“Our first stop was Phuket. As the Amanpuri was booked, we decided to stay at the smaller Anantara (they have 83 one- and two-bedroom pool villas). Located on the six-mile long Mai Khao Beach, the hotel is designed to look like a Southern Thai village with tall wooden fences surrounding each villa. Ours was L-shaped with a bedroom on one side and a large bathroom with both indoor and outdoor rain showers on the other. Especially fun is the bathtub, which is set into the pool. Both rooms had high ceilings and floor-to-ceiling sliding-glass doors. From anywhere we were in the villa we could literally jump into the water. The villa’s courtyard had a covered outdoor sala with a table and chairs, minibar, raised daybed and huge doors that could be opened for a pretty view of the lagoon. The nicest room on the property is the two bedroom villa, which is right on the beach
“Also on the property are four restaurants, a spa, a cooking school and an enormous pool overlooking the beach and sea. We mostly stayed in our villa because we had jet lag and the weather was cloudy and windy (due to the typhoon Washi in the Philippines). One night as a surprise for my fiancé, Stephen, I planned one of the customizable “Dine by Design” dinners the property offers. I arranged for a seven-course candlelight dinner overlooking the Andaman Sea. The day of the planned dinner, the wind was blowing and I expected a call from the hotel saying they needed to change the venue, but it never came. The staff made a huge effort to create a romantic setting but with the wind blowing the gazebo’s floral garlands and draped curtains everywhere, it was a losing battle and pretty comical.
“One day we hired a car to drive us to Amanpuri for lunch. Its setting, 130 ft. above Pansea Beach, is truly beautiful and our meal was predictably delicious. Plus, Aman hotels always have great gift shops! Should we ever return to Phuket, we would stay at the Amanpuri and probably never leave the premises.
“Sadly our excursions to see other islands and Stephen’s dive trip to the Similan Islands (said to be the best in Thailand) were cancelled due to the weather. But the winds finally let up on our last day so we chartered a private boat to visit the famous Phi Phi Islands and the Rayavadee Hotel (www.rayavadee.com) on Krabi. From a distance, the Phi Phi Islands look like soaring limestone mountains rising from the sea. The islands are covered in jungles and beautiful beaches and, to me, were as beautiful as Vietnam’s Ha Long Bay. One of our favorite sights was the entrance to Maya Bay, which lies between massive rock formations. It’s now also called “Leonardo Beach”, because it was the where part of the film, “The Beach” was filmed. We had to imagine how beautiful it must be without the masses of tourist boats and people covering every inch of sand. Stephen snorkeled a few times nearby and pronounced the experience not that impressive and that it was depressing to see all the dead coral.
“The only way to get to the Rayavadee Hotel is by boat and its location in a lush tropical jungle set at the base of towering 500-foot cliffs is dazzling. Scattered around the very pretty 26-acre property are four villas and 98 two-story pavilions, which looked like dwellings from a Tolkein novel. Also on the grounds are a squash court, great spa, terrific large gift shop (which will ship purchases home) and four restaurants. The Grotto restaurant, which literally lies in a grotto, was the most interesting. Lunching at the Raitalay Terrace overlooking the beach was unappealing due to the masses of picnic-carrying day-trippers who come and go all day via noisy shuttle boats. We didn’t realize that all beaches in Thailand are public. The last time we’d been was 15 years ago when they were almost all deserted. One night we sat next to a young honeymooning couple who said, “For $600 night, we would be fine with this place. But at $1,400 per night, I’m bummed we’re here for a full week.” I had to admit I agreed. We felt the same way about the Anantara on Phuket since our villa was about the same price. Rayavadee was at least in a much more spectacular location.
“No matter what, I always like to see new places with my longtime guide, have clothes made at the Cotton House (nearby in OP Place) and go to the Jim Thompson Factory Outlet, which has three floors filled with countless bolts of silk and cotton and two floors of clothes, pillow covers and accessories. I particularly love their signature elephant print on little everything from silk travel bags to picture frames. I have a field day. They ship and it’s great spot to buy presents!
“Many Bangkok hotels can arrange Fast Track Service to assist with international arrivals and departures. Without it, travellers have to wait in the immigration line, which can take an hour. Most flights arrive around 10:30p.m. and depart at 8a.m., times where standing in lines is particularly painful.”
Read Indagare’s Phuket destination report
Read Indagare’s Bangkok destination report
Read tips on things to see and do in Bangkok.