simpsons-are-we-there-yet-traveling-with-kidsTraveling with kids can sometimes be the most exhausting type of vacation. I’ve found that to be true, especially when my boys were younger. It’s hard enough with a daily routine at home. With that tossed out the window, I felt like I had to entertain my twin boys 24/7.

I needed another vacation just to recuperate from it!

That’s probably why I felt I had stumbled upon a gem when I first discovered Club Med back in 2006. It started with a media trip to Club Med Cherating. I loved the whole concept of it so much that when I got back, I immediately booked a family vacation to go back there! *LOL*

In the past 7 years, I’ve gone on 9 Club Med vacations. My boys have pretty much grown up with Club Med. They started with Mini Club Med (ages 4-11 years) when they were 5, and recently, graduated to the teen’s club or PassWorld (ages 11-17 years).

Going back to Club Med Cherating Beach after 7 years was nostalgic, to say the least. While the place looked vaguely familiar, so much has changed as well. My boys don’t remember much of this village at all. I guess there is a huge difference between being 5 and being 12! *LOL*

If you too haven’t been back for a bit, here are some of the changes, At a glance…

 

THE NOODLE BAR

We took a direct flight from Singapore to Kuantan on FireFly. I was a little worried when I heard it was going to be a propeller plane – to be honest – but the flight was very smooth and we took just over an hour to get to Kuantan (You can also opt to take the coach up!).

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Arriving in sleepy Kuantan calmed me immediately!

Arriving in sleepy Kuantan calmed me immediately.

We were met by Adam, a Club Med G.O. (“Gentle Organiser”) at the airport, and we hopped on a comfy, air-conditioned private van to head to Cherating Beach, about 45mins away.

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A warm welcome by the GOs!

A warm welcome by the GOs!

By the time we settled in to our rooms, it was close to 3pm. The buffet lunch had already ended and we were feeling a tad hungry. Adam told us that we could head to the Noodle Bar, which is opened from 2.30pm to 6pm.

The Noodle Bar wasn’t around when we were last there, so I was eager to check it out!

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Malaysian Curry Laksa!

Malaysian Curry Laksa!

Japanese Miso Soup noodles!

Japanese Miso Soup noodles!

There are many options to choose from: From spicy Malaysian specialties to Japanese soba and udon, to healthier vegetarian options.

In fact, the menu changes everyday. They rotate amongst three menus, so you don’t quite repeat what you eat on a regular-length stay.

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The Noodle Bar is opened again after dinner (9.30pm to 11.30pm) if you’re in the mood for supper! It’s all-inclusive, of course, so you do not need to fork out cash to eat here.

I didn’t go back to the Noodle Bar for the rest of my stay there because I was often stuffed by the decadent buffet spreads at breakfast, lunch and dinner. But apparently the boys did – with their friends, after PassWorld activities!

 

TREE TOP CHALLENGE 

To me, Club Med Cherating isn’t so much a “beach resort” as it is a resort set amidst nature. It’s all about forests and wild creatures (watch out for the monkeys!), flora and fauna. The sea off Cherating Beach is good for sailing, wind-surfing and kayaking, but not so much for snorkling or scuba diving.

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So if you get a chance to walk amidst nature, and get a different point of view – from above, let’s just say – why not?

The Tree Top Challenge is another recent addition to this village. It’s located in the main village itself, but at the fringe. My first impression of it is that it’s not as intimidating as some of the high-ropes courses you see at Outward Bound adventure camps, so it won’t scare the kids at first sight.

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My boys joined their new PassWorld friends, David and Nicholas, on Day 3 to attempt this treetop adventure. In fact, they liked it so much, they did the course a second time!

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Practising the safety procedure on the ground first.

Practising safety procedures on the ground first.

He can't wait to go! Volunteered to be the first!

He can’t wait to go! Up first!

Stage 1: wooden planks

Stage 1: wooden planks

Stage 2: single rope walk

Stage 2: single rope walk

Stage 3: net crossing

Stage 3: net crossing

Stage 4: double ropes

Stage 4: double ropes

Stage 5: flying fox

Stage 5: flying fox

The kids were pretty independent on the course, once the G.O.s briefed them on safety measures and they practised first on the ground. They negotiated the course at their own pace, without adult supervision. Although of course, we were there cheering them on!

I think kids like that independence – figuring out how to negotiate each stage – it makes them feel like little men.

 

ROCK CLIMBING

The last time I was at Club Med Cherating in 2006, I did rock climbing and made it to the top of the rock wall – that’s why I remember it well. *beams* The rock wall was then located where the Circus Trapeze and Bungee Trampoline were.

This time, I noticed the rock wall was completely gone. It’s an empty space now. But I found out that there is still rock climbing. But where?

Apparently, it has been relocated to where Club Med’s second beach is. For those of you who have been to Club Med Cherating before, you’ll know it’s away from the main village area, about 5mins’ tram ride away.

Tram departs every half hour.

Tram departs every half hour.

We took a tram to the other beach to look for the rock climbing wall, and to our surprise, found this!

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These ropes aren’t used for hoisting you up – you climb the rock wall with your bare hands and feet! The cliff faces the sea too, and it’s gorgeous. The real deal. The raw deal.

The only thing is, it’s not opened everyday so we had to come back another day to scale the rock wall. And we did – the boys never say no to real adventure. The more Back to Basics, the better!

Gathering at the rock wall by the sea!

