Thailand has long been recognised as the party destination of the East. And when one is not living it up here, there are plenty quick, activity-heavy indulgences, be it food trails, water sports, or retail therapy. However, there’s yet another side to this country that hasn’t gotten the due it deserves: Wellness. A vacation away from the noise of everyday life is something we all need once in a while, and an easily accessible destination is Phuket. There are more than a few reasons why one should move beyond the bars at Patong Beach and indulge in some serious unwinding on Thailand’s biggest island.
While yoga, clean eating, and meditation is certainly a part of wellness, these aren’t necessarily its only aspects. Simply taking a holiday that’s restful and slow is another way of channeling peace of mind. And a recent trip to Phuket revealed this. Landing on the island mid-day, I spent the first evening exploring the streets of Old Town. Lined with colourful old Sino-Portuguese homes featuring windows and doors with dragon faces, it’s a quaint space to soak in the city’s culture. Over time these houses have been converted into shops, hotels, and restaurants by the resident families, and they usually continue to live in a part of the building.
The Soi Rommanee square is particularly thriving, with new boutique hotels at every turn, shop-houses serving authentic Thai tea service (don’t miss the half-coffee half-tea drink – it’s much better than how it sounds), wok bowls, and thrifty faux jewellery and bags. There is quirky graffiti painted generously everywhere. I particularly liked the work of Patcharapol Tangruen aka Alex Face, Bangkok’s famous artist, who has painted a baby brooding about the future of the world (it is inspired by his daughter, who looked ‘worried’ the first time he saw her after birth).
A great way to conclude one (or all) of your evenings would be to head to Laem Phrom Thep, Phuket’s sunset point. It won’t disappoint with one of the most striking twilight scenes you are ever bound to witness – as the sun gets swallowed by the Andaman Sea, the sky turns all shades of purple, blue, orange, and pink, with lights from boats beneath adding a playful fairy-light-twinkling to it all.
A good way for me to cleanse my mind is to get moving, so zip lining at Flying Hanuman was ideal. The beginner-level lines make for easy trapezing through lush trees that leaves one refreshed. Continuing the theme, some mild snorkelling and island hopping to Koh Khai and Koh Rang Yai was exhilarating. The boat ride opens up to views of bewitching blue waters, and swimming in the sea makes for a relaxing activity with schools of multi-coloured fish scurrying past. When it comes to fueling up between all of this, I’d recommend PRU. The Michelin-starred restaurant at Trisara Resort has a mantra of ‘Plant. Raise. Understand.’, and brings wellness values to dining. Juxtaposing farm-to-fork and innovative cooking techniques, they pick natural ingredients, and each dish bursts with flavour, showcasing their commitment to the sustainable and organic movements. The Thai Wagyu beef, aged duck, and carrots cooked in their own soil are must-tries here.
If you are in the mood for traditional cuisine, go to Raya. Another one set up inside what was once a home, Raya is one of the oldest restaurants serving authentic Phuket-style food. The crab meat curry and braised pork belly can be your initiation to Thai dishes. Another eatery would be Big Bear – younger in its approach and with a waterfall in the premises, its vibe and surrounds make for a fun meal. From Pad Thai to oysters, you’ll find all kinds of local comfort food here. It goes without saying fruits like mangosteen, rambutan, and large coconuts can punctuate the trip throughout. On my last day, I indulged in some yoga by the beach and a spa treatment at Iniala Beach House, where I was staying – the most relaxing way to end a holiday.
Unrushed, with the ease to explore whatever catches your fancy whenever, is a luxury in itself, specially in this age of digital connectivity where no vacation is validated without bucket lists and their photographic evidence. Did I meditate? No. Did I abandon my smartphone? No. Regardless, did I return with a refreshed mind and body? Yes. So, if you’re like me and are happy to create the kind of wellness that works best for you, it’s time to put Phuket on your radar.