To say “I never win anything” would be sour grapes. In truth I’m not one for entering competitions and the like. When my husband and I, buoyed up by the others at our table, casually entered a raffle at a charity event in our local town, we never imagined it would result in the trip of a lifetime! Travelling to Phuket in Thailand and being put up like royals at the beyond-luxurious Andara Hotel was a dream come true for my entire family. The prize was courtesy of the Andara Hotel and Spa & Wellness Magazine and my kids would like to say a horribly loud and over the top thank you to both parties. Now... let me at them lottery scratch cards!...
We are not the international jet-setting type. We do indulge in a short trip every few years to get away from it all, but with four kids and busy working lives, my husband and I could barely remember when we last got on a plane. This caused a bit of logistical chaos as we had to go full-steam in order to get the children’s passports in time. However the organisation and frantic swimwear shopping was all justly rewarded the minute we set foot in Andara.
Arriving in Phuket was an assault for the senses and all rather overwhelming, especially for my kids who have never left Aus! Being met by a driver with our name emblazoned on a card was like greeting an old friend and really took the stress off the situation. From then on, we knew we were in good hands. Driving along the coast to the resort our minds were all blown! We were in paradise. My youngest turned and exclaimed “Mama have we arrived in heaven?” on seeing the white sand beaches and clear waters of the Andaman Sea. My normal cynicism was silenced - perhaps we were!
The resort is certainly luxurious, but there is nothing snobby or ‘exclusive’ about the place to makes you feel uncomfortable (even with three rowdy little people in tow!) The decor is modern and chic with classy local art and a contemporary Thai feel, but everything is relaxed and understated. We had our own suite complete with a very swanky kitchen, which came in handy when we ventured to local market and bought some fish. Suffice to say our efforts to create delicious Thai food were nowhere near matched by the delectable dishes at the resort’s Silk Restaurant, so we only attempted it the once. Our suite also came with a stunning private pool, but my personal favourite touch was the secluded outdoor bath. Bathing in the balmy heat with a good book, whilst my husband minded the children was truly one of the most blissfully relaxing experiences I have had in years.
Whilst on the topic of relaxation, our prize included a spa treatment each for my husband and I. We went for traditional full-body Thai massages and the therapists came to our villa, with the rest of the family safely packed off to the Kid’s Club. The massages were intense and expertly delivered, really teasing out all the tensions in your back. The therapist was very knowledgeable and told me about the stress collected in my thighs and ways I can work on diffusing this in everyday life.
The understated vibe I talked about earlier is also reflected in the impressive, but again understated, service. Everyone working at the Andara seems genuinely set on making your time there as perfect as possible with attentive but unintrusive care taken to all your needs. From the moment we arrived until the moment we regretfully set off for the airport the welcome was personal and friendly, making us feel very special indeed - it was phenomenal! Waiting staff at The Silk Restaurant were incredibly patient, talking my kids through the exotic foods on offer in a way that got them excited about trying new things. Ahhh, now that brings me on to the food!! Though we did eat out at several local eateries, recommended by the local staff, I have to say that the food at Andara was unparalleled. My kids can be a little fussy with food but we all had so much fun ordering adventurous new things. As I said, the waiting staff were very knowledgeable and enthusiastic, telling us about the fresh ingredients and traditional cooking methods. Now they have a taste for coconut, spices and seafood and we have got way more experimental in our home kitchen as a result.
They really think about every detail at the Andara. I was amazed when, one day I was rallying the gang out of the sumptuous pool and felt concerned about how pink the kids were from the sun. A waiter had seemingly read my thoughts and moved a table, perfectly set for five, into the shade for us. That is service!
One thing we were a tad apprehensive about before leaving home, was exposing the kids to the ‘wild party scene’ that Phuket has a reputation for. They are a bit young for tequila shots and skinny dipping! Thankfully the area we were in was very peaceful and the nearest beach, Kamala was perfect for families and the village felt safe, with its colourful food stands and friendly locals. We spent a lot of time on Kamala, frolicing in the water and sunbathing, and the hotel staff astonished us again by helping us carry all our stuff to the beach and providing sun mats, umbrellas, towels and cushions and even ice cold bottled water.
All in all, this was an experience that my family will treasure among our best memories for years to come. Thanks again to the Andara and Spa and Wellness Magazine!
THINGS TO DO
Kamala Talad Nat On: The village market is open Mon, Wed, Sat from two in until 8pm. A great way to get a flavour for local life, traders sell a cornucopia of fresh produce and the sights and smells are one of Thailand’s true delights.
Red Mountain Golf Club: Just half an hour from Andara this is one Asia’s most exciting new courses. With 16 holes and cleverly landscaped to fit with the natural landscape, this course is a real treat for amateurs and experts alike.
Big Buddha: Though it will take you an hour from Andara, a visit to Phuket is not complete without contemplating this 45 metre high Buddha structure. On top of the Nakkerd Hills,this is also the best viewpoint on the whole island.