We opted for a week in Phuket, rather than the mainland of Thailand following our adventures in Vietnam and Cambodia, feeling like we were in need of some rest!
The Holiday Inn in Phuket was perfect for this, with interconnecting bedrooms, a kids club and many pools to cool off in. The room was a bonus, the kids one having turtle shaped beds, toys and an x-box in the room. Getting Jake out was going to be tough!
The hotel recently celebrated 30 years in Patong and had an exhibition showing how life there had changed over those years. There was, of course, a section on the horrific Tsunami of 2004, when over 20,000 people lost their lives across Thailand, Malaysia and Indonesia. The hotel was massively affected, being only across the road from the beach, and there was a feature on the Manager of the hotel that day, whose car ended up at the bottom of a pile of cars in what was the car park. There were photos showing cars and mopeds in the pool and a jet ski in reception, with water right up to the roof of the bars and restaurants. The resort has a few memorials and now clear Tsunami evacuation routes marked leading to higher ground.
The hotel was in central Patong, which was far busier than we remembered it when we came around 18 years ago so not at all quiet!
We escaped the noise to revisit one of our favourite restaurants in the world for our 12th wedding anniversary. Baan Rim Paa is voted the top restaurant in Thailand and with beautiful Thai food, tasty cocktails and a live pianist all perched on stilts above the sea it's a tough one to beat. It was great to bring the children to eat there.
We did venture away from the pools eventually and took the free bus over to Paradise Beach.
You are a bit of a captive audience there as it's all now owned by one group who charge you to come in and use the beach and don't allow you bring your own food or drink in, obviously preferring that you buy from their restaurant. The white sandy beach is kept very clean though and we had a fun afternoon in the waves, exploring the rocks (finding a dead puffer fish!)
and on a paddle board.
The highlight of our week was visiting the Elephant jungle sanctuary.
Top of Jake's 'to-do' list was to ride an elephant on this trip, but having made a family decision about this being morally wrong, we opted to go and feed some rescue elephants and actually had a mud bath with them. "Welcome to our 5 star luxury mud spa" announced our guide!
He explained that you can tell the difference between an Asian elephant and an African elephant as the Asian one has an apple shaped head and smaller ears than it's African cousin who's head is more football shaped and they have bigger ears.
We got to mix up the pumpkin, salt, banana and rice for the baby elephant and the Grampa (with no teeth) with our hands and then learnt how to hand bananas or slices of watermelon to their trunks or in the case of Grampa say 'bong bong' whereupon he'd lift his trunk for us to put a handful of mixed feed in his mouth!
After this we all donned our swimmers and headed off to the mud baths. After starting in one a couple of feet deep (it actually felt really nice!), where we rubbed mud into their tough skin, we moved onto the waist high bath where the elephants loved rolling over and rinsing the mud off.
This was followed by a final shower, hose down and brush off before we hosed ourselves down and sat down for some local food.
Returning to the hotel and asking the kids to jump in the shower, Jake said he didn't need one. "You've just had a mud bath with an elephant!" I shouted. Words you don't often hear!
We were actually ready for our South-East Asian adventures to come to a close and leave the hustle and bustle and heat and humidity of these beautiful countries, feeling a little saddened that they are now so inundated with tourists.
So onto our biggest flight yet- 7 hours to Doha and 10 hours to Cape Town and the final chapter in our journey around the world. ❤️ ✈️ 🌎