There’s a lot more to Phuket than great beaches; Foodie Mama Ghillie James discovers a family-friendly foodie paradise for gourmands of all ages
A quick break to Phuket is perfect for the olds, as it’s just a hop and a skip from Singapore. Visiting parents/grandparents, who don’t want a mass of long flights on their visit, can feel like they’ve had a taste of Asia with the reassurance of great hotels, good healthcare (should they need it) and AMAZING FOOD!
There are a huge variety of flights available from budget to business class, with direct service available from Tiger, Jetstar, AirAsia and SilkAir. Flight time is a quick 1 hour, 45 minutes.
If you want to be a little more independent you can hire a car, as driving in Phuket is very easy and safe. Taxis are quite expensive especially if you want to travel all around the island. We used private hire driver Jo (+66 8189 44484) for our 7-seater car and he delivered and collected it. It gave us the opportunity to travel around in one big shebang and explore the island.
Where to stay
There’s a huge variety of hotels and villas to choose from in Phuket, catering to various budgets. However if you can stretch the purse a little then do stay at COMO group’s fabulous hotel, Point Yamu. It’s my top pick for a trip away with your folks for about 20 reasons (the most important is of course the food but I’ll get on to that later!).
It’s a hidden away gem of a hotel with totally tropical views of Phang Nga Bay and the Andaman Sea. Italian-inspired design gives it a coolness and contemporary Mediterranean feel, but it’s also totally kid-friendly. The food is exciting and varied and it seemed to please everyone for different reasons! There’s also a heavenly spa to try out if you fancy total indulgence!
Top room: As well as rooms within the main building, Point Yamu has villas within the hotel grounds, complete with their own pool, which is what we chose. Fitting four adults, two kids and a toddler comfortably, it really did make a huge difference and meant that we could be as noisy as we liked without upsetting other hotel guests.
Having a villa gave us the flexibility to have dinner in or dinner out, to feed the children at the villa in their PJ’s and even to cook for ourselves if we wanted (there’s a fully equipped kitchen). The infinity pool and small patio area with sun loungers are stunning, and we could enjoy a more relaxed morning dip whilst feeding the kids a pre-breakfast ‘breakfast’ of cereal boxes (you know what I’m talking about?!) whilst waiting for the slightly slower members of the party to join us. Baby cots and anything else you might need are all provided, and a golf buggy and driver are on standby to collect and drop off, so there’s no pressure on anyone to walk anywhere if they don’t want to. Only one point to mention is a particularly steep flight of stairs down to the bedrooms, which might be an issue for some.
Breakfasts are a treat – a huge buffet-style set up of healthy juices, Bircher muesli and pastries plus an a la carte menu offering made to order eggs and bacon, waffles etc. – which in my opinion is by far the best of both worlds. There are pancakes and waffles, a full English as well as Thai-style bacon and eggs, too.
Things to do
What is brilliant about COMO when it comes to travelling with a mix of generations is the set-up when it comes to daytime fun. As well as just reading a book by the pool at the villa, there’s a huge triple pool at the main building, with baby pool, family pool and adults-only pool sitting side by side, so you can be together but separate!
Food by the pool is FREE for under 5’s and the menu for all ages is fabulous, from Pad Thai noodles to superfood salads and authentic wood fired pizzas. There’s also a healthier Como Shambala menu offered.
Children and babies can enjoy a fabulous kids’ club, with babysitters available for under 4’s. My 10-year-old, 7-year-old and 2-year-old all found plenty to do there, as well as activities such as cooking and Thai boxing, which are laid out throughout the week (there’s also similar stuff on offer for the grownups, from night markets to flower arranging).
An entertaining 30-minute long boat ride away is a second slice of heaven available complimentary for all COMO guests – the Beach Club. This was our favourite part of the entire trip. Sipping an iced latte whilst lying on a shaded double sun lounger, with a cold compress on your head looking out to sea should cater for the more sedentary grown ups, whilst a stunning beach, enormous pool and kayaks, paddle boards and jet skis will cater for the big and little kids. There’s even a small but shady treehouse with a few games and slides for toddlers, as well as luxurious huts in the trees with sun loungers, for afternoon snoozing or just stepping back from noise to read your book in peace.
The food at the Beach Club is fun and delicious – beach shack-style with barbecued prawns, corn and ribs, Thai noodles and delicious salads – gobbled up by all. On our return, the children (and grownups) were delighted to find an ice cream cart set up in the hotel, offering refreshing and healthy homemade fruity ice pops to cool us all down.
Why it’s great for foodies
Point Yamu offers two happy hour slots in the evening and a resident mixologist, too – a deadly combination! Dinner is a choice of two restaurants — La Sirena Italian and Peranakan-Thai cuisine served in Nahmyaa. There’s also another restaurant, Breeze next door, which comes highly recommended. Watch out for their rather eye-watering babysitting charges, though – billed per child (fine if you have one but whopping if, like me, you have three!!)
More fun in Phuket
Away from the hotel there’s lots to do if you fancy getting away for a day. There’s snorkelling, deep sea fishing and diving all within your grasp. Plus a rather spectacular trip by speed boat to Phi Phi Island. We didn’t go as our youngest is too small but it’s super slick and easy for a splinter group to head off for a morning. Phuket Old Town is only 20 minutes away by car and you can also borrow bikes for a wonderful island tour, stopping off at a rubber plantation.
For the foodies amongst the party you can either book up a course at the hotel or, for a wonderful multi generational family excursion pop off to Brass Wok Cooking School. Half of our group (made up of three generations from 7 to 70) enjoyed a magical half-day with Pui, who runs the cooking school.
In order to be able to choose exactly what we wanted to cook we opted for her private class, which ran from 8am till 12pm. We met at Tha Rua food market and shopped for the ingredients needed and then returned to her school to make Penang chicken curry, tamarind prawns and banana fritters.
Cordon Bleu-trained (the Thai course) in Bangkok, Pui is not only delightful and entertaining but also super knowledgeable. All of us were convinced she will one day be a TV star! It really was a great experience that all ages loved – especially my youngest, Jemima, who loved using a wok for the first time, and my mum who was thrilled with the booklet of recipes she got to take home.
Below is a taste of our fabulous time with Pui – her recipe for Som Tam Thai Papaya salad:
Som Tam (Green Papaya Salad)
1 clove garlic, peeled
1-2 Thai bird’s eye chillies (or half, for mild spicy)
5 cherry tomatoes, or 1 medium one, sliced
2-3 fine green beans, cut in to 1 inch pieces
1 tablespoon fish sauce
1/2 tablespoon palm sugar
2 tablespoons lime juice
1/2 tablespoon of little dried shrimps (optional)
2 tablespoon of roasted peanuts
a heaped handful (150g) of shredded green papaya
1. Crush the garlic and chilli preferably in a smooth mortar (as opposed to a heavy stone mortar, which will easily
pulp the salad).
2. Add the beans and dried shrimps, pound until the beans are just crushed. Add peanuts and palm sugar and lightly crush them, too.
3. Add tomatoes, fish sauce, and lime juice. Lightly press and mix to bruise the tomatoes and stir everything together, making sure the palm sugar is dissolved.
4. Add the papaya. With pestle in one (left) hand, lightly press the ingredients, and a big spoon in the other (right hand) alternately flip the bottom up and to mix everything together in the mortar. Serve on to plates.
Visit www.brasswok.com for more info on these fab Thai cooking classes, mama!
To book your own foodie getaway to COMO Point Yamu, visit www.comohotels.com/pointyamu, mama!