Briefing at the rock wall.

G.O. Hafiz showing the boys how to abseil down safely.

G.O. Hafiz showing how to abseil down safely.

J2 starts his climb.  Fearless!

J2 starts his climb. Fearless!

Look how small he is on the rock wall!

Look how small he is!

J2 made it up in 2:35 mins – the 2nd fastest time of the day!

But he had a little problem coming down though. I guess the trick is to trust your harness and sit back on your butt, then to extend your legs outward with knees locked, and walk down. But he kept too close to the wall, and bounced off it a few times, bashing his little body against the sharp jagged rocks.

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His scratches and bruises looked nasty, but I make it a point never to make a big deal of it. “Are you ok?” I asked him. He smiled and said he was fine. He didn’t even let out a whimper!

Army training begins here, boys.

J1 got to climbing the rock wall after and that lil’ critter is a monkey. Since he was a baby, he’d climb over the cot into his twin brother’s bed and I’d find them both in the same cot, playing! These days, he scales walls, poles, trees.

I didn’t think he would have much difficulty with this rock wall, to be honest. And he didn’t!

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He made it up in just 1:40mins. I don’t think I could have achieved that timing, even though I’m much older than him. My boys clocked the two fastest climb times of the day, and I was mighty proud of them both – timing aside!

I love that they dare try new things, and brave something as wild and unpredictable as a steep cliff by the sea. Before long, I’ll be able to take them to Krabi to do some serious rock climbing!

 

ZEN SPACE

Whenever I am at Club Med anywhere in the world, I spend a lot of time by the pool. What I love about lazing by the poolside is that soft drinks, cocktails and beer are free flow. It matters! Here, it’s all-inclusive. You don’t even need to bring along your wallet!

My favourite mocktail at Club Med Cherating? The Fire Fly. *grin*

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Here at the main pool area, the music is more upbeat. And they blast it over the speakers to keep everyone upbeat and in high spirits. This is where I hang out in the mornings to get a tan, to participate in Aqua Aerobics, and also to join in the daily “Crazy Signs” – mass dance, Club Med style!

"Crazy Signs" by the pool!

“Crazy Signs” by the pool!

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But when I was in Mauritius in Oct 2011 – during my 9-month backpacking trip around the world – I experienced something at the Club Med village there that completely blew me away.

Club Med La Plantation d’Albion in Mauritius was then the only 6-Trident Club Med resort in the world. And what made it special was this area called the Zen Space.

It’s located away from the main village and out-of-bounds to children. Strictly 18 and above. It’s a Quiet Zone.

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So you can imagine my delight when I found that late last year, Club Med Cherating added a new feature to their flagship village in Asia.

Yes, a Zen Space. *beams*

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This is where I hid away every afternoon, when the boys were busy with their own PassWorld activities. I didn’t worry about where they were, or what they were doing, so I could really chillax with a good book.

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What’s different here?

Well, for one, the music is different. Instead of loud upbeat music blasting from the speakers, they play lounge music. Music perfect for chillaxing.

The Zen pool is also not as big as the main pool, so it’s not for swimming laps or doing Aqua Aerobics. It’s made for just lazing and soaking.

And oh, did I mention that the Zen pool is an Infinity pool?

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Where infinity ends and the sea begins.

Where infinity ends and the sea begins.

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I spent a lot of time here reading, soaking in the sea scape from the edge of the Infinity pool, even dozing off in the afternoon sun. It’s quiet, breezy and blissful. It was my paradise.

For a city girl who had been working her ass off meeting writing deadlines just the week before, it was the perfect place for me to unwind and rejuvenate. And I was thankful that the boys were happily occupied so that I was allowed this me-time, this me-space, everyday.

Beyond the Zen pool, there are also day beds and private gazebos where you can laze with a loved one.

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The Zen Space is designed to relax you, pure and simple.

It is perfect for harassed parents whose kids are away at Petit Club (2-3 years), Mini Club Med (4-11 years) or PassWorld (11-17 years). It makes you feel like a “non-parent” again, like an adult with a life!

I got to meet the wonderful manager of Club Med Cherating’s Zen Space while I was there – I wasn’t aware she was the manager – until the other G.O.s told me – because she’s so young and down-to-earth.

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Meet Alyssa from Malaysia. She is i/c here, and rightly so, because she personally prefers the tranquility to the buzz. And she makes a mean cocktail too, if you catch her on duty at the bar in the evenings!

The new additions to Club Med Cherating have only made this village more enticing to me. It was the best family vacation I’ve had in a long, long while. And I dare say Cherating Beach is my favourite Club Med village in Asia, to date.

And if you’re not familiar with the whole Club Med concept, I’d love for you to know more about the “oldies but goodies” that make Club Med holidays special for me: The endless buffet meals… the full-access activities including the Circus Trapeze, archery and sea sports… the all-inclusive, free flow of cocktails, beer and soft drinks at the bars (there are 3 here!)… the spa… the boutique… and of course, the amazing G.O.s!

Sure, other resorts have tried to replicate this Club Med experience by poaching the G.O.s, luring them with better pay and better packages. But somehow, I’ve not found a resort that has succeeded yet.

I believe it’s that perfect combination of unrelated factors that synergize with a BAM! And as a travel writer, I reckon I should figure out what that secret recipe, that X-factor, is.

But that’s a story for another time.

*To find out more about Club Med Cherating’s June holidays promotions, click HERE

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