I should clarify: live like a rock star who wants privacy and seclusion, along with opulence and unfailing service. The rock star who wants to get away from it all in a place surrounded by gorgeous natural beauty and where he can be left to his own devices; if everyone knows your name and face here, it’s simply because they do with all of the guests who are treated like royalty in a completely unobtrusive yet casual, not overly-deferential way.
At the exquisite Sri Panwa, perched on a hillside in an isolated southern corner of the island overlooking the Andaman Sea, guests can hideaway in their private luxury villa as much as they want; or make full use of the grounds, amenities, restaurants and nightclubs that the resort offers. The choice is up to you – and this is Phuket, after all, so if decadent partying until dawn breaks is your rock star style, there are plenty of places on the island to indulge in that as well.
The beauty, as well as the regret, of Sri Panwa is that its private guest villas are so incredible – so serene and stylish and amenity-filled – that you may not want to leave them at all. From the 100-square-meter suites to the two-bedroom, 350-square-meter luxury villas sprawled between two private buildings, each accommodation surrounds its own private infinity pool with spectacular sea views beyond. Warm teak and stone contemporary interiors feature large indoor and outdoor living spaces separated by glass walls; handcrafted Thai furnishings; state-of-the-art entertainment systems with Bose surround sound, large flat-screen televisions and iPods pre-loaded with chill music; kitchens with pre-stocked pantry and fridge; and huge bathrooms with double Jacuzzi tubs, rainshowers and steam rooms.
But you not only get the villa, you get a personal villa assistant as well. Your assistant restocks the snacks and drinks in your kitchen each day (all included except alcoholic beverages), delivers and serves any room-service meals, arranges for any activities you might desire such as kayaking or spa treatments, and turns down the bed each evening, complete with mood lighting and music.
I must admit that for the first two days, my inclination was to hole up in the paradise of my own villa with my boyfriend, and rarely venture out. The hard choices of the day included which coffee to brew in the fancy machine; when to go for breakfast or lunch in the resort’s phenomenal restaurants; and whether to have another beer or start the next chapter of my book as I sat in my outdoor terrace daybed overlooking our private pool (hey, why not both?). By the second day we were almost feeling a bit guilty that we hadn’t seen much of Phuket or taken advantage of Sri Panwa’s other draws, so we finally ambled down to the private beach. I simply moved my lazy seaside reading from one lounge to another; but my boyfriend did take advantage of the snorkeling equipment to hit the water.
There was no reason to feel guilty; the strong pull of inertia is apparently a common one among guests, who have included Gordon Ramsay and the King of Bhutan. However, when you can motivate yourself to venture out, the resort grounds have a lot to offer. Built and run by the Charn Issara group, 29-year-old grandson Vorasit “Wan” Issara manages the place which was originally built in 2004 as an exclusive home and a few vacation villas for sale. It eventually grew into a resort of 60 guest villas sprawled over 32 acres of overflowing tropical grounds; during building 60% of the existing landscape was retained, and the other 40% replanted to preserve the eco-system.
Chauffered tuk-tuks whisk you wherever you want to go, from one of the two pools, private beach, tennis courts, gym or the Cool Spa; to the Baba Dining Lounge or Baba Poolclub restaurants. Menus are creative and include Andaman specialties along with Western dishes, pizza and pastas, hot pots and some of the finest sushi in southern Thailand. The hip Pool Bar can quench your thirst throughout the day, and if you’re feeling lively at night check out the disco on the lower level of the main building. A cooking school, game rooms, water sports and tailored excursions are also readily available to guests.
The island of Phuket is one of those places that becomes whatever one wants it to be. You can easily party the night away among other visitors, locals and ladyboys in Patong or Bangla Road, in nightclubs like Seduction, White Box and Nine Lounge; or just have a more relaxed beachside beer at Joe’s Downstairs. The west side of the island is also a shopper’s paradise, from souvenirs and local handicrafts to high-quality Asian art and Thai silk.
If outdoor adventure is more your thing, few places compare. With eight of the most beautiful islands in the Phuket archipelago within easy reach (Racha, Maiton, Phi Phi, Coral, Lon and others are 15-40 minutes away by boat), day trips for boating, snorkeling or diving are plentiful. Private yachting, safari and elephant trekking and golfing at seven island courses are also popular activities.
But be warned – after any of these excursions, you will likely find yourself yearning to retreat to your private oasis at Sri Panwa.
Sri Panwa Estate
88 Moo. 8, Sakdidej Road, Tambon Vichit, Cape Panwa,
Phuket, Thailand 83000
Telephone: + 667 637 1000
• Absolute, breathtaking luxury and beauty – this is the finest hotel/resort I have stayed anywhere in the world.
• It’s not formal, stuffy or deferential at all; the staff, led by Wan, is young and friendly and knows how to have fun.
• Guests can be as active or as retiring and low-key as they want to be; do nothing or do everything here.
• Unmatched views and surroundings.
Good to Know
• All of this luxury comes at a price – it’s not inexpensive to stay here, but if you can swing it, Sri Panwa is well worth the splurge and once you’re here, much is included in the tariff.
• The location is quiet and secluded; you’ll need to hire a car to get anywhere, but more happening areas are not too far away.
• You may never want to leave.
Shelley Seale is a freelance writer based out of Austin Texas, but she vagabonds in any part of the world whenever possible. Shelley has written for National Geographic, Globe Pequot’s Insider travel guides, CNN, AOL, USA Today and Andrew Harper Traveler Magazine among others. Her book, The Weight of Silence: Invisible Children of India, follows her journeys into the orphanages, streets and slums of India where millions of children live without families. Her mantra is “travel with a purpose.” She can be reached at shelleyseale.com.
Check out more of Shelley’s work in her 52 Perfect Days stories: 1949 Hidden City: Beijing’s Hippest New Spot.