Apr 3, 2020
“What did he say?” my soon-to-be-four-year-old daughter asks me.
“He said you ask a lot of questions.” ‘He’—our driver—stifles a chuckle (possibly a scream), as we pull up to the resort, Twinpalms MontAzure (twinpalmshotelsresorts.com; doubles from Bt7,500), on upmarket Kamala Beach, Phuket. The 45-minute ride from the airport had overflowed with an impressive number of whys, whos, whats and wheres.
“Where are we now, mommy?”
“For a little holiday.”
Truth: staying at a chic new resort with a tiny travel companion is quite a different experience from staying at said resort, or anywhere at all, with a romantic partner. To make matters worse, MontAzure markets itself heavily towards couples, and indeed many come here for a sultry beach escape, my awareness of which crystallizes as Miss Loud Voice fumbles her welcome drink, a bubbly pink mocktail in a glass champagne flute.
Though this is not by definition a family hotel, the features that attract couples—spacious, stylish suites, a shorefront pool bestudded by palms and cabanas, direct access to Kamala Beach—also make it ideal for couples with kids. Add to that its penthouses with private pools and the Venn diagram of family-friendly amenities and romantic settings forms an almost- perfect circle—precisely why I chose it for this mommy-daughter getaway.
After collectively, and with much questioning, choosing the scent and flower for our room, (sandalwood; night jasmine), we are led by our personal butler (Tee) to our 212-square-meter penthouse (No. 303), which has views of the property’s stunning triangular pool, the grand, old pine trees on the beach, Kamala Bay, and somewhere in the glare, the faraway horizon. After a tour of our suite, which, in Tee’s words, is “shaped like a zero,” with living room leading to bathroom, leading to bedroom, leading back to living room, forming a potential running track for small humans, I unlock the door to the rooftop. “Do you want to see the pool?”
There’s a not-insignificant thrill in delighting your child, particularly when most of the time you’re saying “no” to them. It’s an almost selfish act, then, to bring them joy, given how intensely their emotions flow back to you. This weekend I get to double-dip in good feelings, because if I’m excited about having a rooftop pool, she is practically rendered speechless by the sight of it, sparkling blue and clear in the afternoon sun.
Unsurprisingly, over the course of our three-day stay, we spend at least 10 hours in our pool. It becomes our living-room sofa, our place to hang out, buoyed both by the ease of our schedule-free time and by an inflatable unicorn we brought specifically for the purpose. It is here we watch the people and dogs and boats on and off Kamala Beach, and here we pretend to be mermaids and queens, being as splashy and silly as we want.
When the pool eventually gets cold, we move to our second-favorite place: the bathtub, which seems only slightly smaller. After that, our favorite place is the actual living-room sofa, where we watch bits of Moana and The Lego Movie 2 from MontAzure’s collection of movies-on-demand. It’s plush enough to sleep on, and we might be tempted to, if not for our next-favorite place, the bed—an immense, fluffy crash pad where we cocoon ourselves in duvets for nine blessed hours each night. There’s not much reason to leave the penthouse, with its luxurious amenities, kitchen full of cold drinks, coffee and alcohol, and butler service bringing food from beachfront restaurant Shimmer. But a major reason for choosing MontAzure is a quick 15-minute drive up the road: the made- for-kids (and easy-for-parents) Catch Junior kids’ club.
On day two we hop into the complimentary shuttle that does the rounds of Twinpalms outlets: Wagyu Steakhouse and Twinpalms Phuket resort at Surin Beach, Palm Seaside restaurant and bar at Choeng Talay, and Catch Beach Club and Catch Junior at Bang Tao. We arrive at the club in no time, and as we walk through the entrance, there’s an upwelling of breathy excitement upon seeing the big-kids pool, into which curls a waterslide. There’s also a toddler splash pool and other fun things that get but a cursory glance (a huge “jumping pillow” with a 15-kid capacity; sand toys; water guns; floaties; a mini ropes course; a climbing wall), due to complete enamorment with the slide, where we remain in sliding-and-catching stasis for nearly 90 minutes.
A morning here could easily turn into a day, with activities running the gamut from face-painting to DJ lessons (sorry, moms, you’re too old to sign up; take my word). The kid-targeted menu has chips, spaghetti, ice cream, burgers, wings and other finger foods. Admission is free but there’s a Bt350 minimum spend per child out of which food is deducted (Sunday kids’ brunch with all-afternoon ice cream is Bt200). Parent meals and alcohol are also available—a supersized Moët-branded penguin stands suggestively by the splash pool—which you can have delivered to one of the club’s shaded sun loungers, available for rent for Bt500 apiece. For parents who have “errands to run” while the kids are playing, Catch Junior’s Child Minders are available for Bt350 per hour.
After an obligatory free ice cream, we step across Bangtao’s scorching sand for Sunday brunch at Catch Beach Club, the brand’s seafood-and- champagne-style playpen for adults. The popularity of this decision is not equal among parties. For me, freeflow shellfish (among so much more: grills, roasts, salads, soups, Thai dishes) and a cold Sauvignon Blanc equates to brunch made in heaven, and on another day, one that didn’t begin with a slide, my daughter might have been content eating bread with French butter under Catch’s white sails. But today she turns a guyline anchoring the sail above us into a maypole, twirling around it in ever-accelerating loops as the novelty of big-people’s brunch wears off. A hail- Mary plate of chocolate macarons and fresh strawberries buys just enough time for another glass of wine before we shuttle back to base.
Later that night, after skipping our nap in favor of more pool time, and soaking up a transcendent sunset on the beach, we visit another Twinpalms venue, HQ Beach Lounge. Located 100 meters up Kamala Beach from MontAzure, it offers a more laidback vibe than Catch to which families seem to gravitate. Taking an outdoor sofa near its sail-covered bar, we eat hot chips, a sweet beetroot gazpacho and battered calamari as the place fills up and darkness envelops the bay. At eight o’clock we head towards the thrum of Café del Mar next door and watch a fire show on the beach, then walk home through the pine trees, on high alert for crabs, hated foes.
Twelve hours later we’re back in our pool, still chilled from the night. Dog walkers and joggers course along the beach as the sun crests the mountains behind us, tipping golden light through the pines. Phuket sometimes gets a bad rap for being busy and commercialized, but up in our little rooftop realm we’re detached from rest of the world. For at least an hour more, we can watch the tiny heads of tourists bob in the surf. We can float on our trusty steed. We can play and pretend and ask questions there are no good answers to. Like Why are there crabs? Why is it Monday? and Why do we have to go home?