Sawasdee Krab : Holiday Inn Resort Phuket Mai Khao

June holiday came and went in a flash! With 2 energetic boys, I wondered if a relaxing Phuket holiday will suit them. Surprisingly, none of us has been to Phuket before though it is just a 2 hours+ plane ride from Singapore! With an affordable Silkair promotion, we hesitated no more and booked tickets for the family and invited the in-laws along.

I concluded we need an extremely family-friendly resort so the adults can chill while the kids are in a safe and fun environment. The selection of a resort hotel become easier as I narrowed down to a few criteria:

1) Near to the airport: We need to catch an early morning flight and I don’t want to miss our flight if there is a traffic jam.

2) Kids friendly with a GOOD kids’ club: from research online, it seemed that many hotels in Phuket have kids’ clubs. But I will like a responsible team if we need to drop off the kids and a entertaining one. Who likes boring kids’ club? Smile with tongue out

3) Something for everyone: If the kids are entertained, they won’t be on our back. And so, if there are some activities (besides relaxing by the pool/beach all day) for the adults, it will be a great bonus.

If you are a first-timer to Phuket, I found this website useful for a general idea of which location suits you/your family: http://www.phuket.com/hotels/where-to-stay.htm

After much research, Holiday Inn Resort Phuket Mai Khao came into the picture.

It ranked high in my selection as I have read good reviews both from fellow bloggers and their guests.

And it was very kind of them to offer a review opportunity for my immediate family. Here’s a look at our honest experience with them.

Airport Transfer/Check-in

We took up the airport transfer car to the hotel. Instructions were clear from the email booking to exact location where to find the person waiting with a Holiday Inn signage.

It was a short 15 mins ride to the hotel and we were greeted with chilled rosella drinks during the check-in. Nice touch. Smile

A spacious reception area made it easy for those with kids & old folks in the party. No one will stare weirdly at you even if you have a massive luggage just for kids’ floats?! Open-mouthed smile

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Spacious reception area

Checking-in was swift and the front-desk staff was very helpful throughout our stay. Ann, the sweet receptionist, also helped to organise breakfast boxes for us when she knew that we need to depart on an early morning flight.

At the concierge, you can also book the hotel shuttle bus which runs 2X daily to Phuket Town at a charge per pax. We choose to take one way on our 2nd day to visit the Patong area and took our own taxi back to the hotel so that we have some flexibility on the return timing. It takes about 1hr travel time to the town area.

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Huge relaxing lounges at the reception area.

Rooms

We were booked a Family Suite which is actually 2 separate rooms connected via a door. A good size at 82sqm, it boost of more than enough space for the entire family and more! Just to put it into perspective, some of our 3 room model HDB flats in Singapore is just 70sqm.

The adult’s room comes with a comfortable King-sized bed, TV, DVD player, mini-bar, kettle, couch, a balcony with a daybed and the usual necessity and complimentary bottled water. Though the rooms showed some age and has its fair wear and tear, we liked the spacious layout, the huge rain shower and 2 separate TVs for the adults and kids! No fighting over the remote controls! Smile

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The adult’s room with direct pool access from the balcony

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Walking over to the kids’ room, there are 2 single beds completed with kids’ linen, kids’ toiletries, low-rise cupboards and the most “important accessory” – the PSP games console!  Once my 2 boys were matriculated with the PS4, they DO NOT want to leave the room at all!

The kids’ room is equally spacious with their own attached bathroom and a huge shower tub! I liked it that the adults have more than sufficient standing room to shower the kids and there is provision of rain shower and hand shower at the same time so that we can reach the younger one comfortably.

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The kids’ room completed with their TV, PSP and private pool access.

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Phuket 1

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My favourite part of the room has to be the immediate pool access from the terraces. The almost-private pool along the entire row of room suites is such a convenient delight that we didn’t even need to go to the common pools in  the hotel.

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It is a lazy comfort but oh-so-easy to walk in and out of your room and plunge into the 1.2M deep pool. There was a sunny day on our 2nd day and the boys had a great time swimming and waddling across to their grandparents’ room which is just next door. It’s a pity that it drizzled and rained on the 3rd day and we didn’t get to enjoy the pools further.

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These pools are great photography spots too. Seize every bit of sunshine to capture some memories! Smile

A quick note that there are access pool terraces from both the kids and adults’ rooms; thus a close eye on young kids is required if they are non-swimmers.

Hotel and it’s surroundings

Holiday Inn Resort Phuket Mai Khao is a self sufficient resort and one do not need to step out of the hotel grounds if you do not wish to. There are 2 main restaurants – J’s Cafe & Restaurant and Pesto Restaurant. We had daily breakfast at J’s Cafe and most dinners at Pesto.

