Tuesday, July 22, 2014

Pullman Arcadia Resort: Relaxing in Phuket

Phuket is a special place with many fond memories of times when it was just the two of us, road-trips with friends (both pre & post arrival of the girls) and A's first flight as a baby (click HERE for the stories tagged 'Phuket'). We found the island a balance of street attractions and hotel luxury. This time, we wanted a setting that provided plenty of time together with a 'laze-around' and 'do-nothing' lazy itinerary. Pullman Arcadia Resort at Naithon Beach belongs to the Accor group of hotels and our Advantage Plus membership allows us to dine-in 50% off for adults and free for the kids. Naithon Beach, located just 15 minutes from the airport and away from the busy Patong beach, fitted in perfectly to our requirements.

The girls did a good job of entertaining themselves on the one and a half hour Tiger Airways flight.

Whisked off to our holiday! Alighting from our flight we were received by an elegantly dressed staff who ushered us into a comfy van for our short transfer.

Cold towels and bottles of water to welcome us even before we left the airport!

The hotel was located on hilly terrain, and after a winding ride, we arrived in awe of the hotel's elegant and luxurious appearance. The smiles and welcome from the staff created a first impression of the impeccable service that lasted throughout our stay.

Welcome drinks and cold towels at the reception.

The hillside location adds to the 'getaway' feel, but there were many winding and steep stairways and slopes.
Lots of cozy seats around the spacious lobby

Lounge sofas overlooking the sea.

To help guests get around the hotel more easily without having to hike up and down the stairs, we could call 'buggies' on standby to our location anywhere (and at anytime)  in the compound for a ride.

The rooms were simply beautiful... check out the towel swans on the bed!

We were upgraded to a Ocean Deluxe room near the Kids' Club and the lobby... the perks of the low season!

Walk-in toilet with a sea-view!
The hotel was relatively quiet as it was the low-season, but we enjoyed more attention from the waiting staff. During our stay, the kids spent plenty of time at the Kids' Club (which translated into plenty of time for Daddy and Mummy to enjoy each other alone). The three female staff at the Kids' Club were enthusiastic throughout our stay, always cheerful and even responsible to the point of accommodating our special requests or instructions we had for the girls when we were not around. They were very professional and we were comfortable signing the girls up for their programmes for the rest of our stay. There were also plenty of opportunities for the girls to work their social skills making friends with other kids in the Club.

The Kids' Club was located right below the Fit Lounge and swimming pool.

Footwear is left outside the facility.

A mini, mini ball-pool!

Table for drawing and other crafts.

A bean-bag TV corner and even gaming consoles.


Spoilt for choice.

A small outdoor portion of the Kids' Club features a synthetic playground and small climbing slopes.

Yet, it was the humble rocking whale that caught her attention.

Tie-dye T-shirt activity.

Batik-painted T-shirt activity.

Face-painting! Gee... seems like we're painting everything! In the background is a scoring table for an impromptu game of 'Treasure-Hunt' the helpers conducted with the children in the Club.

The girls swimming at the pool overlooking the ocean. There is a shallow wading pool here for toddlers, and another two swimming pools above the Fit Lounge.

On the evening of our arrival, we were invited to a complimentary cocktail party (a special in house event for all hotel guests that day) with free drinks and live music. The bar overlooking the swimming pool and ocean amid the dim lights and comfy sofas created an atmosphere that was lovely. Unfortunately, it was also peak-hour for the mosquitoes, and we quickly enjoyed our juices and soft-drinks before heading to dinner.

We decided to leverage on our Accor membership privileges to try the various eating options at the hotel. At the lobby level was 'Vero', the Italian restaurant which we patronized on our first night. We were clueless as far as fine-dining was concerned, but it was an overall fun and enjoyable experience to be eating there. It must have taken the waiter by surprise when the first request we had was to remove all the elegant wine glasses from the table to prevent any mishaps.

A romantic candlelight  (read: dark) dinner. We were shocked when the pages of the menu lit up when it was opened to make reading in the dark easy. The breadbasket with a variety of buns and breads-sticks was served with olive oil and balsamic vinegar dips.

