13 February 2013, by Tan Yi Lin
I mentioned in an earlier entry that we squeezed two family vacations in January into the short window between the peak (read: expensive) year-end travel season and the onset of my third trimester.
I had blogged about our Maldives trip earlier on – that being the second trip, so memories of it were much fresher then (read: these two unwitting parents were still freshly traumatised from it) and I decided to quickly pen down the details in an entry.
It’s been more than a month since we returned from our Chiang Mai vacation. Thus, this entry is mostly in photos. Nevertheless, I’ve added in some travel tips for fellow parents of young kids who have asked for feedback on whether Chiang Mai is a baby/toddler-friendly travel destination.
So here are my two cents – and gazillion photos – worth of it.
Silkair is the only airline that offers direct flights from Singapore to Chiang Mai. We could imagine that transiting in Bangkok with an antsy toddler and seven bored adults wouldn’t have been too much fun, so we caved in and paid $500+ per person to fly by Silkair. Painful on the pocket? Yes, indeed, but the convenience of a direct flight alone made it worth it.
Tip: Regional and budget carriers probably have THE most narrow single-aisle aircraft possible. Once the food cart is on the roll, it is virtually impossible for a pregnant passenger to (a) squeeze past the cart to get to the loo; (b) stay put in your seat and hold in your pee till the meal service is over. The cabin crew kindly reversed the cart down the ENTIRE plane just so that I could visit the restroom. The narrow leg room also makes handling a wriggly infant/toddler and all their accompanying barang-barang very difficult. So if comfort in mid-air is a key consideration, you might want to limit your travel options to destinations that are served by full-service airlines.
We chose Veranda High Resort for its scenic and peaceful location 15 km outside of Chiang Mai town. The resort rates were pretty reasonable despite the fact that we visited in high season (roughly Nov to Feb, when the weather is cool and dry). Book early to take advantage of the Early Bird specials that offer discounted room rates and in addition to daily breakfast, include perks such as free bicycle rental and discounts on F&B and spa services.
Tip: I’m not sure if it applies to all young children, but Coco definitely preferred the cool, dry weather in Chiang Mai compared to hot, sunny Maldives. Day temperatures in January were a comfortable 26 degrees Celsius or so and even though the temperature dipped towards nightfall, our baby was happy and comfortable with just an additional cardigan for warmth.
Our parents stayed in a Valley Deluxe room in the main wing while the remaining five adults – and Coco – bunked in together in a Luxury 2-Bedroom Suite in the apartment block.
The Suite was spacious and suitably sized for the six of us. I regretted not taking any photos of the suite but upon downloading the photos from my dad’s camera, I realised that Coco did:
The suite came equipped with a kitchen – the very reason why we chose it, so that we could prepare meals for Coco.
Tip: The kitchen was equipped with a full-sized fridge and freezer, stove, microwave oven, electric kettle, sink and dining utensils (i.e. plates, bowls, forks, spoons, cups) However, we had to request for the housekeeping staff to provide a cooking pot. Dishwashing liquid and sponge are not provided. So make sure to bring your own or check beforehand with guest services if the resort can provide such items for use during your stay.
The beds were HUGE – wide enough for two adults and a kid. Guest services had provided a free cot upon request but we didn’t need to use it. Even in my parents’ standard Valley Deluxe room, the bed comprised of two Queen-sized beds joined together.
The Higher Room, where breakfast was served, is beautifully-designed and offers a gorgeous view of the pool and surrounding highlands. The daily buffet spread was good – both in terms of taste and variety – and the food presentation, immaculate.
Ala carte prices for lunch at The Higher Room and dinner at Rabiang Cha were reasonable by hotel standards – about S$10 for a phad thai or curry dish.
Coco loved having breakfast at the resort and ate up a storm every morning! There was lots of variety for young guests – fresh fruit, cereal, bread and jams, pastries, eggs, porridge, juice and milk.
As you can see from the photos above, we had NO reason to suspect that she would refuse to eat the exact same food just a week later in the Maldives.
Both the pools were great for tiny kids! Coco loved running up and down the shallow area and we were totally taken in by the gorgeous view of lush highlands all around. The only thing is, the water is freezing cold in the cool season and doesn’t really get warmer as the day passes – even on a sunny one. The icy water, however, thoroughly invigorates and rejuvenates – if you dare to take the plunge.
We checked out the spa, which was nice but at S$100 for a massage, it’s not exactly cheap by Thai standards.
Coco spent some time at the Kids’ Club, which had a slide and a small variety of toys and books. The DVD selection, however, was more suitable for older children who can sit through a screening of Madagascar or Barney.
The resort can arrange for daily tours and excursions such as elephant riding, ATV jungle tours, etc. but we preferred to head into town to source for cheaper deals from the inbound tour agents located there.
Veranda offers free twice-daily shuttle services to town at 10.30am and 7.30pm. The journey takes about 45 minutes per way. The morning shuttle drops off and picks up guests outside a small supermarket, which is really useful if you need to buy fresh meat and produce to cook your toddler’s meals back at the resort. Tourists who want to visit the nearby temples can flag down a local taxi for 80 baht per passenger.
The evening shuttle brings guests to the night market area. Over the five nights that we were in Chiang Mai, we and my parents took turns to stay behind and look after Coco, while the other couple headed into town for dinner and a spot of shopping and cheap massages.
Given that I was pregnant and that we had Coco with us, Dan and I couldn’t do much so we stayed at the resort while my family headed out of town to try their hand at driving buggies and lake fishing.
Tip: Veranda is located 15 km outside of town. Local tour operators charge an additional fee to pick up and drop off guests at Veranda. So if you’re going to be signing up for tours and excursions every day, it makes more sense to stay at a hotel located in town.
This doesn’t really have anything to do with my review of Veranda but they are amongst my favourite photos from the trip so I’m just gonna throw them in!
All in all, I would say that Veranda High Resort is pretty kid-friendly and would highly recommend it for a family vacation. Readers interested to find out more can read the review of the resort on TripAdvisor by mrscho79 (no prizes for guessing who that is!)
As for Chiang Mai itself, I saw tourists toting their kids along for temple visits and shopping at the night market. I personally wouldn’t do it but hey, it’s an option for families – especially those with older children – if they are keen to.
The real lesson, however, was that unlike our babymoons during my first pregnancy, travelling again when pregnant – and with a toddler in tow – is not easy and incredibly tiring. We were eternally grateful to have my parents with us to help cook and care for Coco, and to have my siblings on hand to look after and entertain her so that Dan and I could rest and also enjoy some couple time together. If we had known how taxing travelling with Coco was, especially in my pregnant state, we might not have planned for a subsequent vacation to the Maldives for just our little family of three.
Well, it was too late for that now!