For his first trip out of Malaysia after two and a half years of being in lockdown, Ong Chin Huat heads to the blissful and idyllic Amanpuri in Phuket, Thailand, to rediscover himself and recharge his mind and body.
Travelling overseas for the first time since lifting travel restrictions after two long years was a double-edged sword. Excited because my wanderlust would finally be satiated, I was also apprehensive and slightly nervous as I wasn’t sure what the protocols from both Malaysia and the country I was travelling to – Thailand, would be.
Yes, I was fully vaccinated and dutifully brought a print-out of my vaccine certificate, but nagging thoughts of worst-case scenarios kept plaguing me. What if I forgot to do something and was turned away at the airport? What Covid test did I need to do before departing, and worst of all – what if I caught Covid on the plane from an asymptomatic carrier and fell sick during my stay in Phuket?
Well, as it turned out, nothing of that sort happened, and apart from a slight hitch on my return flight, my trip to Phuket was as smooth as silk. Apart from filling in the requisite Thailand Pass, buying Covid-19 insurance before my trip and taking the RT-PCR test upon arrival at Phuket Airport, everything felt like what travelling was before the pandemic. Yes, the few extra steps were an inconvenience, but if that is all I had to endure in this new normal, it wouldn’t be a problem.
Arriving in style in the Amanpuri’s BMW 7 Series sedan, I was warmly welcomed by Paul Thanaphon Churchan, the sales manager and Olivia Tambosso, the senior guest relations manager.
Refreshed after a drink of Thai Iced Lemon Tea and a cold towel, I was brought to my room, an Ocean Pavilion nestled among verdant shrubbery, trees and plants, and swaying coconut trees that gave way to a view of the ocean in the distance. An outdoor lounging sala complete with Thai-style cushions and sun loungers looked inviting to remain al-fresco, but the afternoon heat led me into my air-con 1,200 square foot bed cum bathroom.
Accessed by sliding doors, a sumptuous king-sized bed greeted me as I entered my pavilion. My room was lovely with its wood-panelling, Thai art and an earthy colour palette, with my luggage laid out in the spacious dressing area when I arrived. I was a little worried when I was told I had to stay at my villa until the PCR test came back from the Phuket Health Authorities. Thinking it would be just a few minutes at best, I slightly anxious when I was informed it would take at least six hours!
Fortunately, a bottle of Veuve Clicquot champagne on ice was waiting for me to help pass the time. I was slightly early because, since the 1st of May, the RT-PCR test is no longer required, allowing eager sun seekers to rush off to the beach immediately upon arrival at the resort. A bubble bath while sipping champagne and nibbling on delicious fruits, snacks and cookies courtesy of the resort while reading the hand-written note by the Amanpuri’s General Manager Nicolas Ilickovic helped make the wait far more pleasurable.
When I got the call saying I had tested negative and was allowed to leave my room, I breathed a huge sigh of relief. It came earlier than what I was told, not that I minded – only four hours instead of six.
As it was dark, I made my way to the brand new Amanpuri boutique for a little retail therapy. The boutique was designed by the acclaimed Japanese architect Kengo Kuma who also designed the Aman fragrance and skincare bottles. Entering this temple dedicated to all things sleek and chic is an experience in itself. Its symmetrical wood beams and steeply pitched roof create a dramatic backdrop for the impeccably curated items, among them The Essentials by Aman, a collection of men’s and women’s resort ready-to-wear pieces.
Soft to the touch and made with the most sensual fabrics known to man – silk, cashmere and cotton, this luxurious resort collection is inspired by Aman resorts around the world and their sleek silhouettes and muted colours would blend in perfectly whether you are lounging by the pool, exploring the local sights or just chilling out in the privacy of your own villa.
Looking around the boutique, the line of Aman skincare and fragrances caught my eye. Its fine fragrance collection, launched in 2002, is a range of seven evocative scents inspired by Aman destinations. After sampling a few fragrances, I randomly picked Vayu as my favourite, not knowing that it was the one inspired by the very property I was staying in.
Waking up early on the first morning, I made my way to Buabok, the Thai restaurant located beside the main pool and where breakfast was served. I chose a table right up front.
There was something meditative and serene about facing a still pool of water while watching the occasional bird fly past and occasionally dip down to have a drink, causing ripples to radiate on the black tiled pool. With health in mind, I ordered the Liver Up freshly pressed juice consisting of green apples, celery, beetroot, fresh ginger and turmeric, which promised to release toxins from the body and increase energy.
