The Banyan Tree Phuket is more like a royal retreat rather than a mere resort. Shining like a jewel amidst the lagoons and gardens of Laguna Phuket in Bang Tao Bay, it’s a far cry from the pulsating pulchritude of Patong’s Bangla Road, which is what most Indian tourists associate with this beach town. The world of odious men pimping menus for all sorts of nefarious activities and ladyboys lit up in neon is left outside the gates of this imposing place. It’s as though the original five banyan trees that inspired the name of this flagship property twenty-three years ago and the global chain of resorts and spas that resulted since, shelter it from the frenzied traffic and trafficking.
“Here, it’s all about peace and purity and the legendary Thai hospitality honed to perfection.”
Where the smiles are genuine and the ‘sawaadekhas’ as you zoom past in your silent golf-cart come straight from the heart.
This is a universe of 135 private villas in which luxe pools and lawns and sunken bath-tubs are a given. Where an 18-hole golf course is par for the course. Where the Spa sanctuary offers you a chance to have unlimited massage literally from morning until night! Where the superlative spa experience is conducted in separate pavilions (more about this below). Whether you’re to the manor born or merely aspire to greater luxury on your holidays, the villa experience at this resort is bound to be intensely satisfying for you. Apparently, everyone from the Big B to SRK have stayed in their double-pool villas and taken home good times they treasure till this day.
For me, it’s a welcome break from my fast-paced city life. Just to slow everything down and savour each moment is a lesson in languor.
“Doing nothing is an art form and the Banyan Tree Phuket is just the right stage to practice on.”
I unlock the wooden main door and step into the vestibule of my 2,906-square foot Signature Pool Villa. While another door beckons me inside, the swaying palms in the garden beyond hint at the wealth of riches to be found outdoors. I resist its charms for now and head inside. A sunlit desk on one side and a wall full of amenities on the other are the principle features of the lobby I enter. From here, a sliding door opens into a two-level chamber, where a few steps lead up to a white expanse of bed, while a cosy couch sits under a beautiful chandelier below. A deep armchair accompanied by a tall reading lamp occupies one corner of this room and a flat-screen TV the size of a football field (well, almost!) fills the other. Between them, there’s another set of sliding doors.
I give in to temptation now and I’m just dazzled by the sight that lies beyond!
“Only a step away from the bedroom is a gorgeous full-sized swimming pool surrounded by a huge courtyard that’s all mine.”
Protected by prying eyes by a high wall, the periphery of the pool is lined with shining palm plants, comfortable sun loungers and a raised and covered deck. This garden gazebo (they call it a ‘sala’ in Thai) with its own relaxed seating as well as a dining space has huge potential when I’m entertaining friends or family from neighbouring villas.
Connected to the garden area as well as the bedroom is the massive dressing space, bright and beautiful. The shower cubicle and the en suite toilet both have the option of blinds that can be raised to let in the light and a view of the spacious open-to-sky bathtub that resides in a garden space between them. The entrance to this tub is flanked by his and hers vanities, while a wall of shelves and a seat opposite it offers plenty of space to unpack as well as sit. The sturdy robe, bath slippers, convenient beach tote, water bottle slip-covers and toiletries pouches are all in a characteristic cotton print that ties them back to traditional Thai design.
“When I want to get active, there’s enough to keep me occupied, of course.”
My morning starts with Pranayam Yoga on the lush lawns of the spa sanctuary. After a very satisfying buffet breakfast at their airy lagoon-facing restaurant called The Watercourt, I can pick from a round of golf or a kayak adventure by the bay. Later, I head to the Banyan Tree Spa. You can even opt for a villa inside the Spa Sanctuary, if you prefer a serene, adults-only space that allows you to indulge in a heightened wellness experience in the solitude of your own spa pavilion. I’m just visiting today though, and my therapist leads me to a stunning room, surrounded by greenery and gurgling water… a very serene ambience.
“I’ve had innumerable massages across the world, including at other Banyan Tree spas, but the sense of sheer bliss that my signature treatment induces is almost incomparable.”
Muscles relaxed, I’m all primed for my Thai cooking class at Saffron with famous Chef Worapong Panechoo (call me ‘Kai’, he says), who is as charismatic as he is skilled.
“It’s a wonderful afternoon of pounding, chopping and mixing fresh ingredients in the right proportion to release all the five flavours that are essential to Thai cuisine.”
Meanwhile, Chef Kai regales me with the story of his life interspersed with clever culinary tips that will come handy all through life. We make a zingy Tom Yum, a pineapple-rich Tofu in Chilly and a creamy green Thai curry with prawns. I must say, it’s rather rewarding to sit down to a mouth-watering meal that you have cooked yourself in a five-star kitchen!
“The food at this resort, both Thai and Western, is sensational.”
Be it the delicious dumplings and sauces at The Watercourt breakfast, the soft-shell crab burger at the casual Banyan Café or the spectacular Phuket Lobster and Andaman Sea Bass served at the exquisite barbecue set up in a double-pool villa when I’m dining with the resort’s General Manager Sriram Kailasam. Perhaps it’s because he is a celebrated chef himself, heading the chain’s F&B vertical, before he took over the reins of this resort, that the dining experience is so perfect. Like they did for me with this dinner, the team conjures up a lot of ‘dining destinations’ within the property, creating gorgeous settings that are sure to help you make magical memories.
As for me, my stay at the Banyan Tree Phuket gives me the luxury to just be… to swim, spa, eat, sleep… repeat. To let my taut nerves unwind and the tense knots in my shoulders to come undone under expert fingers. Now, the tough part is getting back to real life.
Where: Banyan Tree Phuket
33, 33/27 Moo 4, Srisoonthorn Road
Cherngtalay, Amphur Talang
Phuket 83110, Thailand
Phone: +66 76 372 400
Note– The critic was invited by the Banyan Tree Phuket. But all the opinions expressed herewith are her own.