Thailand travel: Lush Phuket’s ripe for forbidden fruit | Activity Holidays | Travel

Phang Nga Park (Photo: Getty Images/iStockphoto)

How could a humble fruit that seems to be somewhere between botulism and radioactive waste be so threatening? Maybe I will find out. Despite the 7 hour time difference, we arrived refreshed thanks to a lucky upgrade to Qatar Airways’ award-winning business class service. It’s a perfect treat at 35,000 feet, and their Qsuites with rollaway beds, a la carte dining room and blissful privacy are really getting me sick of all my future air travel.

Phuket Island is located in southwest Thailand, jutting into the Andaman Sea and measuring 30 x 13 miles. Stepping out of the airport, you are embraced by the warmth of a Thai night and greeted with wet kisses, all of which add to the anticipation of this exotic place.

The next morning, we took a boat trip to the north of Phang Nga National Marine Park, a shallow bay with coral reefs, mysterious caves, white sandy beaches and 42 steep limestone islands scattered like gnarled teeth on the water.

The top is mangrove forest, and the vertical sides are covered with twisted stalactites that extend down almost touching the water, giving the area a strange alien beauty. Star Wars: Episode III – Revenge of the Sith was filmed here, the famous Man with the Golden Gun, leading to a rock being renamed James Bond Island in honor of it and becoming a huge tourist attraction.

After a stop for a swim in the warm waters and the shoals of small green fish flying around, we headed back to our base, the luxurious Banyan Tree resort nestled on 89 acres of manicured lawns and palm trees. Between shady lagoons, near Bang Tao Beach, 30 minutes north of Patong.

The site opened in 1989 as a contaminated tin mine and was transformed by planting 7,000 trees within five years. They cleared the acidic soil and this year marked their 25th anniversary with the opening of 25 new one-bedroom villas and eight three-bedroom residences.


Breakfast is served on a floating tray by the swimming pool (Image: Ian Sturgis)

The Banyan Tree complex is known as the Sanctuary of the Senses, and that’s not for nothing. It’s a truly luxurious holiday experience – from friendly, smiling staff to first-class facilities, accommodation and restaurants.

Even its 18-hole golf course was voted the best in Asia.

Each stylish villa on site comes with its own private pool, a huge king-size bed and, best of all, a heated toilet seat. With such a spacious resort, you’ll never feel crowded with other guests – in fact, there’s a buggy service to drop you off at reception, or like me, you can use one of the free bikes to get around.

The sun and lagoon setting of Thailand immediately puts your brain into relaxation mode, bringing the water theme to the heart of the hotel, where the deep blue swimming pool winds between palm trees and bars. The lake also provides a great backdrop for all restaurants, giving you the chance to dine under the stars.

We sampled Watercourt (breakfast dim sum, anyone?), Saffron (traditional Thai delights like steamed snapper in lime sauce), Taihei (Japanese food served poolside) and Tre, an exquisite culinary paradise supervised by a chef Claudio Barzano studied under Giorgio Locatelli, one of the best Italian chefs around. Each of his dishes is a work of culinary art. Perhaps the height of indulgence is the floating breakfast — a large round tray filled with pastries, salads, salmon, eggs, pancakes, waffles, sausage, hash browns, fruit, coffee, and more.


Ian feeds Thai elephants during visit (Image: Ian Sturgis)

If you care about these things, it’s delivered to your villa, put on your pool for free, and guaranteed to be Instagram-busting.

The next morning, feeling guilty about my calorie intake, I kayak around the lagoon before heading to a punishing Muay Thai class.

After 40 minutes, I had an incredible variety of punches, elbows, knees and kicks, dancing around the gym and throwing sickle combos on the practice table.

It was a great workout, but by the end, my body was paralyzed and my arms were covered in dry jelly.

Spa treatments are a key element of the Banyan Tree experience, and I also enjoy (honestly!) a Balinese massage – an hour from toes to scalp.

Soothed by the tranquility and anesthetized by jet lag, I was about to fall asleep when I was jolted awake by the vise-like hands of my masseuse, reaching into some deeply hidden musculature. Despite the pain, it all pays off – awesome.

In another sensory treat, we took part in a Thai herbal workshop where, under the tutelage of the delightful Sopida, we learned about the healing properties of various spices, then mixed them into a small pot of aromatic potency with a pestle and mortar. . Well, honestly, we mashed them at will without a clue, but it still makes for an instant take-home gift.

Banyan Tree Resort Phuket

Banyan Tree Resort Phuket (Image: NC)

The last outing of our stay was to the nearby Phuket Elephant Sanctuary, a lush 30-acre site where injured, sick, old and abused elephants were rescued and given to provide for the rest of their lives. a safe haven.

A national symbol, Thai elephants have a distinctive pale orange pigment, and there are only about 4,000 left in the wild.

Sanctuary frees them from the labor of logging or tourism. It can cost over £40,000 per elephant to buy them out of slavery.

All that’s left is to fall into reality after a few days of surreal, sensual pampering. And I have never tasted any durian fruit. Although, considering it’s like a combination of rotting fish, pig manure, turpentine and old socks, maybe that’s a blessing.


Banyan Tree offers Tranquil Pool Villas at Banyan Tree Phuket Resort from £360 per night on B&B ( Qatar Airways flies from Heathrow and Gatwick to Phuket via Doha for £711 return; flights from Manchester, Birmingham, Edinburgh and Cardiff are also available ( information at Thailand Travel Network.

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