AU­THEN­TIC PHUKET

Tourism Tat­tler for­eign cor­re­spon­dent, vis­ited Phuket a rain­forested, moun­tain­ous is­land in the An­daman Sea and re­ports on Thai­land’s most pop­u­lar beaches, high-end sea­side re­sorts, spas and restau­rants.

Tourism Tattler - - DESTINATIONS -

− − On an is­land buzzing with tourists re­mind­ing one of ev­ery­thing but the des­ti­na­tion I felt a need to stay at ho­tels that are in sym­pa­thy with their sur­round­ings and ex­press a feel­ing for Thai­land rather than the many oth­ers that are sim­ply smart but bland. I wanted the ex­otic ex­pe­ri­ence with all my senses awakened by wa­ter and smells, birds and an­i­mals.

Phuket is an is­land that is cer­tainly built up with traf­fic. Some have faith in their fate with side cars mov­ing bumper-to-bumper car­ry­ing fam­i­lies in­tent on dry­ing their wash­ing at the same time. Mopeds have three year olds stand­ing up be­tween the legs of their par­ents with the rest of the fam­ily up be­hind them. Amongst the many road­side stalls and shops are bride shops placed ran­domly next to me­chanic's garages (giv­ing a whole new no­tion to the garage cal­en­dar!).

Thais be­lieve that if they dress in a cer­tain colour each day it will bring them good luck. The code is: Mon­day: yel­low (lueang), Tues­day: pink (chom poo), Wed­nes­day: green (kiaw), Thurs­day: or­ange (som), Fri­day: blue (nam ngem), Satur­day: pur­ple (muang), Sun­day: red (daeng). Black (dam) is un­lucky for con­ser­va­tive peo­ple and is re­served for fu­ner­als; un­less, of course, you are young in which case it's seen as edgy and so­phis­ti­cated. Even hair­cuts on dif­fer­ent days of the week have their own

Adam Ja­cot de Boinod

sig­nif­i­cance. On Sun­day: long life; Mon­day hap­pi­ness and health; Tues­day: power; Wed­nes­day: great mis­for­tune; Thurs­day: pro­tec­tion of the an­gels; Fri­day: lots of luck comes and on Satur­day: it brings suc­cess in im­por­tant un­der­tak­ings.

Saro­jin

It was on a Satur­day when I ar­rived first at The Saro­jin, a bou­tique ho­tel, up north of Phuket in Khao Lak. The rooms are very Zen. There are stones and slate on the bath­room floor be­neath the show­ers, ab­sorb­ing the wa­ter beau­ti­fully in the heat, and logs to put shampoo on and drift­wood act­ing as dec­o­ra­tion. The con­tem­po­rary Asian style with strong sym­me­try al­lows na­ture to flow and there's a real har­mony with barely any dis­tinc­tion be­tween the in­te­rior and ex­te­rior.

Out­side light blue cush­ions echo the ocean whose beach, on this stretch, is a long, gen­tle and walk­a­ble curve. The land is thought­fully spaced and has un­clut­tered plac­ing. The fo­liage is of banana leaves and ferns.

The food in the two restau­rants comes from a con­fi­dently small menu of ex­tremely fresh lo­cal pro­duce. I en­joyed a pomelo salad that had minced prawns, tossed co­conut flakes, sliced kaf­fir, lime leaves, lilies and sliced shal­lots. The Mas­saman curry with tofu had co­conut milk, roasted car­damom seeds, cin­na­mon, roasted peanut, bay leaf and tamarind juice.

Lady Saro­jin, the ho­tel speed­boat, is well placed to take ad­van­tage of re­put­edly the best coral in Thai­land. It's on the nine Sim­i­lan Is­lands (sim­i­lan mean­ing nine in Jawi mus­lim). And it's only ninety bouncy min­utes away out on the In­dian Ocean. They com­prise of a pro­tected na­tional ma­rine park with three is­lands ded­i­cated to tur­tle con­ser­va­tion. Here there is the promised wa­ter and sand that is ‘par­adise' blue and white.

It was won­der­ful to have the ex­pe­ri­ence of be­ing tucked up safely in my out­door pav­il­ion while a proper trop­i­cal rain­storm played it­self out on a land­scape where king­fish­ers and mon­i­tor lizards had made them­selves at home.

As for tigers and ele­phants, there is cer­tainly much con­cern for their treat­ment. Ele­phant rid­ing is con­sid­ered ‘bor­der­line'. But the train­ers are de­voted and there's a charm­ing re­la­tion­ship be­tween them and their an­i­mals. One ‘master' was barely seven stone and in­stantly crush­able were it not for the com­plete mu­tual re­spect and af­fec­tion­ate bond be­tween these two be­ings who were so clearly at one with each other.

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