So after spending Easter in Margaret River and flying up to Shanghai with Spring Airlines, I found myself on the plane once more the following weekend, this time heading up to Phuket to relax and decompress with a couple of my girl friends at the invitation of Holiday Inn Resort Phuket Mai Khao Beach.
Despite its close proximity to Singapore, the only part of Thailand I’ve ever visited is Bangkok – I’ve never been to other popular holiday spots like Phuket or Chiang Mai or Koh Samui, so I was quite stoked to head up there. Phuket is a great location for a weekend getaway, just 2 hours in flight away from Singapore with lots of budget airlines flying there. I flew up by Jetstar Asia, using the credit from my cancelled Bangkok trip earlier in the year.
- SIN > HKT: Jetstar 3K533 0820 – 0910
- HKT > SINJetstar 3K538 2200 – 0050 (+1)
After 2 weekends of travels, frankly I was a little tired – all I really wanted to do was sit around and while away the days in a lovely place, and Holiday Inn Phuket Mai Khao was just what I needed to catch my breath.
This hotel is located on Mai Khao beach, which is just 10mins west from the airport, so it’s great for those who hate taking long car rides! It’s a little unusual in terms of location as most people head down to Patong beach, which is about an hour’s drive south depending on traffic.
Mai Khao beach is a rather secluded quiet sort of beach, definitely not like Kuta or even Seminyak beach in Bali. It isn’t as popular as Patong beach, probably because the surf here can be pretty strong at times so you have to be on the lookout. As one of the hotel staff explained, the beach here is a lot steeper than it is at Patong, so that makes for stronger surf and possible riptides – this steeper beach however is also what saved the area from being devastated by the tsunami back in 2004. There aren’t any lifeguards here though the staff are trained in lifesaving, so keep an eye on the flag and only swim when it’s not red.
Mai Khao beach itself doesn’t technically belong to the hotel – once you step onto the beach you are really stepping off hotel property, but the rules are pretty lax and they’ve put up a lot deckchairs in the shady area under the trees where you’ll find many hotel guests getting a tan or taking a nap with a great view of the beach. I was just happy that it was not crowded at all~
We had 2 rooms next to each other – 8104 and 8105 in the Andaman wing. They were ground floor pool access suites, which mean that the balcony opened up to a semi-private pool area which is connected to all the other pool access suites in that block, and means that you have the pool literally at your doorstep… How awesome is that! You can actually visit the other rooms by lieu of the pool, and we often walked over between the rooms by wading/climbing through the pool – the first day I saw a couple snorkeling past our balcony, I kid you not.
These particular rooms were also a little more private because they were not so close to the link bridges that connected the main footpaths to the hotel (so people can’t see your balcony area so directly) and as we were behind the spa, not so much foot traffic in front of our pool area either.
The room itself is pretty spacious – the one I ended up sleeping in (by lieu of not being a kicker) had a double bed and a couch to lounge on, while the other room had 2 single beds with no couch. Both the rooms had a small balcony by the pool with a chair to lounge on and a rack to hang wet laundry. The bathroom was also quite spacious – a large rain shower area, with the toilet in a separate area so you don’t have to fight over the bathroom.
Our host also told us about the special kid and family suites, rooms specially designed with furniture for young kids, which I think would be a treat for the young ‘uns who usually don’t get that chance to indulge in such things on holidays, as hotel rooms tend to be more neutrally designed and catered for adults.
The hotel itself is fairly large, with 2 long blocks leading towards the beach. You’ll probably get a decent view if you get a room on the 3rd or 4th floor.
Besides Mai Khao beach which is the main draw, there is a pretty large swimming pool as well complete with poolside bar just by the beach, so when we were tired of salt water and sand, we would pop into the pool for a bit.
It’s definitely quite a family friendly place – lots of space for kids to run around in, as well as equipment for them to play with. Besides the kids club which has an amazing ball pit, reading and tv corner and staff to babysit your kids, there’s also a playground, trampoline, table tennis table and even an outdoor cinema on the grounds, so you can definitely find something to do.
Food wise, there are two main eateries on site – J’s which is where the breakfast and dinner buffets take place – your typical hotel style with a mix of Western, Asian and Thai flavours. The other restaurant is called Pesto and it’s closer to the beach, and we had decent meals there.
