Time, it seems, stands still at the Bell Pool Villa Resort Phuket. As soon as we arrive at this Thai island hideaway, our home for the next two days, Mr Smith’s watch stops ticking. Just like that. No amount of gentle tapping will resuscitate it. It’s almost as if it’s meant to be.
It’s a tad ironic, as time-keeping seems to be the Bell’s leitmotif: a series of cast-iron gongs lines the driveway; three gorgeous bell-shaped lamps hang in the villa; and a gong features as a centre-piece in the outdoor sala (pavilion). Hopefully, though, time will become redundant here and we can really unwind.
Our butler Kong leads us to our Luxury Private Pool Villa, past lush gardens and a black lap pool, before handing us a mobile phone. 'Should you need anything, simply call me 24/7,’ he insists. Kong’s phone soon becomes our lifeline to the outside world. As the hotel doesn’t have a restaurant (one is slated to open soon), bar or a spa, everything that you want or need is delivered straight to your door.
‘If this is what it feels like to be trapped in paradise, exile me any day,’ muses Mr Smith, as we scan the room, taking in the rosewood furniture and traditional Chinese cabinets, offset by bold splashes of red.
Slinky Salma Hayek springs to mind as our eyes light upon the giant bell-shaped lanterns that grace the living area. In a deep shade of maroon, edged with black strips and tassels, these curvaceous lamps remind me of a corset, lending the Ming dynasty-inspired interior a seductive boudoir feel.
Things take a turn for the modern as we enter the svelte stainless-steel kitchen, equipped with an espresso coffee maker (very important to us), a gourmet stove and an armory of utensils (not important to us – we're so ordering in!).
Villa reconnaissance is hard work you know, and we’ve worked up a thirst with all of this exploring, so the bottle of chenin blanc we’ve brought with us calls out to be imbibed. We dial up Kong and order pad Thai and spring rolls, then ease into our lazy holiday with a relaxed lunch on the balcony.
I use the term ‘lazy’ loosely, as it’s not to say that the resort doesn’t have myriad activities around Phuket up for grabs, rather that Mr Smith and I have absolutely no desire to move from our villa – luxury lethargy has set in. Leafing through the guidebook, we can see that the hotel offers everything from cave canoeing to elephant trekking, but our ‘hardest’ task is to plot the three-hour pampering session we’re having later in the day.
Scrubbed, wrapped and massaged with a variety of oils, we lap up our bedroom spa treatment, which includes refreshing lemongrass and a sexy mocha scent. Surprisingly, the most invigorating aroma is one that is found in most Asian homes, Tiger Balm. As expert fingers ease the knots in our shoulders and necks, the powerful balm works its magic – who would’ve thought Grandma’s go-to potion would be the perfect antidote to a year’s worth of stress?
Feeling utterly relaxed (Mr Smith falls asleep during his facial, that’s how laid-back he is), we set about the next big job, deciding on our dinner menu and tomorrow morning’s breakfast. Then, after a delicious meal of herb-crusted lamb and salmon with a tasty red curry sauce, it’s off to la-la land for us, where we dream of tropical fruit platters and our next massage.
Not having been blessed with the early-rise gene, we sleep in blissfully late the next day. While Mr Smith does a few quick laps in the glistening pool, I practice some simple yoga asanas (nothing too intense please). Then, after a hearty breakfast we ogle more food as we take a cooking class with head chef Fabian and his two sous-chefs. Mr Smith whizzes through the beef rolls, tom yum soup and green chicken curry (admittedly, I need a bit of a hand from Fabian), which when then enjoy for dinner that night. For dessert, having learnt that today is our anniversary, Kong surprises us with a gorgeous chocolate truffle cake.
Our last morning rolls around, and with check-out time fast approaching, the biggest decision I face is whether to call for another massage, polish off the remainder of the chocolate cake or go skinny-dipping. Yes, life is tough in exile, but we're having the time of our lives...