Anantara launches new luxury residences at Layan, Phuket
The tourists were not out in throngs this side of the island; neither are the bars they call their habitat lining the streets. Our chauffeur-driven car passed a few scattered local homes that peter out as we approached a small, lonely road that winds through unspoilt vegetation. It was Phuket like I’ve never seen before.
The road leads into the Sirinath National Park, a 90 sq km marine sanctuary that hugs a 13 kilometre coastline. After just 20 minutes of driving from Phuket International Airport, our car arrived at a secluded gate half hidden by foliage. Past it, the grey-brown roofs of the Anantara Layan Phuket resort, rising slightly above the tree line, materialised from within the lush depths of the forest.
Built with conservation regulations in mind, the property was designed to blend into, rather than disrupt, the natural environment. Most of it is sprawled along the length of a pristine cove, which is bordered on one side by tropical shrubs – all naturally occurring vegetation on the coastline has been kept as is, and no permanent structures have been erected on the beach.
Rising above this, perched on a hill’s shoulder, is the highlight of my trip: The Residences by Anantara, a cluster of 15 exclusive three to five-bedroom villas available for short stays as well as freehold or long leasehold ownership. For a starting price of US$6 million (RM23.5 million), property investors can get to call one of these homes, ranging 1695 sqm to over 2600 sqm, their own.
My buggy dropped me off in front of a discreet wooden door set into a tall wall, but that was where the deception ended. Entering the door, I walked right onto the pool deck of Residence 14, my home for the next two nights. This level of the villa has been engineered to give maximum impact; its three wings flank the left and right, so the first thing one sees upon entering is the infinity pool overlooking the rest of the resort dotting the forest below and the Andaman sea beyond. Because the property is located within a national park, this tableau is promised for the foreseeable future – no further developments have been planned that could ruin the surrounding natural beauty.
To say it is excessive for one person to occupy an approximately 1700 sqm, three-bedroom abode alone would be an understatement. But excess is exactly what luxury is all about, and luxury is what Anantara sells. The three wings on the pool deck contain the living room, kitchen and dining areas, and the master bedroom. To the right are two wings. One contains the kitchen and dining room, while the right-most wing is the master bedroom with a walk-in closet and a palatial ensuite bathroom outfitted in full marble. All rooms come with floor-to-ceiling windows and furniture positioned to make the most of the view.
One level below the pool deck is a labyrinth of – yes – more rooms, including two bedrooms, an office, and a private spa room with a skylight that looks up into the glistening waters of the pool above. Each residence is unique so even two villas with the same number of bedrooms and area may see slight differences in facilities and decor. Where Residence 14 has a private spa room, another villa may have a gym.
Before my personal butler, who only wanted to be known as Donut, left me to take this all in, he passed me a grey gadget with a single button on it – the butler call button, of course. It soon proved itself to be hardly necessary. Just as my post-flight hunger pangs prompted me to contemplate the macarons displayed under a glass chloche in the living room, Donut appeared with a tray of delectable savoury nibbles – a quiche, tomato stuffed with feta cheese, quail’s eggs topped with caviar, and more. Later that afternoon, when I felt a dip in the pool could be made better with a tall glass of something cold and refreshing, he once again appeared before I could call him with the button, offering to get me water, juice or a cocktail.
With such intuitive and personalised service, guests and owners of the residences may never have to lift a finger – except the few times when clicking of the butler call button is absolutely necessary, of course. It’s possible that one may not even have to step foot out of the residence.
Want a meal? The butler can’t cook, but this is where Dining by Design comes in. Have a private chef tailor a menu and prepare it for you at the residence – or your location of choice anywhere within the resort. My experience materialised as a surf and turf barbeque dinner with food grilled on the spot. I dined in the resort’s wedding chapel by candlelight, with a view of the Andaman Sea to my right. A slightly odd combination, perhaps, but this is what Dining by Design is about – anything’s possible.
And ah, the advantage of having a private spa room! I had the Anantara Spa brought to me one night for the Slumber Guru treatment. This 70-minute experience started with a back, neck and shoulder massage before they led a half-asleep me upstairs to the bathroom. There, I discovered a milk bath scattered with rose petals already prepared, and a flask of hot chocolate and cookies on the edge of the tub.
There are, however, definitely things worth leaving the residence for: the wine tasting session, for one. Choose to savour eight wines (four whites and four reds) from an extensive collection in a private room off Sala Layan, the resort’s Mediterranean restaurant. Be sure to request to try some award-winning Thai wines – you’ll be surprised and your palate, delighted. The tasting experience is complete with an extravagant platter of cheeses and tapas that really deserves to be a star on its own rather than a mere accompaniment to wine.
The resort also hosts an annual turtle release around March every year. A collaboration with the Mai Khao Marine Turtle Foundation, this event sees the release of one-year-old turtles that have been rescued and hatched in the Phuket Marine Biological Centre. Last year’s release saw 40 turtles making a dash for freedom into the sea, an unforgettable sight that brings to the fore Anantara’s commitment to sustainable luxury.