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Songkran Festival in Phuket

in Culture/Destinations/Families/Recreation by
songkran waterfight

Songkran is Thailand’s most famous Festival and possibly the largest water fight in the world.

WHEN IS SONGKRAN?

Songkran Festival starts 13 April. In some areas of Thailand it only lasts for three days, the 13th, 14th and 15th, and in other areas it lasts for seven days.

Songkran is not only Thailand’s most famous festival but it’s also one of the most important events on the Buddhist calendar. The event marks the beginning of the traditional Thai new year.

WHAT IS THE MEANING OF SONGKRAN?

The festival originated centuries ago as a purification rite, in both a physical and spiritual sense.  Temples, Buddha images, and houses where tidied and cleaned as a way to clear away negative influences. Traditional celebrations involved a gentle sprinkling of scented water.

HOW IS SONGKRAN CELEBRATED?

Over the years, Songkran like many other centuries-old festivals has become commercial. Water guns and bright-coloured Hawaiian shirts (more on these later) are on sale in shops weeks before the event and every marketing department scrambles to get their Songkran message heard through a downpour of advertising.

songran festival crowds

Songkran has become arguably the biggest water fight in the world. The throwing of water (er, mass water fights) have become a huge part of the celebration over the past two decades everywhere in Thailand, so don’t be surprised if you get splashed with icy cold water, well when we say splashed, we mean drenched in water, shot at you from every angle form a variety of colored water pistols, buckets and anything else that can hold water. You will also become covered in powder, which is… Well, even to this day after being in Thailand for eleven years, I have no idea what it is.

WHAT IS SONGKRAN LIKE IN PHUKET?

The whole of Phuket island stops on the 13th of April when families, friends and communities set up make-shift water splash stations on the side of every road. Think of a fun road stop checkpoint, with blaring music coming out of a 1980 speaker which has been blown out ten years ago, and everybody drenched in water and covered powder, dancing around in these bright Hawaiian shirts. Everyone from 3-year-olds to 87-year-olds is out having fun and of course,

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Phuket for Families

in Culture/Destinations/Families/Recreation by
Villa Amanzi - Family fun

Tropical Phuket, with its miles of golden beaches, has obvious appeal as a family holiday escape. But Thailand’s largest island also holds plenty of charm beyond its sands, with many outdoor attractions and a rich cultural heritage that travellers of all ages will love to explore. 

First, those beaches. With more than 30 beaches around the island, you could spend weeks in Phuket simply relaxing on the sands, but those with kids in tow may want a beach with some fun activities and a bit of shaded comfort. Kamala Beach is one of the most family friendly with its shallow bay for swimming, beachfront eateries, shops, cafés and sea-view foot massages.

And with several luxury villas in Kamala along its lush headland, discerning families looking for a private holiday hideaway are well catered to.

Kata Beach is also a fine spot for families, its powder-soft sands ideal for idling away a day and excellent surfing conditions from May through October. If the sea is too smooth for surfing, then hire some standup paddle boards, or stop at Surf House on the Kata beachfront with its continuous man-made wave offering fun flowboarding action. 

 Villa Sammasan - Family friendly

Villa Amanzi in Kata Noi is a perfect holiday haven for friends and families looking to explore Kata Beach.

On the quieter northwest coast is Nai Thon Beach, an idyllic one-kilometre length of soft sand that never gets crowded. Simply relax on the sand or do some snorkelling, standup paddle or boogie boarding, with a number of low-key restaurants offering a cosy place for families and friends to dine at an unhurried pace with sea and sunset views.

Nai Thon is also home to the award-winning Malaiwana villas and residences, luxurious sea-view havens with private pools and friendly service that offer the perfect family retreat after a day at the beach.

phuket-for-familiesNai Yang Beach just to the north is another decent surfing spot and a favourite place for kite boarders and windsurfers. Not far away near the airport is Splash Jungle Water Park, offering some wet and wild fun away from the beach with waterslides, a wave pool and a lazy river.

Villa Saanti - Natai Beach, Phang Nga

Home to the idyllic Villa Saanti with its beachfront pool and lawn,

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The One and Only Lombok

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The Anandita - Bale on the beach

Lombok is often overshadowed by its sassier neighbour Bali, but those in search of an exotic getaway will be thrilled to discover the magic of this pristine tropical island. Picture mountains blanketed in lush rainforest, thundering waterfalls, vibrant traditional villages and stunning, often-deserted beaches.

The Anandita - Mountain views

With an increasing number of direct international flights, and the recent announcement by Air Asia of two soon-to-be launched international flight routes – from Singapore and Perth, the island is more accessible than ever before.

Blissful Beaches

If you are dreaming of an uncrowded, sun-drenched tropical beach escape look no further than the glorious Sira Peninsula – an idyllic stretch of dazzling white sand lapped by crystal clear waters and fringed by coconut palms.

The Anandita - Pristine private beach

The three famed isles known collectively as the Gillis, are just a short boat trip away, and the sea here is dotted with vibrant coral reefs perfect for snorkelling and scuba diving. Take a fishing trip, explore the coast by sea kayak, or play a round of golf at the wonderfully scenic 18-hole Sire Beach Golf Club. If you’re looking for a bit of ‘Bali-style’ action, Senggigi – the island’s main tourist town is just 40 minutes away via a fabulous coastal road and offers reggae bars, good restaurants and boutiques.

coral_reef_gili_meno

Sira Beach is best enjoyed from the comfort of a luxury beachfront villa and Elite has an inspired selection.

