When you first catch a glimpse of The Surin, after your car has been swept for bombs, your pupils will dilate and your knees may buckle. It is DAZZLING. If they don’t go weak from the view, get ready, because they will from the 487515218 steps that you have to climb every day.
I didn’t actually mind the stairs. They lessened my guilt over stuffing myself to capacity at breakfast. What I DID mind were the labyrinthine pathways that lead all over the property. You’re never really sure if the path you’re on leads somewhere, or dead ends on someone’s private balcony (where you may or may not come face to face with a naked person… ahem). My recent stay turned into a game of “let’s see how long it takes this idiot to find the beach at a beach resort”.
Now, THIS is a design concept I fully support…
When not formulating unsuccessful beach routes from my bedroom, I spent a lot of time wandering in and out of the mirrored bathroom in my villa (I never met a reflection I didn’t like!). Now, THIS is a design concept I fully support: the bathroom, divided into shower, main area, and toilet (complete with my favorite detail, a camphor oil aromatherapy pot), was the same size as the bedroom. Why have I never thought of that?! Home Depot, set aside a sledgehammer for me because I’m gonna need to bash down a few walls when I get home.
Speaking of sledgehammers (see what I did there?), there seemed to be a lot of maintenance work going on at the resort. In the short time I was there, I had notices in my room for emergency work on a roof, pest control, and mosquito fogging (standard, of course). There also seemed to be a lot of nail gun action. Have you ever tried to relax around a nail gun? It’s like someone is jumping rope with a live wire directly next to your head. WHAP! WHAP! WHAP! When it comes right down to it though, I’d much rather be listening to a nail gun in paradise than anywhere else…
The highlight of my stay was a massage by a woman who really had me questioning my sexuality. I didn’t want her hands to leave my body. Ever. Perfect pressure… speed… rhythm… I was in love. The only mishap came from being SO relaxed that I slammed my finger in the door afterward. I only noticed the blood when I went to pay her. She was more concerned about my finger; being American, I was more concerned with giving her a tip. It was a comedy of errors until the pain became unbearable, whereupon I threw the money at her and raced back inside to plunge my finger into cold running water… except there was no cold water. Thankfully my massage ended just as Happy Hour began. There’s nothing like ginger martinis on the beach at sunset to ease the pain of a mangled finger. That is how, drunk, bleeding, and happy, I bid farewell to The Surin.
Now, let me tell you a little something… I’m less a lady of luxury, more a meat and potatoes kind of girl. I spent a significant chunk of my teenage years playing roller derby with the Hostile City Honeys in Philly, and I couldn’t have been happier. I like low-fi, no nonsense, serious fun. But let me also tell you … I forgot all of that the moment I arrived at Anantara Layan (pictured top of page). The residence I stayed in (one of 15 on the property) was a three-suite, multi-storey villa, with a private infinity pool overlooking the ocean and mountains, a treatment room with a skylight that looks up into aforementioned pool, an outdoor Thai dining sala, living room, dining room, and the cherry on top…. a live-in butler named Kwan, who quickly became one of my favorite people on earth.
As my time progressed at Anantara Layan I discovered more reasons to love it. Firstly, they hire people not for their service background (which can be taught), but for their personality (which cannot) and it shows. Everyone I met was a character who immediately made me feel like I wanted to sit and chat with them for hours to hear all their stories. Second, there is no public transportation, so the hotel arranges transport for all of their employees. That’s pretty rad. Next: the founder runs an elephant sanctuary. Finally, the manager, Fred, is passionate about sea turtles, so they harvest all the eggs to ensure safety, take them to a hatchery, and then release the turtles back on their property. Word.
I watched the sunset from the grass on my roof, while looking down on the nightly lantern ceremony. I have never been more present
In between paddling around my pool, entirely naked, and sipping on fresh guava juice, my days were pretty full. I had a private cooking class with Thai Chef Pitak Srichan, who taught me to conquer my fear of sizzling oil and compared kitchen battle scars with me. He won. I had a five course tasting menu prepared for me by Executive Chef Silvano Amolini, who knew about my aversion to spicy food before I arrived and who shared my revelation that the crescent moon points a different direction in Thailand than it does above the equator (who knew?!). I took a class in their Muay Thai boxing ring and learned how to kick ass in 100 degree heat. I walked the beach with Kwan and watched hermit crabs and sand crabs frantically scuttling about. I watched the sunset from the grass on my roof, while looking down on the nightly lantern ceremony. I have never been more present.
As over the top extravagant as Anantara is, Trisara, just a quick shot down the road, is just the opposite. You know when you are meditating, or trying to anyway in my case, and you have that one pure second where your mind is totally clear? When your soul has stilled like the flat surface of a pond and time has stopped? THAT is Trisara. It doesn’t have to TRY to be anything, it has nothing to prove, it just IS. There is an all-encompassing serenity to the property, due partly to the constant breeze that drifts off the ocean. You can feel the luxury in every detail, but it is totally accessible. Every view, every meal, every piece of furniture is there for you to immerse yourself in and take full advantage of, not just appreciate from a distance with your nose in the air. This is the place to let down your guard and relax, judgement-free, in total privacy. No, really: TOTAL privacy. Over 6,000 trees and plants were removed and stored at a local nursery while the resort was built. They were then brought back in and distributed throughout the property, creating natural privacy screens around every villa (an added bonus when paired with the private infinity pool and the ocean view. Why did I even bother bringing clothes on that trip?!). Anyway, the trees…. cool. SO DAMN COOL. I’ve spent the last few weeks that I’ve been home plotting ways to get back there because I just can’t get Trisara out of my mind. It MIGHT have something to do with their lychee and lemongrass martinis.
Have you ever had those cheesy moments where you pause, take a step back from your life, and think: “How did I get so lucky?” Or those other darker moments when you think, “What the hell am I doing toiling away in filthy New York City when beauty like THIS exists in the world?!” Yeah, so that’s where I’m at right about now. So – anyone need a Phuket tour guide? I’m totally available. C
The Surin Phuket, Pansea Beach, 118 Moo 3, Cherngtalay Phuket 83110
+66 76 316 400; thesurinphuket.com
Anantara Phuket Layan Resort & Spa, 168 Moo 6, Layan Beach Soi 4, Cherngtalay, Thalang, Phuket 83110
+66 76 317 200; phuket-layan.anantara.com
Trisara Resort, 60/1 Moo 6, Srisoonthorn Road, Cherngtalay, Thalang, Phuket 83110
+66 76 310 100; trisara.com
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