From a Eurocopter ride to scuba diving off a private yacht, our guide for those planning an extravagant vacation to this Thai island
No amount of Instagram filters can do justice to the idyllic island of Phuket. If you want to experience life on secluded islets where time seems to slow down—as you walk along sandy beaches and swim in the cerulean sea that redefines the phrase ‘crystal clear’—you can find it here. But I discover that Phuket (pronounced ‘poo-ket’) has many opulent pursuits to offer, too, while staying at the upmarket, northern peninsula region of Bang Tao, at the Dream Phuket Hotel & Spa.
Developed by hotelier Vikram Chatwal’s Dream Group and Singapore-based Castlewood Group, the five-star luxury hotel incorporates 174 guest rooms, suites and villas (priced from Rs 18,255 – Rs 73,400) into its multi-award winning eco-friendly architecture. But before I explore the property, I head to their world-class Sanctuary spa, to nurse my jet lag with an invigorating Thai massage. Next, I take a five-minute trip to spend my first day in Thailand at Phuket’s most exclusive beach-front club, Dream Beach—where contemporary New York chic meets a 2,000 sq ft tropical retreat at Layan beach. “I am thrilled that Dream Beach, together with leading global night life brands, Ministry of Sound and Hed Kandi, is committed to bringing the biggest names in dance music (think Pete Tong) to these shores,” explains Castlewood’s CEO Chris Comer, adding that they intend to host the best and biggest after-hours Ibiza-inspired club nights at the recently-launched club. Before you leave, be sure to try Asia’s most expensive burger, the `57,047 Dream Beach Burger (with wagyu beef, black truffle cream and duck foie gras, served on a bun with gold leaf).
On day two, I decide to check out the property. It soon becomes evident that Comer (who was heavily involved in the design process) steered clear of traditional Thai elements, like pagodas—while integrating the indigenous landscape—to create a sheltered haven with swim-up pool bars, private cabanas and a lush leather jazz lounge called Indulge that serves over 200 new and old-world wines. What I love the most is the New York-style grill and modern Thai fare served at their signature restaurant, Trilogy, where three Michelin-starred chefs, including Giovanni Luca Pirro, engineered the menu.
Hailed as the world’s capital for sapphires, you must go shopping for the precious gemstone while here. Head to the Royal Gems Pavilion Phuket, for 24-carat sapphire pendants embedded in sterling silver. Details: royalgems.co.th
I avoid Bangla Road, except to head to the chic multi-storey nightclubs like Seduction and Hollywood—the saving grace of Patong’s otherwise seedy night life. Since the doors at these clubs, which cater to those who love commercial dance music, open only after10 pm, I walk in post 1 am, when things are in full swing. Seduction regularly hosts headliners like Skrillex and Calvin Harris. In fact, I find out (much to my dismay) that dance music superstar Steve Aoki will be playing here on March 26. VIP entry `6,714 onwards. Details: +66 925312954
I skip the clichéd elephant trek along the Chalong Highlands jungle for a rare bird’s eye view of the entire island. With my camera at the ready, I hop on a 50-minute tour aboard a hi-end Eurocopter EC130 and see all of Nai Thon National Park and Chalong Temple as we make our way to the pristine Phang Nga Bay. `13,120 (per seat). Details: tropicaleasy.com
I decide to stay away from the over-hyped tuk tuks, rental scooters and tourist taxis aka traps, and travel around Phuket’s wide roads in a sports car. Hire a two-seater like the Lamborghini Gallardo Spyder, and you and your significant other can zoom around the island in a 550 HP beast (`95,078 per day, on luxurycarhirethailand.com). Put pedal to the metal and take a ride from Patong to Chalong, to see the 45-metre-tall Big Buddha created with 135 tons of Burmese white marble. Also head to the southern-most tip of Phuket, to view the sunset at Promthep Cape. Of course, I also made sure to gorge on local delicacies (think a mildly spicy Thai yellow curry with shrimp) at the Promthep restaurant. Don’t miss the uber popular regional dessert, coconut sticky rice with fresh-cut mangoes. Details: +66 76288084
Life’s a beach
Want to explore the dreamy islands surrounding Phuket? Skip the jam-packed ferry full of selfie snappers—who opted for the cookie-cutter tour of Phi Phi Islands after watching Leonardo DiCaprio in The Beach—and charter a top-of-the-line yacht, like the Baglietto 85. With a professional crew of four to help, you can go snorkelling to spot manta rays, hawksbill turtles and leopard sharks on Tachai Island; explore cliff-wrapped coves in the archipelago on a self-guided kayak tour; or have a PADI registered dive master take you scuba diving in the deep Andaman sea near Racha Island. You can also stay overnight (at a surcharge of `95,078 ) at a protected nature reserve like Similan Island. `4,75,393 onwards. Details: oceanlifeyachts.com
Love watching UFC on TV? Book a ring-side VIP seat and enjoy watching a real free-for-all Muay Thai title fight—referred to as the big daddy of UFC’s mixed martial arts style—every Monday, Thursday and Saturday night. VIP tickets at `3,422 (includes a pick and drop from the hotel).
Details: +66 817377193
— Anoop Menon
The writer was invited by Dream Phuket Hotel