You don’t ask a lady her age, the same way you wouldn’t ask or assume of Amanpuri its age.
But if we’re whispering between vines, the legendary first-ever Aman property in the world is turning an impressive 32 years this year. Having lived through a pandemic, global recognition and admiration, and the company of some of the world’s most prolific personalities, we recently checked in to the luxury resort in Phuket, and came to find that its age really is just a number. And now more than ever, it is entire peace of mind to visit this hideout that really knows what it is doing.
Amanpuri comes to shine in 2020 in a way that is more relevant now than before. Its villas and pavilions have always been spacious and secluded, long before “social distancing” became the It-Word of the Season. Dining was always an intimate affair. Wonderfully scented towelettes enchanted its guests in a world far away from your regular sanitiser.
Amanpuri didn’t have to make a lot of ‘changes’ in a post-COVID world, but rather continues very comfortably in what it has always been the best at: raw luxury.
As we gear more towards vacations and staycations that place a greater spotlight on privacy, as well as physical and mental well-being, Amanpuri proves that it is a trustworthy choice for the discerning traveller. Read on and find out why.
[All images courtesy of Aman Hotels & Resorts]
Tucked away on its own private peninsula on the west coast of Phuket, Amanpuri lies on a stretch of Pansea Beach, overlooking the Andaman Sea. It is an approximate 30-minute ride from the airport, with a very secluded Beverly Hills vibe as you enter the premises. Beverly Hills here is a two-point comparison: you’re in a gorgeous, hidden location, and you’re also very likely surrounded by big names without even realising it.
Sense of arrival is impressive here, as the sprawling black tile pool (so often photographed, but also so photo-worthy), stretches out to the sea in front of you from the lobby. Black tiles are a signature of the Aman brand, and also of its leading architect, the late Ed Tuttle.
Villas and Pavilions
You have to take a moment to geek out and swoon a little over Ed Tuttle. Amanpuri is an architectural beauty. The classic Thai structures that make up the resort blend beautifully into the natural surroundings, and the dedication to space — no matter what villa type — is impressive. Designed to echo the Buddhist architecture of ancient Ayutthaya, there is something about Amanpuri that feels very Thai — and timelessly so.
We noticed this from the moment we were shown to the villa. A large outdoor sala belongs to you entirely, with a beautiful view of that immaculate beach just below. To date, it is probably the best spot we’ve ever had to answer a work email.
Indoors — and now this is a real marker of opulence — the bathroom in the one-bedroom pavilion takes up more than half the space. This is no exaggeration. At the centre sits a bouquet of white orchids that are dramatically lit by iPad-controlled lights, and the TV is hidden behind a wooden sliding door. You won’t really need the TV. It’s there if you do, but we reiterate: you won’t really need the TV.
The feeling of spaciousness is a running theme at Amanpuri. Even in the “smallest” pavilion on the property, there is ample room to move around, from the deeply ‘gram-worthy bathtub to the outdoor lounging areas. All in all, there are 40 standalone guest pavilions, and 40 private multi-bedroom villas, tucked between pockets of pink bougainvillea and greenery. At times, we felt like the only guests there (which was false), and this really speaks to the intimacy and clever structuring of the premise.
Amanpuri has something slightly intimidating about it, though. In many ways, this is because you formerly could not even visit the resort’s dining outlets if you weren’t staying there. Only in-house guests were permitted to eat at the restaurants, making dinners and lunches at Amanpuri rarely a crowded affair. With this rule beginning to shift, it is still nowhere near crowded, but it’s nice to know that locals can now also come by for a meal — especially because the food here is really worth a dinner date or seven.
Amanpuri’s dining outlets span Thai, Italian, Mediterranean, and Japanese cuisines, as well as especially healthy menus for those on wellness immersions. Each restaurant carries the same no-fuss design ethos. A social experiment you can try on yourself: up until someone points it out, you will not notice that there is actually no decor at the restaurants. Most of them are entirely outdoors. There is nothing that screams “luxury” or “fine dining” in its traditional sense (bar the impressive Magnum Room of cigars, whiskeys, and wines). And yet, when you’re here, you feel as if you’re in a starred establishment.
