HOW CLUB MED STARTED

I first heard the captivating story of how Club Med started when I was up in the snowy ski slopes of Club Med Sahoro in Hokkaido, Japan. No further away from the sunny Mediterranean than this! *LOL*

Snowboarding at Club Med Sahoro, Hokkaido.

ikebukuro_taiko_drummers1It was the first day of the ski season at Sahoro, and Club Med had invited some Taiko drummers from a nearby village to perform at the opening ceremony. We also had a huge crackling campfire outdoors in the snow. It was a sensory explosion for me!

But it was a humble slide show on the history of Club Med, screened in a dimly-lit theatre, that really spoke to my heart.

Club Med started after World War II. A dark cloud still hung over Europe in 1949. To lift everyone’s spirits, a former Belgian polo champion by the name of Gérard Blitz had the idea of a new style of holiday for “developing a taste for living outdoors and doing physical training and sports.”

He was living in Corsica at the time, in the Olympic Club’s tent village. So he ordered 200 tents, and chose a team of 20 organisers to provide sports tuition and activities for his guests. In 1950, Blitz set up the first Club Méditerranée (as it was originally called) on Alcudia Beach in the Balearics. On the first day, the team welcomed 300 people.

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In the course of the summer, Club Méditerranée attracted 2,300 customers, and had to turn down 10,000 interested people!

This led to the steady growth of Club Med villages around the world, including Tahiti in French Polynesia in 1955. Guests were then required to take 4 months’ leave! One month for the journey by boat, two months there, then another month for the journey back by sea.

According to historical accounts, the original villages were simple and back to basics. Members stayed in unlit straw huts on a beachfront, sharing communal washing facilities. There was no air-conditioning, no television, no luxuries, because the point was to be outdoors doing things together!

Of course, with the rapid growth of the tourism industry – and especially with the rise of the more demanding Asian traveller – that initial concept has had to be revamped several times to cater to varying needs.

But still, the essence of Club Med has not changed. To me, that essence is that a Club Med vacation is always “all inclusive”.  Food and drinks are free flowing, and you have unlimited access to outdoor activities. But above all, it’s about bringing happiness to all who join Club Med as members. Yes, Club Med is still a club!

When I went to Club Med Cherating recently with my boys, I found it impossible to stay indoors. And mind you, I can be Lazy with a capital L. And for my 12-year-old twin boys, it was worse! They constantly felt they didn’t have enough hours in a day. I hardly saw them once they hastily slipped on their shoes and bounded out of the room each morning!

 

FULL ACCESS TO ADVENTURES! 

When we’re in Singapore, we hardly play together. Yes, PLAY. I guess with the boys doing their Primary School Leaving Examinations (PSLE) this year, there’s a lot of homework and revision to get through. It’s a highly stressful year for them, and by default, for parents too.

But when we were in Club Med Cherating, the boys and I went quite berserk. They were climbing cliff walls, negotiating treetop rope courses, and kayaking in the open sea. Stuff boys do to satiate their thirst for outdoor adventure!

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I wrote about these adventure activities in an earlier blog – you can read it HERE.

Besides these back-to-nature activities, SPORTS is a big part of Club Med’s appeal. While my boys are obsessed with football, they completely forgot about football when they were at Cherating. They were eager to try their hand at all the land sports – from archery to tennis to ping pong!

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I scored some brownie points by teaching them how to play tennis. It was, after all, the first time they’ve ever picked up a tennis racket. I also creamed them at table tennis! *grin*

But I have to say they outdid me in two activities… To be honest, I’ve been on 9 Club Med vacations in the last 7 years, and I’ve never had the courage to try the Circus Trapeze. J2 took one look at it, and decided to give it a go. I felt so proud of the lil’ guy that I took a video of his first go at it – like a fan girl. I’m content to say: I lived vicariously through him!

 

 

The boys also jumped at the opportunity to try the Bungee Trampoline. They even attempted the back flip!

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J1 took it a step further by attempting the forward flip. The G.O.s (“Gentle Orgnisers”) told him that it’s too difficult to achieve on his first go. And precisely because he was told he couldn’t do it, he went all out to prove them wrong.

Pardon me for recording this next video with my iPhone the wrong way round. But if you will flip your laptop or your phone sideways, you should be able to view it OK. *sheepish*

 

 

A PLACE FOR TEENAGERS

When I travel with my boys, I am happy when two things happen: Firstly, when they are happily preoccupied doing things they love. Secondly, when I am happily preoccupied doing things I love. That way, they are happy. I am happy.  Everyone is happy!

Since they were 5, they’ve been joining Mini Club Med (aged 4-10 years) at the various villages we’ve been to around Asia. There are daily programmes tailored to their age-group, and once I sign them in, they are preoccupied till about 4.30pm when I pick them up.

Now that they are 12 and more “anti-establishment”, they will hear nothing of organised activities. Those are for kids! And b’golly, they are not kids!

So when we arrived in Club Med Cherating and did the village tour, I was secretly thrilled to hear that there’s a cool teen’s club called PassWorld that caters to teenagers aged 11 to 17 years!

They were a little reluctant to go there at first, adamant about “doing their own thang”. But when they discovered PassWorld, I couldn’t keep them away!

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Basically, the boys had the freedom to sign in and out as they wished. Sure, there were programmes for the teens, like the Tree Top Challenge at 10am, archery at 11am, or rock climbing at 2.30pm etc, but they were free to join in the activities or sign out and scoot off on their own.

This sat well with my boys, of course. They were first and foremost thrilled that at 12, they were considered “teenagers”. I simply told them, “You are old enough to make your own choices, so I would think so!”

The thing is, they still made plans to go back to PassWorld even though they didn’t have to. They arranged to meet their friends there after dinner to play computer games and pool, and once they allowed me to tag along. I had to ask permission, of course, because PassWorld is strictly out-of-bounds to adults!

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I got a chance to whack some drums that night. *beams* Other days, I just walk by wistfully, wishing I could get access in there because the drum-set is placed invitingly by the glass windows.

 

SOMETHING FOR EVERYONE 

With Baby Club Med (4-24 months), Petit Club Med (2-3 years), Mini Club Med (4-10 years) and PassWorld (11-17 years), there is a Club Med experience tailored to every individual – at their level. For my kids, this is their very own Club Med experience. They will always remember it very differently from me.

I, of course, escaped to my Zen Space when they were preoccupied with their adventures. I indulged in a spa treatment, joined in aqua aerobics, and read by the infinity pool… That is MY Club Med.

Club Med has come a long way since 1950. Today, they have over 80 villages around the world, catering to a myriad of clientele, from families to swinging singles to honeymooning couples.

But even after over 60 years, Gérard Blitz‘s idea of an all-inclusive holiday designed for “developing a taste for living outdoors and doing physical training and sports” has not changed.

Neither has his Utopian vision of bringing Happiness to all who count themselves “members” of this most amazing club.

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