If there’s one place I would look forward to isolating myself in, it would be here amidst the tranquillity that Amanpuri Phuket promises and delivers. This is the birthplace of the Aman formula: unspoilt, remote locations offering a generosity of space, sublime privacy, local cuisine and relaxed elegance. Plus, the feeling of staying in a private home with no set dining hours, limiting rules, no signage and no bills. Now, of course, Aman has added another element to its formula: city locations.
The hotel manager underlining the Aman ethos declared, ‘When travelling in this Covid-19 world, it is important to go back to Aman’s roots as the pioneer in ultra-luxury hideaway resorts. In navigating this new world, Aman will continue to place guests and staff at the centre of everything we do. Guests will find their sanctuary’.
To keep the sanctuary safe, Amanpuri Phuket has a Hygiene and Covid Manager charged with the safety of the guests and the staff. A sign of our times!
Covid protocols were in place the last time I visited. Yet, my experience was of a leisurely escape devoid of corona related trepidation. Even the housekeeping so perfectly timed that I didn’t encounter the staff; maintaining the distance was a beautifully engineered dance. Yet, somehow the resort managed to connect with little gifts and messages for that personal touch. But then Amanpuri is famous for its whisper-quiet service that anticipates before you have even formed the thought. Though all masked up, the staff that one did encounter was not faceless and managing to connect — each one, a personification of the Aman DNA, offering attentive service.
A half-hour drive from the Phuket airport takes you to the quiet peninsula on the west coast, where the Aman story began. Here Amanpuri stretches along the secluded Pansea Beach, with azure brushstrokes of the Andaman Sea completing the picture. Its only neighbour is The Surin. The resort’s absolute seclusion, an added attraction for the glitterati that regularly sojourns here: the likes of Beyonce, DiCaprio, Kylie Jenner, have all luxuriated in utter bliss here.
It is hard to believe that this resort is 33 years old. In 1988, Edward Tuttle’s iconic design stunned the world with its beauty and sense of space. This at a time when Thailand was barely on the tourist map. The landmark Visit Thailand Year of 1987 had just about made the news. And while the Kingdom was on the hippie trail, uber-luxe tourists hadn’t quite noticed it until hotelier Adrian Zecha unveiled Amanpuri on New Year’s Day in 1988. Thirty-odd years on, that iconic design has not only endured and aged well but inspired a slew of imitations worldwide.
Sharp Silhouettes, Expansive Courtyards
Edward was inspired by traditional Thai temple architecture, in particular Ayutthaya. His sharp silhouettes, expansive courtyards, the stone steps leading down to the coconut palm-fringed beach, the 27m pool in deep indigo, the lily ponds are all quietly dramatic, almost as if holding back. The entire design a sweeping declaration of what a tropical resort should be. The individually decorated, silk dressed villas celebrate minimalism and subtlety — a study in contemporary Thai aesthetic. Thankfully no one has been tempted to mess with the Tuttle palette yet. The bathrooms are as large as the bedrooms, with light flooding in from all sides, Oh and the glorious bathtubs! It is encased in polished wood and the perfect size. The outdoor terrace providing expansive views of the ocean and the surrounding coconut groves. Still, all as Edward Tuttle intended.
Nestled among coconut and bamboo groves are 40 villas connected with elevated walkways that lead back to the heart of the resort: the main pool with the lobby on one end, the glorious, white-sand beach on the other and the restaurants. If you rather not walk, call for a buggy.
Last year the resort unveiled an added attraction: its Kengo Kuma designed Retail Pavilion home to a curated shopping concept based on exclusive collaborations with local and international artists and designers. The celebrated Japanese architect created a space with a floor-to-ceiling glass front and steeply pitched gabled roofs that rise without obstructing pillars, its timbered interior full of light. Kengo was building on Tuttle’s inspiration: Ayutthaya. It is an architectural wonder, an attraction on its own. I nearly forgot to check out what’s on the shelves.
Getting your Aman Fix
I was in Amanpuri for the Wellness Immersion programme – a medley of yoga, holistic massages, Pilates, mindfulness and reiki. Amanpuri’s tailored ‘immersions’ are personalised to align with your goals. The spa manager makes sure of that. Focus on fitness, go in for a cleanse and detox, achieve long-term weight management or redress hormonal imbalances. Or perhaps just get into the zen of things. Thankfully though, the regimen is far from extreme, with no one joylessly keeping you on the ‘straight and narrow’, making it doubly attractive. The spa anchoring this experience is, in a word, sensational.
Amanpuri is a layered and all-encompassing experience. You are meditating one minute the next, thinking of what the chef at Arva, the Italian restaurant, might plate for dinner. With several opportunities to indulge the taste buds, the culinary journey at Aman can be pretty addictive. Not surprisingly, the Thai cuisine at Buabok is on point, helmed by Executive Chef Kannika Jitsangworn. Likewise, the seasonal Nama “pays modern-day homage to Japan’s culinary heritage”. In contrast, the Pool Terrace restaurant tables grilled catch of the day and prime meats, along with wood-fired pizzas and Mediterranean salads.
Like the other Amans I have stayed at, the restaurant interiors are casual, an extension of the resort, one merging into the other. And because this one is on a tropical island: al fresco dining forms a better part of the experience. Do make time for the Afternoon Khanom Krok Tea, served in a sala by the main pool. A sunset cocktail at the beachfront The Bar is another absolute must. In-villa dining is always an option with the entire menu from all the restaurants on offer.
The beach will undoubtedly get your attention, but take time to explore the lush tropical gardens and go for walks. I even planted a coconut tree, promising to come back and check on it. It must have grown a bit by now. This is Amanpuri attempting to reinvigorate the coconut plantation that is its home and, at the same time, creating emotional bonds with its guests.
This was not my first Aman experience, and it certainly won’t be the last. The ‘Aman experience ‘should come with an advisory: it will turn you into an #AmanJunkie. You have been warned.
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Click here to read about my Aman experience in Bhutan with Amankora, a journey you must undertake as soon as you can.