We’re up at dusk to catch a 9.30 flight to Phuket. Because of a surprisingly shambolic check-in procedure at the Avani hotel a few days earlier (‘Is it just feather pillows you’re allergic to, or feather duvets as well?’), the hotel has made amends by upgrading our taxi to a very agreeable Mercedes with enough legroom to suit a family of stilt walkers.
Better still, the taxi driver knows the way to the airport. The right airport, the right terminal; everything. We literally lounge around in the Royal Thai Lounge for a couple of hours and before you can say ‘cabin doors to manual’, we’re in Phuket.
A pre-booked taxi then takes us north to Kuraburi Pier, a two-and-a-half hour journey through dense palm forests and orderly ranks of rubber trees. The road is fast and smooth and being widened here and there, the improvements a testament to the millions of tourist dollars now pouring into Phuket and its nearby islands.
In fact, it’s one of these neighbouring islands that will be our home for the next three days, the Golden Buddha resort on Ko Phra Thong. To get there, we clamber aboard a longtail boat tied up amongst fishing trawlers and set off, just us and the driver. Pilot. Captain. This journey is about one hour thirty, and I don’t think the smiles leave our faces the whole time.
If anything, the smiles get wider as we reach our destination. The taxi driver manoeuvres his tiny craft as close to the shore as the low tide permits and we step off into clear, warm water to be greeted by the resort’s manager. The Golden Buddha eco-resort insinuates itself amongst the trees of the island’s peninsular, with 25 or so unique and well-hidden villas (called baans) dotted haphazardly around. Ours is slap-bang next to the near-deserted beach, about mid-point along the top side of the picture above. Everything is slow and laid back here. The only time you find yourself getting a bit of a jiggle on is if you suddenly remember happy hour is about to end. (Booze prices in Thailand definitely veer towards the vertical side of steep.)
Otherwise it’s just a case of reading, swimming, pizza at the beach bar, wildlife watching, some half-hearted kayaking, walking in sand so soft it squeaks, more swimming, enjoying home-cooked Thai cuisine, admiring the sunsets with nightcap in hand, before waking to the sound of the Andaman Sea lapping just yards from our room. I so want to go back.
The land is mostly flat but there are two hills, named Monkey Hill and Hornbill Hill. All we need is Deadman’s Cove and Shipwreck Bay and we’d be living on a pirate’s map. But they’re appropriately named: Hornbill Hill is indeed popular with hornbills, while Monkey Hill is home to an extended family of clever and resourceful macaque monkeys (i.e. you never leave the door open when you leave your baan). It’s also the site of the resort’s tsunami assembly point – and a quickly-aborted attempt to monetise the hill.
‘Sorry, I meant black coffee’
A few years earlier, someone in the resort’s management had the idea of placing a dining table and two chairs at the summit of Monkey Hill and launching it as the ultimate romantic dinner location. It all sounded good in principle. You’d be dining with spectacular views of the bay in one direction; the sun setting over the Andaman Sea in the other. Bliss. Except for the monkeys. It’s their hill, after all. Meals had to be closely guarded and consumed at breakneck speed. Then there was the location of the hill, at least a five-minute sprint from the kitchens followed by a punishing slog up 50 uneven steps. It was a non-starter – followed by a swiped main course and a melted dessert.
No. The resort’s restaurant is fine. Spectacular views, great food and conceivably excellent wine, although of course our budget doesn’t extend to finding that out for certain. And you can’t fault a place that’s happy to include Flower Punk from the Mother of Invention’s seminal 1968 album We’re Only In It For The Money on its evening playlist.
I can’t really fault any of it, to be honest. Although… a cantankerous part of me would introduce a rule stipulating that noisy children (a permanently screaming little bastard turned up on our last day) should have their larynxes removed before being allowed anywhere within earshot of the resort.
Provided he’s gone, I’d go back tomorrow.
That’s it. Next up: A different kind of resort altogether
♩A different kind of resort ♬