Driving along the highway, my mind is trying to reconfigure memories like a jigsaw puzzle. It has been eight long years since my last visit to Phuket. The things I remember? A narrow road, a long deserted coastline with dark rubber-tree forests set back from the beach. A sea the colour of emeralds. The hot and sour flavours of kang som, a local version of bouillabaisse. I have to confess that I was afraid all this may have changed in the intervening time.
Already, as Mrs Smith and I cruise towards our destination – it has been almost a decade since I was last in this part of Thailand, but it’s also five years since we married, so this is like a second honeymoon – there is cause for concern. The highway has grown more lanes with more cars travelling along them and far fewer trees at its edge. Sadly, it seems, the enemies of nature and solitude have already taken their toll.
Off the main road though, there are hopeful signs. Beautiful Nai Thorn beach is quiet and gentle waves roll in from the ultra-green sea to the sand. Past the beach, I direct the car up a steep, narrow road where we find the gates of Trisara. At reception, we’re welcomed by a sea breeze and a 180-degree view of the ocean. Really, it wouldn’t take much more than this to make me happy. However, Elle, one of the managers, has prepared chilled jasmine-scented towels and two glasses of cold honey-ginger tea – she explains it’s good for settling stomachs after the long, winding drive. Then she places a gorgeous garland of flowers around a delighted Mrs Smith’s wrist. I get the feeling that at Trisara there will be impressive attention to detail and warm hospitality.
For the next two nights, our home will be a spacious Ocean View Pool Villa. It’s very contemporary Thai, with teak floors and an enormous king-size bed dominating the bedroom. The bathroom makes my jaw drop – his ‘n’ hers vanities, a bath big enough for the both of us and a rain shower (there’s another sexy one outside, as well). But my favourite feature is the private infinity pool overlooking the ocean. During our stay here, I can see myself and Mrs Smith languidly floating between long stretches of reclining on the poolside sunloungers.
While Mrs Smith makes herself a cup of tea and satisfies her sweet tooth with some crunchy cookies and home-made dark chocolate truffles, Elle shows me all the villa’s facilities. I flick through the channels on the flatscreen TV and pop my iPod in the dock. This is some place.
Keen to start exploring, we call the concierge to send a buggy and take us to Trisara’s private beach. As if by magic, two beach boys are already arranging sunloungers and covering them with white beach towels when we arrive. By this time, it’s approaching 6pm and the sun is about to set. It couldn’t be more romantic. We walk hand in hand along the sand to the jetty, and it’s as if we’ve turned back the clock to when we first met.
The following afternoon, after a lazy morning in the villa – French toast with red berries and eggs, bacon, sausages, tomatoes and hash browns served promptly at 8am, followed by plenty of lolling by the pool – we decide to go snorkelling in the resort’s private bay (no jet skis, thank goodness). By the floating jetty we feed what seems like thousands of friendly fish in a technicolor underwater world.
Have I mentioned that I’m a chef? So far, both Mrs Smith and I have been greatly impressed with Trisara’s cuisine. There’s been nothing too elaborate – although Phuket lobster club sandwiches by the beach did feel quite posh – but flavours and presentation have proved sensational.
It all adds up to high hopes for what will be our anniversary dinner. We’ve arranged to dine on a deck by the beach under the moon, with just the lapping waves and chirruping crickets as a soundtrack. That alone would have been special enough, but dinner was perfect. I chose to go native – fresh spring rolls and sweet pork with rice and Thai-style salsa – while Mrs Smith decided on a trio of fish tartare and duck egg carbonara. For me, the combination of spice, acid and sweetness was spot-on, and the selections from the Western menu were creative, elegantly displayed and well balanced.
All too soon, our visit was at an end. Much to our disappointment we hadn’t managed to fit in a proper trip to the spa, although Elle did walk us up there on our arrival and the ocean views are absolutely sublime. Throughout the resort, nothing was overlooked – the decor is subtle and well executed, and the service was incredibly thoughtful right until our last minute. Surprisingly, I found out what ‘trisara’ means without having to ask anyone – the word is Thai for ‘three heavens’. Mrs Smith and I definitely found ours in the surroundings, the people and the cuisine. We were truly in three heavens, right here on earth.