Headed to the quintessential island getaway destination of Phuket? Centara Hotels & Resorts offers a diverse range of accommodations to fulfil your every holiday need, whether your agenda includes romance, adventure, or both
Best for the extended family – CENTARA GRAND WEST SANDS RESORT & VILLAS PHUKET
Generously-sized living and playing areas make the spacious Centara Grand West Sands Resort & Villas Phuket the perfect destination for indulging in some great family fun in the sun. A dedicated children’s water play area, two kids’ clubs, a multitude of swimming pools, and an endless list of leisure activities promise limitless entertainment for the little ones, while older guests who remain young at heart will love the adrenaline-pumping thrills and spills at the Splash Jungle water park. Barely 15-minutes’ drive from Phuket International Airport, and with an extensive range of family-friendly residences and suites, the resort is an ideal destination for adventurous holidays with the extended family and friends.
Best home away from home – CENTARA KARON RESORT PHUKET
Backed by green hills and comprised of four residential zones, Centara Karon Resort Phuket provides an air of quietness and privacy that would make the perfect base for exploring the rest of Phuket and Karon Town. Karon Beach itself has excellent snorkelling spots at its southern end and is wide enough for beachgoers to never feel crowded. Couples and small families will enjoy The Terraces’ residential options, while larger families and groups of friends are spoilt with the spacious The Lagoon studios just steps away from the waterslide and pool. More private accommodations are also available with generous one- and two-bedroom Cabanas with spacious garden terrace and plunge pool.
Best for romance – CENTARA VILLAS PHUKET
Found in a tropical oasis, where the lush jungle meets the serene sea, Centara Villas Phuket is a romantic hideaway of private Thai-style villas nestled within a haven of green, perched atop a dramatic incline for sweeping views of Karon Beach and the sea. Relax, rejuvenate, and find the inner tranquility that only nature can bring. Candle-lit dinner and drinks at The Cliff Restaurant and a refreshing Thai-style lunch at The Bayview Restaurant & Bar offering dramatic views of the glittering Andaman Sea.
Situated on the south-western tip of the idyllic Thai island, the beautiful 25-acre luxury resort is built into a dramatic hillside, framed by azure reefs of Aow Thai Beach below, and the beautiful cerulean sky above. 81 free-standing pool villas, all with private balconies will offer you breathtaking views of white sandy beaches, crystal-clear waters and heliconia-red sunsets.
Look inside, and you will be enveloped in luxury and comfort that is overwhelming. Each villa has tropical hardwood floor and is elegantly decorated with Thai artwork, silk and local stone features. Amenities include LCD flat screens, high-speed internet connections, floor-to-ceiling windows and bathrooms with oversized bathtubs and glass-walled rain showers. The finest of them all, the Conrad Royal Oceanview Pool Villa, has a 22.5m infinity pool, a luxe living room and lawn, a king-sized master bedroom with an ensuite bathroom featuring spa-quality amenities, a dining table and fully-equipped kitchen. Plus, there’s a 24-hour butler service, private chef and grocery shopping service available on request – giving you very little reason to leave.
Unless it’s to indulge in the amazing choice of culinary delights. The Cellar, perched on top of the resort offers private dining and interactive wine sessions, while Jahn is known for its contemporary Thai cuisine. For those craving something different, the Mediterranean-inspired Zest – an all-day dining option with a unique ‘Food Library’ – promises to satisfy. For an open-air feast, drop into Azure Bar & Grill, or for cocktails and beautiful sunsets, check into the Lobby bar. The resort also arranges destination dining excursions for unique experiences.
Or if it’s to pamper yourself with one of the best spa experiences of your life. Focusing on personal attention and sensory engagement, the treatments here unite contemporary luxury with ancient healing traditions to enhance the well-being of your body, mind and soul. The Conrad also houses an on-site diving and sailing booking centre for those who want to go on a nautical adventure, a fitness centre with Tai Chi and Thai boxing classes, a Kid’s club and two retain shops.
If all this wasn’t enough, the resort even has its own concierge app for personal luxury at your fingertips. Download the complimentary app and customize the details of your stay before and during your visit. Here you will find luxury, beauty, bliss – which will make you think, you haven’t truly lived, until now.
