After our Irina and her little Singapore made us insecure, she ventured to Thailand. Whereby this is probably the coolest country for a single trip with a child. Read it yourself!
In Chiang Mai we stayed in a simple but very charming guesthouse, the Joy’s House. The guesthouse is run by young people who were part of the Children Shelter Foundation and grew up there. Everyone is extremely helpful and friendly and the food is excellent, but unfortunately the way to the city is relatively long (about 20 minutes by taxi). At the airport we were picked up for free and spent the first afternoon in the beautiful garden.
The next day the temperatures scratched at the 40 degrees mark. In the morning we therefore only visited the old town of Chiang Mai for a short time and spent the afternoon in the air-conditioned shopping center “Central Festival Mall”. The shopping center doesn’t have much Thai charm, but an indoor playground for big and small children and a small train that runs in a circle on the top floor. My son was very enthusiastic and when the child is happy, Mommy accepts the unbelievable noise level.
The third day was all about the grey giants. The Elephant Nature Park was founded in the 90s and has saved dozens of elephants that have been abused and neglected. In contrast to many other elephant parks in the area, the animals can run around freely, swim in the river or roll in the mud. You can feed, touch and bathe the animals, but NOT ride them. Compared to an earlier elephant experience in Khao Sok National Park it had too many tourists for me personally.
On the fourth day we made an excursion, which was organized and accompanied by the guesthouse. The first stop was the Wat Phra That Doi Suthep Temple, the landmark of Chiang Mai. The temple complex can be reached either by a long staircase or – if you don’t have a child like me – by a lift.
A visit here is also an experience for children: if the monk blesses you after a donation, if you can empty the warm oil into the pot of the “birthday” or if you can ring the big bells. After a short detour to the much less known but no less interesting Wat Pha Lat we drove to Huay Tung Tao Lake, where we enjoyed a wonderful lunch in a bamboo hut by the lake amidst locals. Afterwards we could even swim in the lake and it was a great day with lots of information and a great guide from the guesthouse.
Although there was still a lot to see (e.g. the 3D-Museum) we had to start our journey again on the fifth day. Since the flight was only in the afternoon, I fulfilled my son’s wish and took him to the children’s paradise of the Central Festival Mall before we made our way to the airport. After the many impressions and excursions we were both looking forward to the beach and the sea.
I chose Khao Lak for my stay on the beach, because this destination can be reached without long transportation distances, you have a wider choice of shops, restaurants and excursions, good medical care is not too far away and you are still not in the middle of the hustle and bustle of Phuket.
The Sands is extremely family friendly and very centrally located, which for me were the two main arguments for this accommodation. Unfortunately the hotel has absolutely no Thai character and could be anywhere in the world, but both I and my son felt absolutely at home here.
The hotel has three pool areas, one of which is exclusively for adults, the other two are for families. At the beginning of 2018 a completely new part of the hotel was opened, the Aqua-Wing. The rooms in this area are fully equipped for families. The Family Pool Access rooms have direct pool access, but are protected by a glass door so that parents with small children can also book this room category. In the same part there is also the new Waterpark with various slides, the Lazy River and the Kidsclub, which was still under construction during our visit.
In the buffet restaurant there are daily changing theme evenings with live music, the Manta Ray Bistro serves both Thai and international cuisine and the Talay Restaurant, which is beautifully located right on the beach, specializes in sea food. Both a-la-carte restaurants also have special children’s menus, high chairs etc. The main street of Khao Lak starts right at the hotel. There you will also find the very recommendable Spinach Restaurant with wonderful Thai cuisine but also international menus for the children who are not so keen on experimenting.
The audience in the hotel is very mixed. There are relatively many Swiss and Germans, but also English, French, Italian and Russian.
The beach section where The Sands is located is certainly not the most beautiful of Khao Lak. For this reason we made an excursion to Coconut Beach – effectively a picture book beach with many beach restaurants (e.g. the Nang Sib Song with wonderful atmosphere and the best Pad Thai of the trip), massages, etc..
In Khao Lak I met another single mom with child and we did a lot together. Instead of booking a trip we decided to book a taxi for 4 hours and decide for ourselves where we want to go. This has given us a lot of flexibility with the children and has made us even cheaper. The first stop was at the Lampi waterfall. This is not as spectacular as the Niagara Falls, but worth a visit. You can go all the way to the top or stop on one of the middle levels. At the bottom you can also refresh yourself in the cool fresh water, which was a pleasant surprise compared to the warm sea and the hotel pool.
Afterwards we drove to the breeding station for turtles of the Royal Thai Navy. Turtle eggs and baby turtles from the Andaman Sea are brought here and reared until they are strong enough at about 6 months to be released into the sea. You can also buy cucumbers on the spot and feed the turtles, which was a lot of fun for the children.
Finally we made a stop in the Asia Safari Park, because our friends wanted to see elephants. With very mixed feelings I went there, because one reads again and again how badly the animals are kept. And unfortunately this was confirmed very quickly when we saw what small enclosures the animals of the mini zoo were kept in.
If you want to make an excursion from Khao Lak to the elephants, I recommend the Elephant Hills in Khao Sok National Park, which I visited myself 5 years ago or the Elephant Sanctuary in Phuket.
After 8 days on the beach it was time for us to say goodbye to Thailand. The direct flight with Edelweiss leaves Phuket in the morning at 8.45 a.m., which meant that we were picked up at 5.00 a.m.. The positive aspect of the early pick-up time: no traffic and less than an hour drive to the airport. We shortened the waiting time by watching exactly how the luggage and the food were loaded into our plane – super exciting for a little Flugi fan!
I was very skeptical about the 12-hour day flight. Thanks to Edelweiss’ good children’s entertainment program, the occasional walks into the kitchen, the meal breaks and a “nap”, time passed faster than we had feared and so we were satisfied, healthy, happy and landed back in Zurich with many beautiful memories.
Although a pure bathing holiday stay in a child-friendly hotel would certainly have been easier, we both enjoyed the time traveling around very much. It quenched my thirst for travel a bit and also the child experienced more, where we will talk about it for a long time, as if we had only been on the beach (e.g. the robot in the hotel in Singapore or the elephants, who don’t like bananas).
What I have underestimated is that alone on the road with a toddler, one can effectively miss the “adult conversations”. But this is the case no matter where you go, if you can’t get together with another mother and child.
I can recommend to everyone to undertake such a journey, even if the nervousness in the run-up is surely somewhat greater than if one is on the road as a family.
Tips for unaccompanied travellers with children to simplify their lives:
Take a buggy with you for toddlers, even if it is no longer needed at home.
Choose direct flights whenever possible, as every change is another stress factor.
Download the app so you can watch movies offline (e.g. T-Downloader). Helpful not only in the airplane, but also if mummy wants to treat herself to a massage and child does not want to stay in the children’s club.
Various medications including antibiotics for emergencies at hand, because someone can not just go to the pharmacy quickly and the other can stay with the child.