Travel Phuket to Bangkok
THINK of Thailand and you’ll conjure up images of vast golden beaches, dense green jungles and breathtaking red sunsets. And you wouldn’t be far wrong.
As if that wasn’t enough to keep me happy on my one- week visit, I soon discovered that the country has all that to offer and much, much more.
Phuket, Thailand’s largest island, is connected to the southern part of the mainland by bridges over the Andaman sea. Surrounded by 32 similar but smaller mountainous islands, the view as I land is stunning. I have yet to set foot on Phuket soil, but I now believe in love at first sight.
My first port of call is the JW Marriott Phuket. It is the latest addition to the hotel empire which boasts six complexes in Thailand, including one other “JW” – the company’s most opulent brand.
Set in 11 hectares of tropical gardens, with 17kms of undeveloped beach front, there is a grandeur to the place not entirely in keeping with my romantic notions of authentic Thai accommodation.
But then again, I’m not spending a psychedelic week with The Beach star Leonardo DiCaprio. And anyway, after a 10-hour flight from Heathrow, I’m happy to face the harsh reality of five-star luxury.
For travellers unrestricted by budget, this resort really does have everything. Sporting facilities include tennis, badminton, volleyball and diving. And for anyone interested in recreational activities of a more local variety there are classes in Thai cooking, garland making, boxing, origami and in speaking the language.
I chose the cookery course and spent my first morning in Phuket, shopping with a Marriott chef for fresh produce in the nearby Taleng market.
IT can’t be said that this experience is a joy to the senses. The raw fish and pigs brains on offer are rather less appealing than the shrink-wrapped alternatives in my local Sainsbury’s.
But with 1kg of delicious looking prawns for 480 baht (pounds 7), I’m happy to forego the sanitised comforts of the supermarket.
Back at the hotel we are led to the kitchens and given chef’s hats and aprons to put on. Meanwhile, the sous chefs wash and prepare our purchases. I’m feeling more and more like Ken Hom by the minute as we work through the menu, guided by the chefs, until our Yum Woon-Sen (fragrant salad with glass noodles), Tom Yum Goong (spicy prawn soup) and chicken Massaman (Thai curry) are ready.
Our efforts don’t go unrewarded and the tables are set for us to enjoy the fruits of our labours. The food is delicious and we feel we’ve earned an afternoon of sun-drenched relaxation by the pool.
For those who take a more hedonistic approach Travel Phuket to Bangkok, there’s always the option of some serious pampering in the award-winning Mandara Spa. With its wide range of traditional and international health and beauty treatments available – including rich coffee scrubs, aromatic facials and traditional Thai massage – this really is the place to go to recharge the proverbial batteries.
An hour’s drive north of Phuket, in the heart of a national park, lies a newly-constructed beach resort in Khao Lak.
Just before reaching our accommodation we pass an elephant munching on some vegetation. That and the lack of any smiling Marriott welcome committee makes me feel like I’ve really arrived in the Thailand of my dreams.
Tourism is so new to Khao Lak that at the time of my visit, in October, many of the apartments are still discreetly under construction.
There is a touching simplicity to the cluster of beachfront bungalows that make up this resort. And although rooms are furnished with televisions and air conditioning, it’s a far cry from the extravagance of the JW Marriott.
Behind the complex is 125 square kilometres of protected parkland. In front of it lies the sparkling blue horizon of the warm Andaman sea.
Organised entertainment here is non-existent, which only enhances your appreciation of the natural beauty this region has to offer. …
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