Travel: Sun, sea, sushi and mash

Fi Glover gets off her gently bronzed behind for a spot of forced entertainment in Phuket.

Welcome to Club Med, Thai-style

"Participate. Earn your lunch. This is not the Holiday Inn." This is what shrieks out at 12.30pm every day while you are lying on the beautifully arranged sun-loungers by the pool at Club Med, Phuket.

It's the clarion call of Greg, a diddy South African geezer with dot- to-dot freckles and an unnerving little grin. The fact that his tan starts from above his ankles gives away the fact that he's the golf instructor - but unfortunately for him his duties don't end there. Every day he has to stand by the pool with a loudhailer and try to get an international factor of sunbathers - if that is the right collective noun - to get off their gently bronzed backsides and do something in the gently blowing breeze of the Andaman Sea.

I have a problem with organised entertainment, especially if there aren't serious "price is right" five-door saloons up for grabs. And on day one I definitely did not want my poolside reverie disturbed by lots of people doing the conga in the pool. I turned the other bikini-clad cheek and put my stuffy little British nose in the air. On day two my thought process ran along the lines of "I'm an international traveller who likes to explore strange regions of Bhutan ... but ... mmmmm, this is fun to watch in a patronising kind of way." And, you've guessed it: by day three I was preparing my dive at the start of the International Club Med Olympics Race alongside Valerie from Nice (I won the silver). I had also fully entered into the spirit of the packaged world of Club Mediterranee - pioneer of all-inclusive activity holidays in 130 "villages" around the world (in poor financial shape at the moment, and guilty of overusing the word "participate").

But though you may want to hate it at the start, I bet you a bag full of beads that by the end you're having a good time. And let's get the bead thing sorted right now. Your package at Club Med includes all accommodation, sport, food, and drink at meals; if, however, you want a drink from the bar, you have to buy it with beads. These aren't romantic little cowrie shells collected from the beach at dawn. They are plastic orange and yellow things that you can stick together to make necklaces. I think they are just a careful way of disguising how horrendously expensive the bar is. Get into the Nineties and give me a smart card.

Club Med also has its own language. Greg - as an employee - is a GO, and I as a passing guest was a GM. All Gentils Officiers have to eat, drink, mingle but not sleep with Gentils Membres - though you do get the feeling some of them may have taken hospitality to horizontal levels. Meals are at certain times, a "sun dance" takes place round the pool in an early Pan's People style at midday every day, and you need a secret code to make an international call out-of your room. Cult Med may be an apt first impression.

We were lucky to be given the tour of the "village" by Grinning Greg, who kindly informed us that the elephant ride was a waste of time and that the sports centre was right at the other end of the resort - but since we didn't look as if we'd be needing to tee off at 8am or play a quick serve and volley before lunch, he wouldn't bother showing us that. It was a lovely pinch of reality salt on the side of an all-too-effusive plateful of unpalatable bonhomie from some of the other GOs.

Participation turned out not to be our forte; slobbing out on Kata Beach we were much better at. Kata Beach is that stretch of white sand that you hope Thailand will always have: bobbing longboats; sunsets to die for, all pinky and dusky; and a tarpaulin under which a dozen smiling massage ladies ease away your troubles with tiger balm, baby oil and some vertebrae-crunching hand techniques. You can have a massage in the spa at Club Med, but it costs seven times as much and you have to listen to piped music. Which would you rather: the sound of Thai girls giggling at your bumpy European thighs, or Michael Bolton classics?

Most of our bumps were caused by the food in Club Med. This reflects the clientele, who range from Japanese, through South Korean, Italian and French, to us. The Harvester help-yourself principle works here, and your selection of cuisine ranges from Japanese through South Korean ... By the end of a week our choices were positively surreal: one tiger prawn, two slices of pizza and a bowl of Thai soup. My favourite was sushi with mashed potato and the ultimate hangover cure: three types of potato - fried, mashed and roast. So we ate and slept, and marvelled at how smooth everyone else's thighs looked, for seven days - until we had almost lost the power of speech.

On our last night in Phuket we wandered back from Kata town to find something akin to hell being enacted around the pool. It was a funfair, complete with greasy pole, coconut shies and roulette tables with fake money. At first we thought that was going a bit far. But everyone else was having such a good time. That's Club Med for you; it just keeps on going. You can help yourself to as much as you like, or just pick and choose, and you'll only really hate it if you do turn your nose up at everything. Apart from anything else, that is a bad way to sunbathe; you'll get a nasty Judith Chalmers turtleneck effect by the end of two weeks.

I would personally recommend doing three things before going, though: make your own bar beads out of melted plastic, rent my mate Cath out for her late-night cabaret action, which she performed to tumultuous applause after the funfair had packed up and gone - and check that Greg is still there before you go. Do try that mashed potato and sushi combination. You know you want to.

