Unwind in stylish seclusion

Unwind in stylish seclusion
An infinity pool hugs the contours of a villa at Sri Panwa, which is located on a cape in Phuket’s southeastern-most tip.

There are times when travel is all about seeing as much as you can of one place - a 24/7 holiday itinerary that refuses to let up until you've memorised its population numbers, iconic landmarks, nearest factory outlet and the face of the cyclist that almost ran over you.

Then there is the holiday where you do the opposite - learn nothing, eat everything, watch the sun set because it's easier than waking up early to catch the dawn - and be blissfully happy for it.

This is what happens when you get an opportunity to stay at Sri Panwa - which is in Phuket but may as well be an independent tropical hamlet set within acres of rolling green hills offering the ultimate combination of forest and ocean.

The distance from the airport to Sri Panwa attests to how big you never imagined Phuket to be - it takes almost an hour before the dusty streets end and the car gently eases its way into a lush green compound dotted with villas painted a toasty burnished copper.

It finally stops at the reception villa, where you're greeted by gym-ready staff in polo T-shirts and shorts who lend a casual vibe to the otherwise swanky accommodation.

It's a comforting reminder that even if the resort is the sort of place that attracts international royalty and celebrities looking for high-class anonymity, the vibe is 100 per cent come-as-you-are.

Sri Panwa gets its name from Cape Panwa, perched on the southeastern- most tip of Phuket. With 40 acres of tropical rainforest to play with, you only realise there are other guests around when you step into Baba's poolside cafe or Soul Food, which does some pretty decent Thai classics in cosy surroundings.

If you want to watch the sun set while you eat, the Japanese restaurant offers a vantage point - and you can still order food from Baba's downstairs if you're not in the mood for sushi.

The real draw of Sri Panwa lies in its private villas - the kind that fits into your fantasy of a holiday home complete with your own infinity pool right outside your bedroom. In fact, if you like it so much, you can even buy one of these residence villas if you have an extra S$1 million or more to blow.

If not, you can at least contemplate your future purchase in the comfort of your one-bedroom pool villa - a spacious compound housing two separate villas with the bedroom in one and the living room/kitchen (with a fully stocked complimentary mini-bar) in another.

Lose yourself in your own thoughts as you pad around the immense bedroom complete with full-sized living room furniture and walk-in bathroom.

Just don't absent-mindedly step beyond the sliding glass doors in front of the sofa or you'll tip right into the infinity pool. This good-sized pool wraps around the bedroom villa so that you can do (more frequent) laps if you want, or gaze into the horizon beyond the Andaman Sea.

It's the prefect antidote to your stressed-out city existence, and if wellness therapy is on the agenda, Sri Panwa's Cool Spa offers tailored treatments beyond the token massage and body scrub.

The spa is the tranquil foil to the resort's award-winning Baba Nest, a buzzy rooftop bar that puts back what an essential oil relaxation treatment might take out. Albeit in a pleasant way.

Cool Spa takes a leaf out of wellness author Peter D'Adamo's blood type book with a series of treatments tailored specifically to one's blood type. Whether you're the conservative perfectionist of a Blood Type A, or a passionately creative Type B, or an ambitious Type O, there is a specific body scrub, mask and massage designed for you.

Scrubs are made from edible ingredients, and the oat and rice scrub prescribed for you works to exfoliate all the dead skin cells in preparation for the hot pomice massage to follow.

The intensive relaxation massage is meant to calm a hyperactive immune system and balance out the hormones.

The pomice applied is hot to the point of scalding but stops just there, stimulating the stomach to emit some furious gurgling noises.

The therapist's movements are long and firm, her fingers meticulously locating muscles and aches you never knew were there, coaxing them out of their knotted misery and putting you into a too-short sensation of bliss.

The drawback - if you want to look at it that way - of Sri Panwa's vantage position is that there is nothing by way of attractions nearby, apart from a public aquarium that we don't bother to visit.

A few sleepy restaurants operate outside the compound so unless you're prepared to hire a car to get to Phuket town, you're better off just taking it easy in your own villa.

There's little beach to speak of, too - except for a tiny sandy cove that requires a steep climb down several flights of wooden stairs to get to. It's mostly watersports enthusiasts who go down, or newly married couples wanting to take honeymoon photos on a long jetty that stretches into the sea.

But you're not missing anything despite the seclusion.

There's joy in doing little more than engage with the friendly young staff who tell you about the resident dog named Nai (Thai for "lost") - a former stray picked up by the resort's owners and who now has the run of the place and a diet of her favourite tuna - or wander around on foot or in the charmingly down-to-earth converted tuk-tuks that act as hotel buggies.

Sri Panwa has an effect on you - it clears your mind and fills your eyes with natural beauty even as it brings your body back into a state of equilibrium.

Or so we would like to think, anyway. For the brief time we are there, we're not thinking about anything else.

jaime@sph.com.sg

The writer was a guest of Sri Panwa

Sri Panwa Phuket

88 Moo 8, Sakdidej Road, Vichit, Muang, Phuket 83000, Thailand

+66 76 371 000


This article was first published on June 6, 2015.
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