BLACK BOOK

Fashion (Canada) - - Fashion Escapes -

PRAY In North Amer­ica, we’re used to see­ing Bud­dha stat­ues the size of gar­den gnomes, which is why Phuket’s Big Bud­dha is so im­pres­sive. Stand­ing at the base of the 45-me­tre white mar­ble statue is hum­bling. It was built with do­na­tions from around the world. It’s lo­cated at the top of the Nakkerd Hills be­tween Cha­long and Kata Beach, and the view is spec­tac­u­lar. Tem­ple eti­quette: Tom Billinge trav­els the world vis­it­ing and writ­ing about tem­ples and holy places. Here are his six top tips:

1. In Thai­land, un­like Hong Kong, you must re­move your shoes be­fore en­ter­ing a tem­ple. 2. If you’re sit­ting in the hall, your feet should never face Bud­dha. 3. Don’t point at any­thing with your fin­ger; use an up­turned open palm in­stead. 4. You don’t have to bow, but if you wish to wai to Bud­dha, place your palms to­gether on your brow and bow. 5. Dress mod­estly, with your shoul­ders cov­ered. If you are wear­ing a skirt, the hem must fall be­low the knee. (Carry a shawl or sarong just in case you need to cover up.) 6. Un­less there is a sign telling you oth­er­wise, you can take pho­tos in­side the tem­ple, in­clud­ing ones of Bud­dha. (In Hong Kong, this isn’t per­mit­ted.) There are two pos­si­ble ex­cep­tions: the Phra Bud­dha Chin­narat in Phit­san­u­lok and the Emer­ald Bud­dha in Bangkok.

SIP Laem Phromthep, which is near Nai Harn beach, is a fave, al­beit crowded, sun­set-watch­ing des­ti­na­tion. The up­side? It’s free. The Baba Nest rooftop bar at Sri Panwa re­sort is stun­ning. It boasts that it has the “sex­i­est sun­set ses­sions,” and that’s not an ex­ag­ger­a­tion. The deck, which is sur­rounded by an in­fin­ity pool, has 360-de­gree views of the is­land-dot­ted An­daman Sea. Seat­ing is lim­ited, so book (months) ahead. (#notkid­ding)

STAY The Nai Harn re­sort, which is lo­cated in the south­ern end of Phuket, re­minds me of a crisp white Jil San­der shirt: The lines are pure, and the de­sign has the same el­e­gant ease and time­less­ness. The 130-room re­sort, which opened in the ’80s and un­der­went ma­jor renos in 2016, is de­scribed as one of Phuket’s first lux­ury ho­tels. The rooms, in­clud­ing my Ocean View Suite, are built on the hillside over­look­ing Nai Harn beach. (It landed on Trip Ad­vi­sor’s top 10 beaches in Asia in 2017, and you can see it be­hind Shaugh­nessy in the photo above.) From the four-poster ca­bana bed on my deck, I can look out onto the white sandy beach and calm bay, which is dot­ted with cata­ma­rans and sail­boats. There’s the op­tion to have a pri­vate bar­beque on your ter­race, and the posh­est rooms have a but­ton that sum­mons a but­ler to bring cham­pagne. I did man­age to leave this heav­enly re­treat and head up to Reflections, the Nai Harn’s rooftop ter­race/bar, to catch the sun­set. For eats, there’s Cosmo or the re­sort’s beach­front Rock Salt. The re­sort of­fers beach­side but­ler ser­vice, or there’s the pool if you pre­fer to lounge in a pri­vate set­ting sur­rounded by bougainvil­lea while sip­ping a rum-based Lady Nai Harn.

SHOP If you are beached out—or have a han­ker­ing to see colour­ful Si­noPor­tuguese ar­chi­tec­ture—head to Old Phuket Town. You can eas­ily spend a few hours pop­ping in and out of eclec­tic shop­houses, Thai tem­ples, Chi­nese shrines, old man­sions and quirky cafés along Tha­lang, Dibuk and Krabi roads. Your first stop should be Aroon Restau­rant for cha chuk tea and roti. Like Hong Kong tea, this strong brew is made with con­densed milk and su­gar, but it’s frothy from hav­ing been poured re­peat­edly be­tween two de­canters. At the front of the fam­ily-run shop, they serve up roti filled with meat or a sweeter ver­sion filled with but­ter and su­gar and dipped in con­densed milk. One of the most In­sta­grammable streets is Soi Rom­ma­nee. It is lit with Chi­nese lanterns at night, and its tra­di­tional shop­houses are painted ro­man­tic shades of pink, orange, yel­low and blue. Its past is equally colour­ful: It was once a red-light and opium-par­lour district fre­quented by Chi­nese tin min­ers.

Pearls of wis­dom “When an ir­ri­tant gets into an oys­ter, the oys­ter se­cretes nacre, or mother-of-pearl, around the ir­ri­tant, which [even­tu­ally] be­comes a pearl,” ex­plains Wo­rawan Chawal­i­tanan­takit, the manag­ing di­rec­tor at Rangyai Pearl, which has a shop in the town of Phuket. “Cul­tured pearls are cre­ated by seed­ing an oys­ter with an ir­ri­tant, and it can take one to five years de­pend­ing on the oys­ter used to pro­duce the pearls. You can tell that pearls are fake if you rub them to­gether and there’s no re­sis­tance. If they’re real, it feels like they’re scratch­ing each other if you rub them to­gether.”

SPA TIME They had me at “Easy Breezy”—the name of the mas­sage I am hav­ing at the Nai Harn re­sort’s spa. Lek, my ther­a­pist, ar­rives, and she’s ra­di­ant. “If I don’t look good, no­body trusts me,” she laughs when I com­pli­ment her. When her hands land on the rocks in my left shoul­der, she de­cides to try some Thai mas­sage moves. I had a Thai mas­sage in Dubai once, and the ther­a­pist gave up. Lek, how­ever, man­ages to elicit a few sat­is­fy­ing cracks. After­wards, I head straight to my ter­race for a de­li­cious af­ter­noon nap.

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