Mrs Smith and I are jetting off to a destination wedding in Thailand – not our own, mind – so a little holiday on the side at boutique retreat Indigo Pearl seems de rigueur. Besides, I muse, when has a wedding in Phuket ever not been a gorgeous sun-drenched affair?
Our first hint of Indigo Pearl’s personal service comes as we step off our aircraft into the Phuket terminal to find a representative from the hotel’s VIP fasttrack arrivals squad there to meet us. Ushered quickly through immigration, our bags are collected by a porter before we are escorted to a waiting vehicle, mindful of curious stares as we skip the many queues.
A short ride later, we’re greeted by the Indigo Pearl team at the hotel entrance and switch to a golf buggy. Check-ins for the villas are carried out in-room, allowing you to slip in undetected. Oddly, each villa has an imposing look to it: tall concrete walls with an iron gate and an intercom for maximum privacy. It feels like we’ve discovered a separate resort within a resort.
Ushered into our One-bedroom Private Pool Villa, we realize that our paradisical pad is in fact not singular, but plural: one villa for entertaining and another for sleeping. Imagine two beautiful homes for different times of the day and you're halfway there. We’re given an elaborate explanation of the electronic security system, which allows you to permit or bar people from entry via TV screens placed throughout the grounds. It’s the kind of high-tech sanctuary that would be a hit with visiting Hollywood royalty, although I’m not sure I’ll be indulging my inner security geek when there’s a balmy beach nearby.
Our villa is stunning and super-chic, with grey concrete floors that remind us of a bar in New York’s Meatpacking District that Carrie and the Sex and the City girls might have frolicked in (in the original TV series – not the horrendous films, natch). Occasional odd angles break up what might otherwise be a plain floor plan, and the private pool features funky racing lines along its floor.
As we primp and preen, Mrs Smith finds trouble in paradise (or rather in the stylish but compact bathroom). 'This is not a female-friendly resort,' she sniffs. 'So much sunlight and not a spot where I can sit and do my make-up in natural light.' I’m waving my arms incredulously at how I can't get away from the sunshine and space, when she adds, 'and why is there no full-length mirror?' Maybe I’ve actually come on holiday with Carrie Bradshaw by mistake!
Our friends’ wedding beckons, so we head out to their hotel, where the ceremony is set on a private beach at sunset. It’s romantic, but roaringly hot (cue much sweating from guests trussed up in jackets and ties). A buffet dinner is followed by the lighting of floating wish lanterns and then about half the wedding party strips off to their undies to swim in the ocean. By midnight the bash gets shut down, but we hear later that the bride and groom stayed up all night and swam out to a diving platform at dawn to lie out and watch the sunrise.
Heads aching, we wake up back at Indigo Pearl, but ordering a scrumptious Thai brunch on room service definitely lifts our spirits. We eventually emerge for a swim, but as we peer into the hotel’s three pools, I voice out loud what we’re both thinking, ‘Thank god for the villa.’ The luxe pools have their charms, such as a wet bar and waterfalls, but when we visit all three are chock-full of guests propping up the bar, downing daiquiris and shots – before noon.
It’s hotting up, but the staff immediately come to our rescue in a buggy and whisk us off to the private beach club. After a cooling dip in the ocean, which is tranquil apart from the jumbo jets climbing steeply off the shoreline, we sit down to lunch at beachside Côtémar. The pizza and calamari are OK but aren’t piping hot, perhaps because the kitchen is quite a way off. Mrs Smith is underwhelmed by her hot dog, too, as it isn’t house-made, but it works on our hangovers with gusto.
Jet skis, Hobie cats, scuba diving and other distractions await on Nai Yang Beach, but I'm content with a good book on a sun-bed and the faint smell of coconut in my hair. The water is clear and calm, the occasional raspy sputter of a long-tail boat the only disturbance.
Alas, there is no buggy to magic us back to our villa, but it gives us a chance to explore the spacious resort. Monolithic structures break up the larger grassy areas and the edgy, striking aesthetic continues in the restaurants and reception. We love the fantastically designed Tongkah Tin Syndicate, which successfully blends Phuket junkyard chic with sports bar escape: pool table plus a billiards table, large-screen TVs and a boules court outside. As we sip on a cocktail, refreshed by elegant individual canvas fans wafting in unison, the bar reminds me of the whimsical airship from the movie Stardust.
Spa pampering is our next healing pit stop, and I opt for an Indian head massage in the treatment room of our villa. A 30 per cent surcharge for in-room therapies raises an eyebrow, but it's not often one has the luxury of cocooning oneself away so happily in a bubble.
Dinner at Black Ginger is a must, set on a lagoon and reached via an enchanting rope-pulled boat ride. We settle back in the glossy-black, modern interior (there are also seductive tables out on the deck) and enjoy innovative Thai food that beats many a five-star restaurant I’ve sampled. Service is attentive, if not overly slick, and the fire torches dotting the grounds get us musing about what a gorgeous backdrop it would make for a wedding.
Before we can start planning another destination nuptials it’s the next morning and we’re packing to leave. This is when the sheer size of the villa may prove problematic as you race through the rooms trying to locate swimsuits and souvenirs you’ve absent-mindedly left lying about. A quick phone call to our personal butler would probably get the job done much faster – provided I can remember how to let him in through security…