Despite the plush and posh setting, hotel guests were welcomed without a dress code and treated like royalty despite our lack of experience with fine dining etiquette. It was a pity that many mosquitoes found their way into the restaurant that night, ruining an otherwise awesome dinner.

This out-of-focus, overexposed and poorly framed photograph of roasted lamb-shank over garlic mashed potatoes with vegetables does absolutely no justice to the wonderful presentation and delightful feel in my mouth. Still, I had to include it as no memory of that night's dinner would be complete without it!

Posing with the decorative scooter outside the restaurant.

At the other restaurant, Elements, you can enjoy all-day dining on international cuisine. It's also where the international breakfast is served, and it was just great to start the day with a spread like this!

These chefs satisfied the kids' cravings for ham and cheese scrambled eggs.

Note how the condiments for the porridge and Asian fare and stacked so intricately on a rack.

The drinks bar includes a Nespresso coffee maker, specially mixed yogurt and freshly squeezed fruit juices, along with the coffee and tea.

Welcome to Thailand! Stacks of fresh tropical fruits laid out to resemble a roadside stall.

The juice bar.

Yogurt parfait, sweetened fruit alongside the cereal bar.

Lots of fresh greens, cold cuts and grilled vegetables if you're a salad person.

Muffins, donuts, croissants and all manner of breads at the bakery corner. 

Smoked meats and sashimi.

The Elements restaurant hosts buffet dinners on Friday and Monday nights. We heard about their seafood buffet on Friday night and were looking forward to it. We'll let the lip-smacking pictures do the talking.

Freshly baked bread. You can also pluck off some crunchy pieces of bread from the large sheet displayed on the table. 

Live oysters are pried open at your request.

The display was carefully designed. I seldom see sashimi slices served while in the fish

At the salad bar, there are small portions of seafood salad prepared in plastic cocktail glasses. Pretty!

What's a buffet without the desserts? Honestly, we had little room in our tummies to enjoy these by the time we were done but the chocolate desserts were simply to yummy to resist. They were so good that we went for a few servings. 

Fresh fruits!

Alongside the cooked warmers holding mainly Asian seafood dishes was an entire large grilled snapper.

Notice the lobsters at bottom left? Their pincers are tied up because they were still alive and crawling around. Talk about freshly grilled lobsters! If crustaceans are not your choice on the barbecue, there's a whole host of other seafood, and even meats such as chicken and beef on skewers. No worries about freshness as the food was brought out in small amount. They were finished very quickly by the guests so the staff was kept busy running back and forth to the kitchen to replenish the stock. 

Ice cold prawns, crab and other shellfish.

Chocolate and mint flavoured ice-creams, strawberry and lemon flavoured sorbets... along with a whole host of topping choices! Mmmmm......

Panoramic view of the food from our table.

Mummy's favourite dish of the night: barbecued slipper lobsters. She had plates of those!!

As most of our meals were in-house, we had a chance to try out their a-la-carte menu where we got to try typical kids' meal pastas and tasty Thai food.

Spaghetti carbonara - the kids' favourite at the hotel

Spaghetti bolognese

Thai seafood salad

Phad Thai & Tom Yam Soup

The Azur is a poolside dining lounge and bar that allows you to enjoy the sea breeze and scenic backdrop of the ocean over the main pool as you snack. They have a selection of easy to eat sandwiches and rolls here perfect for a pop out of the pool.

"Doctor-Feel-Good" and "Watermelon-Mint" smoothies...

The Club Sandwich and Smoked Salmon Tortillas were just great! The portions were large and we had them packed up for tea later on. Simply delicious. 
When we returned to our room after exploring the Kids Club on the first day, we were pleasantly surprised to find a pretty bouquet of flowers with a personal note from the manager congratulating us on our wedding anniversary. To celebrate the occasion, they offered us a complimentary flower-milk-bath to be prepared in our room at our request. It was a simple but sincere gesture, and it made the holiday that much more memorable, thanks to our hosts.

The elegantly prepared bath.

