Aman is to tourism what Bottega Veneta is to fashion. Discrete luxury. Non-ostentatious but exceptional, with an insane attention to detail.
A glass of iced water appears as I arrive at a tanning lounger. Upon returning to my pavilion, I find a drawn warm bath with a scattering of white lotus blooms, surrounded by candles. Like Santa's elves, the hospitality team works quietly, always a step ahead of me.
The first ever Aman built is Amanpuri, the one that set the tone for the rest of the discrete Amans around the world. Phuket's Aman turns 30 next year, and it was the brainchild of illustrious Singapore-Indonesian hotelier, Adrian Zecha.
Amanpuri marries tradition and technology like no other. The façade, inspired by traditional Thai temples, goes hand-in-hand with the resort’s soothing soundtrack of indigenous instruments played throughout the resort, and poetically by live musicians in the evenings.
Yet its modernity shines: The gym is equipped with the latest (during my Pilates reformer session, I was told that this is only class in Phuket which incorporates the Oov contraption, which works by activating the user's core stabilising muscles), the toilets are decked out with Japanese washlets and the nightly screenings of movie classics is with a top-of-the-line home theatre projector encased in box that resembles a vintage movie projector.
After a two-hour flight and an easy 30-minute drive from the Phuket airport, we turned into an unassuming yet grand reception with a roof that is reminiscent of a traditional Thai temple. No signs, no logos.
I immediately noticed the vastness of space: The large lobby had minimalist furniture against its classical exterior which emphasises its pure size. It was completely empty of guests except for a row of staffers, including general manager Paul Linder and wellness immersion manager Graham Rowe bearing warmest welcomes and jasmine flower wrist garlands.
Beyond the lobby: A jaw-dropping view of the Pansea Beach steps down from the pool, surrounded by coconut trees. The resort was built on a coconut plantation in 1988, which makes it a grand 30 years old next year.
It’s hard to believe that this villa turns 30 next year, with the 77-acre property looking so well-maintained. To keep everything in tip-top shape, they've closed for the entire month of June every year for the past seven for renovations.
There are 40 pavilions and 30 villas on the property that are built on a cliff and overlooks the pristine Pansea Beach. Pavilions are situated near the lobby or restaurants, and have an outdoor lounging sala. Ask for one with an oceanview (we were in 103), and you get the view of the glorious sunset.
The spacious villas house between two to nine bedrooms, and have a kitchen, study, air-conditioned dining/living room with a magnificent view, pool(s) and staff on standby 24/7. There are two different types of villas: the traditional ones were built when the Amanpuri first opened, as well as modern ones when they extended their offerings that come complete with elevators.
It struck me how quiet Amans can be when they’re running full—you always feel like the only guest around.
Aman Wellness may have launched last year quietly, but they are serious on perfecting this offering.
Ex-Chiva Som general manager Linder works with wellness immersion manager Rowe, a trained naturopath, to oversee the initiative while the Aman group searches to fill the wellness director role, full-time. On top of the pre-trip questionnaire I completed, we go through a comprehensive 90-min consultation to fine-tune my programme.
As the entire schedule is customised, the wellness programme can only take up to eight people at a go. In my schedule I’m booked for sessions with pilates instructor James Jackson, yoga master Bao, and ex- Buddhist monk and meditation expert Anamai Apaiso. to help get my fitness regime started and put me in destress mode.
I’m surprised that I get enough leisure time to take naps, lounge by the pool and even get compulsory massages to end the day. Good to know: No detoxing or colon cleansing in this place, ever.
There are heaps of options available and reservations are not necessary. During high season (from November), all seven dining areas will be open, including Nama which serves up Japanese cuisine.
But who can stay away from Thai food when you’re in Phuket? You'll find all your local favourites here—we couldn't resist the absolutely tantalizing Thai beef salad—created with well-sourced, mostly-organic ingredients.
If you’re on the wellness immersion programme, the wellness director will work with the chef to prepare your meals, but don’t worry about small portions or cardboard food. The meals were delicate, delicious and it never felt like we were on a diet. In fact, we’re still craving the lime-spiked gazpacho.
P.S.: We loved that you never have to sign a bill...
From 4.30pm-5.30pm daily, there is afternoon tea by the main pool. Under a sala, find freshly-made khanom khrok (traditional coconut-rice pancakes), cakes and a giant platter of fruits. It's hard to go hungry in this place, but there's no guilt involved because you get to work off the calories in the fully-equipped duplex gym with a panoramic view of the Andaman Sea.
Though we enjoyed the sound of the waves lulling us to sleep every night, thanks to our ocean-facing pavilion, the sea was too choppy for activities when we visited in July. If you’re planning to do watersports, book between November/December to April. We hear regulars head back to Amanpuri every Christmas and New Year, so if you’re planning to celebrate there, book ahead.