I also ordered a Thai Mango Bowl made with coconut yoghurt, homemade granola, mango and lychee. Sensing that this wasn’t quite enough to sustain me till lunchtime, especially as I intended to fit in a workout in the gym, I ordered an Avocado with a poached egg on a slice of toasted sourdough bread sprinkled with sesame seeds and garnished with cherry tomatoes which were light yet filling.
As the flagship property of Aman Resorts, Amapuri was the first Aman and a pioneer in terms of discreet luxury and exceptional service, almost always personalised and bespoke.
Its breath-taking locale, which is the site of a former coconut plantation with sweeping views of the Andaman Sea, is home to 40 Thai-style pavilions plus another 40 privately-owned villas available for short or long-term rentals. These were designed to blend in with the surrounding greenery and coconut trees, producing a setting befitting what some might call paradisiacal.
With my beach bag filled with sunblock, a kindle and my swimming trunks, I made my way down Amanpuri’s iconic flight of stairs from the main pool to the beach.
The soft powdery sand on Pansea Beach and the gently rolling waves from the Andaman Sea provided the ideal backdrop to lie on a sun lounger under a large beach umbrella and meditate or just tune out. But just in case you get thirsty or even a little peckish, the Beach Bar located a few steps away serves snacks and a mean Blue Margarita, or if you desire zero-proof cocktails, then the Mango Colada would fit the bill.
Located on the highest point of the resort, the Gym at Amanpuri has stunning views of the ocean as seen through its glass walls which is reason alone to visit it. Equipped with cardio and weight equipment, working out seems less arduous when facing the tranquil Andaman sea. With Covid -19 protocols fully in place – the staff dutifully sanitise gym equipment after each use, and not more than eight guests are allowed at any one time in the gym – any anxiety that I might have felt quickly evaporated away.
There is plenty to do at Amanpuri, whether you seek adventure and thrills or wish to improve your general well-being. From water sports such as Flyboarding to Thai cooking classes, nature treks and shopping expeditions, Amanpuri has something for everybody.
Noteworthy are their Wellness Immersion Programmes which are tailored to meet personal goals and individual wellness, be it a life reset, weight management or detox and cleansing. Amanpuri’s Holistic Wellness Centre, which includes a spa, offers the services of Aman’s experts in ancient healing techniques and alternative therapies such as Traditional Chinese Medicine, Ayurveda and Reiki.
In the southern Italian tradition of ‘Cucina del Roccolto’ dinner at Arva, Amanpuri’s Italian restaurant is a culinary expedition for one’s taste buds. Meaning arable or cultivated in Latin, Arva showcases timeless Italian recipes in their purest form, using honest, wholesome ingredients grown in gardens, foraged in forests and caught fresh from the ocean before being transformed into delicious dishes.
The Granchio, Avocado E Lattuga made from Phuket blue crab meat, avocado, chilli mixed herbs and Butter Lettuce salad was a refreshing appetiser to start with, while the Cavatelli Caio E Pepa was a delight for cheese lovers with the thick and creamy Pecorino cheese and black pepper sauce giving the homemade Cavatelli pasta the added oomph! For mains, you couldn’t do better than ordering the Cotoletta Alla Milanese, a butter-fried Dutch veal cutlet in classic Milanese style and served with crispy sage and lemon sea salt.
With a full stomach, I returned to my pavilion, where I was greeted by a chocolate tree – a beautiful floral arrangement consisting of white orchids with chocolate truffles suspended from its twigs. But what put the biggest smile on my face was a letter written by the General Manager, no less, informing me that I had been inducted as an Amanjunkie – an exclusive club of sorts made up of Aman aficionados; guests who are drawn to the Aman way of life and who are basically addicted to one or any of the 34 Aman properties (and counting!) dotted around the globe.
Membership in this Amanpuri inner circle is as elusive as it is restrictive, and the fact that not everyone who stays at an Aman resort, no matter how many times, becomes a member made me feel extra special. Together with the letter, a gift of a T-shirt with the word ‘Amanjunkie’ emblazoned across it provided proof of my newfound status. In a nutshell, I went there, did that and got the T-shirt!
For further information about Amanpuri, please visit www.aman.com/resorts/amanpuri.
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