Maybe it’s my mom’s influence; she really is a home-decorating guru. But I am a sucker for the small touches that make a space particularly special. This week, we’re staying at Sawasdee Village Resort in Phuket, Thailand. Normally this place would be way out of our price range, but (a) it’s the off-season, and (b) we paid for it with air miles.
What a treat!
Phuket (pronounced “Poo-ket”) is an island, connected to the rest of Thailand by a bridge.
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When we vacationed here five years ago, it was recuperating from the devastating tsunami of 2004. Today we hardly recognize it. Towering resorts have burst out of the beaches, and the formerly quiet streets are now bustling with bars, restaurants, shops, massage salons, and other tourist attractions. We’re staying at one of the less lively beaches, but it’s still much more developed than we remembered. We’re lucky to have the best of both worlds: We can entertain ourselves on the “strip,” but then we can step into our private oasis.
Meandering on the stone paths through the hotel grounds, we often stop and listen to the peaceful Thai music piped in to the gardens, accented by the chorus of fountains, frogs and birds. Narrow canals filled with koi fish and water lilies weave alongside the paths. Plants with leaves broader than my armspan and trees dripping with fruit and flowers create the illusion of being far out of town. Nearly hidden in the foliage, traditional statuary, small lamps and carved wooden benches add to the delight. Occasionally, we stumble upon a woman carved in stone with a real orchid tucked behind one ear or an elephant statue draped with a colorful silk sash.
Let’s talk about the pool. There’s so much to appreciate. First, the whole pool is shallow. That means you can walk the length of it, which is nice, but it also discourages children and drunken men from annoying the rest of us with loud “Cannonball!”-style maneuvers. One end of the pool features less than a foot of water with gentle bubble jets on the bottom, so you can actually recline and get a little water massage on your back. A fountain rains across the width of the pool, creating a natural sense of privacy at either end. The pool bar is recessed, so you can stand waist-deep or sit on the stools with your feet in the water while sipping a frosty tropical treat out of a pineapple. Elephant fountains line the far end of the pool, emitting arching streams of water, while a massive overturned jar at the center creates a refreshing waterfall. The pool curves into romantic nooks with recessed spots for lounging in the shade of the frangiapani trees.
For a different style of water fun, the beach is a 15-minute walk away (or a short ride on the hotel’s free shuttle bus). Powdery pale sand and the warm turquoise sea: possibly my favorite combination on earth. There is little competition for the lounge chairs and umbrellas at this time of year, and although some rain falls each day, we still have hours of sunny perfect weather to enjoy seaside relaxation.
At the moment, I’m sitting in the guest lounge, a glass-enclosed pagoda with tile floors, intricate carved woodwork, elegant Thai ornamentation and relaxing views of the hotel grounds. A drizzly morning is the perfect time to reflect on how lucky we are to experience this elegance and tranquility.