HOTEL STORY | THAILAND | LUXURY TRAVELLING
There’s something about being on an island that always exudes a real sense of serenity. Being cut off from the mainland, accessible only by boat, surrounded by water and the lovely chirps of the wild birds, the drama of the tides, high and low, the glowing and shimmering sun portraying natural shadow shows and so on. This is a life lived slowly, a great time to appreciate small things, to reflect, to ponder and to gather some thoughts, which, for me, means a good opportunity to incubate some good new ideas on which my works pretty much rely on.:D
Our recent trip to Phuket brought us to the island of Naka which is about 10 mins boat ride from Ao Po Marina. Managed by Starwood, The Naka Island resort is one of the three hotels in Thailand included in their exclusive ‘Luxury Collection,’ meaning this place has enough unique qualities to be categorized into that zone. This is our second time visiting this place; before when it was still a part of Six Senses, a spa destination with somewhat strict health regimens and activities. Now that the resort is managed by the worldwide hotelier, the atmosphere here has somewhat been transformed into a more generic and relaxed luxury resort with no strict diet, but still with some organic ingredients here and there to please concerning guests looking for some healthy options.
We checked into one of their spacious sea-view pool villas that comes with three main areas. First, there’s the swimming pool overlooking the gorgeous Phang Nha’s ‘forest’ of limestone islands, an outdoor roofed sala nestled among big trees and chaise lounges to sunbathe. I can practically live here all day, reading, sleeping and doing just about nothing. There’s no place better than under a big tree if you talk about ozone-treated facility and all.
Then, there’s the spacious and air-conditioned bedroom with a breathtaking view of the sea, an enclosed garden that separates the bedroom and the dressing, bathroom and shower area that has a direct access out to the pool. The shower also doubles as a steam room which I love. There are also an outdoor shower and a bathtub where you can even turn up the shades and then, there’s the same view of sea you have been enjoying all the time at this place.
But then, there’re also all the modern facilities and amenities you’d expect from a luxury resort, i.e. an iPod dock with speakers, flat-screen TV with cable channels, DVD player, coffee maker, and a mini bar. And if you wish to reside your days here solely inside your villa, you can practically do so and order in their villa-service.
But why would you want to stay in when there’re plenty to see in and outside the premises of the resort. The Naka is a small island entirely populated by Thai muslims. Outside the resort are fisherman village, beach, school, mosque and lush and pristine mangrove forests. You can walk, or bike around to explore the local charms. Or, if you are a type-A who likes to self-challenge, you can choose to be on a kayak, paddlibg yourself around the island and explore things from the sea. By the resort’s expert estimation, it takes about 2 hours give or take, depending on the wind and tide. One advise, though, is that you’d better decide whether to go and do it by the morning when the tides are still up. When the tides are down by late morning, the island’s circumference will become much larger and that means much more excruciating time to get around it.
The resort even prepares a certificate to those achieving a full-circle kayaking. Just consult your host if you are interested in this activity. 😀
But for us, walking and observing the nature at the resort was enough a fun time. It was raining when we were there and the unpaved road into the village has become way too messy. We found the resort’s beautiful landscaping got somehow wilder than the last time we were there (rainy season and all), and their spa a bit quieter which might be good for those wishing to make a peaceful retreat into a beautiful place. There’re quite a numbers of sacred trees on this premises. The beachfront giant fig tree enshrines a sacred spirit with colourful clothes tied around its gigantic trunk as the symbol of respect. Inside the spa, there’s also another ancient and adorned tree just like that. That one was a banyan tree with a tall sole spear of toddy palm shot up in the middle of its multiple trunk, making it an awesome sight with whining sound when the palm tree sways back and forth wayward with the wind.
The Naka Island has two main restaurants. Their all-day dining is Tonsai that serves hearty lines of breakfast buffet and hot items you can order as much as you like. We liked most of their hot items (everything that we had the stomach to try), especially their poached egg on toasted brioche, smoked chicken (no ham or pork sausages here as a respect to the local Muslims), their homemade seafood sausages served with corn relish and their lovely buckwheat pancakes served with wild flower organic honey, berry reduction, and a hint of citrus and cinnamon. All lovely and fulfilling.
I also love their cold cut and salad corner, as well as their fresh fruit corner that serves fresh whole young coconuts along with many other fresh fruits such as passion fruit, rambutan, mangosteen, mango, papaya and much much more. They also make their own bread and pastries, hence a good selection of both (including non-gluten bread, rye bread and all). Local favourites such as stir-fried noodles with seafood or vegetarian can also be ordered along with sparkling wines, juices and gourmet coffees and tea.
For lunch, you can choose from their big Thai menu. But if you just indulged in such a big breakfast just like we did, then lunch might become a good and convenient break before a big and sumptuous dinner. we both agreed on the simple and very delicious classic Thai one-plate lunch of pad krapraw gai kai dao (stir-fried minced chicken with holy basil and lots of chillies and garlic, served with a sunny-side-up egg on steamed rice). Simple, holistic and tasty. ^^
They even does an edible basket to hold the basil chicken. A good way to glorify this simple homey and street-food dish that has been a favourite for Thais from all walks of life.
But dinnertime here can also be special and romantic. If the weather is nice and you like sitting outdoor, you might want to reserve a sunken table overlooking the sea with the shimmering dusk providing a gorgeous backdrop. The My Grill restaurant serves, of course, grilled items from seafood to steaks of all kinds. Being by the sea, nothing beats a platter of local seafood of Phuket lobster, squid, prawns and fish, grilled to a succulent form and served with Thai and western style dips (garlicky mayo) along with a good basket of french fries and salad. A lovely treat.
Rainy season can be a good time to travel to Phuket. Many resorts are now giving discounts and being a Starwood resort, the Naka Island offers various tempting deal for their members. For example, SPG members get to collect points staying here and get discounts on all food outlets. There are also special deal packages that include a roundtrip transfers from the airport and boat shuttle to the resort, too. Just check for the details at The Naka Island’s website.