OK! samples sun-kissed luxury in picture-perfect Phuket…
Phuket is a teardrop-shaped island lying just off the west coast of southern Thailand, surrounded by the azure-blue waters of the Andaman Sea. While the island's shore is dotted with sandy beaches for those who want to chill, the lush, tropical interior offers lots of outdoor challenges, such as 4x4 Jeep safaris and elephant expeditions for the adventure lover. For those who prefer shopping there's a myriad of opportunities, from western-style mega malls – the Plaza Surin and Central Festival in Phuket Town – to intoxicating food markets and bustling night bazaars selling knock-off designer handbags and DVDs. Most of all you're guaranteed a friendly welcome from the locals, who are keen to show off their island now that it's back on track after the tsunami.
When to go? The ideal time to visit is between November and March, when temperatures are in the late twenties. Each year, the three-day Phuket Carnival kicks off the tourist season on November 1. The rainy season runs from May to October, but even then the monsoonal rain comes in short, sharp bursts.
Cheryl Cole flew out to Phuket last year with her Girls Aloud bandmates Kimberley Walsh and Nicola Roberts, while island regular Kate Moss has holidayed here with both her current beau Jamie Hince and her old flame Pete Doherty. Celebrity chef Gordon Ramsay, his wife Tana and their kids enjoyed a two-week holiday at the Sri Panwa resort recently and loved it so much they said they'd found their second home. Sri Panwa (www.sripanwa.com) is set on a headland overlooking the Andaman Sea, with the hillside villas offering panoramic sea views. The villas feature their own infinity pool, villa butlers, iPods loaded with chill-out tunes and a complimentary mini-bar.
Where should i stay? OK! holidayed in style at the 277-room Indigo Pearl (www.indigo-pearl.com) on the island's north-west coast, just 40 minutes from the bright lights of Patong. Our two-storey suite, set in the hotel's tropical gardens, boasted a hot tub on the balcony and our very own steam room! If you can drag yourself away from the three pools and private beach, there are plenty of activities on offer. Turn yourself into a domestic goddess with a cookery class at Moo's Kitchen or unleash your inner Fatboy Slim by learning to DJ at the open-air Rebar lounge bar. There's a different selection of cuisine on offer at the Tin Mine buffet every night, but you mustn't leave without visiting Black Ginger, the hotel's fine dining restaurant. Housed in a traditional Thai building on stilts above a lake, with its super-cool all-black interior studded with cobalt-blue chandeliers, OK! feasted on a delectable massaman curry followed by fried bananas with toasted coconut ice cream.
SPAS TO DIE FOR
At Indigo Pearl's In-Di-Go spa, OK! enjoyed an aromatherapy massage in the hands of the experts and then tried to replicate it in our villa, which had a dedicated massage area complete with beds, disposable knickers and massage oil. We also headed to Sri Panwa for a traditional Thai massage at the Sai Spa. It involved lots of stretching and pulling, with the therapist even climbing on top of us to increase the stretch. It was an unusual experience, occasionally bordering on painful! Forget the whale music, the only sound here was the clicking of our joints as the therapist pulled them out of their sockets. But we did feel relaxed afterwards – and a good few inches taller.
We stuffed ourselves silly at Floyd's Brasserie, TV chef Keith Floyd's restaurant at Burasari in Patong. Sadly the man himself wasn't there, but his hat was hanging in the bar, along with a note assuring us he'd be back soon. Tables are set in a fairy-lit garden, while the food is prepared in a huge open kitchen. Jazz fans should head to Ratri Jazztaurant, overlooking the lovely Kata Beach, where you can enjoy dinner accompanied by the sounds of a band. If you like both Thai and Italian cuisine, dine at La Sala at Anantara, where you can enjoy a taste of both. First up, OK! ordered the roasted tomato soup followed by a Thai sweet and sour tofu. After dinner, we enjoyed a mango colada at the hotel's Tree House bar. A spiral staircase winds round an old banyan tree, leading to a chill-out lounge with cool music and oversized daybeds.
Chilled out luxury
Just 45 minutes by boat from Phuket are the idyllic Phi Phi islands, put on the map when Phi Phi Leh appeared as the backdrop to the hit film The Beach, starring Leonardo DiCaprio. The islands are favourites with backpackers, but OK! decided on an overnight stay at the rustic-chic Zeavola resort (www.zeavola.com) on Phi Phi Don, the largest of these car-free islands. We knew it was going to be VIP all the way when we were collected from Phuket and whisked to the five-star resort by speedboat. After we'd checked into our spacious villa and freshened up in the outdoor rain shower, we headed for the beach. Lying on a beanbag-covered lounger, sipping cocktails from a coconut and looking out at the clear blue sea, we couldn't help but think we'd arrived in paradise. By night, we enjoyed cocktails on the beach at Tacada before hiring a longtail boat for the half hour ride to Phi Phi Town. Once there, we tucked into dinner overlooking the harbour.
Source: OK Magazine