Sparkling stupas, technicolour temples, street markets, mega-malls, mountains of mangos, glam rooftop restaurants, backstreet Michelin stars – brilliant Bangkok made my head spin. My time in the city had been a blast – whether it’s your first or fortieth visit, nowhere woos quite like the City of Angels – but I was ready for a slice of island life.
From my window seat on the plane Phang Nga Bay came into view, its dramatic limestone karsts and islands rising from the jade-green Andaman Sea like dragons’ backs. White beaches curving along Phuket’s squiggly coast made the lush green island appear sugar-coated. At its southern tip lay my accommodation for the next few nights: the Rosewood Phuket, one of the island’s newest five-stars.
I was instantly soothed by the Rosewood’s relaxed, contemporary look: zen-clean lines softened with exuberant plant life, subtle artworks and stepped lotus ponds. My shoulders slumped further still when I checked into my villa – spacious, serene, with a private plunge pool and gorgeous sea view. Mornings started with private yoga sessions, held on a wooden platform shaded by banyan trees. Then came breakfast – a bevy of anti-oxidant smoothies, crab omelette and egg noodle soup.
One afternoon I take a trip to historic Phuket Old Town for a stroll around its brightly painted Sino-Portuguese shophouse and a swanky lunch at the Blue Elephant restaurant. Otherwise, I flit between the beach, where I stand-up paddle-board across glassy waters, and the Asaya Spa.
Suitably rejuvenated, I heeded the call for something a tad more adventurous and journeyed east across Phang Nga Bay to Krabi, eager to get a glimpse of my next home-from-home.
Hotel arrivals don’t get much more enchanting than at Phulay Bay, a Ritz-Carlton Reserve, where I was greeted with iced lemongrass tea while being led towards reception, a palatial teak pavilion surrounded by shimmering pools and 10m-high walls of deep purple.
Indeed, Phulay Bay’s aesthetic is something special, a beautiful Thai-Moorish blend echoing the region’s long Muslim history. There are curved doorways, open-air salas, colour-pop lotus ponds and, at its centre, an enormous infinity pool staring out at the toothy limestone sea stacks of Phang Nga Bay. My villa was equally enthralling, a cavernous swirl of creamy marble, glittering mosaics, keyhole corridors, a romantic tub-for-two lit with Moroccan lamps and an outdoor plunge pool afforded with even more show-stopping vistas.
The following days were spent hopping on long-tail boats to nearby uninhabited islands and indulging in exotic treatments at the spa, with each day ending at the beach. As I watched the the sun set upon the calm blue sea, sand between my toes, I thanked southern Thailand for delivering on the elusive tropical paradise promise.