The other thing I noticed about this particular hotel is that there were a lot of Russians in it. Not sure if it’s related to the time of year, but enough of a majority that they had some menus in full Russian! Our host P said that it also got a lot of Japanese tourists during their holidays.
The hotel also organizes a fairly comprehensive list of activities that you can do every day if you get bored or don’t want to step out of the hotel, ranging from yoga and muay thai lessons, to bike tours and batik painting. Our host P was really concerned that we “young travellers” would be bored stiff even though we were really quite happy to just chill out in the pool or at the beach, so she arranged a whole slew of activities for us. Some of them are free, some require a little extra top up, but they do make the effort to keep you entertained.
The activities rotate every couple of months, and often need pre-booking because some prep work is needed, so be sure to check the schedule (you can see it here) and with the concierge when you are there. We were there during the low season, so most of the time we were the only ones doing the activities, but it’s a different story during high season!
BATIK SHIRT PAINTING – While waiting for our check-in, A and I headed over to the Kid’s centre to do a little batik painting. Basically you pick from several pre-designed T-shirts which have designs sketched in wax. We’re taken to a specially built little pavilion by the beach side where the hotel staff set up everything for us – all you need to do is sit down, dip your paintbrush and start painting, nothing more to it!
It’s a simple task, but can be surprisingly tiring. Thankfully since we were the only ones painting that day, we each had one staff help us out so it went quite a lot faster and we finished in the allocated time of around 2 hours. The shirts are then washed so the colours fade a little, it then needs to dry overnight, and then you can pick them up from the Kid’s Club the next day.
COOKING CLASS – I particularly enjoyed the cooking lesson by the Chef’s of J’s restaurant. We pre-selected 3 dishes to cook in the morning, and after they cleared the lunch buffet, it was time to get cracking! I picked prawn cakes, chicken green curry and tom yum goong.
First you’re presented with a special apron and chef’s hat, as well as a recipe book with all the ingredients/steps to cooking your food. All the ingredients are prepared in nice neat stations for you, and the chef will bring you through each dish, step by step so you can have the chance to prepare it for yourself. What you’re mostly doing is cutting up the ingredients, mixing them together and then cooking them at the stations.
I’m definitely no master chef – I’m someone who could probably follow a recipe and cook to save her life (i.e. instant noodles, eggs, stir fry anything), so if I can do it, you surely can too! Be prepared that it might take quite awhile though
BIKE TOUR – There is an evening sunset bike tour where you get to go out of the hotel and cycle around the outside and surrounding village area. A can’t cycle, so it was just me and 2 of the hotel staff. We cycled quite a fair bit, from the resort down the road by the coast line till we were almost at the airport, before turning around and cycling back to the resort.
Along the way, we made several stops to see various things, including a strange pond in the back of a temple monastery with the weirdest looking large fish in it (we fed them with popcorn! And damn there were a lot of mozzies around there), as well as a wat/temple. There are other resorts along this stretch of Mai Khao beach, but they were spaced quite far apart and generally weren’t super crowded.
WELLNESS – I never managed to wake up for it, but my friend A went for yoga and pilates classes organized in the morning. We did check out the on-site spa which is pretty small – it only has 5 rooms, and it fills up really fast! You have to book at least the day before to guarantee a space in the low season, so I can’t imagine what it’s like in high season. There is a beach-side area with ladies offering spa treatments in a pavilion by the sea – it’s much cheaper but just remember you get what you pay for!
AROUND THE HOTEL
The hotel itself is located off the main road and surrounded by farmland. Because of its secluded location, there really isn’t very much to do around the hotel itself. Just outside of the front entrance, there’s a very small stretch of eateries off to the right where you can grab some food at, as well as a mini mart if you turn left instead.
Your next best option is to take a day trip or a taxi out to Patong and other parts of Phuket instead, though we were repeatedly warned that traffic on Phuket can be quite congested so just getting to Patong can take over an hour. Since we were there for such a short time, we elected to just spend all our time in the resort instead.
Based on the IHG reservations website, the Pool Suite rooms were going at around S$175/night, which is pretty decent for a nice hotel! The cheapest rooms were going at around S$140+/night (without discount – the best price I saw was almost $100!), and the most expensive suite room was around S$220/night. Definitely quite decent prices for a very comfortable stay!
Accommodation courtesy of Holiday Inn Phuket Mai Khao, but all views and opinions in this review are purely that of me and my experience.