Daddy is not into massages or spas, but in line with the special occasion, and a chance to take advantage of a promotional 1-for-1 rate applicable to last minute bookings of available slots on the same day, Mummy convinced Daddy to check out the luxurious Dhatri Spa and give the traditional Thai massage a go. When we arrived for our appointment, we were treated to some sun-dried tomatoes and ginger tea, before being directed to the couple suite for our massage. The therapists were professional throughout and were very friendly. They were careful to check and ensure that the pressure was comfortable enough for Daddy. The first and last time we had a spa session together was 8 years ago, on our honeymoon, so it sure helped to create good spa experience for Daddy. Hopefully, he would be keen to accompany Mummy again.

Besides chilling out, exercise is our next favourite thing. While Daddy had the opportunity to run the hilly roads around Phuket's Naithon area, he complained about the ferociousness of dogs guarding their properties as he ran past, forcing him to make unexpected U-turns. By the way, he was running in dark of the wee hours in the morning as is his preference, which probably made him look like a bandit, hence the instincts of the dogs to bare their teeth at him. In contrast, the wonderfully furnished, air-conditioned comfort of the Fitness Lounge gave Mummy and Daddy to burn some calories together to make way for the seafood buffet dinners and hearty meals. There was a constant refill of the fruit bowl with apples and bananas, and a hot and cold water dispenser came along with disposable cups for convenience. The gym is accessible 24 hours a day using your key-card, but the staff only attend to it from 7.00 in the morning. The treadmills were a nice change from running the roads as seldom is Mummy was actually able to keep up with Daddy here. There was a changing room with showers in downstairs and towels were provided for both workouts and showers after. There's a 25 metre pool right outside the gym, and it was nice to hop in to cool off right after a workout.

The equipment and furnishing appeared well maintained.

Note the glass windows surrounding the entire gym. Lots of natural daylight during the day, and I found my eyes exploring the ridge-line of the scenic hills in the distance while working the treadmill.

On our second day, we decided to take a trip to Patong Beach for some shopping and sight-seeing. We hired a local 'taxi' from the hotel which turned out to be a comfy four wheeler, good for making quick work of the hilly coastal area where our hotel was located. Patong was about 45 minutes from Naithon Beach, and we took down the driver's contact to call him when we were done at the end of the day. We visited the touristy Jungceylon shopping centre and enjoyed lunch at Burger King before looking for some cheap T-shirts and fashion accessories. We attempted to find a nice place for a relaxing foot massage, but there we changed our minds and decided to try the spa at the hotel. There were no 'kid friendly' movies to watch that fit our schedule, so the kids' first cinema experience had to be delayed till another time. Instead, we found ourselves engaging in some bowling fun right outside the cinema. It was time well-spent and there were many opportunities to laugh at one another as we were all super-novices at this! A quick drink at the MacDonald's downstairs wrapped up it up nicely while trying to contact our driver.

Our comfy ride to and from Patong Beach. One way to Patong cost THB1000, and the return trip was cheaper.

The outdoor forum at Jungceylon Shopping Centre. Notable were a couple of large stores specializing in sporting goods and fashion. There were some nice places to eat here too, but we did not get to try much.

All decked out in our nifty bowling shoes and ready to go! The girls' first game! Mummy's last game was in secondary school! Call her an amateur too. 

It's a little heavy, but a little help from Mummy (and the side rails to stop the ball from rolling into the 'drains') will do the trick. The staff was kind to lift up the side rails so the kids would not be discouraged from getting the ball into the drain all the time. 

Looking back, it seemed like we did a little more than just 'sit-back and do nothing', which was the original intention of getting away. There was plenty of time spent together in a setting that did not require us to be engrossed with homework, housework (read: unending housework) and the routine tasks associated with staying in Singapore. The secure environment won our trust quickly and we were able to enjoy our time there at the hands of the service staff who were always going out of their way to engage us with their friendly demeanor.

Our recommendation: definitely a place of choice for a holiday where you want to be away from the usual tourist crowds of Phuket, kick up your legs, enjoy staying-in and the facilities of the hotel, marvel at the scenery surrounding you, spend quality time with those close to you... and do absolutely nothing!

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