A pleasant hour’s drive from tropical Phuket airport brings you to the Rosewood hotel, brushing right up against the Andaman Sea on Thailand’s west coast. If you’ve travelled from the always-on bustle of Bangkok, you’ll feel the atmosphere change, the pace of life slow-down and the landscape shift from concrete greys to a thousand shades of green on this, the country’s largest island.
It’s still Thailand though and thus the soundtrack is a chorus of insects, squawks of birds and the toots and honks of the omnipresent scooters. Head towards the peninsula, however, and the sounds drop away, leaving nothing but the lapping of waves and the wind moving through the gently swaying palms.
Why stay here?
Behind a set of truly gargantuan, imposing doors, the Rosewood Phuket immediately establishes itself as a temple of tranquillity; it’s a deeply intimate hotel built in a blend of traditional and modern styles, village-like, incorporating elements of traditional Thai design – where the only other guests you might come across will be at breakfast or its fabulous restaurant, Ta Khai. It’s a masterclass in understated opulence, being the most expensive resort in Thailand ever constructed; around half of the budget was dedicated creating a sustainable infrastructure – rainwater retention ponds, the largest solar renewable energy system on the island and rooftops carpeted in plants, cooling rooms to conserve energy.
Subscribe to The Week
Escape your echo chamber. Get the facts behind the news, plus analysis from multiple perspectives.
Staff are gentle, kind, welcoming and interested – our buggy driver, learning of our interest in the local flora and fauna, took great joy in sharing his findings with us (if you’re lucky, you might see one of the shy lizards running round the grounds).
The hotel is built into a steep hill running down to the ocean – small pools dotted with sun loungers lead up to a low hedge; head through one of the gates to a perfect crescent of sand and turquoise seas fringed with picture-perfect palms; it’s almost a cliché. Emerald Beach is 600 metres long and sees few tourists – you’ll have it just about to yourself.
Rooms and suites
The Rosewood Phuket features 70 villas. Ours had uninterrupted views of the Andaman Sea and felt utterly private; they are accessed via buggies – always on hand within a couple of minutes to take you to the pool or one of the hotel’s restaurants. Narrow trails snake around the complex with larger-than-life, prehistoric greenery slowly creeping in, trying to take back the land.
There are more sizable accommodations with direct access to the beach – two-bedroom villas with infinity pools, ours was the perfect size for two, with a temperate pool providing respite from the notorious Thai humidity. In the same vein, an outdoor waterfall shower and bath provided a bit of the outside in and the inside out.
Minibars are well-stocked and pre-batched cocktails are made with care. Delicious sweet things were dropped daily to our room – a little post-sunbathing pick-me-up like passionfruit and chocolate truffles or canele, a delicious pastry from Bordeaux.
Eating and drinking
Ta Khai is the hotel’s Michelin-recommended flagship restaurant. The food here is exceptional, Thai cuisine which isn’t pulling any punches with good levels of spicing and the funk of “gapi” (fermented shrimp paste) playing significant roles. There’s a degustation menu for those wanting to try a little of everything featuring plenty of regional food from the island – Yum Pak Kood Goong Sod, for example – a hot and sour salad of fiddlehead ferns, minced pork, prawns and shallots with chilli and lime dressing. The restaurant partners with sustainable producers for all of its meat, fish and rice.
Red Sauce is the hotel’s Italian offering where breakfast is also served – it’s a lovely tiled spot sitting at the top of the grounds. Inspired juices, detox options and deluxe options are all available and someone in the kitchen is a dab hand with the pastries for a morning treat.
Phongskorn Ruanjan heads up the bar, Mai, poolside at the Rosewood. It’s a sleek, refined and subtle affair. Phongskorn is an award-winning mixologist and his love of the craft shines through with plenty of house-made ferments, shrubs and infusions to excite your palate.
If you want to try some local Phuketian food, head out to a spot called Kaab Gluay. It’s no frills and for the most part devilishly hot, but they have some milder options. Other recommendations are a bit further afield – Mor Mu Dong and Nam Yoi are doing the rounds on the foodie scene, both around a 30-minute drive from the hotel.
What to do
Primarily, not a lot. The Rosewood Phuket is a temple of zen and the ultimate in tropical escapes with its fantastic beach, great pools, an astonishingly good spa and exquisite food. For those not wanting to lounge around getting a tan, there are plenty of fitness activities, a beach boot camp and water sports like kayaking and paddle-boarding.
Paradise beach, just up from the hotel, was closed at the time of writing due to a film shoot but should reopen soon. It’s got brilliant views out over the bay – and probably about as far afield as one might venture.
Room rates at the Rosewood Phuket start from £500 per night; rosewoodhotels.com
Continue reading for free
We hope you're enjoying The Week's refreshingly open-minded journalism.
Subscribed to The Week? Register your account with the same email as your subscription.