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Taking Shade Under the Banyan Tree

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26 January 2010

By Monica Sarkar

Our Wexas India holiday expert on her 30th birthday spent at the luxurious Banyan Tree resort in Thailand.The expectation of a magical 30th birthday with my other half could not have transformed into a more spellbinding reality than this.

On arrival at Phuket airport in September, the Banyan Tree had its own designated area where we could sit and relax in comfort while waiting for our transfer to paradise. After a swift 20-minute comfortable journey, we were met with true Thai hospitality from the moment we arrived at the resort – the staff were all aware that it was my birthday, yet I had only given a subtle hint at the time of reservation. They even wished me birthday greetings as I passed through reception. And to my surprise, I had a delicious chocolate birthday cake, cards and beautiful presents from their souvenir shop waiting on the table of my villa.

I was staying in a Pool Villa at the resort, which was absolutely stunning. The structure and décor was authentically Thai, with its curved-triangular rooftop and a shaded Thai sala (pavilion) in the beautifully manicured garden. And the main feature of this room type was the full-length swimming pool that I could literally dip into straight from the room. There was also a cornered-off area that contained a marble sunken bathtub.

The theme throughout the resort was of pure romance and graced the vast, natural surroundings. It was built around a tranquil lagoon and there was even a beautiful 18-hole golf course for sports enthusiasts. Furthermore, there was private access to sandy Bang Tao beach for the more laidback guests.

If you do manage to tear yourself away, you can visit Phuket Town or Patong. Phuket Town is a busy area, a blend of old and new, with market stalls and a huge air-conditioned shopping mall. Patong is the famous beach resort of Phuket and the beach is well worth a visit. The actual area is extremely lively and colourful, home to infamous ‘ladyboys’ and a teeming nightlife.

For alternative trips and tours, including island hopping, there was an in-house travel agent at the resort who was very knowledgeable. We booked a day-tour that included sightseeing on elephant back and a chance to mingle with the beautiful animals. The journey on elephant-back was a wonderful experience - being so close to the gentle giants and taking in the scenic beauty of Phuket was enthralling. However, the latter part of the tour included a show with baby elephants. If you are an animal lover like myself, I would urge you not to book this trip. Without going into too much harrowing detail, the elephants were made to do all sorts of tricks and did not seem to be in their natural state of mind.

On a lighter note, if you are travelling with your other half, there are two activities that you need to seriously consider:

Firstly, Banyan Tree offers a ‘Destination Dining Experience’, which consists of a three-course dinner, either in the centre of the lagoon on a traditional Thai boat sailing into the sunset or under a Banyan Tree. These are exclusive experiences that are only available to one couple per night. I had originally opted for the boat but due to the expected rain in September, this was cancelled. Therefore, I chose the aptly named ‘Dinner of the Senses’, which took place in the middle of the lagoon. We were transported across the gentle waters by a Thai long tail boat to the centre, where there was a special platform designed for a romantic dinner underneath the stars. The food was sumptuous and indulgent and our host for the evening was outstanding.

Secondly, the Banyan Tree spa is renowned as one of the best in Asia, by reputable publications such as Condé Nast Traveller and Lonely Planet. The spa is absolutely tranquil and the Couples’ Treatment is a must. Prices are similar to the salons in London, but the fact that we were not indulging ourselves like this on a daily basis was enough justification for us. We were treated individually, but on beds next to one another, in an open-air treatment room. The treatment lasted a blissful two hours, with time to relax in the simple, organic Thai surroundings.

For those worried about travelling to Phuket during the rainy season, you need not worry too much. The rain was occasional and spells of sunshine and warmth were frequent. Also, as September is considered low season, you will avoid the bustle of tourists. And the lavishness of the resort will ensure your unmitigated pleasure, whatever the weather.

It is not often that I find it so difficult to leave a place. Phuket is truly a stunning part of Thailand. But while its beauty made for worthy snaps, it was the genuine warmth of Banyan Tree’s service that carved a lasting impression.

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