Dear reader, a warning: this review is not going to be a whirlwind of adventurous escapades or filled with non-stop activity; in fact, the next few pages are going to be about mostly doing nothing. If doing nothing, however, sounds ideal to you, I can recommend no better spot to do it in than Aleenta Phuket–Phang Nga.
By itself on a beautiful and completely empty stretch of coastline just north of Phuket, this inviting hotel places the accent firmly on privacy. There’s no central pool area, no buffet breakfasts – no need to mingle with anyone other than your very own Mr or Mrs Smith unless you want to. Aleenta has been designed so that, even if the hotel is full, you feel as though it’s your own special place.
And a bit of seclusion is what this stressed-out Mr and Mrs Smith were desperately in need of after a particularly long period of holiday- and sunshine-free time in our hectic working lives. From the moment we hopped into a smart van to our arrival at the resort, where we were greeted with chilled water and cold scented towels, we knew this would be the perfect place for the two of us to unwind and find some peace. A sunglasses-clad and sunblock-lathered Mr Smith immediately started looking around for the loungers.
First, though, we checked into our room. We were staying in a Beachfront suite – a freestanding villa that comprises one-third of what the resort terms its ‘residences’. The other two suites weren’t occupied, however, so Mr Smith and I had both the private pool and the spacious communal living area, with its comfy day-beds and huge flatscreen TV, entirely to ourselves. We spent the next half an hour poking around our suite (might as well get the hard work out of the way before we do absolutely nothing for the next 48 hours). Two and a half of the four walls are made entirely of glass, and retract fully to provide instant access to a private beach-facing deck at the front and the secluded pool to the side. Glass is also a feature of the spacious bathroom-cum-dressing room, with enormous windows that allow the sun to bathe the room in glorious orange light. Clever planting outside ensures our modesty is protected at all times. Thank goodness.
The clean, contemporary style of the room certainly appeals to this Mrs Smith (known to everyone in her office – hopefully with affection – as ‘the neat freak’). Despite all the transparence and white surfaces, the light wood and natural tones keeps the space from feeling too chilly – Aleenta Phuket–Phang Nga definitely avoids the can’t-find-the-door-to-the-bathroom brand of minimalism – and beautifully concealed lighting emphasises the balance of the decor. Despite all the out-and-out luxury, there’s also absolutely nothing ostentatious, OTT or ‘gold taps’ about it all, which sets it apart from plenty of other resorts and hotels in this part of the world.
Though there’s a turtle sanctuary, national parks and other such adventures an easy drive away, I’m ashamed to admit we didn’t leave the resort. Not once. We lazed by our pool during the day and, on the occasion it got cool enough in the late afternoon, we wandered up the beach with our feet in the surf. In the evenings, we drank Singha beer and played Jenga (borrowed from the small library) on our deck. We were spectacularly slothful. The closest we got to ‘frenetic’ was booking a massage and a yoga lesson in the same phone call.
There are a few local seaside restaurants close to Aleenta that you can head out to for a meal, but there’s no need to wander off piste. The hotel’s stylish Restaurant offered a small but perfectly formed menu of Thai, international and well-being focussed food, prepared beautifully by a French chef who was happy to adapt dishes for my fussy vegetarian Mr Smith. He still talks about the handmade spring rolls he devoured on two consecutive nights. We lingered over the wine list and chatted to the lovely staff, all happy to practise their English (Aleenta makes a point of hiring local people, and the resort hosts daily language classes).
Hotel workers have the power to turn a good holiday into a great memory, and the people who brought our drinks, turned down our beds and flapped napkins over our knees at Aleenta were unfailingly accommodating and helpful. The resort claims its staff can guess your future needs. They’re not wrong. On arrival, I found myself fretting in that very British way – ie, getting worked up but not daring to complain – about the lack of sun-beds beside our pool. A few minutes later, I looked through our window to see that two panels, complete with towels and cushions, on the deck have been ingeniously lifted to create lounging pads in which Mr Smith and I can stretch out. Amazing: they’d managed to anticipate our plans for our entire stay...