First morning, while my family eased out of their travel comas, I was on the road scoping out the resort. I waved to security and headed out the property to explore adjoining Patong Beach on one side (there is also Karon Beach on the other side).

Patong Beach, the most developed in Phuket Island, is very long and I liked seeing where it led me; you travel past many different types of hotels so it’s a varied run. The design, atmosphere and people keep changing along the way.

Two close friends of mine from Sydney who are what I call real runners (4 minute/km) had invited me to join them for the early morning run each day. Sounded good in theory, but wow when I put it to the test… all I can say is that by mid-day I was passing out with fatigue! I run about 300 days a year. I am no plodder, but no speed freak either! So to cut each kilometer time to match them, I had to cut in excess of 1 minute per/km  off my usual time!! It’s a funny thing about runners; there is a real camaraderie between us. My two friends never let me lag behind. They were encouraging, and seemed to enjoy running with me rather than feel I was slowing them down.

Gladly the last day I was able to find an excuse not to join them. By midmorning I felt a little guilty doing nothing, so went for a run alone, and really enjoyed my old pace back! I am quite comfortable with the way I run…

I have my I-pod,
sunglasses and hat to keep me company, and although it was fun to run with friends, deep down I do prefer this time alone.

Bookmark and Share

Patong Beach| Phuket |
Karon Beach| Phuket |
View All Black Book Entries for Phuket

Phuket is breezy, fun and lazy - well suited for the total flop and drop holiday. You can get your kicks just chilling in the grounds while your younger children are entertained by the Penguin Club, with sand castles, treasure hunts and Marcopolo in the pool.

You can just enjoy all the simple pleasures of a summer holiday… Young Zoe was in Brazil mode, so cute running around in a little lolly pink dress with pom poms - very Zsa Zsa Gabor - getting her hair braided. In Thailand you can buy square, rice paper khom loi lanterns at restaurants. Everyone writes their own message then sends it up into the night sky like a kite - they are lit so prettily and it is a magical thing for the family to do. Leonardo di Caprio & co send one high above in a scene from the movie “The Beach.” Kicking back is easy when the sky is this blue and the water so inviting.

Bookmark and Share

But if you are not the Dan Brown by the pool type, the hotel activities and built up location itself are lively enough to keep you busy. While Zoe and I went down to the beach Sheira loved doing aqua arobics: the painless cardio. Noah and Josh were old enough to do their own thing around the property, Noah having his mate, Ariel of the same age as well. Josh only came at the tail end of our stay in Phuket as he officially had his final high school exam to deal with (the real reason may have something to do with the fact that a young adult’s idea of paradise ain’t palm trees, but an empty, parent-free house back home!)

The Meridien is a great destination
for people who are happy to build their schedule around whatever the hotel has to offer. You don’t need to go off and customise your own day trips (my usual preference) to do something everyday - the excursions counter lays everything out for you. I am a bit of a research detective who stays in small places and seeks out insider knowledge; I’m less use to the commercial, spoon-feeding of big resorts. But a lot of people clearly love that. This was a chance to let the kids rule and try the other side so I went with the flow

Always up for an adrenaline rush,
the Said boys and I let it rip out on the ocean by renting JET SKIS. We had heard friends advise against the dodgy operators who own the equipment and don’t bother with insurance - and I could see for myself that whoever was driving them around Patong Beach were inexperienced drivers who had perfected their technique on dodgem cars (there are no regulations governing the waters of Thailand). We headed away down the coast. They are a great way to discover isolated beaches and bays. I loved busting loose from the resort and making all the waterways our playground - it’s well worth the U$50 per ½ hour, the non-negotiable price.

You can bring the speed
way down and go sailing or deep-sea fishing. Noah also swapped the ocean for mountain terrain, going QUAD BIKING with friends booked through the hotel.

If you want to haul
yourself off the beach towel but don’t feel the need to go further afield the Meridien has plenty of sporty things to do on the spot, like TENNIS, SQUASH, BEACH VOLLEYBALL and a GOLF DRIVING RANGE. Bottom line: most people do as little as possible once they pass through the gates!

Bookmark and Share

Rent Jet Skies | Phuket | View web site
Golf | Phuket | View web site
Quad Biking | Phuket |
Downtown Patong | Phuket |
View All Black Book Entries for Phuket

There is a real social vibe here; it’s a great place to enjoy with friends and many people come with small groups from home like we did. The hotel can take care of all the meals and activities, and the informal setting has plenty of people, so they may as well be your friends! It’s not one of those hushed, private, no kid’s retreats that attract people seeking privacy.

