Mosquitoes. Tropical Depressions. $30 Caesar salads.
The South of Thailand really got the best of me.
As beautiful as the hotels were, visiting this country during rainy season is not the wisest of ideas. In all honesty, I’d rather have a rainy day working from a villa in Phuket than a sunny day working from my apartment in Georgia. Bless my heart, right?
Granted, the mosquitoes were in Koh Samui. I meant to mention this in my last post, but the rain fosters them in full force. Anyone who travels to a mosquito-infested destination with me might notice that they receive no mosquito bites – this is because they all go for me! I essentially serve as a walking citronella torch, a great benefit to everyone beside myself. However, we both suffered from quite a few bites and were glad to see that the infestation was less of a problem in Phuket.
To get to Phuket, we took a commuter flight from Koh Samui where we were the only individuals not wearing flower headbands and backpacks. Our first stop in Phuket was Amanpuri, the flagship hotel for the Aman brand and my first experience staying in one of their properties. I loved the architecture and look of the resort – from the black tiled reflection pools to the traditional Thai-style buildings, it felt like what I had imagined of a Thai beach resort. Not to mention, the beach was gorgeous.
Each of the rooms at Amanpuri are the same, the only difference is the view, with the exception of the villas, which are some of the most incredible I’ve ever seen. The villas here are perfect for large groups and range in size from two to nine bedrooms – instead of being one unified villa, they are laid out as individual rooms, giving the feel of a sprawling estate versus a villa housed under one roof.
My favorite thing about Amanpuri was the location – right beside a true Thai beach village with some of the best, most affordable cuisine we had on the entire trip. I lived on fresh Mango Smoothies and unbelievable Pad Thai for about $6 – I even got adventurous one day and tried a different kind of noodle dish. Don’t go crazy! If every resort had this fantastic of a location, guests wouldn’t mind some of the menu prices on property (hence the $30 Caesar salad – lunch portion, for the record – reference above…I love my 5 star resorts but worry they go a liiiiittle overboard on pricing sometimes. In Cabo, I heard a poor honeymoon couple ask for sunscreen in the gift shop. When they were quoted $50, the groom had to ask the unfortunate question, “Is that in pesos?” – it wasn’t.)
Day two at Amanpuri is when the rain began. That day was a light drizzle, but by the time we got to Anantara Phuket Villas the next day, it was unstoppable. I have never seen rain like this before – not just drizzles here and there, but a nonstop monsoon of rain for days on end. Periodically, it would let up just enough to be an annoying mist in the air, never to actually reveal the sun, only to resume pouring within the next few minutes. We spent our entire time at Anantara just hoping for a glimpse of sunlight – which we received, still through clouds, for about 5 minutes on our last day. We were so happy, we got out our cameras to take pictures of the property in the sun and were just about to change into swimsuits when…you guessed it, a torrential downpour started back up, trapping us under the outdoor lounge area, just feet away from the entrance to our villa.
With that being said, I could not imagine a more pristine villa to be trapped in during a tropical depression than what we had at Anantara. From the deck alone, complete with a giant pool, outdoor jacuzzi and outdoor shower (who needs an outdoor shower when you can just step into the rain?), to the villa itself – featuring floor to ceiling glass windows with modern fixtures in the bedroom and bathroom, subtle Thai accents in the beautiful decor, and more – the accommodations were simply out of this world. This was hands-down my favorite accommodation of the entire trip and even tops my list of favorites that I’ve ever experienced. Now, I just need to go back in a month or so to enjoy it without the rain.
I was then able to spend 23 hours and 50 minutes in South Korea after our rainy escape to Thailand (this made possible by the 2:45 AM departure on Korean Air from Phuket – it’s important to note that I am not very pleasant to deal with when woken up at midnight to catch a flight). Once in Korea, where we experienced less intense rain than Thailand, but rain nonetheless (I haven’t seen the sun in a week), we enjoyed a warm welcome to the Conrad Seoul, a Virtuoso preview property that pulled out all the stops. Between the modern accommodations (I do love being able to control the curtains from a touch-screen on the nightstand), incredible on-property dining (while not typically a fan of buffets, Zest, their on-property buffet serving breakfast, lunch and dinner, is super clean, super modern, and super delicious), and fantastic service, this property definitely has what it takes to become a Virtuoso partner.
The day in Korea ended with a quick stop at the Noryangjin Fish Market. As noted in my post from Tokyo, the smell of one California roll is enough to make me squeamish, so an entire market full of fish and seafood, both dead and very much alive to the point of crabs trying to crawl out of their cages, was a challenge that did not disappoint. And by did not disappoint I mean I had a full-force breakdown from the sights and the smells.
With the understanding that this trip was about pushing me outside of my comfort zone with a new culture and exposing me to an entirely new travel style with the business class flights, I’d say it was a huge success.