Pad Thai in paradise: Phuket’s latest über-resort

Sitting, drinking green tea, overlooking a turquoise infinity pool, crashing waves in the middle distance, the chatter of parrots, and plugged in to a bit of Jack Johnson; life feels pretty good indeed. This weekend, I am at the Pullman Phuket Arcadia Naithon Beach Resort, having jettisoned in from Hong Kong on Friday evening.  Thailand is always a compelling destination; Phuket, however, slips somewhat down the list. This is Thailand’s mega destination, where luxury resort after luxury resort sets to compete with their capacious lobbies, infinite swimming pools, their spas, their cocktails and their ubiquitous (and artfully embezzled) ‘chill-out zones’.

Pullman Phuket Arcadia Naithon Beach Resort

It’s getting hard for resorts to jostle for space on this well-connected island, whose international airport receives direct fights from the UK, Singapore, Hong Kong and Australia. However, with more land mass than its more attractive neighbouring islands, a developed infrastructure, and an international brand (of sorts), it is easy to see why Phuket continues to thrive, to lure, and to offer opportunity for hotelier upon hotelier.

And where credit is due, Phuket is also a bit of a beauty.  Escaping the frightening strips of Kamala and Patong, this rocky, Thai coastline offers dramatic cliffs, a raw and natural elegance, and great swell (in September, at least) for watersports enthusiasts.  She also offers huge skies, big sunsets, temperate climes and a gluttony of lemongrass, coriander and chili.

As snobbish as one can be about this island, and I sometimes fall into that rather egregious camp, she has exactly what you wanted when you got on that plane.  Good food, good people, sunshine and sundowners.  This is Thailand, not Tenerife, after all.

The Pullman Phuket Arcadia opened in July this year. This is the Pullman brand’s fifth property in Thailand, and their 15th hotel in their much fêted global portfolio. They have done their market research.  Under-utilised beach: check. Cliff-top abode and acres of space: check.  Quick commute from the airport: check (15 minutes to be precise).  There are pools, a couple of restaurants, a gym, beach access, a spa and a ‘zen’ haven.  Breakfast is tropical and extensive.  The swimming pool, turquoise in its apparition, serenades the backdrop of sea, waves and palms.  The sun loungers are sumptuous, the fresh, young coconuts; delicious.

Pullman Phuket Arcadia Naithon Beach Resort pool

I’m not bored.  It’s all pretty obvious.  But, I’m having a wonderful time.

Our white-washed, ocean-front room, with a touch of the Ikea about it, was bedecked with the necessary flat-screen television (which we were happy to ignore, with sufficient panoramas outside), a powerful monsoon shower, and a voluptuous king-size bed, soft with Egyptian cotton.  We had arrived at midnight, and padding out onto our extensive balcony, with a glass of red wine, and the black, soulful night, the pounding waves against the rocks below, soothed tired spirits.  The stresses and strains of Hong Kong dispersed.  The remedial quality of the sea, never fails to impress.

Pullman Phuket Arcadia Naithon Beach Resort room

As night turned to day, our view improved with sun streaming through the windows.  Overlooking the wild Phuket coastline, the winding infinity pool, and the clatter of breakfast tables, the appeal of fresh coffee and tropical fruits.  The horizon was filled with the prospect of warmth, sun-burn, and a very good book.

Several hours by the pool later, a quick sprint in the gym, and some frozen margaritas, we headed up for happy hour at the C-Bar, high above the ocean and framed by shallow rivers of water.  As the sun came down overhead, we listened to young, local talent Jay Celada sing acoustic classics.  This is designer Supachai Ketkaroonkul’s ultimate triumph.  A truly wonderful, jaw-dropping setting.  We were surrounded by sunken seating, rivers of winding water, candles, the dramatic Phuket sunset, and enveloped by the evening’s sea breeze.  Buzzing with prosecco and some soulful guitar, we gazed out to sea.

Opting for a more rustic supper, we headed down to the nearby beach, which boasts a number of shacks offering Thai headliners.  With the sand between our toes we feasted on shrimp, noodles and green curry, before catching a hotel golf-cart back up the hill for cheesecake and ice-cream overlooking the pool, and with the second session of our (now) good friend, Jay.

Failing to wake up in time for a sunrise yoga session (great plans, sadly wasted), we had a late breakfast by the pool and caught some last rays of sun, before the end of the weekend came calling.

Checking out, the hotel was abuzz with an Australian film crew, setting up for the final of “The Bachelor”.  With tacky gold and red Buddha’s aplenty, they had managed to transform a subtle and relaxed communal space (yes, sigh, the chill out zone), into a brash and glittering Thai nightmare.  Projecting their brand of ‘glamour’ onto the Pullman’s canvas, their presence and excitement perhaps a ringing endorsement for the hotels situation and architectural triumph.  Don’t worry, the original décor, (surprisingly Swedish), will ultimately prevail.

Failing to ‘turn’ the Bachelor’s eye, we headed off to Phuket airport.  A mere 2 hours later, we would be back home in Hong Kong.  And that, my friends, is why this concept works.

My prejudices aside, the Pullman Phuket Arcadia has all of the qualities to fuel a perfect beach holiday.  Get there whilst she is still developing, even with only 60% capacity she was beginning to feel a bit busy.  At this price point, and with these attributes, she won’t stay quiet for long.  That infinity pool is best enjoyed in solitude.

So: close your eyes, drift off and escape.  No need to fight it.  Peace.

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