Hotel Insider Subtle, salubrious and efficient, this well-established resort in Phuket is a safe bet for a luxury romantic holiday.
No try-hard lifestyle philosophies at Thailand's Trisara
Coolly dressed staff with broad smiles are waiting for me in the arrivals lounge at Phuket International Airport and carry my bags to the chauffeur-driven car. Trisara is a short, 15-minute drive along narrow roads fringed with dense tropical foliage. After a long weekend in sweaty, traffic-plagued Bangkok, the contrasting greens and flowers out of the car window are a welcome sight. Past security and inside the resort itself, I'm given a floral wrist garland at reception and a long, refreshing drink. The manager, Anthony Lark, is on-hand to introduce himself and wish me a pleasant stay. A buggy takes me up, down and around the staggered resort to my pool villa where a welcome letter is waiting and check-in takes place.
Set above a private white sandy bay with a pontoon to take swimmers out past the rocky shallows and into the deeper, still clear waters of the Andaman Sea, Trisara is a world away from Patong, and its unsalubrious party scene that has given the island of Phuket a reputation as a spoilt paradise. I'm told that many guests never stray beyond the confines of their villa and most appear to struggle to leave the sunloungers under the coconut palms on the beach or by the fresh water pool. The resort is made up of 39 pool villas, a spa, and a clutch of new privately owned, two-to five-bedroom villas, that are available to rent from US$2,267 (Dh8,327) per night, including taxes and staff. If you feel the need to explore, you can hire one of the resort's small speed boats and go snorkelling or bay-hopping from 1,000 Thai baht (Dh123) per person, per hour, or sign up for a cruise up to Phang Nga Bay and the many distinctive smaller islands just off the coast (from 30,600 TB; Dh3,765 for the first two guests for half a day).
According to the manager, Trisara is the only resort on the island that is not unionised; regular staff meetings settle any concerns instead. From the spa masseuse nourishing my skin, to John the "wellness director", the waiter refreshing my ginger tea at breakfast, the gardener keeping the jungle in check, or chef in the kitchen overseeing my attempts at making an authentic Thai green curry during a cookery course, the ambience at the resort is one of relaxed friendliness and smooth efficiency. When the enormous jar of complimentary cookies in my room is inundated by ants (the only reason I have to complain during my two-night stay), it is quickly replaced without my asking.
My ocean view pool villa is dominated by an enormous and very comfortable bed with a desk area and plush seating to the left and right. Propped up on pillows, I look out across the private 10-metre infinity pool, and over the tops of trees to the sea through wide patio doors - CNN on the large wall-mounted flat-screen television has to work hard to compete with the view. Behind the bed, screened off, the bathroom runs the width of the villa with an outdoor and indoor shower, comfortable tub and twin wash basins.
Trisara is a well-established resort, beloved of celebrities and newlyweds who appreciate complete privacy, as well as expensively dressed baby boomers who can afford to splash out. Neither group create a big impression and the atmosphere overall is one of quiet enjoyment and cosy conversation over dinner rather than a party vibe. The social highlight of the weekend seems to be the Sunday brunch accompanied by live jazz music which becomes quite lively as the afternoon wears on (1,990TB; Dh244 per person, not including drinks).
Food and drinks are served on teak decking, dotted with pagoda-style architecture, and shaded by tall palms just above the beachfront. There's a grill serving up seafood, meat and vegetables (open for dinner only), as well as a generous breakfast, lunch and dinner menu offering Thai and western food. Food is locally sourced and particularly the salads taste wonderfully fresh. One highlight is the seasoned avocado on buttered sourdough drizzled with reduced balsamic vinegar for breakfast.
Stretching in the gentle yoga class in the open-air pavilion near the water, listening to the sea. An evening beach barbecue enjoying fresh kingfish, lobster, tiger prawns and steak accompanied by freshly made, spicy salads (4,500TB; Dh550 per person). Sitting on the terrace sipping a mocktail, watching the sun reflecting in the shallow waters just off the beach, a blaze of oranges and pinks as it sets.
It's difficult to summon up the energy required for loathing at Trisara. I relax the moment I see two birds bathing in my swimming pool and butterflies floating overhead. My pulse only spikes when something large and heavy scampers over my roof at night and privacy suddenly turns into isolation.
Trisara hums with cicadas and a more subtle, nothing-is-too-much-trouble efficiency that the monied love. It's also most welcome to visit a resort that isn't saddled with an international brand pushing some try-hard, lifestyle philosophy. In short, I'd like to go back and soon.
The bottom line
An ocean view pool room costs from US$748 (Dh2,747) per night, including taxes, breakfast and airport transfers. Trisara, Srisoonthorn Road, Cherngtalay, Thalang, Phuket, Thailand (www.trisara.com; 00 66 76 310100).