Charles Martin, Continent-crossing director
Phuket’s recently celebrated image as a luxury destination disappears in a puff of scooter smoke as we travel through the sleazy streets of razzle-dazzle holiday-makers, sex tourists and pissed-up Australians that is Patong. Think London’s Camden Market but beside the coast with hookers. I’m being harsh: if fakes are your thing then you can shop till you drop but my advice is vis…
Phuket’s recently celebrated image as a luxury destination disappears in a puff of scooter smoke as we travel through the sleazy streets of razzle-dazzle holiday-makers, sex tourists and pissed-up Australians that is Patong. Think London’s Camden Market but beside the coast with hookers. I’m being harsh: if fakes are your thing then you can shop till you drop but my advice is visit, don’t stay.
Thankfully, we’re not. We’re about an hour north, halfway up the west coast, at the Pavilions, Phuket resort on a headland overlooking Bang Tao, a five mile-long horseshoe bay of travel-brochure white sand. It is probably the island’s best beach outside a national park and is definitely the most serene. The seductive hideaway we are now entering hovers about 100 metres above sea level, a mile inland, camouflaged by coconut groves from unwanted attention. I am getting the feeling this is where the rich or famous stay.
As our taxi swings into reception we are greeted by an army of linen-clad staff, handed a cooling towel and whisked towards soft seating. Our very own personal guest handler, Ms Wong, welcomes us while simultaneously choreographing the ballet of booking us in. It is gracefully done. I share a grin with Mrs Smith – we are liking this place already.
A golf cart carries us up to the doors of our private Ocean View Pool Villa. It’s huge, all 310sq metres of it. Comfortable sofas are set in a vast living room with floor-to-ceiling sliding glass doors that open onto a secluded sun-deck with its own infinity pool. As it’s facing west, with an uninterrupted view of the ocean, we know the sunsets will be spectacular.
A king-size bed dominates the master bedroom, with more sliding doors opening up extra space, light and views across the pool. The bathroom is bigger than the bedroom, its cool, painted floors inviting us to kick off our Havaianas. Right on cue, spa therapists arrive to administer welcome foot massages.
We could have visited Ko Phing Kan, where they shot Bond film ‘The Man with the Golden Gun’, or kayaked through the caves of Ko Panyi; instead I pour drinks from the well stocked fridge as Mrs Smith connects iPod to sound system before we both jump into the pool. Bobbing at the edge of our aquatic galaxy we stare out to the sea’s infinite horizon. So relaxed we’re motionless, we order dinner off an extensive room service menu, make arrangements for the following day and snuggle down to watch a film.
We sleep deeply in the most comfortable bed in Asia, which is more than big enough for the both of us. In the morning we literally flop out of bed and into the pool, a perfect way to get up. Stop. Just give me a moment to be please. Here is perhaps the very essence of the Pavilions’ appeal, a combination of time and space in which to enjoy life’s true luxuries.
Mrs Smith dries her hair as I phone for a buggy. We are promptly collected and delivered to the Plantation Club, the communal hub of the Pavilions. It is stylishly designed; built on the site of an old rubber plantation then decked out with colonial elegance. You can take afternoon tea in the formal living room, check emails from the study’s sofas, and guzzle or quaff all day long at the terrace bar. It’s all beautifully designed, with hardwoods, soft pastel fabrics and overhead fans. Although it makes me want to take up bridge, we opt for breakfast instead.
This is served on the Terrace, a circular main dining room, with half its perimeter open to the elements. We take a table on the edge and enjoy the view. There’s only one other couple here but ample provisions of food: French cheeses, Italian meats and Scottish salmon. Mrs Smith’s carbon footprint policy means we opt for the local produce. So fruit, freshly baked bread, and a three-egg omelette is washed down with strong black coffee, my only concession on the imports.
We choose to push Mrs Smith back up the hill, then I crash breathlessly on the sofa. There’s a knock at the door and a troupe of beauty therapists arrive: we couldn’t pass up the opportunity of having a treatment in the privacy of our villa. Mrs Smith weirdly elects to have her nails done, while I stretch out in the bathroom and prepare to be rubbed, pummelled and pulled. Instead, I am caressed, soothed and anointed in a spectacular display of Asian massage prowess, followed by my first facial. The effect is miraculous: I look and feel less jaded and more angelic.
Topping up our tans dominates the rest of the afternoon, as I float back to earth after my massage high. Come sundown, we head up to 360° for expertly made caipirinhas. This is the Pavilions’ highest point, a lofty look-out marked out with an alfresco drinking lounge bedecked with white linen-wrapped chairs. We order some tapas and raise a toast to our setting. Sexy and secluded, it’s the perfect place to spend time together and reconnect behind closed doors. And as promised, the sun doesn’t let the show down, sinking below a blue horizon as if with a satisfied sigh.