Breakfast spread was a good variety. Not massive but sufficient choices to cater to most diets and nationality. Quality is reasonably good. The Kids-eat-and-stay-for-Free promotion for Holiday Inn brands provides good savings for parents. With every paying adult, a kid stays for free and get a kids’ meal for free too. Both J’s Cafe and Pesto offers Kids-Eat-For-Free meals now. My oldest boy was happy ordering his own meal and dessert and felt responsible finishing it up since he ordered it. Open-mouthed smile

Breakfast sample spread on our 2 mornings:

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This is my favourite! Pork bacon – on a hot plate! The ceramic pot is lined with carrots, and onions; the constant warming of the bacon made it crisply yummy!
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Hot eggs station. Always a delight to have such a station in hotels. Eggs done the way you liked it; what more can one ask for? Smile

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Auto pancakes making machine! I would have prefer my pancakes more fluffy but this is a smart idea to churn out cute pancakes which the kids enjoyed! Smile

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J’s Cafe has a thoughtful buffet laid out just for little ones. Shorter tables and chairs cater to their heights and walls are adorned with happy animals. It is a fun sight to be greeted with in the morning. My 2 boys enjoyed helping themselves at the table; not eating but just “helping” themselves. Open-mouthed smile

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We had a scrumptious dinner at Pesto on our first night as well. Situated next to the sea, you get to enjoy the mesmerising sunset if you dine around 6 to 7pm. A causal setting with an open concept kitchen, you can see your food being prepared while you wait. The food was authentic though some taste adjustment seemed to have been done to cater to the variety of tourists dining here. Recommendations: In particular, we liked the Beef Striploin, Duck Leg Confit and Spaghetti with Pork Bacon.

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Dreamy dinner by the sunset.
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In between dusk and dark with a live band.
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All Italian restaurants have to have good crusty warm bread. We enjoyed the peppercorn and olive oil dips. I am a bread addict. Open-mouthed smile
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One of the appetizer dishes recommended by the waitress – Quesadillas minced pork with mashed avocado, jalapeno, tomato salsa and Monterey Jack Cheddar and lime-cilantro sour cream. Good sharing dish.

Our mains:

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Xi En tucking into his kid’s meal: Fish and Chips. Baked not fried. Open-mouthed smile

Holiday Inn Resort Phuket Mai Khao has a lovely clean beach which is surrounded by the Anadaman Sea. The beach was almost deserted when we were there and a red flag was visibly noted for warning on the condition of the sea waves for the day. Nevertheless, how can we conclude a resort holiday without experiencing the beach, sand and sea? On our 3rd day, Eizac and I set off to the beach with beach towels supplied by the hotel staff and had some relaxing time taking photos, playing with sand, collecting sea shells and simply lazing around. But silly me decided to venture near the shore to scoop some sea water for Eizac’s sand tunnels. I lost a slipper to the great ocean as a result of the choppy waves. Thus, I won’t recommend going into the sea if the red flag is on.

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At the corner of the beach are some external vendors selling drinks, fruits, cooked food and providing alternative outdoor massages. There is an idyllic feel if you enjoy balmy massages complete with coconut juices on the side. Smile

The hotel grounds have activities corners strategically placed near the heart of the resort thus making it easier for the whole family to interact together. There are human sized chess boards, connect-4s, dart boards, an awesome trampoline and more. On selected nights, there are free screening of movies-under-the-stars with free popcorns. It’s a pity that it rained periodically during our stay thus hampering outdoor activities for us. But that’s when the indoor options are life savers! Smile

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Outdoor deck chairs for outdoor screening of night movies

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All kids’ favourite trampoline

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Free form pool in the common grounds.

Kids’ Club and Tea Tree Spa

The Kids’ Club is a winsome place. It won the kids over.

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A ball pool is the centrepiece for the younger ones while the PSP and Wii machines attract the older kids on the side lines. There are toys, reading nooks, board games, activities sheets and more. Basically once your kids enter, they won’t want to leave. The guest officers here are friendly and I watched them hit-it-off easily with the “regulars”. They played, entertained and watched over the children. By the 3rd day, my 2 boys were almost zipping over to the kids’ club on their own as our rooms were just a few steps away from the kids’ club.

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There were organised free or paid activities such as wind mill making, Thai umbrella painting, pizza making and etc. The boys took part in 2 of the activities – Pizza Making and  Sand Footprints.