Tropical perfection awaits at 4-bedroomed The Anandita.

The Anandita - Elevated view of the villa

Families will find plenty of space to spread out at 6-bedroomed Villa Sepoi Sepoi.

Sepoi Sepoi - View of pool bale & garden through to the sea.

Stunning contemporary design awaits at 5-bedroomed Villa Sapi.

Villa Sapi - Pool and beach view

While 6-bedroomed Sira Beach House nestles into a coconut grove and makes an atmospheric new addition to the Elite portfolio.

Sira Beach House - Beautiful getaway

Sira Beach is the perfect base for exploring the charms of this ‘undiscovered’ island paradise, and your villa manager will be happy to organise a driver and customize an itinerary for an exhilarating day trip. 

Hinterland Highlights

If you can bare to drag yourself away from the coast, head to the hinterland to discover picture-perfect tropical scenery,

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Summer in Niseko

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Mount Yotei

Summer fun in Niseko

Niseko is best known as Japan’s powder playground, but you don’t need to be a winter sports enthusiast to enjoy the charms of this beautiful region located in the mountainous north of Hokkaido. The alpine scenery makes a sensational backdrop for all kinds of summer activities from hiking to kayaking to horse riding to hot air ballooning.

Plum trees and Lake Toya and Mt.Yotei

Soak up the scenery

As the snow melts the landscape explodes with wild flowers making Niseko a perfect base for hiking and biking. Enjoy the crisp clean air as you ramble across the moors or climb Mount Yotei to enjoy a 360 degree panorama from the trail that winds around the caldera.

Sekka Ni 3 - Fabulous view of the living and dining area

Quiet country lanes are ideal for family biking, while cycling enthusiasts can access exhilarating downhill mountain trails via gondola. Golfers will be thrilled to know that Niskeo has some renowned courses to choose from, including Niseko Village Golf Course, which was named Japan’s Best Golf Course at the World Golf Awards in 2014.  For those who like to enjoy the scenery in a more prone position, and enjoy a touch of Japanese culture in the process, Niseko has some beautiful onsen (hot springs) in various scenic locations.

Japanese onsen

Fun on the water

Picturesque lakes and rivers make fresh water fishing, kayaking, canyoning and rafting popular summer pastimes. Shiribetsu River offers some of the best rafting in Asia and you can expect stunning alpine scenery and crystal clear water. Alternatively, head to the nearby Shaoktan Peninsula where sea kayaking reveals a magical ocean colour known as “Shakotan blue.”

kayaking background

Fun for all the family

Tree top adventures and the longest zip line in Japan are just one of the draw cards at Pure at Niseko Village – a  nature activity centre and great all-round family destination. This is also the place for horse riding, exhilarating hot air balloons rides and cycling. ‘Pure’ Adventure is the parks newest attraction and has proved a huge hit thanks to its inflatable playground filled with mazes and slides. 

Family experiencing horse riding

Food and festivals

Niseko has grown a formidable dining scene in recent years, with the  paddock to plate philosophy embraced by restaurants and cafes. Head to Niseko Green Farm to pick your own vegetables and build a pizza which will be cooked in the woodfire oven.

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The Best Alcohol Buys in Bali

in Culture/Destinations/Dining by
Alcohols

It’s probably fair to say that most people enjoy a drink when they’re on holiday. Whatever your favourite tipple – an iced beer on the beach; an exotic cocktail at sunset, or a glass of chilled wine by the pool, read on to gain some insider’s info on the best places in town to buy beer, wine and spirits. And even better – how to have it delivered.

First, we’d recommend that you skip the duty-free shop at Bali Airport.  While the store may be called ‘Duty Free’, it’s not. All alcohol that comes into Indonesia is slapped with a heavy import tax. The only ways around paying the tax are by purchasing a bottle of duty free at a foreign airport en route to Indonesia, or buying domestic products once you’re here.

FOLLOW THE STAR

Bintang Beer

In Bali, Bintang (meaning ‘star’) is synonymous with beer. This popular lager has 4.7% alcohol content and a mild flavour that’s well suited for beach holidays. Brewed in Indonesia, Bintang is a Heineken brand, and both beers display red stars prominently on their labels.

Second to Bintang, the most widely available beer in Bali is San Miguel (and San Miguel Light, served with lime). You’ll see Bali Hai, Anker and Stark, too. Foreign beers are harder to find, but they are out there if you know where to look. Beer & Co have outlets in Canggu and Legian, and propose a satisfying range of imported big name and craft beers. 

For good prices on local beers, head to the (rather confusingly named) Bintang supermarket in the centre of Seminyak, Bali. The store’s logo is, you guessed it, a red star. They also sell wine and spirits here and, conveniently, you can pick up a bottle opener or corkscrew while you are there.

Bintang Supermarket
Jl. Raya Seminyak No.17, Kuta Bali
+62 361 730 552

PEPITO

Back to the business of stocking the bar. Pepito is an established supermarket brand with stores all over South Bali and Ubud carrying a decent selection of booze including a wide choice of whiskey, bourbon and scotch.

For mixers, you’ll find Bali has the standard set from Schweppes – imported and domestic; soda water,

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