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The curtains hadn’t been pulled shut all the way and the light peeking through was proving quite a nuisance. It was much too early to be getting the day started. Groggily, I stumbled over to the balcony door to deal with the source of my awakening. But as my eyes focused, my annoyance turned into amusement. Spread out just a few meters from my balcony lay the majestic light blue water of the Andaman Sea filling Patong Bay. A few more hours of sleep suddenly wasn’t so appealing.
PATONG BAY’S TREASURE
It was the type of scenery that didn’t get old very quickly. The pristine water, inhabited only by a few anchored yachts and passing boats, surrounded by white sand and low mountains was the perfect therapy for any person who calls a concrete jungle home. Breakfast of fresh fruits, newly made omelet, and warm croissants was set in the outdoor area of Rim Talay, a different vantage point of the same captivating setting. Our arrival in the late evening had robbed us of what made this secluded resort on a cliff, set at the edge of Patong Beach, a fixture in the area for the last 30 years. This view was quite simply spectacular.
It came as no surprise then when Communications Manager Penprapa Chooklin explained later that day that all 197 rooms in Amari Phuket have a private balcony where the view of the sea can be taken in. Revisiting the newly renovated lobby lounge away from the shroud of darkness, the huge glass panels giving a glimpse of the scenery stood out amongst the room’s brightly lit contemporary designs and high ceiling.
A short flight of stairs down into the lobby bar, and a magnificent panoramic view of the bay is made available. Aware that it might take some effort to leave such a setting, there are comfortable couches and chairs eagerly awaiting guests interested in appreciating the view away from the warmth of the sun – of which at the moment there were only few.
Unlike myself, the majority of those that made the trip have come to escape the harsh winter in their home countries. It explains why most of the guests are European couples. And also why they spend most of their time basking in the sun, appreciating the heat that is so uncommon back home. Being as I call the Philippines my place of residence, where warmth is pretty difficult to escape, the lobby lounge’s cool confines allowed for a relaxed afternoon of drinks in solitude.
THE PERFECT HIDEAWAY
The light sound of waves lapping on the beach sets the rhythm for the birds to sing their songs. A soft breeze passes through, ruffling the tree leaves to briefly drown the relaxing tunes that are emanating from the speakers. Slowly I’m coming back to my senses. I was awake now, but my dream state was somehow carrying on. Wiparat’s forearm digs into my back’s deepest crevices and I’m reminded precisely where I am, hidden away in a nook overlooking the best view of Amari Phuket’s sprawling 62 acres, a large portion of which remains untouched forest. I needed a moment to come to terms with the surreal sensation. It’s not every day you doze off into fantasy world and wake up right back in dreamland.
Over some tea and macaroons at the Breeze Spa lobby, I was trying to figure out how such a minute and seemingly delicate lady had been able ring out knots in my body that I had been beginning to accept as fixtures. Away in the highest mini villa of the spa, her careful use of forearms and elbows was something I had never encountered before. Reinvigorated, the way I had specified I wanted to feel after my massage, I was in the mood for a stroll to explore the farthest point of Amari Phuket: The Jetty. The long walk past the area’s dense greenery allowed for an opportunity to recall my first encounter with native Thai cuisine earlier in the day.
No matter how authentic Thai restaurants in Manila claim to be, there was certainly a stark difference to the flavors I sampled at Rim Talay for lunch. The spiciness of the offerings was the first to jump out.
Clearly, the Thais enjoyed quite a bit of fieriness in their food. Despite us specifying that they hold back on the chili, the hotness was still a serious factor that needed getting used to. But despite my low tolerance, I found myself digging in, happy to heap more misery to my already burning mouth in order to chase particular nuances in the flavor that I had never before experienced. My appreciation of curry certainly would never be the same.
An old French couple was my only company as I settled into the bar for a quick refreshment. Judging from the color of their sun-kissed skin, they had been here much longer than I. Usually, the small pier would allow immediate access to the area’s diverse marine life through some snorkeling, but the furthest end was undergoing a slight renovation. The setback did little to dampen my mood, though. I had only been in Phuket half a day and there was still so much to look forward to. Sunset dinner and drinks at La Gritta was the next one on the list.
As Italian Chef Patrizia Battolu rattled off her dishes for the evening, I tried to pacify my reservations. I wasn’t big on seafood and here she was naming a list of sea creatures that never would’ve made their way to my plate. Tuna, salmon, clams, lobster and other shellfish were the main entrées of the evening. “At least the view is beautiful,” I told myself, as the sun set upon Patong Bay. An hour later, my plate was left with empty shells. The dishes were spotless, and not a single belly at the table wasn’t filled to the brim. The risotto with shellfish and the marinated salmon were particularly delectable. My decades of hesitation toward seafood now seemed rather foolish. I never could’ve anticipated an Italian restaurant in Phuket would be responsible for opening up a whole new culinary world for me.
With our appetites more than satisfied, an immersion into the busy Patong nightlife was in order, which meant a visit to Bangla Road and its surrounding areas. Within five minutes of riding a tuk-tuk, we descended onto a rambunctious street closed off to vehicles. Both sides were lined with a plethora of different shops, bars, and restaurants. Establishments ranged from quiet, small one-storey boutiques, to gigantic three-floor bars with massive tigers on the façade. The place was packed, and a little crazy – in an amusing way. I had never seen anything like it. Seemingly every store had someone on the street peddling its products and services. It became clear very quickly why this area held such a reputation in Phuket. And while the few hours we spent walking around, drinking beer and exploring the land were very much enjoyable, the quiet confines back in Amari was a welcome reception upon our return.
A CITY ESCAPE WITHIN
The next day, much to my astonishment, Philip Walker, executive chef of the resort, said Bangla road looked rather dead when he passed by the previous night. I immediately felt 20 years older. It was at the moment that Amari’s seclusion at the end of Patong Beach felt even more of an asset. There was no doubting that Phuket’s most famous nightspots should be visited and experienced. But it could very easily be overwhelming in large doses. Here, I could sample Patong’s attractions without any fear of being swallowed up by the city’s hustle and bustle.
My two days in the warmth of Amari Phuket’s accommodations proved to be the perfect respite from the stresses of constant deadlines, research, and the grueling Manila traffic. There was a slower pace here, without any demands or expectations – a space where finishing a book in the warmth of the sun is considered a fine day’s work. I may not need to escape winter, but I could definitely use more of this.
The Jetty Marking the end of Amari Phuket’s massive 62 acres of land, The Jetty represents, in a nutshell, what makes the resort incredibly appealing: away from Patong’s bustling streets, and even the majority of the resort’s guests, but just close enough that the bay’s wondrous landscape can be fully appreciated. It’s the ultimate escape, complete with a bar that serves refreshments and light meals in between undisturbed sunbathing or snorkeling sessions. At night, it boasts a great view of the stars, as there are no light fixtures to pollute the sky’s heavenly attractions. The walk to the small pier also showcases the resort’s efforts to surround its grounds with as much untouched nature as possible. From the Breeze Spa to The Jetty is an enjoyable walk through a dense forest to your left, and through some greenery, the light blue sea stretch out to your right.