Pizza Making was so much fun for them as they were led to J’s Cafe and they get to use gigantic roller pins to roll and knead the dough; complete their toppings and eat of their labour! This is a worth-while paid activity in my opinion. You get to play and eat at the same time. Open-mouthed smile

pizza making

Sand Footprints is basically getting footprints on sand and then casting them into moulds to be brought home as souvenirs. I applaud the guest officers’ effort not to cancel this activity even though it rained in the midst of getting footprints from the children. They dug sand, brought them in pails to a sheltered place so to allow each kid to imprint a footprint and cast a mould thereafter. Though we were leaving early the next day, they rushed the moulds and drying off and gave them to the kids on the night itself. Kudos for great customer service! Smile

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Sand footprints in the making.

For the adults, there are no lack of activities too. We were too comfortable to wake up for the morning yogas, workout etc. Instead we decided to have a spa massage at their in-house Tea Tree Spa . Open-mouthed smile

Xi En joined his Daddy for a “My First Massage” which is a 30 mins oil massage with gentle strokes especially cater to little guests. Kim and I had our full 60 mins massages. It was extremely relaxing with the right strengths and soothing music. I dozed off unknowingly. That’s how good it was. Highly recommended for a complete resort experience. Prices are affordable though not exactly cheap by local standards; the clean environment and professional masseurs are definitely worth every dime.

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Conclusion

We liked the laid-back feel of the resort. It makes one feel isolated from the hustle and bustle of city life. That’s what a beach holiday is meant to be? In the beginning I was worry if the kids would be bored, but my worries are unnecessary. They were happier in the resort than being dragged to shop with us in the malls. I liked it that there is a good mix of indoor vs outdoor activities so that wet weather plans are available as well.  There is also free Wi-fi in the resort thus you can stay connected if you prefer to. Smile

Overall, Phuket Holiday Inn Mai Khao checked the boxes for a relaxing short family resort stay. If you do not need to stay near the town, the Mai Khao beach is an ideal option for it’s quiet and cozy ambience. And Phuket Holiday Inn Mai Khao makes an affordable and comfortable family choice. Smile

family photo

If you are considering an Holiday Inn hotel in the near future, do not forget to sign up for free as an IHG Rewards Club Member. You get to enjoy special member rates when you book directly with Holiday Inn. There is no need to look for a 3rd party provider as they promised the best rates when you book direct.

Furthermore, there is a current promotion to “Accelerate” with bonus points rewarded for each tier of “Acceleration” offers you cleared. Eg, you get 500 point just be downloading and signing in to the IHG App. Extra bonus points will be awarded for a completion of all “Accelerate Offers”. That is an initiative to allow faster points accumulation and thereafter rewards! Smile More details on their IHG Rewards Club website.

For more photos and special offers that Holiday Inn Resort Phuket Mai Khao is running, do check out their comprehensive website on this link.

N.B: This blog post is in conjunction of a review of Holiday Inn Resort Phuket Mai Khao via a sponsored stay. All opinions and viewpoints are writer’s own. For any clarification of rates and information, please refer their official website: http://www.phuketmaikhaobeach.holidayinnresorts.com/ 

Taiwan Trip Day 7 & 8: Taipei

Day 7: It was a tough night resting at the Airbnb place. Not-so-clean beddings aside, the walls between the rooms were thin and everyone’s movements were amplified.

We left after breakfast to check out the Eslite bookstore nearby, did some shopping at the Taipei Main Station (and got lost) and had lunch at one of the food courts as we found a stall selling the vegetarian food that my mother really wanted to try.

Eslite bookstore is a huge lifestyle type of bookstore. We bought some books and wooden puzzle toys. They aren’t cheap but we liked some of the items we can’t find in Singapore.

Initially we had plans to visit the Chiang Kai-Shek Memorial Hall to see the changing of guards or go to the Taipei Children Amusement Park or head to Wu Fen Pu to do some wholesale shopping.

In the end, we did none of the above due to logistics issue and overall fatigue. We decided the easiest place was to go to Daan Park for the kids to run at the playground. Alas, the main playground was undergoing renovation when we where there.

As it was drizzling by dinner time so we decided on dinner at a cafe just downstairs our apartment. It was an non-affair and the food was almost horrible. I had to console myself by going grocery shopping! haha – that’s how “auntie” I can be. Grocery shopping is a must-do in every country I travel too. Food is my strength and weakness! I just had to buy and lug back that 10 boxes of Sunnyhills pineapple tarts even when the husband gave me the blackest face. Confused smile

On hind sight, I will probably suggest skipping Daan Park as it was just another other park/playground you can find in Singapore. Instead, I will opt to go to Jiu Fen or Shi Fen even if the journey is longer and further. Or I will head into Ximending to shop and eat in the novelty restaurants there.