It’s also amazing to maintain global friendships and meet up again with your favourite people in different spots around the world. As a bonus we had a reunion with a lovely, friend of ours from London - a lady banker, Audrey.

We met her and her husband Kam
in Italy over 4 years ago and we all joke about her and my matching A-type personalities and control freak activities lists. Our spouses, Kam and Sheira are smart enough to back off and let us micro-manage picnics and outings to keep the peace. The only difference between us is that I bounce into a jog at the crack of dawn and she is the walking dead until lunch. You don’t mess with a non-morning person.

It’s one of our great pleasures
to meet up with them all over Europe. They’ll hop on a plane if they like the sound of where we are and come see us. One of the many upsides of having wanderlust is being able to nurture friendships around the world.

Bookmark and Share

Another great reason to stay at the Meridian; you get the beach yet have a nightlife too. The hotbed of nocturnal Patong is a mere 10-minute ride away on the wacky little Tuk Tuks that add constant character as they toot toot around the streets of Thailand. You can jump on and off them for about U$5. The jumble of outdoor stalls, shops, karaoke bars, discos, gogo bars and live music is a riot of splashy, coloured lights, noise and smells.

We had pre-trip paranoia about terrorism and bombs in the region and walking around at night, but once we were there we got swept along by the Thai culture of living life out on the streets. After roaming around every night we were veterans, with Zoe out on the town and in the mix, strolling with us through the she-males area! Her school show and tell is really going to rock over the coming years...

The neon and music pumping out of every bar is exciting for teenage boys. As the days went by we seemed to get more conditioned to letting Noah, still in Middle School, go out to bars and clubs until the wee hours, tagging along with his 18-year old brother Josh. Like a lot of younger kids he was cashing in on the older sibling’s privileges 2 years early. 
And what a place to relinquish authority! They had a ball. It’s pure eye candy; you always see an interesting sight. In a way the street life, shops and clubs of Patong are the perfect holding pen for older boys as you know they are safely staying in one spot - and never, ever bored.

Of course Patong is not just elephants and fake DVDs! Sex tourism brings in a lot of dollars in Thailand; the raunchy stuff is upfront and right out there, but more so from midnight onwards. There are a lot of families walking around until 11.00pm who tend to drift away quickly, then the night trade takes the stage; it is all jumbled together naturally in that Asian way. People bar hop and take in the nocturnal spice by osmosis.

In terms of me and my peers, the other dads, I was not interested in dipping into the whole strip culture and hostess clubs there. I’m no party pooper but the up-front, obvious exploitation of poor rural girls as young as 15, right up to older women with really sad eyes who are spiritually deadened and worn out, is a total buzz-kill for me. But for every girl for sale in Patong there is a bleary eyed boozer with a beer gut who is interested in taking advantage; so be aware of the seedy side. It’s not changing any time soon…

Bookmark and Share

This was an out-there suggestion for the boys that wanted to experience a Muay Thai boxing match, the local equivalent of a feisty, male sports event that they would be attending in their own culture. It’s the country’s national sport, combining the chopping of martial art kicks with gloves-on boxing and punches. A friend of mine, Ronnie came along with his son; we got a lift to the Patong Boxing Stadium on Sainamyen Road on an open bus. After being surrounded by so many tourists at the resort it was amazing to leave our English-speaking bubble and take our boys for a real Thai boys night out.

The ‘stadium’ was more like a large high school gym with a big screen and individual plastic moulded seats. It was the classic boxing audience, only the Asian version.

I’m so not interested in cheesy, staged US style steroided-out wrestling so I loved that this was old-school: macho, sweaty, with gambling in the air. The boys were in the front row, right near the local fighters.  They cornered each other against the ropes in a lightening quick mix of arm jabs and leg kicks.

Occasionally foreigners who know how to fight Thai-style, like Frenchman Wilfred Montagne show up. What amazed us was seeing women do this professional Thai boxing circuit as well. On the night that we went there was a girl from Canada fighting. For a guy who didn’t feel comfortable letting a female chauffeur in New Zealand haul my heavy cases for me this was mind-blowing! There is just something so jarring about women smashing their fists into each other’s faces. There must be some very interesting back-stories there…

Ronnie and I
actually paid a bit extra to step into the ring afterwards and absorb the testosterone of it all! Sorry ladies - make that the warrior spirit.

