real life

5 things you absolutely cannot miss when visiting Southern Thailand.

I could go Mills-and-Boon-style-full-blown-romantic-use-all-the-adjectives-at-once on you.

I could tell you about the cool aqua water and the white sandy beaches. I could harp on about the dusky colour of the clouds, the blush pink and deep purple in the skies. I could mention the tiny flickering fairy lights, the salty taste of the air and the fresh smells of coconut and kaffir lime leaves. I could call the view ‘sublime’ and the sunsets ‘magnificent’; explain that the whole experience was like stepping into a picturesque postcard.

Or I could just show you this:

Says it all, really.

That’s my partner Jeremy capturing what is the most beautiful sunset either of us has ever witnessed. We’re sitting at Baba Nest, the sunset cocktail lounge at luxury hotel Sri Panwa, located just an hour outside of Phuket in Thailand. The hotel boasts 52 private villas, each perched on the edge of a cliff top 40-60m above sea level, with 300 degree views of the ocean and surrounds.

It’s a pretty special place… and yes, I am using an iPhone to take a photo of Jeremy using an iPhone to take a photo of the view.

So much for living in the moment.

Phuket is the home of Thailand’s second airport and is a popular destination for Australian tourists. Jetstar and Virgin both fly there direct out of Sydney and Melbourne, making the trip infinitely doable; the flights are slo very affordable. Like Kuta in Bali, Phuket is renowned for being mega tourist-y and full of markets selling cheap westernised trinkets – so I wasn’t completely sold on the idea of travelling there. However, within minutes of arriving in the area I fell in love with the people, the views and the delicious, delicious, delicious – like put on 2kg in a week delicious – food.

If you’re considering a trip to southern Thailand in the future, then here are 5 things you absolutely cannot miss:

1. The food, the glorious, glorious food.

I promise this will be the last I say about the food but if you’re Thailand bound: prepare for a flavour sensation.

The Thais have an approach to cooking that is all about balancing the 5 flavours of sweet (sugar, pineapple), sour (limes, tamarind), salty (soy sauce, fish sauce), bitter (melon, raw leaves) and hot (chillllllli!). The results are scrumptious. Definitely make time to take a cooking class so that you can attempt to replicate some of the dishes, once you’re back home in Australia.

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2. The snorkelling and the very pretty little fishes.

I really wanted to take a brilliant technicolour photo of the Nemo-type fish. But my underwater camera skills aren’t going to have National Geographic knocking on my door any time soon; sorry about that.

Snorkelling or diving are so much fun in this part of the world. While the coral can’t compete with the Great Barrier Reef, the fish are a vast array of colours and sizes. We managed to spy a sea snake as well, which had me promptly swimming off in the opposite direction and Jeremy trying to ‘get closer and see it eat something!’

Boys….

 3. The surrounding islands and their perfect beaches.

Phi Phi Island and the others near Phuket are the real-deal postcard-worthy variety of pretty. Leonardo Di Caprio’s film The Beach was filmed in this area and despite not being a particularly good movie, it has made the area famous. There are natural swimming pools surrounded by limestone cliffs, with soft sandy bottoms and the long boats complete the paradise effect.

Most definitely worth the day trip.

4. The über indulgence, available at not-in-Australia prices.

I love a good spa but I almost never have a massage or a facial unless I’m on holiday. Firstly, spas are pricey. Secondly, it’s hard to relax when work is solidly on my mind. Thirdly, I have super ticklish feet, which necessitate an awkward conversation before the indulgence can begin.

The spa at Sri Panwa was absolutely lovely and decorated with incredible attention to detail. While the prices were higher than in other places in the area, they were totally reasonable by Australian standards and you get a whole lot more than you do at home. I recommend trying out one of the scrubs, made from yummy smelling local ingredients, as well as testing out the hot stone massage.

5. The never-seen-colours-like-that-before sunsets (from the privacy of your own room).

Once again, no words needed.

Sri panwa is one of the top properties in Thailand, perched high atop Cape Panwa and commanding breathtaking views of the Southeastern tip of Phuket, occupying the Cape Panwa peninsula in its entirety. Sri panwa is an oasis of calm and luxury set in one of the finest locations on Phuket. The author stayed at Sri Panwa, courtesy of the resort for the purposes of this review. You can see more breathtaking photographs of the facilities and accommodation here.

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