How do they do it? Honest, authentic food that is true to its quality ingredients, and conjures many a brilliant conversation. We still swoon about the goong sarong shrimp and tamarind prawns at Thai restaurant Bua Bok, and the focaccia at Arva especially. Unmatched is also the view from the beach restaurant, reminiscent of Southern Europe and the kind of feel where your lunch is the fresh catch of the day, and the sun moves from its highest point to its lowest as you bond over coconut juice and cocktails, and maybe a ginger sorbet to suit.
Dishes from all restaurants are also available for in-villa dining, which is a rare but fantastic feat if you’d rather the privacy of your own company.
Beyond story and design, Amanpuri is best known as a wellness sanctuary.
The main spa features 12 treatment rooms, hydrotherapy areas, traditional saunas, infrared saunas, and a jacuzzi and plunge pool. Since early last year, there is also a Holistic Wellness Centre catering to multi-day medical wellness immersion programmes. These feel as relevant now more than ever before, between detox and immunity-boosting programmes and IV drips, over to a very snazzy 3D body scanner.
The glass-walled gym overlooking the shore is a real stunner providing much motivation to work out, between a pilates studio and a Muay Thai boxing ring, as well as yoga pavilions. Something about engaging in a mindfulness meditation in one of these pavilions is really magical — especially during the rainy season.
Activities & Experiences
Despite Amanpuri being a place of relaxation, do not substitute ‘tranquility’ with ‘boredom’ here. There is a lot to get up to, regardless of whether you fall into Team Beach Bum or the Adventurous Sport crew.
Beyond the regulars of cooking classes, island explorations, or golf, we love that Amanpuri offers a range of activities that go beyond the usual, ranging all the way from paddle boards and sea bobs to schiller bikes and sit-down or stand-up (!) jet skis. There’s also an Eco Discovery Centre where young ones can learn about Thai culture, craft, and resident wildlife, as well as a skateboard halfpipe (yup) to practice your flips. Very in keeping with the times, head to the Digital Room if you’re one for vlogs, and you’ll find GoPros readily available as well as software for editing footage. Content curators ourselves, we give this feature an extra five likes.
Speaking of likes, design lovers need to make it a point to check out the newly-unveiled boutique. Located opposite a small museum cum art gallery, the retail pavilion was designed by the renowned Kengo Kuma and adds a distinct yet harmonious element to the property. Here you’ll find a selection of items to take back and remember your visit by, such as swimwear inspired by each Aman property across the globe. This isn’t marked on any label or branding, but insiders and fans (they call themselves Aman ‘junkies’, cheekily enough) will know.
The endearing ‘Aman junkies’ nickname makes us chuckle in many ways, and semantics aside, underpins a good point.
On our last day, we planted coconut trees in the garden, noting our names and the date on a wooden board. It’s a really beautiful and meaningful activity, but also a charming means to lure you back — not even really to Phuket, but to Amanpuri itself.
You don’t visit Amanpuri to visit Phuket. You visit Amanpuri to visit Amanpuri. This is something we realised an oil massage and a turmeric juice deep into our stay. In a wildly competitive (and undeniably also struggling) hospitality industry, this is a really special attribute. The resort gets a lot of things right, and it always feels effortless. Raw luxury comes naturally to Amanpuri, which makes for massive sweet comfort especially during these peculiar times.
Our headline was halfway a prod and a nod at these times, but we’ll still hold it true. At Amanpuri, it’s hard to be sad — even when it rains, even with whatever worry of the outside world. Amanpuri: place of peace.
Amanpuri is now offering a special Andaman Escape Package exclusively to residents of Thailand. It includes daily breakfast and private return transfers for stays from a minimum of two nights. There are also special reductions on spa experiences and dining. Moreover, the Aman brand has very recently also launched gift cards, so if you want to show someone a little TLC, check it out at this link.
Amanpuri, Pansea Beach, Phuket, +66 76 324 333.