A Vacation That Enlightened and Entertained – Thailand and Hong Kong Part 2
By Anthony Adler
Our Thai Airlines flight to Phuket in southern Thailand took just over an hour. Although we were visiting during dry season, sometimes the travel gods do not cooperate. Heavy rains were the order of the day, so we had to bypass the beautiful beaches and instead explore Phuket’s many other offerings.
We stayed at the beautiful Amanpuri Resort with its pavilions and villas situated in a coconut plantation overlooking the Andaman Sea. Our children were old enough to have their own pavilion just down the mountain from us. They enjoyed that independence. The rooms generally do not have televisions to keep with the spirit of relaxation and escape, but when I mentioned that I missed my CNN, a TV was quickly brought to our pavilion.
We had the most amazing curries and Thai cuisine at The Terrace Restaurant at Amanpuri. The waiters and chef made every guest, young and old, feel important. Live music played in the background as we watched the rain dance upon their large pool. To celebrate my son’s 14th birthday just a few days early, they presented him with an artistic and culinary masterpiece of a cake. We were happy and content; a complete contrast to the angry tropical weather upon us.
Our private tour was arranged by Exotissimo and included rafting, riding elephants and a visit to the Phang Nga Wildlife Breeding Center. Unfortunately, the weather made the river too dangerous, so our tour was modified. We still were able to ride elephants through the jungle, have an ox take us around in a cart, followed by more close encounters with elephants and a demonstration on how farmers grow rice. Along the way, our sons made friends with wild cats. The day was actually perfect. There was no sadness about missing the whitewater rafting.
One of our most enjoyable evenings in Thailand was spent at Fantasea. Fantasea is a giant dinner buffet, spectacular show and cultural theme park all combined into one of Thailand’s premier tourist attractions. Do not miss this if you go to Phuket. It’s even a good reason to add the destination to your Asia itinerary!
Fantasea’s main dining hall has over 4,000 seats, but there were never more than a few people in line at the many serving stations. The food choices were vast, and of a surprisingly high quality. Before seeing the Vegas-style show in the Palace of the Elephants Theater with its 999 elephants, we had pictures taken with tigers and toured some of the cultural exhibits. The show was fun and extremely well produced. Afterwards we went shopping in Carnival Village for a few souvenirs to take home. It was a magical night for our whole family!
On our final day in Phuket, we hired a car and driver to take us up the coast. We were anxious to see the resort area of Laguna Phuket. It reminded us of resort areas in Scottsdale, Arizona, but with a more tropical edge. We toured the Banyan Tree Hotel and found the giant lobby with its adjoining pool deck to be inviting. The villas were luxurious and fitted with all the modern amenities.
Just about a half-hour drive from Laguna Phuket, the relatively new Trisara Hotel sits within a lush jungle overlooking its own private bay. Its two to five bedroom pool villas play host to top international celebrities and are known for exclusivity and privacy. Honestly, we expected the property to feel too formal and stuffy for our tastes, but it was just the opposite. Warmth permeated from every direction. We had the pleasure of having lunch on their terrace with Anthony Lark, the resort’s charismatic General Manager and part owner. (Anthony had previously been the GM at Amanpuri.) During our lunch, Anthony excused himself on multiple occasions to greet and welcome every guest by name. We were blown away by the level of service and genuine hospitality. We promised to return one day and spend a few nights in this little piece of heaven.
We drove past the airport to another resort area where the JW Marriott and Anantara Hotels are located. The friendly Australian managers at Anantara allowed us to visit a few of their 83 pool villas, and then the sun peaked from the clouds and we were invited to enjoy their beach and pool for the balance of the afternoon. A walk along the beach leads to the JW Marriott. It’s a nice hotel, but we felt that the Anantara was more authentic. We had an excellent dinner and some exotic drinks at one of Anantara’s specialty restaurants – Sea, Fire, Salt. A salt sommelier offers a choice of flavored salt rocks with which to barbeque your meat or seafood tableside. We wonder if salt sommeliers will be the next big “thing” in upscale dining.
When we returned to our pavilions at Amanpuri, there was a soft glow coming from the center of our room. It was created by candles outlining rose petals in the shape of a heart, with more petals leading the way to the bathtub also filled with roses. The hotel knew we were celebrating our 25th anniversary and wanted to provide my wife and me with a little extra romance. I thought this stuff only happened in movies! We’ll definitely miss the Amanpuri.
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