Sport
world cup 2014A history of the third-place play-offs
News
Tommy Ramone performing at The Old Waldorf Nightclub in 1978 in San Francisco, California.
peopleDrummer Tommy was last surviving member of seminal band
Life and Style
Swimsuit, £245, by Agent Provocateur
fashion

Diving in at the deep end is no excuse for shirking the style stakes

Sport
The Mexico chief finally lets rip as his emotions get the better of him
world cup 2014
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
ebookA unique anthology of reporting and analysis of a crucial period of history
Voices
Spectators photograph the Tour de France riders as they make their way through the Yorkshire countryside
voicesHoward Jacobson: Line the streets for a cycling race? You might just as well watch a swarm of wasps
Life and Style
lifeHere's one answer to an inquisitive Reddit user's question
Life and Style
Several male celebrities have confessed to being on a diet, including, from left to right, Hugh Grant, Benedict Cumberbatch and Ryan Reynolds
...and the weight loss industry is rubbing its hands in glee
News
peopleDave Legeno, the actor who played werewolf Fenrir Greyback in the Harry Potter films, has died
Arts and Entertainment
'Eminem's recovery from substance abuse has made him a more potent performer, with physical charisma and energy he never had before'
Review: Wembley Stadium ***
Sport
Mario Balotelli, Divock Origi, Loic Remy, Wilfried Bony and Karim Benzema
transfersBony, Benzema and the other transfer targets
Sport
Yaya Touré has defended his posturing over his future at Manchester City
News
Detail of the dress made entirely of loom bands
news
Life and Style
beauty
Sport
There were mass celebrations across Argentina as the country's national team reached their first World Cup final for 24 years
transfersOne of the men to suffer cardiac arrest was 16 years old
Arts and Entertainment
Armando Iannucci, the creator of 'The Thick of It' says he has
tvArmando Iannucci to concentrate on US show Veep
News
A mugshot of Ian Watkins released by South Wales Police following his guilty pleas
peopleBandmates open up about abuse
Sport
Basketball superstar LeBron James gets into his stride for the Cleveland Cavaliers
sportNBA superstar announces decision to return to Cleveland Cavaliers
Independent
Travel Shop
the manor
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on city breaks Find out more
santorini
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on chic beach resorts Find out more
sardina foodie
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on country retreats Find out more
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs Education

Linux Systems Administrator

£33000 per annum + pension, 25 days holiday: Ashdown Group: A highly successfu...

SEN Teacher, Permanent Role in Ashford

Competitive Salary: Randstad Education Group: Randstad urgently seeks a qualif...

Drama Teacher

Negotiable: Randstad Education Liverpool: We are looking for someone who can t...

**Science Teacher Urgently Required for September**

£120 - £160 per day: Randstad Education Liverpool: **Science Teacher Urgently ...

Day In a Page

A History of the First World War in 100 Moments: Peace without magnanimity - the summit in a railway siding that ended the fighting

A History of the First World War in 100 Moments

Peace without magnanimity - the summit in a railway siding that ended the fighting
Scottish independence: How the Commonwealth Games could swing the vote

Scottish independence: How the Commonwealth Games could swing the vote

In the final part of our series, Chris Green arrives in Glasgow - a host city struggling to keep the politics out of its celebration of sport
Out in the cold: A writer spends a night on the streets and hears the stories of the homeless

A writer spends a night on the streets

Rough sleepers - the homeless, the destitute and the drunk - exist in every city. Will Nicoll meets those whose luck has run out
Striking new stations, high-speed links and (whisper it) better services - the UK's railways are entering a new golden age

UK's railways are entering a new golden age

New stations are opening across the country and our railways appear to be entering an era not seen in Britain since the early 1950s
Conchita Wurst becomes a 'bride' on the Paris catwalk - and proves there is life after Eurovision

Conchita becomes a 'bride' on Paris catwalk

Alexander Fury salutes the Eurovision Song Contest winner's latest triumph
Pétanque World Championship in Marseilles hit by

Pétanque 'world cup' hit by death threats

This year's most acrimonious sporting event took place in France, not Brazil. How did pétanque get so passionate?
Whelks are healthy, versatile and sustainable - so why did we stop eating them in the UK?

Why did we stop eating whelks?

Whelks were the Victorian equivalent of the donor kebab and our stocks are abundant. So why do we now export them all to the Far East?
10 best women's sunglasses

In the shade: 10 best women's sunglasses

From luxury bespoke eyewear to fun festival sunnies, we round up the shades to be seen in this summer
Germany vs Argentina World Cup 2014: Lionel Messi? Javier Mascherano is key for Argentina...

World Cup final: Messi? Mascherano is key for Argentina...

No 10 is always centre of attention but Barça team-mate is just as crucial to finalists’ hopes
Siobhan-Marie O’Connor: Swimmer knows she needs Glasgow joy on road to Rio

Siobhan-Marie O’Connor: Swimmer needs Glasgow joy on road to Rio

18-year-old says this month’s Commonwealth Games are a key staging post in her career before time slips away
The true Gaza back-story that the Israelis aren’t telling this week

The true Gaza back-story that the Israelis aren’t telling this week

A future Palestine state will have no borders and be an enclave within Israel, surrounded on all sides by Israeli-held territory, says Robert Fisk
A History of the First World War in 100 Moments: The German people demand an end to the fighting

A History of the First World War in 100 Moments

The German people demand an end to the fighting
New play by Oscar Wilde's grandson reveals what the Irish wit said at his trials

New play reveals what Oscar Wilde said at trials

For a century, what Wilde actually said at his trials was a mystery. But the recent discovery of shorthand notes changed that. Now his grandson Merlin Holland has turned them into a play
Can scientists save the world's sea life from

Can scientists save our sea life?

By the end of the century, the only living things left in our oceans could be plankton and jellyfish. Alex Renton meets the scientists who are trying to turn the tide
Richard III, Trafalgar Studios, review: Martin Freeman gives highly intelligent performance

Richard III review

Martin Freeman’s psychotic monarch is big on mockery but wanting in malice