Travel Story Banyan Tree Phuket: Perfect place to Thai a little tenderness

Go with the flow at a Phuket sanctuary that's home to indulgence and tranquillity.

The banyan tree is a type of fig with big, glossy leaves. It is significant in several religions and Asian cultures and revered for its shade; a sanctuary from the heat.

And, indeed, though the Banyan Tree Phuket has a yoga pavilion, five types of massage, a fitness centre and golf course on the doorstep, you can also just simply hit the pause button for a few days. Here, in this sanctuary, even peace feels like an indulgence.

From the moment I walk into my villa with one private pool lapping around the bedroom and a second pool in the garden, I know the stresses of daily life can be washed away in this cool, soothing retreat. There’s also a jacuzzi, a deep bathtub, a sauna inside the shower room and a shower in the garden.

Welcome to the DoublePool villa, a 1300sqm home of indulgence and tranquillity. And that’s just for the single-room villa. Prices start at 26,600 Thai baht ($1000) a night.

The three-bedroom DoublePool Villa is a vast 2500sqm. This larger version, starting from 66,900 baht a night ($2700) features a dining pavilion to accommodate dinner parties of 20 or more. And, since nothing bursts the serenity bubble like catering for a big party, a private chef is available.

Alongside the 24 DoublePool Villas, Banyan Tree Phuket features 14 private spa pool villas and 135 Thai-style pool villas. While not as luxurious as my villa, they all feature a pool and deep bath. The self-contained kitchens are well suited to families.

A feature of the the DoublePool Villa is a butler service. Pam welcomes me when I arrive from the airport and introduces me to the resort and my room. I’m given a mobile phone to call her if I need anything.

Pam keeps me informed and on schedule as I move between meals at the Watercourt Restaurant in the reception building and activities through the day.

Over three days I take in Pilates and yoga at Banyan Tree’s Spa Sanctuary, two one-hour full body massages and a cooking lesson in the Saffron Restaurant.

In between, I head home to that gorgeous villa to refresh in the jacuzzi inside the infinity pool overlooking the lagoon — water within water within water. This is going with the flow.

Even though I am in the open air, gazing across the lagoon, the garden appears remote from its neighbours thanks to big palms, ferns and a garden wall.

Such space and isolation comes at the price of distance. The options to commute to breakfast or the adjacent Laguna Golf Phuket are a walk or cycle — DoublePool Villa residents get their own bike. It’s a wholesome way to start the day, and gives space to consider whether pastries are a breakfast food. Or you could call your butler for a chauffered buggy.

Food is essential to the Banyan Tree experience, with fine dining starring seafood and fresh, local ingredients. 

Saffron is the signature venue, bringing modern Thai to the table. And the Banyan Tree frequently hosts a Michelin-star chef to take a turn in its Tre Restaurant. In November, chef Francesc Rovira, from La Fonda Xesc Restaurant cooked for guests for 3500 baht ($142) or 4500 baht with paired drinks.

On my last night at Banyan Tree I’m taken to Dinner of the Senses, a floating restaurant for two adorned by orchids and candlelight. The menu includes oyster, lobster ceviche, clam chowder with scallop, white snapper supreme, champagne and crepe suzette with Grand Marnier flambe for dessert.

Dinner for the Senses (at about 15,000 baht or $600 per couple) hosts a maximum of two people an evening and is booked out well in advance during the peak romantic season between December and February. The restaurant’s popularity has seen the resort earn an early reputation as a getaway for honeymooners.

The Banyan Tree’s guest demographic has evolved since the 1990s, with older visitors and families enjoying stay-put travel. 

Banyan Tree luxury accommodation can now be found around the world, from China to the Seychelles, Morocco, Mexico and the Maldives. 

They are built with local design and traditions in mind but each features a Saffron Restaurant. The Phuket resort was the first to open in 1994 and remains the flagship.

In Phuket, the DoublePool Villa rooms, and indeed all the villas, are used by couples, families or groups. 

This is community living where folk can sit around the private pool or dine under the stars — the charm magnified in the company of loved ones.

Fact File

Disclaimer

Melanie Coram travelled courtesy of the Banyan Tree Phuket.

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