Chasing paradise in Phuket
The biggest of the Thai islands, Phuket is truly a destination for every kind of traveller. Words by Melanie Swan
Whether you want to lay on the beach and bask in the sun while sipping fruity concoctions all day, get fit, or get out in the ocean to explore the array of stunning islands surrounding you, Phuket has so much to give.
This year I took my second trip to the island, though it is my fifth to Thailand. Something about its charm, its people and the dramatic scenery brings me back. Whether travelling on a budget or looking for something more luxurious, there is accommodation of all kinds in Phuket, making it a truly accessible destination.
I began my stay on the hillside resort of Wyndham Grand, Kalim Bay. It is from these towering heights that you can truly absorb the breathtaking scenery Thailand has to offer with its rolling jungle-covered hills and powerful coastline. Most of its rooms have private pools, which add a sense of decadence to the experience, but the vistas from its beach view villas are truly magical.
After two wonderful nights there, we moved nearby to what is possibly the most stunning resort I have found to date – Twinpalms Phuket on the west coast. Tucked away behind Surin Beach, which retains its charm with its raw, rugged coastline, the resort is a haven. Part of the Small Luxury Hotels of the World group, there are only 97 penthouses, suites and rooms, all built around the winding lagoons. We were upgraded to the magnificent penthouse, complete with a rooftop private pool on the third floor and two levels of utter luxury.
For a more luxurious gastronomic experience, a new Saturday brunch has launched at Shimmer restaurant
If shopping is your thing, head to Boat Street for the Talad Yai morning market. Not only is there a wide range of stalls with the likes of clothing and local handicrafts, but an array of cute local boutiques to keep you occupied. This is the place to experience local cuisine with street food at its finest. From pad Thai to pork ribs, coconut sticky rice to much more, it is a gastronome’s dream. This is also the place to go with plenty of cash, an appetite for endless bargains and an empty stomach.
In addition to the shopping, live entertainment brings the whole place to life, with live music and performances, such as fire jugglers and acrobats, going on into the night.
For a more luxurious gastronomic experience, a new Saturday brunch has launched at Shimmer restaurant on Kamala Beach. It has quickly become a hot favourite on the island, and booking is a must. The brunch is known for its mouthwatering array of seafood, guilt-inducing desserts and much more.
Catch Beach Club has long been famous, since opening nearly 15 years ago, known for its chilled days and slightly wild nights. But now, it has opened the island’s first family-friendly beach club. Located next to the original beach club on Bang Tao beach, at Catch Junior there is plenty for the little ones to do, including DJ lessons for the kids from Catch’s in-house team. There is even a special weekend brunch for the whole family to enjoy.
Parents can make the most of childcare options while they head next door for some parent time, or enjoy the day at Catch Junior with the little ones, with all the benefits of Catch Beach Club to avail there too; not least, a tempting menu of food and beverages to while away the day. We spent a very chilled day there and came back for dinner where the atmosphere was electric, with a live DJ and a great crowd.
A trip to the majestic Thai islands, made famous from movies such as James Bond and The Beach, would not be complete without some kind of boat trip to explore first hand. Thai long-tail boats are one way to do that and can be hired quite affordably, but we hopped aboard the luxurious MY Olympia Yacht with Andaman Cruises.
The sunset cruise took us from Ao Por to the beautiful little remote beach of Khai Island and we were literally the only ones there. The boat moors to allow guests to swim and enjoy the peaceful surrounds, before heading back, when we were dazzled by the incredible sunset – something Thailand never fails to deliver.The trip was complete with free-flowing drinks and snacks.
While our hotels had great fitness facilities, we also enjoyed trying out the local Muay Thai gyms as not only did they offer a great two-hour workout, but it was the perfect way to interact with locals and get a real taste of a part of the local culture. It’s also well worth a trip to one of the island’s three stadiums to witness a fight night, where you can really see the power and dedication that goes into the ancient martial art.
A short hike up to the Big Buddha is worth waking up early to catch the sunrise
A short hike up to the Big Buddha (or you can go by tuk-tuk) is worth waking up early to catch the sunrise. As with many attractions, it’s best seen before the crowds come. Sat atop a huge hill range, this is a true spectacle not to miss, with the sounds of the monks chanting just floating across the skies.
The beautiful Bang Pae Waterfall at the Khao Phra Thaeo National Park and the gibbon rescue centre are a must-see for nature lovers. Though small, the waterfall is beautiful so take your bathers and a towel.
Thailand is one of many countries with a pretty poor track record of animal welfare, but one place worth supporting is the Phuket Elephant Sanctuary, one of only two genuine rescue centres. There will be no bathing the elephants or riding them, but there is an opportunity to feed them.
Many have been tortured and are now at the rescue centre to live out their lives in peace, but set in the midst of the jungle, it is no less impressive to get up so close to these magnificent creatures.
To plan your next escape 800-CONCIERGE or myconcierge.com