With travel well and truly open in Hong Kong and Mainland China, I’ve been trying to make up for lost time. Since the pandemic ended here earlier this year, I knew that Thailand had to be one of the first places I’d visit. I have a strong affinity for Thailand and is one of the top three countries I’m considering to retire in when I hit 60 in the next decade or two; the other two finalists are currently Malaysia and Portugal.
The first country I visited after the pandemic was Indonesia with a trip to Bali. I caught COVID-19 for the first time on day two of the trip so it was a bit subdued, but if I was going to be sick anywhere, it might as well have been in a beautiful country while staying in a stunning private villa. The great experience we had staying in a private villa informed our decision on where to stay for our Phuket trip. Our requirements are now a private villa, ideally with a pool and view.
After extensive research, we narrowed down our target destinations to the following four:
Como Point Yamu – Located near Cape Yamu on the island’s east coast
Twin Palms Phuket – Located near Surin Beach
Twin Palms Montazure – Located near Kamala Beach
Rosewood – Located near Emerald Bay on the island’s southwest
Because we were travelling during the peak May Day holiday here in Mainland China, the Rosewood pricing had gone way out of our reach by the time we made our decision. Pricing had more than doubled to HKD12,000 per night. Since we planned to stay for 3-4 nights, this extra surcharge would add up quickly! Como has become a bit of a brand we’ve fallen in love with. Their hotels are elegant, understated, tastefully designed, and convey authenticity, both in regards to design as well as the staff attitudes.
Como Point Yamu
Como Point Yamu is way off the beaten path, situated on a peninsula on the east coast of the island. Because of its remote location, you need to be comfortable with taking day trips or staying at the hotel for most of your stay. We were more than happy to stay at or near the hotel as our primary target for the first few days was to relax and unwind after a few intense months at work. We booked Como Point Yamu for three nights in May.
There’s always this trepidation when arriving at a hotel and wondering if you made the right choice. The moment we walked up the short stairs at the entrance, we knew we made the right choice; that understated elegance that we love was on full display with the nicely decorated entrance area and the warm welcome of the staff. We could feel right away that it was going to be a great stay.
We had debated between two room types, the Phang Nga Pool Suite and the One Bedroom Pool Villa. We ultimately ended up choosing the One Bedroom Pool Villa and were very happy with the choice. The completely unobstructed view turned out to be the greatest asset of the room. We spent a lot of time in the villa’s private pool and enjoyed more than one stunning sunset. We’d highly recommend Villa 1019 because several other villas had views with trees or other villas below blocking them.
I’m not a huge fan of the interior design of the villa as I would have preferred something more related to the local culture, but I give credit to the designer, Paola Navone, for staying true to her design conviction. My taste is much more aligned to the Luxury Blossom Villa we stayed at in Bali, with its copious use of concrete, wood and metal. Having said that, the layout of the villa is great as it maximizes the views from every room and every angle (the bedroom, living room and dining area all have sea views).
The hotel facilities, as you’d expect of a Como, are top notch. The gym especially was very well equipped and appeared to be a membership gym for the general public. The hotel’s swimming pool area is rather stunning, with a long set of three pools (one for children, one for young adult and one for adults, although we only ever saw anyone using the adult pool) surrounded by lounge chairs on both the sea and hotel side.
The restaurants on site better be good considering the hotel’s remote location, and they thankfully were. Indeed, the Thai restaurant, Nahmyaa, was one of the best meals we’ve had in Thailand. The main restaurant, La Sirena, serves mediterranean food and does a good job of it. Aqua Bar ended up being a great place to meet other travellers and grab a nightcap. Breakfast was excellent with several a la carte choices and a buffet bar for the staples. The only negative I could find with the food was that the prices were quite high for Thailand, but generally inline with a luxury class hotel around the world.
Expert traveller tips:
- Book room 1019 for its unobstructed views.
- Spend time at the hidden and stunning private jet pool on the fourth floor past the changing rooms; this will give you the best view of the resort and the sea, while having the jet pool pretty much all to yourself.
- Plan carefully to have dinner at the excellent Thai restaurant, because it’s closed Tuesday and Wednesday.
Twin Palms Phuket
For the last three days of our trip, we chose the Twin Palms Phuket (please note Phuket also has a Twin Palms Montazure). We chose this location so that we could be near the west side of the island where all the action is at. We also wanted to try a three story private pool villa. We debated heavily between the two Twin Palms hotels and decided to go with the more established one. In hindsight, we may have been better off going with the newer one as our villa was a bit worn in some areas.
It’s perhaps unfair to compare Twin Palms Phuket to the stunning Como Point Yamu. Como has the benefit of being in a remote location, whereas Twin Palms Phuket is in the middle of everything. In the context of being in a much more congested location, the Twin Palms Phuket represents itself well, especially being within walking distance to Surin Beach. We enjoyed using Grab and Gojek to take us to several restaurants around the area and to the Bangla Road/Patong Beach area.
Upon entering the One Bedroom Penthouse Loft, we didn’t get the same wow feeling that we had at Como Point Yamu. Not having a sea view has that effect I guess. The villa however was enormous and far bigger and emptier than we perhaps had expected. It’s a bit strange because it’s 240sqm but only designed for two people; I assume it would be rented by a family that congregates in this huge villa, while other family members rent cheaper and smaller rooms in the main hotel building. I can’t think of how this villa makes sense otherwise; it was far too big for two people. The villa has the living room, dining area and washroom on the first floor; bedroom and washroom on the second floor, and private pool and rooftop deck on the third floor.
Besides breakfast (which was good but not amazing) and a few afternoon drinks and snacks by the pool in the afternoon, we didn’t much explore the restaurants on site. Because of its excellent location, we focused our food attention towards the amazing restaurants in Phuket, and boy did we have some really great meals! One particular favourite was Surf and Turf by Soul Kitchen Restaurant which had incredible fusion food, including a sea bass curry with foam, perfectly prepared scallops and a beef salad; we also loved Dibuk House for late evening cocktails.
Expert traveller tips:
- Buy some wine or alcohol to store in the villa; plenty of space in the fridge and the villa is designed for BYOB.
- The sound system in the Penthouse Loft could be used in a nightclub, but bring your own speaker for the rooftop pool and patio.
Phuket Old Town
Phuket Old Town is a photographer’s dream. There are endless opportunities for interesting captures. The small streets are perfect for exploring on foot and spending a whole day just wandering around. Due to the intense heat while we were there, I didn’t spend as much time outside in Phuket Town as I would have liked, but I’d highly recommend spending some time there to enjoy the beautiful architecture, food and drinks.
There’s not much to say that you haven’t already read elsewhere. It’s the wild and crazy part of town, filled with Marijuana shops now, alongside hundreds of bars, restaurants and cafes. We didn’t spend much time in Patong except for walking around, absorbing the energy, and having a few late night drinks. Things were a bit calm when we were there because there was a very important Thai election in progress. On one of the nights, all bars were instructed to close and not serve alcohol in order to ensure everyone had a chance to get out and vote. It was a nice way to see Patong Beach, without all the noise and madness that the area is most famous for.
The pandemic has not impacted Phuket in the way it has other tourist destinations in Thailand. The large local population seems to have kept things open and well maintained during the challenging time. The hotels, restaurants, and service staff were all on-point and well worth the visit. Phuket is not as relaxing as Thailand’s other islands, but it’s a ton of fun!