It may be best known for its night clubs and excesses, but Phuket is also an emerging luxury wellness destination. By Megha Uppal
Blowouts, binge drinking and eating, celebratory getaways… Thailand has long held the dubious pedestal of the ideal hedonistic holiday. So when the idea of Phuket as a wellness destination came up, I was intrigued. Could the indulgences typically associated with the land actually turn to those of the mind, body and soul? Turns out, the answer is a resounding yes. Parallel to the party lifestyle synonymous with its Patong Beach and Bangla bars is a quiet wellness haven that helps you channel your chi.
My abode for the four-day getaway was the Iniala Beach House on the quaint Natai Beach. Removed from the main city area, the retreat is ideal for those seeking privacy and some quiet downtime—with three villas (three rooms each) and a penthouse ensuring exclusivity. The first thing to strike you is the thought behind the design—each of the 10 rooms carries its own distinct character, and separate quarters of Iniala have been conceptualised by 10 renowned designers. I stayed in The Boudoir in the Collector’s Villa, designed by New Zealand’s Mark Brazier-Jones. With a deep-green and gold theme complemented by extensive mirror work, the room had a sensual personality, with baroque and Gothic accents bringing to life the extravagance associated with boudoir. Though I didn’t get the time to savour it, the open bathtub would be the best way to relax after your flight. A pillow menu; a smart tab with menus, television controls and activities to partake in; and an on-call butler—the comfort was settling in.
We decided to take things slow on the first day and head out to catch the sunset. As Natai Beach is about an hour’s drive from most things you may want to access, this turned out to be a wise decision. Few sunsets actually live up to your expectation, but what I saw at Promthep Cape certainly did. The curving cliffs by the sea witness a layered sunset with rich blues, oranges and purples colouring the sky and reflecting on the water below. Just being there, soaking in the view allows for a sense of serenity to seep in. It had me wishing that sunsets were never-ending.
The next day started with a breakfast of eggs, avocados and fresh coconut water, which would go on to be the healthy beginning to my days in Phuket. The second day involved island-hopping and snorkelling. A motorboat ride to the islands of Koh Khai and Koh Rang Yai was a gateway to pristine sights of azure waters offset by the clearest light-blue sky. Our guide, Mr Bond, was also our coach for snorkelling and helped us jump off the boat into the sea of fish—silver, yellow, blue, white, black… you name the colour, and there was a fish wearing the garb. The simple act of swimming among fish in their natural habitat had such a calming effect that we had a smile stuck on our faces all the way back to Phuket.
The day ended with a six-course tasting menu at the Michelin-star PRU restaurant in Trisara resort. The name stands for ‘Plant. Raise. Understand.’ and the diner explores the philosophy of farm-to-table with innovative cooking techniques. From the Southeast Asian speciality of pickled eggs served with sea snails, to carrots cooked in the soil they grew in, river prawns with the umami XO sauce, aged duck with shiitake mushrooms and Thai wagyu beef, each preparation burst with flavours and the produce’s organic nature shone through in the taste. The restaurant has its own farm, Pru Jampa—a 1,486-square metre land in northeast Phuket for vegetables, herbs, flowers and free-range chickens and goats. What is not found at the farm is sourced locally from nearby Krabi and Phang-Nga.
The next day had a holistic start with yoga on the beach. One of the many wellness activities offered by Iniala, it was led by the property’s fitness director, Uaichai Prangsuwan. We called him Chai. Our mats set facing the sea waves, Chai took us through some basic yoga stretches, breathing exercises and poses—nothing too strenuous, but it worked wonders to calm the mind and body. Post breakfast, we were off to a nearby Buddhist temple. You can opt for a guided cycling tour to this local attraction. Back at Iniala, I spent the evening lounging in the infinity pool of my villa, letting the slowly descending dusk set my pace.
Before indulging in a dinner of seafood and veggie grills from the kitchen of Chef Tim Butler (Esenzi) at The Sala—the glass-walled dining space overlooking the Andaman Sea—I chose to get pampered at the Pearl Spa. Covered in mother-of-pearl and interspersed with mirror work, the spa exudes a sense of calm. When in Thailand, how can one opt for anything but a traditional Thai massage? While I took my time working through the language barrier, my masseuse provided the perfect massage—optimum pressure, focus on areas that needed more work and music and temperature to my liking—leaving me yearning for a nap right after, and thus, passing the acid test for a good spa.
On my last day at Iniala, I took a masterchef class with Chef Dome, who taught me the art of making the tartest pomelo salad that celebrates the fruit. What followed was a lunch of traditional Thai dishes, such as pad Thai, tom kha gai (cocnout soup), khao pad (fried rice) and gaeng keow wan gai (green chicken curry), to conclude my trip.
The privacy at Iniala means it fits all groups—families, couples, friends. A special kids hotel even takes care of the young ones as the adults get to be carefree. You can also partake in fitness activities like Thai boxing and t’ai chi. Beyond the hotel, the city has a tranquil alter ego that demands to be experienced. I’ll be sure to look in Phuket’s direction again for a wellness getaway.
GoAir operates direct flights to Phuket from Delhi and Mumbai.
The Iniala Beach House has three villas, with three rooms each, and one penthouse. From INR 1,46,497 per night.
EAT & DRINK
Set in a 130-year-old home, Raya serves traditional Southern Thai cuisine. When in Old Phuket Town, try the traditional Thai beverage of half-coffee, half-tea.