TRAVEL: For those in Phuket who yearn occasionally for something other than gorgeous sunsets, powdery sand and sea as azure as a property developer’s brochure, Khao Sok National Park comes as a welcome relief.
No more the sound of waves on the shore, karaokes and beach discos. Here the sound effects are provided in the morning by gibbons, their whoops echoing around the hills, or by troops of macaques crashing carelessly through the trees, and in the evening by the millions of cicadas in the forest, each triggered by the next, combining into an eerie wail that goes on for minutes at a time.
The best place to appreciate this has to be Thanyamundra, one of Thailand’s smallest (nine rooms) yet most luxurious resorts.
Part of the Thanyapura group that includes the complex surrounding the Phuket International Academy, Thanyamundra sits at the high end of a valley, looking down on its own 60-rai organic farm and surrounded on three sides by Khao Sok National Park.
Wake up early and the place is swirled in mist. As the sun climbs at the far end of the valley, the hills smoke with clouds in creation, until finally, an hour or so after sunrise, the sun breaks through.
And then it’s time for breakfast. It’s all ready and waiting – your own personal butler knocked on your door the evening before and discussed the menu with you, as he does for every meal.
Wherever possible, the food comes from the organic farm, so it’s fresh and tasty. The organic chicken is a special treat, and the cellar, though not enormous, is well stocked with very good wines.
The butler comes and goes quietly and gently in an electric golf cart – your car is parked next to the entrance, half a kilometre away, and stays there unless you summon up the energy to go outside the resort, not easy to do when waited on hand and foot and pretty much every other part.
There are no rooms at Thanyamundra. They’re all suites – bedroom, living room and two bathrooms, at the very least, with French windows in the bedroom leading to a verandah just outside.
Important: each suite comes with a Nespresso machine, one of the great inventions of our age.
The service is impeccable: efficient, low-key, super-polite and solicitous without being obsequious, friendly when you feel like a chat, waiting quietly when you don’t.
There’s a spa, a gym and a swimming pool that’s nearly as big as the hotel but, when it comes down to it, the winning feature of the resort is that view. It’s good for the eye, the heart and the soul.
Thanyamundra is the place to get away from the getaway.
To get to Thanyamundra, head north through Khao Lak and then Takua Pa. Keep right, following the road to Surat Thani. After about 60 km, the park entrance is on your left. Turn in and the entrance to Thanyamundra is about a kilometre down, on your left.
For more information visit Thanyamundra.com.
Thanyamundra recently placed third in Agoda’s new list of the To p 10 Eco-Boutiques in Asia 2011. It was also named one of Thailand’s “Big Six Chic Thai Retreats’’ by leading British newspaper The Independent.