Bookmark and Share

Patong Boxing Stadium| Soi Sainamyen near Soi Kepsap 2, off Rat-U-Thi 200, Patong Boxing Stadium, Phuket |
View All Black Book Entries for Phuket


I had a fixation that when we left Phuket to travel to our next destination, Krabi we should make the journey by boat. That way we could get a feel for the terrain by coastline, which we would never otherwise see, tracing the route along the coastline. We booked the boat from a guy on the beach in Phuket, right in front of the hotel (although it was independently operated).

It all seemed very legit in that commercial environment, dealing with the people who manage the jet-ski company, para-sailing and boat excursions. There were official phone numbers etc. Also part of my brief was a request to stop along the way. “Find me a Robinson Crusoe experience,” I challenged, “somewhere remote where we can all eat fish right off the barbecue and feel like castaways in a secret corner of the West Coast.” “We have a place,” he reassured me. What should have been a fun, simple transfer/journey –

The weather flipped on us. The whole landscape changed as winds started to pick up, the sea got murky. What most sane people would do of course is cancel the boat. But I pushed ahead, not accepting failure. Obviously the boating people are not going to argue as the trip is worth a hefty U$800 to them.

It took us a very uncomfortable, chilly 40 minutes with our luggage to reach our first pit stop. Our friends were all packed up and excited, in blissful ignorance, protected by the bay. They hadn’t experienced the wind whipping them yet and the weather was only getting worse. As our friends came aboard, laughing and smiling, I thought, ‘give it a minute, your smiles may freeze.’

I was determined to put the best foot forward, despite the muddy grey colour of the ocean, transformed from Thailand’s famous crystal clear waters.  Against the wind, the boat trip went on and on...

When we arrived at our picnic spot it met my criteria of remoteness, but I had forgotten to add ‘beautiful.’ We happened upon the only ugly, scrubby patch of Thailand. It was just too relentlessly primitive, with a broken table and no proper soft refreshments  just water with lemon. Definitely time to try my one glass of beer per year and I enjoyed the Singha Thai lager. It seemed to take an eternity to get some chips and a meal together, while we just sat there weak with hunger.

When food is bountiful, delicious and full of variety you can quickly bounce back from any mishap. But the only thing that my crew wanted to spear was me. The fish was as raw as the experience: the salt crust looked promising but it was so wet and tasteless inside. No one spoke English - so we couldn’t even get across how we wanted the fish straight off the grill. 

Bookmark and Share

Because Jonathan is so obsessed with embracing ’the experience’ his take on reality often gets foggy. While friends might say, “look at the water, it’s as rough as guts”, his desire to push forward instructs his brain to believe ‘it will clear up.” If there is even a square inch of blue sky, he’ll be convinced of it. He has a bottomless will, which runs on the principle, I can change the planet - because I deem it so. Most of the time it turns out, sometimes it doesn’t.

In the 2 days leading up to this endless, horrendous boat trip the weather forecast made us cancel any island hops on the way. When he mentioned that the winds were coming in from the wrong places and we would have to re-route south instead of north you didn’t need to be a psychic to know, ‘this will be crap.’

But Johnny just keeps soldiering on, craving a new experience. I’ll be in the background rolling my eyeballs, piping up, ‘I don’t want to go on this boat / hang off this flying fox / squeeze in this extra life-changing monument.’ Let me chill on my sun-lounge already!

Most of the time he pushes the boundaries and it works out. The weather will change and he’ll go... “see.” But if the idea bombs, he’ll be crushed that life didn’t turn out the way he thought.

On this excursion the whole thing, from the boat to the lunch, fell flat. We were shivering, miserable and not traveling fast. He knew that, pushed to the edge, we wanted to blab, “you are crazy, why did you do this ?

He gets a bit fragile and angry with himself when plans crumble and don’t turn out the way he wanted, so I slowly back off. Do not provoke the wild, trapped animal.

But all said and done, if Jonathan didn’t have this cliff-diving personality, our family wouldn’t do half the genius things that we do.

Bookmark and Share

We’ve Got More on Phuket...


Koh SamuiPhuket


Soneva Gili
Back to Home Page
Choose a Place we've visited around the World
Where to Stay around the World
Places to Eat around the World
Things to See & Do around the World
Where to Shop around the World
More travel tips and advice