Thai resorts aren’t all peaked-roofs and wat-temple-like enclosures. Here you’ll find glass-fronted low-rise villas that pay homage to Brutalist architecture, with punctuations of grass ensuring harmony with nature. Guests enjoy Andaman Sea views, an infinity-edge pool and a voluminous library, with villa perks such as a private pool and Apple entertainment.
Ancient caves, stone houses and intrigue… Sit on the terrace and look over the main square of a quiet town where delights like coffeehouses and the museum are all yours. Rooms – set in a complex of caves – draw personality from robust stone walls, roaring fireplaces and charismatic cameos of wood.
3. The Park, Hyderabad, India
Meticulous opulence is the calling card of this eyecatching boutique hotel, with its striking Nizam jewellery-inspired metalwork façade. Carefully-selected gems shine resplendently within white rooms: homage to the region’s proud reputation for gem production. From luxury lounges right down to the swimming pool, each space is exquisitely designed using a gem-hued palette.
The hotel ‘defines a city and represents a nation’. Nonconformist angles, cool granite, and a balance of authentic Kenyan materials ensure earthy elegance; waterfalls and gardens entwine with tribal appreciation, while fashion, art and creativity are celebrated.
Small, stylish hotels have been quietly springing up around Bangkok for a few years now, especially near the Chao Phraya River. Some are in heritage buildings, while others are purpose-built. Many aren’t five-star (or even four-star for that matter), but visitors seeking somewhere more intriguing than brand-name hotels, these nostalgic boutiques are romantic, unforgettable and fun. To get started, here are some of the best.
THE ASADANG & THE BHUTHORN
These intimate bed-and-breakfast guesthouses occupy century-old shophouses on different streets in Bangkok’s original Occidental business district. Both are therefore subject to strict conservation guidelines and have been refurbished to period authenticity – with the addition of mod cons such as air conditioning, Wi-Fi, television and modem plumbing. Each of The Asadang’s nine guest rooms is decorated with antique, vernacular furniture and Thai fabrics. The Sino-Thai ambience of its dining/sitting room and the heritage architecture throughout are delightful. With an eagle-claw tub in your bathroom, plus the guesthouses’ location – adjacent to two khlongs (canals) – you’re immersed in old-time Bangkok, so to speak. The smaller property, The Bhuthom, offers three guest rooms in the heritage-listed Phraeng Bhuthom enclave, and while far less spacious is equally authentic. Western and Thai breakfast options at both places are delicious; however service standards still have a way to go to match the competition. Be sure to try the po-tong-go donuts and sticky rice balk if they’re on the menu,
The Cabochon Hotel located in the Walpole Building, is tucked away discretely at the end of Sukhumvit’s Soi 45. oblivious to the restless boulevard beyond. Designed by Taiwan’s Eugene Yeh, the Cabochon has four suites and four studios, all of which – along with its restaurant bar and library – tip their Panama hats and fascinators towards wicked, between-wars Shanghai. The decor is an exercise in smart postcolonial sampling, sans kitsch: wickerwork, teak flooring retro light-switches and antique bedsteads, with the addition of free Wi-Fi and other mod cons. Dine in the Thai Lao Yeh restaurant where the food is as authentically local as the bentwood chairs, tiffin holders and abacuses, or enjoy a nightcap in the intimate Joy Luck Club’s library lounge bar.
LOY LA LONG HOTEL
A night at the two-storey Loy La Long Hotel, perched beside the River of Kings, really brings the Leonard Cohen lyrics: “You can hear the boats go by. You can spend the night beside her,” to life. Barges, ferries and long-tail boats, plus water hyacinths and a classic Chinese pagoda are right at your window in this century-old, wooden hideaway. Each of the six unique guest rooms are creatively decorated in retrofunk-steampunk – a style that defies description. Loy La Long (which means “let it be, let it go, let it flow”) has a small cafe and bar plus sunny river-view decks where you can snooze, dine and allow your mind to drift downstream. Situated in the grounds of a riverside Buddhist monastery, Loy La Long also has romantic credentials as the setting of a memorable love scene in the 2009 chick flick, Bangkok Traffic Love Story.
