Amanpuri, the prestigious Aman group’s flagship resort, is the hotel which put Phuket on the luxury tourist’s map. Established in 1988, the designer hotel is perched on a steep coconut plantation, overlooking the secluded golden sands of Pansea beach. The resort was given a redesign, courtesy of acclaimed designer Ed Tuttle and is reminiscent of a traditional Thai temple, with secluded villas and private pavilions nestled among the towering palms.
Aman resorts take their food seriously and unsurprisingly, Amanpuri is no exception. We were spoilt for choice with Thai, Japanese and Italian restaurants to choose from. For lunch we loved Naoki, which served elegant, original French Kaiseki fare, which combines the best of French technique with Japanese artistry, right on the beach.
However, surprisingly the crème de la crème was the beach BBQ. As we sauntered down the candlelit stairs and on to the torch-lit beach, we were introduced to table upon table of lavish local produce. Sweet Phuket lobster, scallop, soft shell crab and oysters on one table; wagyu beef awaiting the BBQ on another, all ending with an elaborate selection of Thai desserts and an endless flow of chilled champagne. For an early evening cocktail, head to the main bar area and watch the sun sink into the Andaman.
Amanpuri translates as ‘Place of Peace’ and it certainly lives up to its name. We were staying in villa number seven – the resort’s most requested villa. My enormous bedroom had undisturbed views across the turquoise Andaman Sea, through the wall of floor-to-ceiling windows and a private outdoor relaxation area, jutting out from the cliff-top. Nothing is too much trouble in the world of Aman; one evening we returned to find our personal in-villa staff decorating our private 25-metre pool with lavish clusters of floating lotus flowers and filling the entire villa with flickering candles, which lead to an elaborate outdoor dining area, overlooking the sunset.
Who Goes There?
Over the years this resort has hosted everyone from Prince William to Kate Moss. During our stay we were sharing the facilities with a Russian billionaire who had abandoned his $300m yacht to seek out dinner in the hotel’s restaurant.
Out & About:
The hotel has its own fleet of yachts, naturally. During our stay we hopped on board ‘Sealion’ for a day cruising around Phang Gna bay marine national park, located between Phuket and the Malay Peninsula. Carrying a maximum of six passengers we escaped the usual tourist trail, setting our own itinerary and dipping in and out of the minty green water’s vast limestone islands at leisure.
Our captain led us first to Ko Phanac, home to a family of crab-eating monkeys, who dance along its limestone cliffs. Next we sped off-piste through the mangroves and found an empty cave, adorned with ancient paintings and sea eagles swooping overhead. A short ride away lay Ko Ra Ya Ring, home to a small community of sea gypsies who live in colourful stilted shacks. Miles from civilisation, they have their own school and make a living from fishing and the huge restaurants which tourists now flock to by kayak and boat. At night they shut up shop and return to their isolated life, surrounded by the beauty of the national park.
With the Bond theme tune still ringing clear, we sped towards the renamed James Bond Island, as seen in The Man with the Golden Gun. Backed by jungle, part of its coastline is open for trade, with various shacks selling Bond-themed souvenirs. Our exclusive trip included this on its itinerary, but managed to stay out of the enormous boat trips and army of kayak tours, shooting off through the mangroves towards lesser-known islands and more hidden lagoons, before returning to Sealion for an amazing lunch. We sat in awe as the team delivered plates overflowing with grilled king prawns, fresh seafood salad, tender beef steaks, juicy lamb chops and spicy chicken fillets from the minuscule on-board kitchen. After a quick dip we made our way back to Phuket Marina, slipping in and out of an over-indulgent calorie-induced coma.
The Best Thing:
Aman properties are in a class of their own; they make some other five-star hotels look like Travelodges. Other than the amazing locations and world-class design, it is the staff that create the unique Aman atmosphere. Always wearing a friendly smile, nothing is too much for this dream team; even bringing tigers in to your villa on request (I kid you not!).
The Worst Thing:
Our stay was perfect from start to finish, but if we had not been so fit and healthy we may have struggled with the surprisingly steep location and endless stairs.
A double room at Amanpuri in Phuket costs from £560 per night and includes return airport transfers. For more information and reservations, visit www.amanresorts.com or call toll-free on 00 800 2255 2626
Thai Airways flies twice daily to Bangkok using its recently introduced Airbus A340-600 aircraft, with individual in-flight entertainment screens in all classes. Visit www.thaiairways.co.uk for the latest deals (and for its internal multi-use Domestic Discover Thailand Airpass). For further information call 0844561 0911.