It was her son’s backpacking adventures that spurred Carmel and her partner, Ian, to take their long-haul dream holiday to Phuket in Thailand. They wanted to experience everything, from the main tourist attractions, to the ‘real’ Phuket, and they did just that.

Carmel and Ian decided to take their dream holiday to Phuket for Carmel's 60th birthday. They had such a great time, they're already planning a return trip.

Carmel and Ian decided to take their dream holiday to Phuket for Carmel's 60th birthday. They had such a great time, they're already planning a return trip.

Over our 30 years as RCI members, we have taken around 21 exchanges as well as several trips back to our home resort in Marbella, which we love. We visited our home resort a lot when the children were young but since they’ve grown up, we usually exchange it so we can see more of the world.

We have had some great holidays with RCI and made some lovely memories. We have been all over the world with our exchanges, including Portugal, Mexico, Orlando for Walt Disney World, Loch Lomond in Scotland, the Canaries, and we even went on a canal boat, which was one of the best holidays we've ever had! I recommend doing that at least once.

After my son’s amazing backpacking tales, I decided that Phuket was where I wanted to go for my 60th birthday, so we planned our exchange well in advance so we could make sure we got the accommodation we really wanted. Ian and I decided to stay away from the busy cities, so we made the gorgeous LHC Allamanda Laguna Phuket (4973) our base. Phuket is such a stunning place I can barely describe it. We got out and about every day - we are not really ones to lie on a beach - and it was still the most relaxing holiday we’ve had.

Ian and Carmel have been members of RCI for over 30 years and have exchanged 21 times so far, as well as visiting their home resort many times. They've had so many memorable holidays through their membership.

Ian and Carmel have been members of RCI for over 30 years and have exchanged 21 times so far, as well as visiting their home resort many times. They've had so many memorable holidays using their membership.

You can’t go to Phuket and not explore its famous surrounding islands. We took a speedboat to Maya Beach on the Ko Phi Phi Island where The Beach was filmed, and the view of the huge rocks jutting up from the water as we sped through the turquoise sea up to the beach was spectacular. The beach was very busy, with everyone trying to get the perfect picture, but a really pretty place - with moored boats bobbing on the water.

Maya Beach is currently closed to the public to give the coral reef a chance to recover from the millions of visitors over the years and the wildlife an opportunity to return, so I'm glad we got to see it while we were there.

Maya Beach is where the Leonardo DiCaprio film, The Beach, was filmed. It is a beautiful place, but is currently closed to tourists to let the coral reef and wildlife recover from overtourism.

Maya Beach is where the Leonardo DiCaprio film, The Beach, was filmed. It is a beautiful place, but is currently closed to tourists to let the coral reef and wildlife recover from overtourism.

We also had a fantastic day of cycling on Koh Yao Noi which is the perfect way to see the real Thailand. We cycled through sleepy villages and saw the locals fishing and rice farming, and got to see the rubber plantations as well. We ended the day with a traditional Thai meal with some friendly locals. It was a lovely day, and the routes are easy enough for all abilities, so it is a great activity for the family to enjoy together.

Carmel and Ian wanted to see the 'real' Thailand so they hired bicycles and cycled on Koh Yao Noi island. They had a traditional Thai meal with the locals and really enjoyed their day.

Carmel and Ian wanted to see the 'real' Thailand so they hired bicycles and cycled on Koh Yao Noi Island. They had a traditional Thai meal with the locals and really enjoyed their day.

If there is one thing to do while in Phuket, it is Phang Nga Bay kayak tour through the sea caves into the incredible hongs. It was the highlight of our holiday and I can’t recommend it enough. We went round all the islands, including the famous James Bond Island, named for its setting in the 1974 Bond, The Man with the Golden Gun.

If there is one thing you must do in Phuket, it's the Phang Nga Bay kayak tour through the sea caves into the hongs. It was the highlight to Carmel and Ian's trip, so it comes highly recommended.

If there is one thing you must do in Phuket, it's the Phang Nga Bay kayak tour through the sea caves into the hongs. It was the highlight of Carmel and Ian's trip, so it comes highly recommended.

Learning about the history of the islands and kayaking through the bat caves is an experience I’ll never forget. On the tour, we took part in the religious Loi Krathong ceremony, which is a smaller version of the Festival of Light that takes place every November. We created traditional Thai bouquets made of banana leaves with a candle inside and we set them off to float in the water at dusk. Kayaking alongside the floating candles was beautiful and very peaceful. It was awesome to see the plankton illuminate the water at night.

On the kayak tour, you can take part in the Loi Krathong ceremony, which is a smaller version of the Festival of Light that takes place every November. It's a beautiful ceremony.

On the kayak tour, you can take part in the Loi Krathong ceremony, which is a smaller version of the Festival of Light that takes place every November. It's a beautiful ceremony.

Back on dry land, there is so much to see and do on Phuket. The night markets are the place to be in the evening for families to enjoy food, entertainment and shopping. You can buy anything and everything here, so it is the best place to pick out a souvenir or two to take home. Through the day, you will find delicious Thai food cooked and served on food carts on the beaches and in the streets. It is delicious - and a very cheap way to eat, so we made sure we tried a few different ones while we were there.

I have some amazing memories from our holiday in Phuket. Beautiful sights, friendly locals and some of the best food we have ever eaten, I would love to go back.

Before that, we have got two more RCI Exchange Holidays booked - Goa and Croatia for 2019 - and still have more planned. We’ve never been disappointed with our RCI holidays, and are looking forward to many more in the future.

Carmel and Ian have two more exchanges planned for 2019 with more still to be booked. They plan and book their exchanges early so they can get the most out of their membership.

Carmel and Ian have two more exchanges planned for 2019 with more still to be booked. They plan and book their exchanges early so they can get the most out of their RCI membership.

There are 29 RCI-affiliated resorts in Phuket.

Phuket really is a fantastic holiday destination, as Carmel explained. If you would like to make this beautiful destination your next holiday getaway, click on the RCI Resort Directory below and search for your accommodation.

Click here to visit the Resort Directory

If you already own timeshare, but are not a member of RCI, you can join our holiday exchange community today. Click on the Join RCI button below and sign up in just a few simple steps.

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