Life is better when you can see a gigantic turquoise ocean through your window. Which, of course, means that life must be at its absolute best when you’re staying at Sri Panwa Phuket. Like a small town carved seamlessly into the lush greenery and pristine cliffside of Cape Panwa, the resort is your own private estate overlooking the immense sapphire-green Andaman sea.
There are a few givens to look forward to when staying at mega-resorts in world-famous beach destinations: stunning sea views, private pools, faultless service. And Sri Panwa started all of them. As one of the original luxury beach resorts in Thailand (a country now renowned for our collection of phenomenal hospitality), Sri Panwa has long transcended these usual expectations, becoming a legendary experience of its own.
Setting the scene
A labyrinthine world of its own, Sri Panwa is perched atop spectacular cliffs and integrates its state-of-the-art architecture and design with the wonders of its natural surroundings. All the usual sights of cars and overhead power lines have vanished without a trace. This maze of honey-toned luxury wooden villas, multiple swimming pools, and friendly staff (who never fail to smile and greet you) is your private playground – and you’ll have plenty to play with here.
Expect floor-to-ceiling sliding windows, an in-room iPod with already-made playlists for any mood, a smeg refrigerator complete with complimentary ice lollies, and last but not least – a jaw-dropping view. Decorated with tasteful camel-coloured woods and minimalist beige furniture, the rooms are naturally bright and spotlessly clean. Wrap yourselves up in the soft pink linen bathrobes and put your feet up while listening to some soft Bossa Nova.
Well, there are a few to choose from. Obviously you have your private in-villa pool, and then there’s the beach pool too. But it would be hard to miss out on the resort’s main two-floor swimming pool, which is separated by a towering waterfall. Surprisingly large (approx. 50m) to keep the fitness fanatics happy, it’s also surrounded by hidden lounge chairs spread out in private groves of lush greenery.
If there’s one thing to warn you about Sri Panwa, it’s that this is no place for weight watchers. With food as their core passion, the resort is a culinary world unto itself. The perfect lunch starts at Baba Hot Box, a casual grill serving poolside classics which sound basic but are anything but. The cheeseburgers are cooked to perfect pink juiciness with a shiny brioche bun sealing it off. The fries are golden, the grilled prawns come with a smoky succulence. Steak sandwiches, grilled baby chicken, and a dizzying range of delicious dipping sauces.
For dinner, you’re spoilt for choice: you could opt for an Omakase dinner at Iki, the famed Japanese restaurant, or sink deep into traditional Thai comforts at Baba Soul Food. We went for their Chinese menu at Baba Chino, which had all the dim sum favourites spinning around the table along with steamed fish, oyster sauce abalone, and simply the best fried Gui Chai.
Breakfast is taken at the Pool Club bar, either outdoors overlooking the infinite blue ocean or in the quaint glasshouse eatery. There’s a mind-boggling feast at the buffet, offering everything from Kanom Jeen to Bircher Muesli to Khao Tom Mat (heavenly coconut sticky rice steamed in banana leaves with banana filling). You could try them all – but leave room for their made-to-order banana and chocolate pancakes. Don’t worry, you’ll soon realise at Sri Panwa that life’s way too short for diets. When food is this good, the only thing to do is enjoy it.
But if you are looking to get a bit of activity during your stay, you’d find no trouble doing so. You could lace up and run down to the resort’s tennis courts or the boxing ring, or strip down and take to the oceans with a snorkel. From morning yoga (with a wide view of the ocean, naturally) to paddle boarding and spa treatments – Sri Panwa pampers both your mind and body.
Not to be missed
Be sure to thumb a lift from the roving golf carts and get yourself to Baba Nest – the rooftop bar that’s been voted one of the best in the world. “Drinks with a view” is an understatement here. Sri Panwa’s rooftop bar features only a few small tables in the centre of the surrounding infinity pool, but everybody gets the big scenic blanket of endless blue seas and orange skies. Sink into one of the comfy bean bag seats, order a casually spectacular cocktail, nibble on some classic Thai boiled peanuts, and just breathe in the sunset dreamscape.
Being high up on the mountains and deeply immersed in natural wildlife means the resort can sometimes be known to get the occasional power cut. These are rare and don’t normally affect the whole resort. But, if your electricity does suddenly cut off, you’re invited over to the Pool Club to enjoy complimentary drinks while you wait for the lights to come back on again. One of the best ways to judge a hotel is by what they do in a crisis, and the staff at Sri Panwa passed with flying colours.
Sure, there are lots of other big-name retreats in Phuket – with more popping up every year. But Sri Panwa’s time-tested magnetism is really about its majestic landscape and the way it makes you feel to be a part of it. This is a place where you can really lose yourself, the ultimate getaway. It’s a place where time moves differently; where you forget what a car looks or sounds like because there are none to be seen here; where you can’t be sure whether you’re in a dream or reality. Not many other places in the world can offer such incredible views from a perspective few people have reached before. Yes, the service here treats you like royalty – but it’s the humbling intensity of the landscape and your private little position in it the that makes your experience at Sri Panwa truly special.