Fruit Loops in paradise

Danielle Teutsch discovers a Phuket resort that knows how to keep little - and big - people happy.

It is one of those travel truisms that whatever cultural and exotic experiences children may have overseas, they cannot compete with the marvels of a water slide and an all-you-can-eat Fruit Loop dispenser at the breakfast buffet.

Just ask my four-year-old, on his first trip to Thailand.

They are the memories embedded in his brain, not the heady smell of lemongrass in a curry, the rows of latex trees and pineapple plantations, or even the warmth of the Andaman Sea.

Don't fight it. Even if pre-children your idea of a holiday was horse riding in Mongolia or trekking in Bhutan, it's time to embrace the resort concept when little people are involved.

On our family holiday to Thailand, we stayed at Sunwing Kamala resort in Phuket. And as much as I'm not a "resort person", I have to admit Kamala was set up to make life as easy and enjoyable as possible - which is sort of the point with a holiday.

On Phuket's west coast, Sunwing is a low-rise affair on a pretty beach with that essential resort attraction - meandering swimming pools offering different depths and water slides.

But the appeal for families goes much further. The children's play area, Mini Land, is arranged like a proper creche with several staff, plenty of toys, tables for craft and drawing, and chill-out areas for watching movies. They have a program of activities, from bingo to ceramic painting to disco evenings, catering for toddlers to pre-teens.

There's a children's buffet area at breakfast, with mostly healthy options, although my kids quickly scoped out the aforementioned Fruit Loop dispenser.

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Ordinarily, having lollies with milk for breakfast is verboten, but a deal was struck: if they filled their bowls with bran and corn flakes they were allowed to garnish with the sugary rings as a holiday treat.

The practical details of the resort, while yawn-inducing to anyone without young kids, are spot on and designed to remove the problems you quickly encounter.

There are washing and drying machines on site that operate cheaply so you don't have to pay extortionate hotel laundry prices, and there is a shop selling good bread and other food basics, as well as washing powder and pool toys.

For parents with really young children there is a series of pram-friendly "happy baby" rooms on the lower level facing the pool with a small grassed outdoor area, which were booked solid when we visited. And where Sunwing Kamala really kicks it out of the ball park? The on-duty doctor, which removes another potential holiday stress with kids: sickness.

But practicalities do not a holiday make, and that's where the beachfront comes in.

Kamala beach is lined with shacks offering everything from grilled corn to pancakes, hair braiding, cocktails, sarongs and burgers, which gives it a vibrant and buzzy feel.

After mornings, during which the kids exhausted themselves on the pool slide while I lazed on a deckchair in the shade, we got into the habit of heading to the beach for an afternoon swim. The kids would feast on Nutella pancakes from the stall and my partner and I would hit up the masseurs for a kneading session, leaving us slack-jawed with relaxation.

The beachfront has lacklustre restaurants offering alarmingly long menus featuring such aberrations as "green curry spaghetti". Our favourite eatery was the hotel restaurant Fino, overlooking the beach - unusual for me, as I'll usually walk kilometres to avoid eating in a resort.

But Fino had an authentic Thai menu with a small selection of good dishes, a spotless kitchen and a view of the waves, plus kids dined free from the children's menu. The service was sharp, and staff offered colouring-in paper and pencils during the wait for meals.

It's easy to bunker down here for a week, combined with a few day trips around Phuket, for some relaxation in the sun, minus the dramas. The only headache? Having to explain to the kids when they got home why they are very unlikely to see Fruit Loops ever again. Especially in an all-you-can-eat dispenser.

The writer travelled as a guest of HOOT Holidays.

TRIP NOTES

GETTING THERE

Thai Airways flies daily from Sydney to Bangkok with connecting flights to Phuket. Sunwing Resort is a 35-minute drive from Phuket Airport.

STAYING THERE

From April to October 2014, rates range from 3590 baht ($125) for a studio room that can sleep a family of four, to 6590 baht for a family suite, including breakfast. Prices are higher in the peak season of November to January. Kids dine free from the kids' menu at lunch and dinner.

MORE INFORMATION

HOOT Holidays 131 381

hootholidays.com.au

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