INTRODUCTION TO AMANPURI
This is where it all started for the legendary Aman brand back in 1988 with the opening of Amanpuri, a portmonteau of Sanskrit and Thai words aptly meaning ‘place of peace’. A year prior, Adrian Zecha had found the perfect spot of paradise within a coconut grove just off Pansea Beach in Phuket, back then much more renowned for being unspoilt. A series of pavilions and private residence villas were built to cascade gently down the slopes towards the picture perfect stretch of Pansea Beach, in perfect harmony with its surrounds. A service standard was established (and many would argue never bettered), before more Amans cropped up worldwide.
In context of today’s Phuket – overdeveloped, chaotic, somewhat sterile and lacking in identity – Amanpuri is still one of the last pockets of seclusion, almost ensconced in its own little time bubble, taking you back to just about 30 years back when Phuket was still pristine.
Date of visits: April 2016, September 2017
Reviewed by: Chinmoy Lad
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WHAT WE LOVED
- Location. We touched upon this in the introduction, but it’s really the ideal Phuket location, even 30 years on. As Phuket has rapidly developed, the resort’s location in Surin is ideal for exploring not only Phuket, but also beyond with the multitude of picturesque islands in the vicinity. And yet, its location in a shaded coconut grove remains a peaceful haven.
- Service. Led by the most hospitable team of Paul Linder and Aman veteran Harish Nair, Amanpuri’s service is top notch under the watchful duo.
- Design. This is Ed Tuttle’s original Aman masterpiece. It’s tough to say what his magnum opus would be – contenders include Amanzoe, Amankila, Amanjiwo and Amanbagh – but this is where it all started, and in Amankila, certainly, you can see the original influences with the elevated walkways borrowed from Amanpuri. The design brings a modern, contemporary take on Ayutthaya and Khmer architecture, and it’s absolutely timeless. Framed around the centre with the long black-tiled pool, it’s difficult to ascertain whether to sit on a sundeck chair facing the sea, or in the reverse position facing the main structure and watching the warm rays of twilight hitting the majestic tiled roofs just right. A drive around Phuket (and indeed Thailand) will show you that this has oft been copied, but something is always amiss, and thus never bettered.
- Pool. The main pool is iconic: a midnight-blue tiled 25-metre pool that frames the building and its surrounds.
- Beach. No beating about the bush here. Pansea Beach, hosting both The Surin and Amanpuri, with Amanpuri reserving a couple of smaller, more private nooks, is Phuket’s finest and most private beach attached to a resort. The beach naturally comes replete with a beach club, its own lap pool as well as a kid’s pool and area, and a cafe to serve light lunches including pizzas.
- Villas. For our money, these are some of (if not the) nicest multi-bedroom villa/private villa accommodation in Phuket. The older villas, constructed along with the resort’s inception, are our favourite: large, multi-storey structures with several pavilions centred beautifully around a large private pool. The newer set of villas, completed around 2010, are located on the northern side of the hill offering slightly different (less pristine) views – however, many of these newer builds do come with infinity edge pools and lifts within its structure which may accommodate elderly and the disabled better. We personally prefer the older villas due to the layout – the private pool area in the newer villas, whilst having a wonderful indoor-outdoor shaded space overlooking a large private infinity-edge pool, does feel like an ‘afterthought’ rather than the older villas where the whole villa is centred around the pool.
- Gym and Spa. If you’ve never had the inkling to really work out, the view from the fully equipped, expansive gym will certainly help do the trick. The multi-level spa is quite a sight too (and an even better experience I imagine – haven’t tried it out yet).
- Food & Beverage. To match the size of the resort, there are plenty of dining options – from the beach club to the Thai Restaurant that can do no wrong (and offers some of the spiciest and most authentic Thai cuisine we’ve had), to recent Aman ventures, Japanese restaurant Nama (formerly the internationally acclaimed Naoki), Arva and a new concept in a South American lounge.
- Be sure not to miss out on the daily complimentary Thai-inspired afternoon tea, featuring ginger tea, cold refreshments and Thai rice cakes with coconut and banana cakes.
- Yachts. Although we didn’t get to try it, one of the key reasons to stay at Amanpuri is that they have their own selection of yachts and cruises, relatively unique among Phuket resorts. These are ideal for a day trip to explore the waters around the Andaman and Phang Nga Bay, but also for overnight charters.
POINTS TO NOTE
- Size. This is a large Aman, both in footprint and in style. Amanjunkies will know Aman as the intimate, boutique resort that feels more like a welcoming home. While many elements of the service and timeless design that epitomise Aman are typically present, it would be unfair to judge this Aman against standards held for some of the other, smaller, more intimate Amans.
- Rooms. As beautiful as its private villas are, one can’t help but feel that the pavilions (entry level rooms/suites) suffer slightly from a sign of their times – after all, this resort is about to celebrate its 30th anniversary next year. Of course, they’re adequately roomy and airy and well furnished, the design is quite timeless, and the terrace and private sala are much welcomed. However, do not come here expecting private pools and sweeping ocean views, unless you’re willing to pay a lot, which leads us to…
- Price. It is an Aman – so it’s never going to be cheap. However, even with that in mind, unless the budget is stretched, Amanpuri is not the ideal location for those seeking ocean views and private pools from their rooms. Amanpuri’s pavilions, facing a garden, sans private pool (but with a beautiful outdoor terrace and sala), demand prices upwards of USD 650/night++ even in low season (and nearly twice that in high season) – which can be a bit jarring for those accustomed to paying those prices in Southeast Asia for a private pool villa with sea views.
- Personally, we think that the resort and its grounds are so stunning you’ll find yourself spending very little time in your room. If you must splurge, opt for Pavilion 103 or 105 – iconic room numbers (now titled Premium and Deluxe Ocean Pavilion respectively) that offer the customary terrace with sala, but also sweeping views of the Andaman. There are also private pool (with and without ocean view) pavilions available, as well as multi-bedroom pavilion options available.
HOTEL FACT SHEET
- LOCATION: Phuket, Thailand
- OPENED: 1988
- HOTEL ROOMS: 40
- RESIDENCE VILLAS: 40
- RATES FROM: USD 650/night++
Rates are only an approximation and subject to change and availability
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