Phuket – Thailand

Twin Havens Offer Thai Heaven

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.

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