Sassy Mama Jamie discovers the ‘Fun Family Holiday’ is not an oxymoron at the new Le Meridien Family Programme in Thailand
Muffled sobs came from under the covers of the next bed.
“What?” I asked, eloquently and solicitously.
“I don’t like sleeping in!” wailed my 7-year-old.
…It was 7:23 a.m.
On a Saturday.
Welcome to the special delights of Travelling With Your Child (“Stuck on a Trip With Someone Else’s Child/Random Children” is a whole other ballgame). As mamas know, the arrival of offsprings up-ended civilization as we knew it. Trappings of said civilization included mealtimes, bathroom breaks, weekends (sleeping in on), and vacations (as in, relaxing on).
Recently, however, I was invited by Le Meridien to take a trip to Thailand to rediscover the “fun” in family vacations. Unfortunately, they also invited my 7-year-old. It is like when the magician not only promises to escape a locked water tank before he runs out of air, but then also volunteers to be handcuffed. Like the magician, the good people at Le Meridien love a good challenge.
Of course I said yes. Not only am I partial to magic shows, but no Singaporean of sound mind ever, ever walks away from kaeng khiao wan, tom yum goong and khao niaow ma muang.
That is how we ended up that Saturday morning, a boy and his rudely-awakened mother, at Le Meridien Suvarnabhumi in Bangkok. Kai was aghast that we had already squandered more than an hour of sunlight. As we stepped out onto our balcony overlooking a Nick Faldo-designed rolling green field (a world class golf course, apparently), we found that evidently there are also adults who think like Kai. They are called golfers, and they have gathered on the 18-hole course since there was enough light to tee off.
By 10 a.m., not only had we breakfasted like kings (actually just me; 7-year-old boys live on fumes and sunshine), we were also ready to wring all the fun we could out of the day.
That Saturday was the global launch of the new Le Meridien Family Programme, and the green space at the hotel’s Kids’ Club was dressed to impress. Streamers fluttered; tepees beckoned; toys pulled kids like singing sirens. A spate of new kids’ clubs around the world emphasise hands-on free play and tinkering through creatively designed, interactive, tech-free spaces celebrating music, art and cuisine. The Kids’ Club in Bangkok, for instance, has got a Big Blue Block Wall similar to what you’d find at Kaboodle Kids here in Singapore.
What Kai did on Saturday: created latte art on hot chocolate (he chugged the lot before I had a chance to admire the art); made a personal pizza with the super nice, really lovely Italian chef; prepared a strawberry-pink éclair (and then promptly disappeared, the wretch, when I suggested that he share it with his mama); painted a rocket ship taking off, a snake and a dinosaur on a large canvas; and played mini foosball for hours with Amelia from Kuala Lumpur and Freddie and Jara from Sydney.
What I did on Saturday: drank Champagne.
By my third glass of bubbles, tapping along to Nouvelle Vague’s excellent tunes, it dawned on me: the magician had worked his sly magic. Cheers to that, Le Meridien.
Of course, not every day of your holiday has to be spent in such a dissipated haze (sorry mamas). Le Meridien is also keen to introduce their guests to the art, life and culture of the cities in which their hotels can be found.
Le Meridien Suvarnabhumi’s Family Program brought us to the Museum of Siam (recommended for its many interactive exhibits for young ones) as well as Kidzania (highly recommended; your child can learn how to pilot a plane, fight a fire or treat a patient in this town designed for kids, although you might wander like an oversized, lost soul down its Lilliputian boulevards). If you like, you can also go cable wakeboarding at Taco Lake, rock climbing, or to Bangkok’s Safari World – just ask!
After three days, we left Bangkok for Phuket, to reach a higher state of relaxation by the rolling waves at the beach. At Le Meridien Phuket Beach Resort, it was clear that we were in the company of (family holiday) professionals.
There were four swimming pools! A safe, shaded one for children. A second for swimming laps, without aimless holidaymakers snarling up the lanes. An enormous one, with sunbathers drifting on floating beds, guests learning to scuba-dive, and children jumping in from their breakfast tables. Plus a soft sandy beach just meters from the pools.
A 5-year-old elephant called Valentine (because he was born on Valentine’s Day) visits the hotel beach twice a day and takes treats from children and other hotel guests.
There are also endless treats for guests staying at Le Meridien Phuket: There is a 9-hole miniature golf course. Next to an archery range. And a golf driving range. Ping pong tables, basketball and tennis courts. Massages on the beach. Scuba diving and snorkelling, surfboards to borrow. Pétanque. A spa and a gym. Seven restaurants (Italian, Japanese, Thai, etc.), featuring guest chefs from other Le Meridien hotels. Shops as well as a rotating cast of vendors who are invited to set up stall at the hotel lobby at night. An amazing kids club (yes that is a ballpit!), a kids disco at night AND fire-eaters at a dinner show.
So, Le Meridien was very nice, Kai was treated like a king and we had a great time. In the end, we did find the fun in “holiday,” but it wasn’t just in the amenities – or the Champagne! – although kids up to 12 do get to take home their own free LEGO toy and customised “Discovery Guide” to local fam-friendly excursions.
As we said goodbye to the other families, Freddie asked for Kai’s email address, declaring that “Kai is the first friend that I’ve made on a trip!” What a great holiday we had, mamas: new friends, foosball and Champagne – what else could we have possibly asked for?