Pick Phuket for a stunning Thai stay

by Carla Griscti
montage of Thailand images - Pick Phuket for a stunning Thai stay - Country & travel - allaboutyou.com

Exotic, cultured and full of history, Thailand is a dynamic tourist destination boasting a wealth of holiday hotspots. From cluttered, bustling cities strewn with bountiful market stalls to golden-hued secluded beaches with breathtaking sapphire waters, Thailand’s fun-loving and exotic nature radiates a comforting warmth and friendliness.

The southern region of Thailand - Phuket in particular - attracts swarms of holidaymakers. The combination of Phuket’s colourful, lively city atmosphere with glittering sacred temples and tropical beaches provides a rich, cultural backdrop. But what makes Phuket so enticing is its coastal location and close proximity to some of the world's most beautifully secluded island beaches. With mouthwateringly fragrant food, awe-inspiring coastal landscapes and a rich cultural history, the South of Thailand is a gleaming package.

Phuket

The vast island of Phuket is Thailand’s original flavour of tourist-led holiday fun. Whimsical wanderers swarm in droves to sizzle on the white sandy beaches, while they languidly sup on cocktails from dawn ‘til dusk.

With a host of trendy eateries, bustling market stalls and vibrant nightlife, Phuket is an eye-opening tourist hotspot that ticks many a holiday checklist. As a popular stop-off en route to many of the more secluded island getaways, several areas of Phuket have become tacky tourist traps, with holidaymakers crowding the streets and busying the island’s beautiful beaches. But it’s easy to avoid the crowds once you know how, and it’s absolutely worth spending a little more time here.

Phuket Old Town is particularly appealing. Escaping the hordes of tourists is a breeze once you step into this historical colonial-style market town. Beautifully preserved old colonial buildings, exquisite shrines and temples stand together with rows upon rows of quaint cafés, shops and stylish restaurants. Exuding charm and character, this area is the perfect place to soak up a little of traditional Thai city culture.

If you’re planning on staying overnight, Phuket’s oldest hotel, Memory at On On Hotel is charming. Maintaining its Sino-Portugese architecture with a stylish modern twist, this homely retreat is affordable, comfortable and within easy access to Phang Nga, Krabi, Dibuk and Thalang roads, where most of the temples, shrines and shop houses reside.

Karon Beach

Phuket’s humid conditions can make city dwelling difficult, depending on your resilience to the heat, and a day or two of city strolling may prove sufficient. We were more than happy to head away from the bustle to a more secluded, calm coastal spot.

Karon beach, on the west coast of Phuket, is just a 45-minute drive from Phuket airport. It’s chilled out and a much quieter, prettier option than its neighbouring party town of Patong, situated just 15 minutes away by car.

There are package tourist holiday resorts aplenty, but if you want an all-inclusive with a difference, head to the Karon Beach Mövenpick Resort & Spa. Stylish and luxurious, this exotic Thai retreat is a heavenly hideaway set against a backdrop of luscious tropical gardens brimming with vibrant flowers and foliage. Palm trees and wooden decking frame the walkways of the resort with nothing else but the peaceful sound of trickling water, to transport your mind into a state of complete serenity.

The private villas are nestled away from the main part of the resort, giving a complete sense of isolation and privacy. The rooms are spacious and adorned with stylish Thai touches; bamboo hanging lanterns and quaint orchids fill the room, and dark sumptuous doors open to reveal a private plunge pool, for the ultimate in lazy lounging. Room service is available should you want to remain in the confines of your private pool area (a definite must for at least one day), but the Coconut Pool nearby offers a more extensive food and cocktail menu, with a lot more space to stretch out.

What else?

The El Goucho restaurant serves up delicious Brazilian grilled treats, with a fantastic selection of fresh seafood to enjoy al fresco. For a traditional taste of Asia, head to the OrientAsia, where you’ll find a combination of mouthwatering dishes from Singapore, Vietnam and Malaysia, all served with a creative Thai twist. There are also a few cafés and pizza bars dotted around that are perfect for daytime dining.

Make sure to take advantage of the resort’s gorgeous spa tucked away amongst the foliage, where you can indulge in heavenly Thai massages among other relaxing, pampering treatments.

What’s nearby?

Karon beach is a stroll from the resort, where you’ll find a few small restaurants serving traditional Thai cuisine as well as the usual international offerings. Karong centre is less than a 10-minute walk, where you can find a wider variety of restaurants and bars. There are also a few shops and market stalls that stay open until late in the evening if you fancy a night-time stroll. It’s much livelier than inside the resort, so if you’re craving a cocktail, this is a place to explore.

The beach itself boasts soft white sand and gleaming turquoise waters, but rows and rows of sun loungers thwart the otherwise glorious view. If you’re looking forward to a relaxing respite, it’s best to walk a little further down the strip towards Kata beach, to a less crowded area.