Cycling blends the best of slow-and fast-paced travel, and its popularity among travelers has grown rapidly in recent years. Accessibility is the key to its appeal: you don’t need to have the thighs of an athlete to have yourself a two-wheeled adventure, and some trips even offer e-bike alternatives. So whether you’re looking to pedal flat plains, conquer rolling hills or challenge yourself to some unforgiving mountainous terrain, there’s a bike trip out there for you.
Pedal through colonial Cusco, the Sacsayhuaman ruins and the salt pans of the Chinchero Plateau with World Expeditions’ Cycle the Andes tour. Explore the Sacred Valley and the village of Calca before taking a ride out to see that most majestic of Incan mountain citadels, the ancient ruins of Machu Picchu.
Fitness level: Moderate to hard – lots of off-road cycling at high altitude
Join KE Adventure Travel on its new Cycle the Wine Roads of Istria tour. Swap the beach-fringed peninsula for the area’s lesser-known green interior. Pedal Tuscan-like countryside pit-stopping at medieval Grožnjan, seaside Poreč and larger Rovinj – punctuate your journey with tipples from wine cellars en route.
Fitness level: Basic – 40km a day but at a leisurely pace on quiet country roads
Cycle the Camino de Santiago from León to Santiago de Compostela with Echelon. Cross Hospital de Órbigo’s bridge and pedal forests, mountains and villages between Molinaseca and Fervenza.
Fitness level: Moderate – daily climbs
Phuket is known as the Pearl of the Andaman Sea and the “playground of the rich” for its gorgeous beaches and resorts to match. In the rush to cash in on the tourist boom, much of the island’s innocence and personality was lost, and visitors now look to the resorts for signs of its former character.
At Amanpuri, they need look no further. The firstborn of the Aman hotels and still considered to be the most special, it’s the premier vacation spot on the island, with secluded pavilion-suites that spill down a coconut-palmed hillside on a promontory overlooking beautiful Pansea Beach. The decor is one of ethnoluxe simplicity and Zen-like aesthetics: what appears to be a series of Thai temples are forty open-sided teak guest pavilions with many-curved roofs, intricate gables, and vaulted ceilings. Inspired by Thai Buddhism, these centers of calm create an atmosphere many Western visitors at first find unsettling, but ultimately irresistible. Solitude is the special quality Amanpuri has to offer, and it is by blissful design.
Elsewhere on the island, the Banyan Tree is Southeast Asia’s first and largest spa resort, offering an aromatic, hedonistic, near-religious experience that promises to salve your mind, body, and soul using the ancient methods of the East. No sunrise hikes or aerobics before breakfast here. This is about handing over your jet-lagged body for indulgent spa treatments whose names alone soothe and assuage: oasis of harmony, voyage of bliss, dream elixir. The Lomi Lomi massage promises to leave you “with fond memories”; manicures and pedicures are described as “royal”; and other treatments “polish” and “anoint” your body.
The one-day program is called Vision of Serenity – and that is just what guests look like when they have finished with the massaging, body wraps, and pampering and wander back to their house-size beachfront villas.
After five minutes in Bangkok’s snarled, snail-paced, fume-belching traffic, you’ll be more than ready to escape to Mae Hong Son, up in the hills 595 miles to the northwest. Increased tourism has left precious few Thai towns that can claim to be unspoiled, free of Western impact, but Mae Hong Son, a lovely town on the border with Myanmar (Burma) that the Thai call the City of Mist, fits the bill better than most.
Situated in a province that’s more rugged jungle than typical rice paddy, it was founded as an elephant training camp in the 1830s and remained cut off from the world until the late 1960s, when a paved road was built from Chiang Mai, 160 miles away.
Local guides can send you rafting down the gentle Pai River, bush trekking atop your very own pachyderm, or hiking to tribal villages in the hills. The only real excitement in town is the early morning market, when the hill-tribe women come down to buy and barter with the locals.
Things have calmed down again by breakfast time, and the swirling mists that give the town its name lift by late afternoon. Motorbike to the top of Doi Kong Mu hill and the 19th-century Wat Phra That temple for a spectacular view of the Pai Valley and the surrounding mountains.
