There are almost 100 steps to climb, from the beach to the terrace pool at Amanpuri – I know, because I count them every morning. It’s part of a wellness ritual during my stay. Not one prescribed by the Wellness Centre, but one that is tonic for my soul. It’s worth the exertion, with a breakfast of vegan scrambled tofu, kale, mulberries and hemp seeds waiting, and a swim in the hotel’s 27-metre show-pool a just reward.
There are umpteen ways to do little bits for your peace of mind at this beautiful Phuket resort – the flagship property of the Aman group, which opened in 1988, and has been a leader in immersive wellness retreats for several decades since. The whole resort is enveloped in nature: palm trees at every turn, huge boulders performing gravity-defying feats of balance on the beach, rabbits that hop freely around the grounds, and views that stretch out far and wide over the Andaman Sea. It’s incredibly restful here. Even when the resort is teetering on full, it has been designed in such a way that you rarely cross paths with other guests, save for meal-times, or when your recommissioned Mitsubishi door-less cars (aka hotel buggies) pass on the hilly climb up or down to your villa.
I’ve wanted to visit Amanpuri for a while, hearing rumours of its holistic healing powers. I’ve never been one for over-the-top health and wellness journeys, but I like the authenticity of how Amanpuri packages its wellbeing. While the Wellness Centre plays a huge role in a stay here, should you want it to, it isn’t the pivotal point of every holiday, allowing guests to dip in and out when needs demand it.
“Nature abound, mynah birds can be heard chattering in the treetops most mornings, while bullfrogs croak a midnight serenade from their lily pads”
The resort is meant for walking, its hills helping burn off any calories consumed from eating one too many sticky mango rice desserts at Buabok. The Wellness Centre has Immersions that can be calibrated to gently steer guests along the path to better wellbeing, as well as more intensive Immersions that use medical diagnostics, such as blood-panel and heavy-metal OligoScan testing, to inform bespoke programmes and prescribed medical treatments, alongside personalised nutrition plans.
Those wanting to harness the ancient healing arts of Asia, can do so with an Amanpuri Awakening, a journey recommended to enjoy at the very start of your stay, that includes a body exfoliation using Thai herbs, spices and extra-virgin coconut oil, combined with a Thai massage with an aromatic or dry herbal compress, and finished with a personalised facial. Or, to treat the body as a whole, you can turn to Amanpuri’s Traditional Chinese Medicine therapists to employ the holistic procedure known as the Four Diagnostic Methods to discover patterns of disharmony or imbalance in the body, with tailored treatments to then address individual needs.
For me, however, I prefer to amble my way to wellness, choosing whatever feels natural on the day. I try Muay Thai one morning, a form of Thai boxing that is also called ‘the art of eight limbs’, because it combines the use of fists, elbows, knees and chins. It’s tough and requires a great deal of focus, but the outcome, should you invest in the training longer term, results in strength, agility, toning and muscle conditioning.
On a more leisurely morning, I spend a few hours in the Wellness Centre being gently pummelled during a Thai Massage, and in a Coconut Masterclass making my own coconut and sesame body scrub using fruits from one of the 1,000-plus palms found throughout Amanpuri. I’m told that the trees grow over 12 metres tall, that some are over 30 years old, and the leaves are either used for dessert decoration, for brooms and furniture, or donated to elephant sanctuaries for food.
Wellbeing is all about balance, and so another few hours are spent at The Sunset Terrace learning how to mix my own drinks. Finished with edible leaves and dried hibiscus flowers, the colourful concoctions of the Puri and Surya cocktails prove most popular (I’m a little biased), served with the most spectacular backdrop of the sun setting over the Andaman.
I wake up each morning to either brilliant sunshine creeping through the palm trees, or powerful drops of rain that, once stilled, bring to life the greenery of the resort. Mynah birds can be heard chattering in the treetops most mornings, while bullfrogs croak a midnight serenade from their lily pads.
For the days I don’t venture far out of my villa, I swim lengths in the glass-like pool, sit in one of the salas reading much-awaited books, and simply disconnect from as much technology as I can. The Villa (villa 24) has five bedrooms, including one specialist suite that has an Italian owner and has been furnished to reflect both Thai and Italian culture: marble walls, driftwood vases, animal figurines and art pieces, walls of pots and artefacts, books, textured rugs and mirrors everywhere.
One rainy afternoon, I eat a Thai Green Curry (with quite the kick) on the vast L-shaped sofa, whilst watching telly; another I set up a work station on the beautiful, curved dining table as the rain dances on the terrace outside; and another, I sink into the deep bath tub and make the most of Amanpuri’s all-natural, sweet-smelling soaps and scrubs. Each night, something new is left on the bed – a gift to take home, something to try or words of wisdom. One evening, it’s a coconut body cream, the next a Nang Talung folk shadow puppet and wooden frog, which is associated with luck and prosperity – both kind gifts from the boutique after having mentioned I had a young daughter.
My villa is too high to get down to the beach, so daily strolls back to the main hotel take me past the glass-walled gym, yoga pavilion, tennis courts, and paths dotted with villas, orchids and Bird of Paradise flowers in sunburnt orange. When the rain subsides, the sky is a vibrant blue, with clouds so frothy they look like whipped cream. The white crescent of Pansea Beach is just visible through the trees on the walk down – a lively bay with street-food stalls, restaurants and shops that are worth a visit if you have time.
But there’s no need to leave on food’s account. Amanpuri has five restaurants, each delving into the culinary traditions of Thailand, Japan, Italy and the Mediterranean. I eat nothing but the best plant-based food, with each restaurant offering a vegan menu and each chef willing to fine-tune other dishes wherever they can. The avocado, Jicama and cucumber salad is so light and fresh I have it every day, as I do the humble tomato salad that magically appears wherever or whenever I request it.
One of my favourite meals is on the terrace at Buabok, where a candlelit pool is the focal point for the annual Loi Krathong festival – or the Festival of Light – which pays respect to the Goddess of Water. Traditionally, Thais gather round lakes, rivers and canals to release krathongs (lotus-shaped rafts decorated with banana leaves, flowers and candles), along with their thanks and prayers to the goddess. On this particular evening, I’m invited to light a floating candle, made from palm fronds and lotus flowers, and make a wish of my own, before sending the candle gently into the water. It’s an incredibly peaceful moment and feels like a respectful invitation to experience just a small slice of Thailand’s rich culture.
Other notable moments are spent turning palm fronds into dancing frogs, fish and puppets with a PlaTapian ‘coconut palm weaving’ masterclass; drinking one fresh coconut after another, basking in what feels like healing powers in every sip; strolling the beach to collect shells and leave nothing but footprints; spending time in the hotel’s Eco-Beach Discovery Centre, learning about the hotel’s sustainability vision and how it engages young minds to turn them into the world’s advocates of tomorrow; and simply lying back and doing nothing bar dreaming under one of the parasols that pepper the pristine white beach.
Somehow, time slows down here yet seems to go by in a heartbeat all at once. Beyond the wellness immersions available to you, there’s such a cathartic sense of wellness just in being at Amanpuri. It’s filled with so much nature and quietude that it feels good for every part of me. It’s a luxury to escape to somewhere so magnetic and restful that, for the first time in what feels like forever, I genuinely leave feeling at peace. And that’s a true luxury in itself.
WHERE: Phuket, Thailand
+66 76 324 333