I’ve always been a mountain lover, so I didn’t expect an island resort to capture my heart the way Anantara Layan Phuket did. Set amid lush low-lying hills facing the beautiful Layan Bay, this luxury resort is a verdant haven offering an escape from the buzz of everyday life in the city. There, pathways are flanked by ferns, coconut palms and frangipani trees among myriad other varieties of flowering and non-flowering plants including orchids and red bird of paradise. Flowing water features prominently around the property, providing a soothing background score to one’s stay. The welcoming lobby, which is open from all four sides, offers an uninterrupted view of the Andaman Sea.
I kicked off my stay with a visit to the spa, a nearly perfect antidote to a long flight. It was hidden away, cocooned from the rest of the resort by dense foliage. A staff member guided me down a few steps to the reception, which overlooked a hillside pool. Soft sunlight filled the space, as I browsed through the selection of massages based on ancient Thai healing traditions. I opted for the Anantara Signature Massage. The spa said it would be great for an overall sense of well-being, using a series of deep and long strokes combined with pressure applied by the thumbs and forearms. The treatment can be customised according to an individual’s needs and started with a foot cleansing ritual. Then Julie, my therapist, skilfully worked out the knots in various muscle groups along my body using a signature oil blend that had the pleasant aromas of lemon, lavender and ylang ylang. After a treatment guests can spend time in the relaxation area with a cup of herbal tea or a refreshing bael fruit juice, which aids digestion and eliminates toxins. Not one to forego such benefits, I downed three glasses of the absolutely delicious ruby red juice.
At low tide the sea recedes far enough so you can wade to a small island 500 metres from the shore. Crabs no bigger than a thumbnail scuttle out of the way as you make your way into the shallow sea. If you enjoy collecting shells, you’ll find dozens scattered on the exposed sea bed. Flocks of tiny birds twist and turn in formation, swooping down to catch sea insects. Back on shore, grab a plump beanbag and settle down to catch a blushing sunset of yellow, orange and pink skies.
The La Sala Pool Villa where I stayed has a plush king-sized bed that would ordinarily guarantee blissful sleep. But if you want one you'll never forget, ask for the In-Villa Slumber Guru Experience. It begins with an aromatic soak in an essential oil bath followed by a deeply relaxing massage. I had my therapist set up a treatment bed on my villa’s pool deck to admire the starry night sky during the second half of my treatment. Before you slip beneath the covers, savour a soul-satisfying Italian Eraclea hot chocolate. Then, spritz a calming mist onto your pillow and don a cool gel-filled eye mask to soothe your eyes. Your bed, made with buttery-soft Egyptian cotton sheets and pillows, cradle your head and body just right. You are guaranteed to wake up the next morning feeling like a brand-new person.
If you’re the kind who doesn’t like to miss a workout on vacation, you won’t be disappointed. Mat Pilates, boot camp, beach soccer or tennis, Muay Thai boxing, bike tours or yoga are just some of what's on offer. I reluctantly dragged myself out of my uber-comfortable bed one morning to get to the hillside pool for an 8.30am Pilates class. Forty-five minutes later with the sea breeze winding through the trees, I knew I’d made the right decision. The instructor took us through a series of gentle stretches before transitioning into slightly more rigorous core exercises, encouraging our bodies to shed any lingering shadow of sleep. Treat yourself afterwards to a lavish international breakfast buffet ranging from Chinese buns filled with lavender or saffron cream to bread and butter pudding, smoked peppercorn-studded mackerel, or a brilliant selection of cheese from creamy Brie to a giant wheel of pecorino.
Don’t feel shy to indulge. You can always burn off extra calories with a class or two of Muay Thai. The traditional Thai boxing style uses fists, elbows, knees and shins, ensuring a full body workout. Punching and kicking the pads held up by our instructor felt surprisingly good as we laughed and huffed our way through the lesson. We were sore the next day but were more than ready for another round in the ring.
You’ll find plenty to do at this charming property; I certainly did. From indulging my inner child on a swing at the beach, to heading out on a speedboat to explore the beautiful islands for which the Andaman Sea is famous, Anantara Layan Phuket has mastered the art of ensuring its guests keep returning. I certainly will. One visit to this property is not enough to experience all it has to offer.
For more information, visit Anantara