Pattaya for pooped parents
Centara's watery wonderland will keep the kids busy - mums and dads too
Keeping a five-year-old boy entertained is a tough job, and when he comes with a demanding sister who has just started her terrible twos, the task becomes even more difficult. Often the answer lies in changing the scenery for a few days and giving them something new to do. Or better yet, getting them so tired that they go to bed without a whimper and guarantee the adults eight to nine hours of peace and quiet. Unfortunately, the weekend getaway we opted for also had we older folk ready to curl up in bed as soon as the youngsters had been tucked in.
The reason was the watery fun, or "magic" as my five-year-old godson called it, that Centara Grand Mirage Hotel on Pattaya's Wongamat Beach had to offer. It is amazing how many times kids can go whooshing down a waterslide without getting bored, not to mention the hours of fun they can have building sandcastles by the kiddie's pool without fear of the nearby Gulf of Thailand gulping them down. Besides, the sand was clean, free of plastic bags, broken glass and other debris sometimes found on Pattaya's beaches.
Thankfully, the constant building up and then knocking down of castles and other sand structures kept them busy enough to forget that they were not really at the beach as such. We were also saved from the headache of explaining why children shouldn't play in the polluted waters that lap this city. Another good thing about this area was that we adults could relax a bit because the pools were shallow enough for even a little baby to splash about.
A further free-flowing source of fun was floating down the "lazy river" which winds through the extensive grounds. Getting hold of one of the huge inner-tubes was a little difficult, as scores of other people were planning to float too. Still, when we did get around it, splashing through waterfalls, under the bridges and into tunnels brought delighted squeals from the boy. And while the younger one was a little scared, the gentle current, warm sunshine and proximity of Mum kept her reassured. She also knew that we were going back to the super-shallow kiddies pool where she could play with sand to her heart's content. And an attentive lifeguard was nice enough to bring us a tiny tube so she could float around a bit on her own.
We heaved another sigh of relief when we discovered the Kids Club in the basement. The children spent many an hour flinging toys at each other and sliding into a "pool" filled with multi-coloured balls. They also found little hidey-holes where they could colour in pictures of Hello Kitty and other characters, while we caught up on gossip. Children below the age of two are let in for free, while it costs Bt50 per hour to keep older children entertained. That's a cheap price for some peace and quiet.
Though fortune smiled when it came to keeping the youngsters entertained, there were frowns in our hunts for a decent feed. Upon arrival with two cranky kids in tow, we ended up having to wait more than 30 minutes for the children's lunch, and when it did arrive it was cold. We were no luckier when it came to room service - the food took too long to arrive and was, once again, cold.
Also hard to swallow was the balcony in our room. Though the view of the ocean from the 17th floor was fantastic, the door had to be left closed because of a dangerous gap at balcony's edge. Obviously the interior designers did not have young children in mind when they were putting in the extra touches.
Meanwhile, the room's open-plan bathing area would have worked beautifully for a romantic weekend, but separating off the bathing area with just a curtain doesn't really allow for much privacy. The management might consider introducing shower stalls or making some rooms more friendly for families with young children. Scrapping the ridiculously high fee for wireless Internet would help justify the five-star prices. Many hotels and restaurants now offer guests this service for free.
We missed the chance to get some pampering at the posh Cenvaree Spa, where mulberry season meant a menu of rubdowns using berry-based concoctions. Still, all in all, the two nights at the Centara Grand Mirage Beach Resort was an entertaining, albeit slightly tiring, experience.
At a glance
High Point: Plenty of fun activities for children
Low Point: Tardy service; disappointing food
Pay for It: Bt3,500-Bt4,500 for Premium Deluxe room, not including breakfast
Call it: +(66) (038)301 234
Find It: 277 Moo 5, Naklua, Bang Lamung, Pattaya, Chon Buri 20150, Thailand
Browse It: www.CentaraHotelsResorts.com