James Bond fans might recall Phangnga Bay as the spectacular island setting for The Man with the Golden Gun, much of which was filmed on Koh Phing Kan, and which Westerners have ever since referred to as James Bond Island. Cinematic fame aside, this spectacular profusion of sheer limestone mountain peaks rising from the Andaman Sea’s pistachio-green waters is one of the world’s most beautiful natural phenomena.
Located just off the southern Thai coast, near Krabi, the bay’s sharp outcroppings reach up 1,000 feet, many covered by dense mounds of jungle and some shaped like animals (Koh Ma Chu, or Little Dog Island) or other familiar objects (Koh Khai, or Egg Island). On a gray day, these islands, with their tiny lagoons and mangrove swamps, have the mystical aura of Chinese watercolors. Many of the humped and jagged islets are riddled with caves and caverns embellished with stalactites and stalagmites. Idyllic beaches and fishing villages built on stilts can be explored by sea canoe or long-tailed boats.
Accessible only by boat through the bay’s towering karst outcroppings, the Rayavadee Premier Resort is nestled within a tropical rain forest on Cape Phra Nang, populated by wild monkeys and exotic bird life. It’s one of the world’s most unusual hotel locations. The resort was built on a shady coconut plantation, which was left virtually undisturbed during the eco-sensitive construction of 100 hexagonal two-story pavilions.
No less than three beaches, lapped by the Andaman Sea, surround the property, and are its uncontestable highlight. One of them, the powder-white Phra Nang beach, has been declared by cognoscenti to be one of the most beautiful in the world, and certainly one of the nicest in Asia.
The backpacker brigade that popularized such idyllic havens as Ibiza, Goa, and Bali first stumbled upon Koh Samui in the 1970s. The island changed considerably once word got out – an airport was built in 1989 and Western tourists, drawn by talk of dazzling beaches and a kick-back vibe fill the growing number of upscale hotels – but much of its early appeal remains. So far. (According to a local ordinance, a hotel can be no higher than the palm trees – roughly three stories.)
Long sweeps of empty white beaches encircle the island, while the middle of the island remains dense with thick coconut plantations. Coconut palms have long been the mainstay of Koh Samui’s economy, and 2 million coconuts are shipped to Bangkok each month. Beachside bars, tattoo parlors, $15 bungalow rentals, and “life’s a beach” T-shirts testify to the island’s somewhat receding tie-dyed character.
At the other end of the spectrum there’s the Baan Taling Ngam resort, which proves that you can spoil guests – with an idyllic, secluded, exclusive setting – without spoiling the island. Nestled on one of the best spots on the island’s western coast, Baan Taling Ngam (whose name translates as “home on a beautiful cliff’) offers uncommonly lovely views from its guest rooms and terraces, revealing small islands and jungle-clad outcroppings scattered across the Gulf of Siam.
Most of the humpbacked islets seen from any of the deluxe rooms of this cliff-edge aerie, or the breezy beachside restaurant and villas, are part of the Ang Thong National Marine Park, a popular destination for world-class diving and snorkeling. Eighty islands litter the surrounding blue-green waters of the Gulf of Siam. The largest inhabited island, Koh Pha Ngan (7 miles north and connected by daily boats), draws budget travelers and scuba lovers the way Samui once did.
Despite its unfortunate English transliteration (Pee Pee Island), Koh Phi Phi is a textbook version of the ultimate dream isle, now officially so: It was Hollywood’s pick for the Leonardo DiCaprio sand-seeking-vagabond dud The Beach.
Against a backdrop of steep, jungled limestone cliffs, a few simple bungalow resorts dot crescents of palm-shaded bleached-white sand. Lucky day-trippers from nearby Krabi or Phuket are transported by boat to the beaches of Koh Phi Phi Don (Big Pee Pee Island), while those who hop a long-tailed boat can visit the even more spectacular Koh Phi Phi Le (Little …). Here you can visit unspoiled coves, crystal-clear waters, and nearly undeveloped beaches; Maya Bay, surrounded by soaring cliffs, is particularly beautiful. Snorkling is excellent.
About the only other thing to do, besides waiting for a simple grilled-fish lunch at an open-air beachside spot, is to visit the immense, cathedral-like caverns, where Sea Gypsies harvest edible birds’ nests, a delicacy prized by Chinese gourmets for their nutritional value. That simple grilled-fish lunch sounds better and better.