Well.. that’s the whole idea of travelling.. we choose otherwise due to circumstances but as long as the whole family is safe and had a reasonably fun time exploring the country, we are good. Smile

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And that concluded our Taiwan 2015 family trip. It was a different experience from our Melbourne trip the year before as Eizac was still moving around in a stroller. This trip, Eizac is more mobile and understood more stuff but also more clingy. We didn’t get to do everything on our “checklist” but we experienced, we smelt, we ate, we learnt Taiwan. Hoping Xi En and Eizac will remember all their trips through this blog and the videos their father painstakingly edited.

A special mention and thanks to the Hong Tours and the driver (Xiao Lee) who took us around and packed us breakfast due to our early morning flight. Recommended if you need a driver in Taiwan. Smile

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“Once you have traveled, the voyage never ends, but is played out over and over again in the quietest chambers. The mind can never break off from the journey.”
Pat Conroy

Read more on our Taiwan trip below:

Day 1: Taipei (Taoyuan) > Yilan

Day 2: Yilan (Happiness 20 Farm > Crayon Art Factory > Traditional Art Center > Luodong Night Market)

Day 3: Yilan > Miaoli

Day 4: Miaoli (Hao Wang Jiao Minsu > Picking of seasonal fruits)

Day 4: Miaoli (Flying Cow Ranch)

Day 5: Miaoli > Taichung (Xinshe Sea of Flowers > Master of Mushroom > Go-Kart > Carton King > La Vida Hotel > Feng Chia night market)

Day 6: Taichung > Taipei

Day 7 & 8: Taipei

Taiwan Trip Day 6: Taichung > Taipei

Day 6: We were driverless from day 6 onwards as we decided to D.I.Y the rest of our Taiwan trip.

Took taxies from La Vida Hotel to Taichung High Speed Rail (HSR) Station to catch a train up north to Taipei again. I bought the tickets online and printed out redemption letters to collect the physical tickets.

More information on the HSR site: https://www.thsrc.com.tw/index_en.html?force=1

We wanted to give Xi En the chance to take a HSR as he was curious about trains when he was younger. One of his dreams is to be an MRT driver/planner. Smile

We bought “railway bento” at the railway station while waiting for our train. Since it looks like a must-do, we bought a few variety of the bentos for lunch. They were a fairly huge portion but tasted quite mediocre. It was good to fill the stomach nonetheless.

Note that the bentos are only sold during specific timings. If you are not after the bentos, there are some cafes , McDonald’s at the station.

HSR train was clean, comfortable and fast of course. We reached Taipei in no time and made our way to the Airbnb I booked for the last leg of our trip.

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The only Airbnb place I booked for this trip turned out to be a disappointment. The photos shown on Airbnb and the actual place were quite different. Furthermore, there were only 1 usable bathroom as the other were too cramped to shower in. All these were not stated in the descriptions. The comments on Airbnb seemed to be positive but I should have been more careful to sieve out the type of travellers and the ambiguity of the photos.

The host was also very mindful of asking us to keep our volume down once we stepped out of the unit. I strongly suspect he might have complains of hosting his place as a Airbnb. Many countries are still not for strangers going in and out of their shared premises.

Anyway, the risk of renting an Airbnb is as such. We had 2 good experiences in Melbourne. Maybe that led to a greater disappointment when Taipei’s turned out differently.

The saving grace was, we found a nice soya bean curb and you tiao (doughstick) breakfast joint nearby – and they tasted really good!

Anyway, it was afternoon after we settled down. We headed out on trains to visit Taipei 101 and did a little shopping. No one was really interested in Taipei 101 so only Kim took Xi En up as he was the curious one. That way, we saved some money too. Open-mouthed smile

Dinner was a non-affair at Ding Tai Feng. The very first time I had Ding Tai Feng was in Taipei 13 years ago; way before their debut to Singapore! It just kind of make sense to have xiao long bao at Ding Tai Feng when you visit Taipei. As usual, I over-ordered and we ate a feast. Smile Standard of the food was good in Taipei and the prices were slightly cheaper than in Singapore.

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That marked the end of our uneventful 3/4 day in Taipei. Exhaustion was setting in for everyone especially Eizac as we were near the end of the trip.

Next up: Our last full day in Taipei before we head home.

Day 1: Taipei (Taoyuan) > Yilan

Day 2: Yilan (Happiness 20 Farm > Crayon Art Factory > Traditional Art Center > Luodong Night Market)

Day 3: Yilan > Miaoli

Day 4: Miaoli (Hao Wang Jiao Minsu > Picking of seasonal fruits)

Day 4: Miaoli (Flying Cow Ranch)

Day 5: Miaoli > Taichung (Xinshe Sea of Flowers > Master of Mushroom > Go-Kart > Carton King > La Vida Hotel > Feng Chia night market)

Day 6: Taichung > Taipei

Day 7 & 8: Taipei