Travelers: Christopher Lay, his wife Savvy Him, and their daughter
Reina (age 7), who attends Daystar Academy.
Destination: Phuket, Thailand
Dates: February 2014
Travel plans: When Savvy found out that she had to attend a business conference in February at the Westin Siray Bay Resort and Spa in Thailand, she suggested that Chris and Reina go along to escape the winter blues. The family left their 18-month-old twins behind in Beijing with their “extremely capable” ayis. They booked their tickets through Him’s office to ensure they would be seated together on the same direct Air China flight. For Chris and Reina, the plan was simple: chill by the pool and do whatever sounded good each day. This amounted to not doing much at all except sleeping, swimming, relaxing, and eating.
Cost: The cost was reduced because the family piggybacked on Savvy’s business trip. They didn’t have to pay for her airfare, hotel and airport transfers, or four nights’ stay at the Westin. Airfare for Chris and Reina amounted to RMB 10,670. They also spent RMB 2,000 on food, a few taxis, and shopping. The total expense for the trip was about RMB 12,670.
We felt the relief from Beijing’s cold winter and polluted air from the moment we stepped off the plane. Since we’ve visited Phuket before, we were not surprised to be greeted with hot tropical days and warm nights. The Westin Siray is an impressive hillside resort. Although we arrived in the middle of the night, the lights around the resort gave it a fairy tale-like glow. We had a room near the lobby, restaurant, and pool so that we could easily walk down there every day, but we were grateful to be able to take the golf cart up to our room. We had a beautiful two-storey room with a stunning view of the bay.
Even though Reina and I enjoyed relaxing at the pool, for me the best part was surprising Reina with the trip. We did not mention anything to her about it beforehand. As we left for the airport, she thought we were only going to see Mama off. After Savvy checked in, she handed Reina a ticket with her name on it and asked if she would like to come too. It took Reina a minute to get over the shock, but she described it as “the best surprise ever.” Besides playing in the pool and making new friends, she enjoyed the Westin Kids’ Club, where she did art projects when she wanted a break from the sun.
We didn’t really visit any major attractions. Even though the Westin has a small beach of its own that is good for finding seashells, we never made it below the pool. We did visit the Central Festival Mall in search of floaties, as we forgot to bring Reina’s and ended up with a new pair of Sketchers shoes – but that was the extent of our exploring.
It was shocking how much better I felt in Phuket. The day after we arrived, my neverending Beijing cold evaporated and I felt more energetic. We enjoyed our time so much that we started checking property prices and school costs in Thailand.
The best thing we discovered was Mr. Wate, a local driver who knows every inch of the island and loves sharing its beauty and culture with visitors. On the final day, he took Savvy and I to the best local restaurant with homestyle Thai cooking that is a favorite of the locals. He also took us to a couple of places to buy gifts for people back home. Mr. Wate can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Phuket is not the best island in Thailand for a secluded beach holiday, but it is the easiest to get to and perfect for families with kids of all ages. Besides the usual water-based activities, there are also elephant safaris, jungle trekking, dinner shows, shopping, and more. We used TripAdvisor to come up with a list of things to do, though we ignored the list this time and opted to hang out at the resort instead.
If you have a late-night flight, request as late a checkout as possible and the use of a shower in the evening. The hotel staff booked a time for us to use the spa showers at 9pm so we could freshen up after swimming and eating dinner.
Photos: Courtesy of Christopher Lay
This article originally appeared on p38-39 of the beijingkids May 2014 issue. Check out the PDF version online at Issuu.com.