Having said that, the resort itself is wonderfully serene. So if the sole purpose of your trip is to plonk yourself beside the pool and bask in the scorching sunshine, the Mövenpick is the ideal spot to wholly indulge in some much-needed R&R.

Further afield

Whether you choose to reside in a secluded coastal beach hut or a modern, glamorous resort, island hopping across the Southern region is an exhilarating way to explore Thailand’s spectacularly beautiful terrain.

Phuket is a popular starting destination for Andaman sea island hoppers. From Phi Phi to Koh Phangan, travellers flock to longtail boats to access the idyllic delights of Thailand’s tropical island life. The serene island setting of Koh Lanta, Phi Phi and Krabi are all within easy reach of Phuket, with some majestic hidden gems to uncover along the way. But the glistening jewel of the Andaman region is Phang Nga Bay and the island of Yao Noi.

Phang Nga Bay

Phang Nga Bay flaunts some of the most jawdroppingly beautiful views. The mysterious collection of limestone karsts protruding from the emerald waters provides the inimitable backdrop to the 1974 infamous James Bond Film, 'The Man with the Golden Gun'. A sight of natural beauty, the view of these rock pillars jutting from the crystal clear sea amid the mist is nothing short of spectacular. Surrounded by beautiful island coastlines and luscious greenery, Phang Nga Bay should make the shortlist on any island-hopping itinerary.

For front-row seats to soak up the dazzling scenic views, a visit to Koh Yao Noi, stopping off at the luxury Six Senses resort is an absolute must. Yao Noi is a small, peaceful island nestled between Phuket and Krabi. Easily accessible, it takes around 45 minutes to travel there by speedboat. Relaxed and rustic, the island is the embodiment of laid-back living. Monkeys freely roam the palm-lined dirt-track roads, which are scattered with small shacks selling sweet chunks of mango and freshly fallen coconuts.

Six Senses, Yai Noi

Soul-soothing and calming, the luxurious Six Senses resort is the essence of tropical island euphoria. Blending in beautifully with the scenic surroundings, the teak-laden Six Senses gazes over cascading hillsides with dizzying panoramic views of sparkling azure waters and blue skies.

Embracing nature, Six Senses is an eco-friendly resort, utilising the island’s sustainable natural resources. Golf buggies nip around the winding walkways collecting and dropping off guests, with a swarm of smiling, friendly staff who are on hand to cater to your every whim.

The villas

We squeal in rapturous delight as our private butler reveals our spacious, luxury villa. To say it’s luxurious doesn’t do it justice. It’s exquisite. We have a thatched roof suite decorated in locally sourced teak, with a private outdoor pool overlooking the sapphire sea. The rustic wood theme runs throughout, balancing the romantic, cosy atmosphere of the whole resort.

There’s a sensuous open-plan bathtub with breathtaking ocean views. A four-poster bed with draped mosquito nets suspended from driftwood sets an incredibly romantic scene, with a huge outdoor terrace clad in rustic wooden decking. Perfect for languid sun lounging. Serene and sumptuous, the intimate backdrop of this sublime sanctuary will encourage nothing but blissful relaxation.

What to do

Your private butler can conveniently book a host of activities on your behalf. From boat excursions and snorkelling trips to spa sessions and romantic sunset dinners, the attentive, personalised waiting staff will swiftly attend to all your needs. Choose from traditional Thai cookery classes and al fresco beach side dining to scuba diving or guided kayaking, gliding through the winding mangrove waterways. Organising excursions couldn’t be any easier.

Where to eat

The spacious split-level dining room boasts panoramic views of the private beach alcove, which resides below. A sophisticated and ambient setting with a fresh and seasonal menu serving up a selection of organic European cuisine. The majority of dishes are made using locally sourced, sustainable ingredients, much of which is grown in and around the resort.

The food is delectably delicious. From freshly made tagliatelle to subtly spiced seafood broths, the fusion of classic European cookery using local Thai produce is executed to perfection. Be sure to sample the locally produced Six Senses Yao Noi 2012 Chenin Blanc, a refreshingly light and elegant vintage produced by Thailand’s youngest winemaker, Nikki Lohitnavy.

There’s also a relaxed beachside eatery, the swoon-worthy Hilltop Reserve and trendy poolside bar that serves a selection of snacks and nibbles. One of the highlights for us was setting up camp on the private beach, devouring a candle-lit seafood feast.

Find out more

Superior rooms at the Memory On On Hotel, Phuket start from £56 per night. For more information visit www.thememoryhotel.com.

Travelbag (0845 543 6615) offers seven nights at the five-star Mövenpick Karon Beach from £699pp, including flights with Royal Jordanian and Air Asia from London Heathrow and accommodation on a bed & breakfast basis. Book by 28 February for travel between 6 April and 30 June 2015 and save up to £126 per couple.

An Ocean Front Pool Villa at the Six Senses costs £425 per night in high season. Transfers from Phuket are available upon request. For more information visit www.sixsenses.com.

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