy was it a treat. There are not enough ways I can highly recommend this place. In fact, no fancy words that I could concoct in some elegant way in my head would do it justice, so instead, I’m going to describe to you a typical day (of three) we spent at the resort, hoping to transport you to that serene vacation destination that is a wonderland for families:
6:00am: The high-pitched excitement in our one-year old’s voice wakes us all from sweet slumber in adjoining deluxe garden view rooms. These are the most basic rooms at the resort, yet they are stunning and boast beautiful views of the expansive, jungle-like yard area surrounding the resort and along the sea. The rooms include a balcony, a small nook with Thai triangle pillows and full-length windows that overlook the garden (perhaps meant to be an in-room massage area, but most definitely a GREAT place to kick back and read a book), and a massive bathroom with a fantastic tub for washing three or four kids at once and a separate rainwater shower. These “basic” rooms are the largest basic rooms I’ve ever stayed in. Bar none.
7:00am: Dressed and ready for breakfast, we mosey on past a fantastic infinity pool that seems to seep right down into the ocean. We arrive at the hotel buffet, which is a veritable breakfast feast. You thought omelette and waffle stations were fancy? Try a full bakery of all kinds of freshly-baked breads, muffins, doughnuts, croissants, just to name a few, as well as a waffle, pancake, and french toast station. As if six pitchers of different varieties of freshly-made fruit juices weren’t enough, you can opt for a breakfast juice shot of tamarind, ginger, or other creations of health/cleanse juices in order to start your morning off right. Need a shot of something that fends off jet lag? They have a juice shot for that. What about something to quell nausea? They have juice shot for that, too. Now, I’m not sure if these juice shots actually have an affect on people’s moods and physical conditions, but it is way cool to see them offered at the regular buffet breakfast. And you know what tells me that this place means business when it comes to breakfast? They gave me a tea timer when they delivered my tea. I’ve never even seen that before. Aside from being awesome, the kids spent excellent amounts of time playing with it while we returned to the buffet for a second (okay, and maybe a third) time. And the setting? We sat on the balcony facing the ocean every morning. Amazing view. And I should mention that the room rate at the JW Marriott is inclusive of the breakfast.
8:30: We are swimming. Swimming at one of resort’s three pools. We spent most of our time in the spectacular kids’ pool, which, as I mentioned above, has giant turtles, a life-guard assisted water slide, bubbles, fountains . . . the whole nine yards. Also, my one-year old could walk on her own in a wide swath of the pool. My toddler could walk around the whole thing. That, my friends, makes your life as parents much easier. Sit and read your book while they play (well, okay, maybe just for a few minutes . . . but that few minutes is better than nothing). Staff dole out free popsicles from 12pm-3pm at the kids’ pool everyday. Does it get any better than that? You can also order food and drinks (an extensive children’s menu is available) poolside. Our kid-free friends hung with us for a few and then ventured on over to the pool with a swim-up bar located under a waterfall. Yes, you heard that right.
10:30: It’s time for a break from the sun. We get the kids dried off and dressed and we walk 20 feet behind us to the kids club. Generally, kids are crying when their parents leave them at the kids club. At this club, kids are crying when parents try to pull them out. The club is spacious and bright, outfitted with padded areas and indoor playground equipment for the little ones, toy kitchens, an entire area devoted to painting, drawing, coloring and creating, an X-box Kinect with awesome games, computers, a separate movie-watching room with bean bag pillows and a sweet flat screen, and more that I’m sure I’m forgetting. The real draw of the kids’ club, however, is the constant flow of insanely cool activities they offer children (ages four and up). I happened to bring the list home with me, and here are a few examples: learn to fly trapeze, sand castle making, super stilts walking, fishing, foot and hand massage introduction, thai language, thai costume studio, kids mocktail, thai dancing, nature color hunt, thai dessert making, yoga, cookie making . . . the list goes on and on. This is a place where the kids could never get bored because there is something new and fun offered every hour.
12:00: After finally convincing Logan out of the kids club (by way of ice cream bribery), we head to the Siam Deli for lunch. Inside the deli, you can find a well-stocked bakery, a mini-grocery store with tons of fresh and exotic fruit, a whole wall of candy (the kids will go nuts over this), baby food, and snacks. And there are the home made waffle cones and ice cream . . . yum!
1:00: Nap time for the whole family.
3:00: Back to the pool and/or kids club for more play. The staff at the resort are amazing. Seriously, the best I’ve encountered in Thailand (and probably anywhere I’ve ever been). A pool server stops to pick a flower and bends down to place it behind my daughter’s ear in the pool as we swim.
4:00: We stroll along the resort’s board walk taking in the impressive views of the Indian Ocean along Mai Khao Beach. The beach is empty and beautiful, with picturesque hills rolling into the side of the ocean. The surf is a little too rough to venture into the water this time of year, so we collect sea shells instead. As we come back up to the board walk, we encounter one of the resort’s elephants, Ya-Ya, and her mahout. Two year-old Ya-Ya is playful and energetic, posing for pictures with guests and noshing on bananas and cucumbers.
5:30: Back to the room for a quick bath, change of clothes, and then out to dinner at one of the resort’s six restaurants. You can choose from Italian fare, Japanese kabuki-theater cuisine, excellent Thai food, exquisite seafood, and more. We never ate at the same restaurant twice during our stay (excluding breakfast) and we were never disappointed.
7:00: Our gang is quiet by now. We roll back to the room and find that the turn down staff has left three giant cookies and two full glasses of milk (as they did every night) to cap off our wonderful day. The kids have a few bites, take a few sips, put on their pajamas, and pass out. It has been a good day. No, a great day. The perfect day.
And there are more pictures (as always) below. Enjoy!