Monday, June 21, 2010



PHOTO: JUMBO FUN: The writer, her husband and baby go on an elephant ride with Siam Safari.

I hardly know anyone in Singapore who has not been to Phuket. I’ve already been to the island four times, and going there almost seems to be a Singaporean traveller’s rite of passage.

Yet it remains a crowd pleaser, with an aura that draws people to revisit again and again.

Phuket is definitely a place that gets big groups in a good mood, because there really is something for everyone.


I experienced this with family and friends recently when we stayed in the district of Cherng Talay, a quaint little area located conveniently close to the airport.

It is full of hip little restaurants and shops among the ubiquitous street markets and foodstalls that line the winding lanes.

The resort we chose, outrigger Laguna Phuket, is part of a gated community, sharing facilities with other well-known properties such as Dusit Thani and Banyan Tree Phuket.

It was perfectly private and had all the amenities we wanted in one area: private beach, huge lake, golf, small pedestrian mall, riding club and even a wedding chapel.


The great thing about revisiting a place you’ve already fallen in love with is that it gives you opportunities to do things you might have skipped before.

One of the first things we did this time was to stop at a nearby village temple to pay our respects and give alms to the monks on Vesak Day, the reason we were enjoying a long weekend holiday.

I had initially expected glorious chanting and some kind of fanfare that morning, but the only people there were our small party and a barefoot monk, who received our offerings of rice and vegetables graciously, and blessed us quietly in Sanskrit.

Our conveniently located villa was also a perfect base from which we could set out for various pursuits, yet still enjoy the comforts of home.

Mornings would see us jumping into our sizeable private pool, and then making breakfast or preparing lunch in the fully equipped kitchen.

But, of course, it was far better than being at home. Our three-bedroom villa overlooked a small stream and had an open pavilion, where we could lounge while staff prepared a barbecue for our dinner.

PHOTO: JUMBO FUN: The writer, her husband and baby go on an elephant ride with Siam Safari.

Personally, I find travel a great opportunity to give back to the local community.

As a visitor, one often consumes without thinking about giving back. But with a little research, one can always find groups that benefit from one’s patronage in a non-commercial way.

Siam Safarian eco-tourism outfit running safari tours, is one such group.

Operating out of a few destinations in Thailand, Siam Safari channels its funds towards animal care and giving jobs to locals.

My little group chose to do an elephant trek. It happened on a rainy afternoon, but that did not stop the six of us, including my hubby and baby, from going right ahead after donning rain gear.

The great thing about Siam Safari is that it really walks the talk when it comes to animal conservation. Its elephants are obviously well-cared for, and the group’s projects also include the running of animal hospitals and mobile clinics.

It also took a great deal of effort to give us facts on local village life, with the aim of helping to sustain the community and culture.

Shopping also became an act of caring at Lemongrass House, a Phuket-based spa-products company. Its store in Laguna is made of shipping containers, painted in their trademark lime green.

Inside the shop, a treasure trove of lovely essential oils, organic and all-natural bath and body products, and home fragrances awaits.

Lemongrass House also has special lines for children, expectant mothers and pets.

The owner and founder of the company, Mr Bobby Duchowny, showed me how products are hand-blended in the “lab” section of the store.

PHOTO: LEMON HEAVEN: Lemongrass House’s hand-blended spa products.

With a background in aromatherapy, he was inspired to create the brand when he fell in love and married his Thai wife. Four years later, 40 members of her family were employed in the business, working in organic farms and hand-blending the various products.

PHOTO: SUNNY DAZE: Phuket is a stand-out destination for beach-time fun. Charter a boat, snorkel and picnic, minus the crowds.

Phuket is always a stand-out destination for beach-time fun. We chartered a private speedboat for a more personal experience. There is simply nothing like the wind in your hair and the sun in your face as you really kick back with your own party and have no one else to cramp your style. We took our time, snorkelled at the best spots and just sped around for half a day.


Looking back, the five-day trip was a perfect experience.

Rested and rejuvenated, we ended our break with a deep tan, warm memories and a keen intention of returning to Phuket sometime soon.

And we know that’s a promise that’s going to be very easy to keep.

The writer is a freelance journalist and columnist. Pictures were taken using the new Canon EOS 550D.


While many airlines offer affordable flights to Phuket, SilkAir has got a deal that can’t be beaten right now. A single return ticket to Phuket starts from $238 (inclusive of tax and surcharges).

The offer is valid until next Wednesday, for travel from June till Sept 30.
For bookings, visit


STAY: The Outrigger Laguna Phuket Resort and Villas is a great place for families and larger groups.

It is also a safe and private community for the perfect home-away-from-home experience.

Besides, who can resist a private pool? It is also great to have your own dining and kitchen amenities to store food and cook up a storm if you don’t feel like eating out.

Special-offer prices start at an affordable 4,000 baht (S$171) a night until July 31. Villa capacity ranges from two to four bedrooms.

For more information and reservations, visit

DO: Siam Safari, a 20-year-old company, is a reputable establishment that does quality nature tours in various parts of Thailand, offering diverse activities that suit the entire family, from jungle trekking to Land Rover tours. You’ll find tours that can last up to five days.

Apart from being really good fun, participating in these tours goes a long way towards helping and understanding animal conservation, especially for young children.

If you don’t want to go the whole hog on the safaris, check out their one-day or half-day safari tours, which include a junk cruise on Chalong Bay and beyond.

There are special rates for kids from ages four to 11. Book your tour early, and expect to pay for your tour upfront. A one-day tour costs 2,950 baht for an adult, and 1,500 baht for a child. Cancellation fees apply.

For more information and bookings, visit

For a memorable private boatcharter experience that won’t bust your credit-card limit, look for Coral Seekers. Choose from different types of beach and snorkelling experiences that suit all ages and all interests.

The company can also cater for special events such as weddings, romantic dates and parties.

Prices for a basic trip start at 9,900 baht. Picnic lunches are included in full-day charters.

For more information, visit

BUY: Want farm-fresh spa products? Check out Lemongrass House (10/2 Moo 1, Srisoonthorn Road, Cherng Talay), which makes great souvenirs.

A visit to its standalone store in Laguna is an experience in itself. Walk around the herb-garden compound and smell the scent of fresh lemongrass in the air. You can also ask for something to be specially custom-blended for you, in the unlikely event that you don’t fancy anything on the shelves.


THE Courtyard by Marriott at Patong Beach resort in Phuket is giving away a two-night stay to my paper readers.

The Patong Beach resort and its sister resorts in Phuket, located in Surin and Kamala beaches, are currently running special packages.

Rates start at 3,499 baht (S$150) a night at the Patong Beach property; 3,299 baht at Surin Beach; and 3,199 baht at Kamala Beach. All packages include accommodation in a Deluxe room with breakfast for two at Momo Cafe. Guests are also entitled to a 20 per cent discount on spa treatments, and a food-and-beverage voucher valued at 500 baht.

To enter the my paper contest, which will see the winner staying in a Deluxe room for two nights (breakfast included) at the Patong Beach property, simply answer the following question:


Send your answer, along with your name, e-mail and contact number, to by 12pm on Wednesday. The winner will get a voucher for the two-night stay, and will be contacted via e-mail.


我的字典: Wǒ de zì diǎn
Rite of passage: 通过仪式 tōng guò yí shì
Private beach: 私人海滩 sī rén hǎi tān
Pavilion: 亭子 tíng zi
Aromatherapy: 芳香疗法 fāng xiāng liáo fǎ