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The views are so serene at Sri Panwa, we didn’t mind that the sun would set on the other side of the peninsula. We found we preferred to wake up to the cotton candy pink sunrise anyway.
Everything about Sri Panwa is built around that view—from when you check in at the reception to the private infinity pools, the floor-to-ceiling glass-walled villas, the pool lounges, and even the private beach. The Phuket resort, developed by Charn Issara Group, was designed to frame every vista as entirely yours.
The property is perched on a steep ridge on the Panwa peninsula in the southeast of Phuket, one of Thailand’s top vacation destinations. Over an hour’s drive from the airport of the big, bustling island, its 52 villas (ranging from one to five bedrooms) and suites, spa complex, restaurants, and pools slope toward the Andaman Sea, offering jaw-dropping panoramic views that begin as soon as you arrive. Greeted with a cold juice, we were quickly asked to approve an itinerary that included the possibility of spa treatments, massages, private yoga sessions, and boat day-trips, before being directed to a tuk-tuk (a motor-powered three-wheel rickshaw used as a taxi in Thailand) that would take us to our very own villa.
Upon opening the gate, we realized that we might not want to leave the property for the next few days—everything we wanted was right there. The gate opened up to a patio with a living room, kitchen, and bathroom enclosed to the left, and a separate master bedroom and bathroom suite enclosed to the right. The two were connected by a long, U-shaped infinity pool that could be stepped into from the patio, dunked into from the master bedroom’s lower living space, or from the outdoor shower. (We made ample use of all three ways to get into the pool during our stay.) The infinity pool design, edged in Plexiglas, offered the effect that we were swimming in or above the Andaman Sea, and lush tropical vegetation mimicking the natural jungle of Phuket provided complete privacy from the villas around us.
The design of the villa met a contemporary luxury level while maintaining a natural feel that seamlessly married the interior with the exterior. Materials and fabrics were kept light and natural, so as not to compete with the exterior. Every space offered some view of the landscape, if not engulfing you in it. Even indoors, you can’t escape the outdoors, and why would you want to? Said Vorasit Issara, managing director, “On my travels I was always interested in hotels with cool, hip designs, such as the Delano, Shore Club in Miami, or Dylan, Amsterdam.” He took that taste in contemporary design and merged it with his experience in five-star service hotels where he had trained, including the Grand Hotel a Villa Feltrinelli (Lake Garda, the oldest and most prestigious hotels in Italy) and the Mandarin Oriental Bangkok.
The main restaurant, the Baba Pool Club, can be reached on foot or by tuk-tuk throughout the property, offering breakfast, lunch, dinner, and drinks. Close by is Baba Iki, an upscale Japanese restaurant that opened in early 2015. Here the style is a bit more nautical, with striped linens, light woods, and oversized chairs. Our favorite part was the lowered lounges at the end of the pool area, which dipped below man-made pools so that when we sat to have a drink or dinner we were surrounded by water.
The theme of continuity between pools and ocean continued at Baba Nest, a bar on top of the resort’s Cool Spa pavilion, which offered oversized pillow floor seating on a rooftop deck surrounded by a four-sided infinity pool. It was here that we could have a cocktail and watch the sunset (we had to arrive early because this place, even in the off-season, gets packed with both resort-goers and tourists outside the property).
Day trips by boat or into Phuket town could easily be arranged by the incredibly friendly and well-equipped staff, but one short jaunt off the property made us want to get back as soon as possible so we could soak up more scenery. For one of the most popular locations for tourists in Thailand, Sri Panwa offers undoubtedly unparalleled service in Phuket. But more striking was the flawless flow between indoor and outdoors, natural design and actual nature. And it just may be the only spot where you can swim from the kitchen to the bedroom or the bathroom.
This article is published in Whitewall‘s winter 2016 Lifestyle issue.