When I awoke this morning to jet black skies and heavy rain (it was very, very early as my three-year old is jet lagged), I was in high spirits. The air may be damp, the days still short, and my bank account on the dry side, but after three weeks of natural Vitamin D from dense sunshine, papaya breakfasts and massages that cost less than a Starbucks, I’m immune to winter weather. Smug, I hear you say, but we all know the world of difference a tropical getaway makes in piercing the heart of a long English winter. Long haul flights and jet lag with tots may not appeal but, take it from me, it is well worth every penny so, next winter, get booked up. And if you need some inspiration, Thailand has it all.
WHERE WE STAYED
After an eleven-hour flight, I wasn’t elated at the idea of a further three hours in the car but Hua Hin, a town southwest of Bangkok on the mainland, is a haven of fabulous spas, elephant sanctuaries (the good kind), luxury hotels and sensational local food. The Thais couldn’t be more family-friendly if they tried, so adoring are they of children we had many pulling out iPhones and simply snapping shots of our daughter in the local market; the fact that she was a stranger didn’t see to bother them. They found her adorable and it’s easy to see they feel that way about all little people. As such, there isn’t a five-star hotel, a restaurant or even a bar that doesn’t welcome families with open arms.
Now, we stayed in a private house deep in the divine confines of Baan Ing Phu, but I highly recommend the Six Senses Evason if you head to Hua Hin. A luxury resort of villa residences, every home-from-home on the property has lovely touches, such as a private balcony and 24-hour room service, while the hotel itself can arrange a car with a driver or a private boat ride, should you want one. There isn’t much they won’t do for you and the setting is one of the most beautiful, located just outside of the Hua Hin itself in Pranburi, which perches delicately on the Gulf of Siam amongst 20 acres of tropical gardens. (The town of Hua Hin itself is useful but it’s far from pretty so don’t worry about not staying within its centre). The beauty of this area lies in the fact that it sits next to a national park at the base of Black Mountain (home to the SoutheastAsian PGA course) and this particular Six Senses beauty is stunning. The Earth Spa is a must for parents, while kids will adore the Just Kids! Club, which comes complete with its own swimming pool. You’ll rest in peace knowing that professional supervisors arrange everything from Origami to model-making, Thai lessons to mobile-making and, should the kids want a real break away, supervised sleepovers are organized nightly, giving you a lovely lie-in.
WHAT WE DID
Lola and I, admittedly, spent a lot of time by the pool. She loved donning her armbands; I adored reading in the glorious sunshine and recovering after another battering Christmas of too much wine, too much food and too little sleep. Between stints, we strolled to collect Frangipani, read and talked about all we do together in 2015. Her father played endless rounds of golf; we ventured to local animal sanctuaries. There are a few “sanctuaries” in the area, but some of them are far from humane. We recommend the Hua Hin Elephant village just on the outskirts of town. The elephants there have plenty of room to roam, they are extremely well-loved and children will adore feeding them and washing them (all supervised by volunteers, of course).
The Centara Grand Beach Resort located in Hua Hin itself is a gorgeous old 1920’s building that came about thanks to the introduction of the railway line that connected Hua Hin – then a sleepy fishing village – with Malaysia. The topiary is sculpted into elephant, deer and bird shapes (which delighted Lola), they serve delicious ice cream alongside the large pool area and the birdcage seats that dot the beachside are fabulous. Whether you stay there or not, it’s well worth a lunchtime or afternoon tea visit.
WHERE WE ATE
The Bubble is a restaurant located in the residential area of Baan Ing Phu, a short drive out of the main town towards Black Mountain. It is open to everyone though and the food is, by far, better than anything else we have had there (and we’ve been back a few times). The cuisine is incredible – whether you order the yellow crab curry, chicken satay or rice dishes – you can have everything as hot (or not) as you wish so it’s perfect for children, too. A garden of greenery sits adjacent to both eating salas so children can play freely (and safely if they are really little as there are no nasty steps or areas of hard terrain) and the staff all adore children so they’ll happily whisk small tots off for a cuddle while you sip on your G&T at sunset.
WHAT WE WORE
This was the first time I was lucky enough to wear swimwear by Heidi Klein and I loved it. My body hasn’t quite bounced back after childbirth the way I had hoped, but the gorgeous design of my bikini boosted me in the right places, sucked me up in others, and left me feeling far more confident in a two-piece than I have done since wiggling about with a big baby bump. Lola adored her one-piece, which features in the new collection of Heidi Klein girls’ wear, a stunning blue creation donning white anchors and gorgeous frilled-lining that left her good enough to eat, as far as I was concerned.
READ OUR EXCLUSIVE INTERVIEW WITH HEIDI KLEIN ON LAUNCHING THE NEW GIRLS’ RANGE HERE.