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Circus trapeze is just one of many activities for guests at Club Med Phuket, which is situated on one of Phuket's best beaches.

Better Med than Ded

Sunday, November 25, 2007
ONE of Phuket's best-kept secrets is the huge hidden playground for adults and children that snuggles closely to one of the island's best beaches.

It's a place where you can play nine holes of golf, indulge in some beach volleyball, fire a few arrows at the bullseye, play a bit of bocce, then swim in a huge pool, all before lunch and without leaving your hideway.

In the afternoon you can become a circus performer. Or play tennis on any one of six courts, and swing on into the night under floodlights.

It's a place where the kids can find their own fun in playpens especially designed to suit their own age groups. Where the smallest kids have toilets, showers and washbasins their own size.

It's a place where six languages are standard. So no matter where you are from, it's possible to feel at home in a friendly environment.

Psst. Here's the whisper: The beach is Kata, and the secret haven is Club Med.

Funny how even good things get overlooked, and the day and night passes that provide access to acres of fun at Club Med seem to be constantly neglected. They just don't need to advertise.

Club Med, after all, is no overnight sensation. The resort has been open for 21 years, longer even than Laguna Phuket. And it's low rise, set in superb gardens that roll on through leafy glades and manicured lawns, and tailored to suit almost everybody.

The atmosphere here these days is radically different to the 1980s, when Club Med developed a reputation for attracting hedonistic young singles.

Now it's a family place, perhaps still frequented by those one-time singles, still with a European flavor but much broader in the type of guests it attracts.

The revenue model is radically different, too. Guests pay per person, and they pay for the all-inclusive cost of the holiday.

So visitors can have five meals a day if they choose ???? the extra meals are a late breakfast and a late lunch ???? and drink anything alcoholic without extra cost, except for top-range stuff.

Eating your way through the day is unlikely with the range of activities available, and Kata's sands just across the beach road.

A guided tour by the Club Med Business Manager, Panpen Winyouvongsiri, took us past children and staff rehearsing for a play that evening on a real stage, a group of guests watching a Thai cooking demonstration, and a lifeguard on a tall stand overlooking the pool, which is open 24 hours a day.

All this and it was only 10 o'clock in the morning. On we went to try the archery, watch the golfers, and see the huge amount of effort that Club med puts into making everybody feel at home.

We've seen plenty of resorts on Phuket that have activities for guests, but nothing on this scale and with this level of commitment. And all the activities are available to walk-in guests, too.

Khun Pen, a Phuket girl, was around when Club Med began and is very glad she came back. "It really is like a family in a village," she said.

The big advantage Club Med gains from its international network of more than 100 resorts is the ability to offer worldwide training and staff interaction.

All the signage at the resort is in six languages, and people among the staff speak all six, too ???? which is remarkable when you think of the difficulty other resorts have in finding staff who speak passable English.

The staff wear brightl coloured tees with a large GO on the back. It stands for "Gently Organiser." They're cheerful without seeming forced.

Khun Pen, whose English and French is first-rate, says that if there is a big party of Italians, say, flying in for some fun, then Italian Club Med staff will come with them. Planning is the key, she said.

Most guests are so content with what they find in the resort that snorkelling and diving are just about the only outside activities that visitors tend to try.

The rest? It's all in-house, or across the road on glorious Kata beach.

The disco thumps each night until 2am and the activities for guests extend to circus training, with fullsize trapeze and nets and genuine flying and catching a daily activity.

The circus group is polished and profesional and performs twice a week.

While Club Med offers just about everything that singles or families need for a great holiday, Khun Pen says it's also an integrated part of the local community.

The beach is kept extremely clean by the staff and translators are supplied whenever the local administration or the police need help.

The place has always been environmentally-senstive and the ratio of buildings to landscaped gardens is such that the grounds swallow up the short nine-hole golf course.

Rates begin at 5400 baht a person. A day pass that includes activities, sports, lunch and open bar costs 2080 baht. Other kinds of passes extend from lunch at 1450 baht to a full day pass and dinner at 4600 baht. Inquiries: 076-330456 E: phuccrec01@clubmed.com

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