Array ( )
It’s hard to imagine that this tropical paradise sprawled before me used to be a wasteland of abandoned tin mines, rusty machinery and polluted water. Not a single trace of desolation can be seen among the lush gardens, shimmering pools and the tranquil beachfront of the Dusit Thani Laguna Phuket, an idyllic retreat tucked away on this stunning island in Thailand.
“Your room is waiting.” Marketing Communications and Public Relations Manager Sriparin Nuthae said as she handed my itinerary that would take me to the most interesting nooks and crannies of this sanctuary. The room turned out to be one of the Dusit Club Rooms which overlooks the sparkling Andaman Sea. Complete with all the elements of sophisticated elegance, my Club room is only a few steps away from Phuket’s longest beachfront. I sat for a few moments on my private patio, soaking up the attractions of the sea view, the salty breeze cooling off the late summer heat as I fought warring desires to plunge in the pool, wade in the ocean or simply lie down on my luxurious king-size bed. There’s a time for everything, I told myself, and decided to take it one luscious step at a time.
It has been written that in the early 1900’s, King Rama VI of Thailand envisaged a utopia, “a town in heaven” that he called Dusit Thani. Inspired by this vision, the Dusit Thani Laguna Phuket was built to serve as “the jewel on the crown of an award-winning environmental project” on Bang Tao Bay. Located on the west coast of the island, Bang Tao beach is one of the longest stretches of white sand beaches. It’s about 20km or a 30-minute drive from the Phuket International Airport, half an hour from the equally famous Patong beach and about the same distance from the historic old Phuket town.
After a refreshing shower, I slipped into my walking shorts and flip-flops and took a leisurely walk around the resort. A gentle sea breeze wafted through the vaulted ceilings of the open-air lobby built in the neo-colonial style that incorporated a traditional Thai motif. The design is consistent throughout the resort: native wood and tiles decorated with ceramics, antique carvings and textiles. For me, what makes Dusit Thani Laguna Phuket refreshing is the abundance of trees and foliage. Tall coconut trees and wispy casuarinas with their delicate branches and leaves sway above well-manicured lawns and gardens. What makes the resort invigorating are bodies of water around it: the northern and southern lagoons, the ocean and the swimming pool are designed in natural curves that blend with the surroundings. The gentle splashing of these waters and the cool, softly-lit greenery served as soothing companions to an ice-cold glass of beer at the Horizon Lounge where I savored the last rays of a balmy afternoon in this corner of heaven on earth.
Breakfast found me munching on crisp bacon, freshly baked croissant and a plateful of melon.
The Laguna Café serves excellent tea, which became my beverage of choice on this particular visit. The Café began to fill up with guests, mostly Europeans and a sprinkling of Koreans, as I waited for my tour guide, who preferred to be called Grace.
My first destination was the Recreation Center that includes the Busy Bee Kids Club, which was carefully designed to provide young guests with a host of fun activities ranging from water sports to games and a variety of arts and crafts workshops. What caught my eye was a collection of shirts designed and painted by kids. Colorful yet classy finger paintings turned ordinary t-shirts into souvenir items worth collecting! Next door was the fitness room fully equipped with modern bodybuilding and exercise equipment. An internet and play station plus a game room guaranteed zero boredom for kids looking for fun aside from the beach and water sports available nearby.
Although I was staying in the awesome Club Room, Grace insisted that I should at least see two of their other showcase Villas. The Ocean Front Villa is a three-storey symbol of informal and functional elegance, with the top floor affording guests with an unhindered view of the Andaman while soaking in one’s private infinity pool The Laguna Pool Villas are similar to the Ocean Front models except the latter offers a magnificent view of the lagoon and the blue hills beyond.
As we stepped into the award-winning La Trattoria Italian restaurant, we were met by an energetic Italian with a big smile and outstretched arms. Executive Chef Silvano Amolini was once a Junior Sous Chef at Dusit Thani Laguna Phuket and after 16 years, came back to lead a prestige team of sixty culinary experts. “I’m honored to be back at my second home,” Amolini said. “It’s an opportunity to bring a fresh approach to each venue, not just to La Trattoria but to the Casuarina Beach restaurant with its freshest seafood and Ruen Thai with its classic Thai dishes.” Chef Amolini discovered his passion for food at age 12 and has spent more than two decades in world-class restaurants. “Phuket has excellent producers of traditional herbs, vegetables and natural ingredients,” the Chef informed me. “The local suppliers, especially those from northern Thailand, continue to be a prime source of healthy and naturally grown produce.” Amolini vowed that he would continue to procure organically-grown supplies not just for culinary reasons but more importantly to encourage local farmers to embrace age old, natural ways of growing crops.
One of the resort’s photo releases showed General Manager Peter Komposch leading a team in a mangrove planting activity in the forests of Baan Ao Nam Bor, Wichit Sub-District. It’s not just an ordinary corporate social responsibility event. It clearly shows that the Dusit Thani Laguna Phuket staff and officers found the extra time as they continue to surpass the demands of the hospitality business. “It’s part of the management style to provide a great work environment and foster a team spirit.” GM Komposch explained.
When invited to manage a 5-star resort which happens to be one of the leading hotels in the world, GM Komposch found it an easy choice. “We have a beautiful beach, a great product and a remarkable staff. That is why we get a good number of repeat customers year after year.” Guests come from Korea, Australia and Europe, including the Netherlands and Russia. “We make sure they enjoy the best of Thai hospitality,” the GM said. “The Thai touch plus our facilities are always evident from the moment they check in until they board the limousine back to the airport.”
What makes the Dusit Thani Laguna Phuket experience more enjoyable is its location. The resort is part of Laguna Phuket, a tropical collection of hotels and residences, which includes Banyan Tree, Sheraton Grande, Allamanda, Laguna Holiday Club Resort and Laguna Holiday Residences. A network of waterways and tree lined avenues link the hotels and residences, with buggies and watercraft making getting around the extensive complex easy. Guests are encouraged to sample a variety
of dining and shopping around the sprawling paradise. Which is exactly what I did. I found time to browse and sip a glass of wine at the chic Laguna Village with its fine restaurants, shops and bars. Nearby is the 18 hole Laguna Phuket Golf Club, flanked by gardens and well-appointed town houses and vlllas.
And what’s a leading resort without a worldclass spa? The Angsana Spa is one of the exceptional wellness centers found in key cities and resorts in Japan, China, Australia, Southeast Asia, the Middle East, Europe and Guam. The Spa has a long menu of massage therapies and treatments and in this case, an extensive offering of signature Thai techniques. In my case, I chose the traditional Thai massage. All the aches and stiffness fl owed away with the strokes of experienced hands courtesy of my highly-skilled therapist. It’s the closest thing to nirvana except I became too sleepy to fully enjoy it!
It was late afternoon when I finally walked into Ruen Thai, the resort’s classic Royal Thai dining area. I was informed that the Chef from the King’s kitchen personally trained the staff on the original, authentic recipes that were the favorite of His Royal Highness. Not long after I sat down, an imperial lobster was presented. It was a simple recipe, guaranteed to preserve the delicate flavor with just the right amount of coconut milk and a few choice spices. As I sampled the dish, the taste of Thailand came forth. Fresh and juicy, with a hint of organic herbs that brought out the best from this gift of the sea.
Ruen Thai sits on a deck overlooking the lagoon. In the distance, the lights on the villas cast warm refl ections on the water below while the hills of Phuket formed a magnificent silhouette against the last rays of the setting sun. Nature was showcasing her best alongside the resort’s brand of service and hospitality. A fi tting end to a unique holiday experience.