Sink into luxury at the Banyan Tree resort in Phuket and watch your senses slowly come alive.
You know that frame of mind when you don’t want to know anything, ask no questions? That is the beginning of luxury — not having to think, plan, book tickets, pack ....well, I’m taking it a bit too far. I’d rather pack for myself than have my husband pack. The last time he planned a surprise trip, he packed backless black cocktail dresses and stilettos for chilly Mashobra. Normally, a killer for information, I was happy being told, “We are off to a beach place.”
At Delhi airport, “We are off to Bangkok.” No surprises. “You’ll be driven to your hotel in a tuk-tuk.” Now that was exciting. I’m all for hopping onto to rickshaws, tongas or trams to get the ‘local’ feel. The tuk tuk was a silky smooth BMW that lulled me into an early morning snooze.
Banyan Tree, Phuket. I took in the lobby and sank into sheer decadence. A golf cart took us through vast greens, ponds, palms to our villa. The pool seemed to stretch and fall into the lagoon at the edge. A waterfall on one side, an open Jacuzzi on the other, the foliage all fused into one to create a picture. A lomi lomi massage at the edge of the lagoon was like a straight dive into the way of life for the next three days.
The massage and steam made us skip lunch. Pink rose tea with finger sandwiches, mini almond-and-fruit tarts served on a tiered platter was a light treat. A walk to the beach to watch the sun going down and surf coming in was all right. The pull of the Banyan Tree proved greater. The hedonist in me was awakening. A swim in the pool to earn dinner seemed to be more the thing to do.
The villa beckoned. Languorous and still drinking in the sounds and smells of twilight, we ‘buggied’ our way to Saffron for dinner. I wanted to taste Tom Yum and Tom Kha in Thailand to assure myself that we get the authentic version in India. Both the soups were amazing, the prawns melting on the tongue, the galangal biting and the lemon grass suffusing the overall taste. The broth was tart, sassy and just sour enough. I haven’t seen galangal so finely sliced, almost thread-like. The steamed snow fish with lemon and sweet chilly and the sautéed Phuket lobster in dry red curry sauce accosted us with a cheeky mixture of sensations. No room for dessert. Pampered to the point of being silly, we chose to fall asleep on fresh, crisp white cotton sheets and foam pillows. There was a choice of kapok, rayon, satin, cotton sheets along with foam, feather pillows.
Breakfast in bed or breakfast in pool ... The huge basket captured my attention with its an endless array of eats — omelettes, fruits, cereal, coffee, juices. A swim later, the action began. A short walk to one of the pavilions was the start. Surrounded by ebony and gold filigreed pillars, birds of paradise blossoms, fish swimming in a lotus pond, I could only feel hands pressing, kneading, sliding the lemony kaffir lime scrub and the massage after that. A four-hour treatment seemed like four moments. Back to the villa on the buggy, my eyes never tired of the orchids flowering carelessly.
We watched the night come in. From peach to orange to a sap green before the colours of purple darkness took over. We decided to dine at Lotus, one of the more famous restaurants in Phuket. We entered to see crabs, shrimps, lobsters, tuna swimming in tanks to be weighed and cooked. We chose to remain faithful to a grilled lobster with Penang sauce, and crab in red curry. Lime and lichi sorbet to round off the hot spicy meal on the beach.
Deep, contented slumber and then a huge Thai and Japanese breakfast. Miso soup, shrimp broth, Thai omelette, wheat noodles and some fruits later, we meandered into another spa pavilion for the Tranquility Hydromist Revitalising treatment. A hot steam and gentle shower on each point of the body later, we were scrubbed with a creamy ginger and honey scrub. I kind of figured out the life that Cleopatra led... something similar to this.
It didn’t stop here. More than warm honey was slathered on generously. I understood what it meant to be steeped in the satiny finish, feathery in touch and reaching into your very insides. The glow, as they say, went deeper than skin; I made up my mind never to scoff at such romantically sensuous descriptions. An hour’s massage with Bergemot oil and a facial... such bliss. Sensuousness is spiritual here.
The spoilt-for-choice syndrome is on rampage here. The spa treatments are many and attractive. I need to be here for another week to try each package and those purse strings as well. The food at the Water Court with its Mediterranean flavours in citrus salad with garlic prawns and charred aubergine cappuccino or the intimate dinner at the Sala Terrace. There is too much to eat, drink and get massaged.
We giggled like teenagers as the Banyan Tree staff moved noiselessly to set up the ‘Intimate Moments’ evening. The entire passage through the villa was lined with purple orchids and candles right up to the open bath. Orchids floated in the water. Wine glasses and a wine bottle waited silently on the side. Bath salts, aroma sticks et al, we slipped into the bath. Stepping into the bedroom had some more delights unfolding. A sinful chocolate mousse bedecked with a chocolate rose await.
What to do
Explore beaches, parks and forests, discover a rich history and culture and fantastic dining and nightlife choices.
Phuket has a range of tours from coach trips to private excursions. Island tours leave daily stopping at places like national parks, temples and areas of interest. Some specialise in giving a flavour of local island life with stops at rubber and coconut plantations, while others focus on shopping and visiting spas.
Phuket has some of the world’s finest beaches like Patong Beach, Karon Beach, Kata Beach ...
Whether they’re held to honour a religious belief or just for fun, the festivals of Phuket are exciting, sometimes bizarre spectacles. The island’s most distinctive event is the annual Vegetarian Festival.
Most hotels are within close proximity to the beach, entertainment, restaurants, shopping and activity centres, which makes getting round on foot the best bet.
How to get there
The majority of Phuket’s tourists arrive by air via Bangkok’s Suvarnabhumi International Airport (at Nong Ngu Hao, 20 km east of Bangkok), which is directly connected to major cities of India by a variety of airlines including Indian Airlines, Thai Airways, Jet Airways, Air India. Phuket’s international airport is 30km north of Phuket city centre.
From Bangkok to Phuket
By Car: Take Route 4 from Bangkok to the south (867 km)
By Coach: Both air-conditioned and non air-conditioned buses leave the Southern Bus Terminal in Bangkok daily.
By Air: Thai Airways International operates flights to Phuket daily. Travel time is 1 hour 20 minutes.
By Sea: The Deep Sea Port at Phuket is visited by both cargo and cruise ship from Thailand and from abroad.