Belinda Carlisle was right, heaven is a place on earth.
By Ashima Sethi
As someone who’s lived in Thailand all her life, I can’t say that Phuket was ever on the top of my list for a weekend away. Recognised predominantly as a tourist destination, the island always seemed a little bit too big, a little bit too busy for my liking. However, in the wake of COVID-19, the island is now reminiscent of the Phuket of a time gone by, home to quieter beaches that are perfect for a quick escape from the city. And when I had the pleasure of checking into the InterContinental Phuket Resort, one of the island’s newest and most exciting hospitality landmarks, I had the opportunity to experience the best that Phuket had to offer first-hand.
Nestled on Kamala Beach, an exclusive enclave between Millionaire’s Mile and the Amanpuri Headland, the InterContinental Phuket Resort’s sprawling grounds extend from the beach all the way to the verdant hills. Featuring five-star facilities spanning a fitness centre and tennis court, the Planet Trekkers Kids’ Club, and six swimming pools covering of a free-form beachfront pool, two winding lagoon-style pools, and a rooftop infinity pool, the design of the property provides guests with plenty of choice regarding their type of stay, whether they’re looking for a playful beachfront vacation or a quieter, more tranquil escape in one of the hillside villas.
As the property straddles two different plots of land, refurbished underground tunnels connect the hillside facilities to the beachfront area. Although golf carts are readily available to shuttle guests back and forth, I highly recommend taking leisurely stroll through the tunnels or ‘Art Passages,’ which are adorned with colourful murals depicting Phuket’s landmarks and vibrant Old Town by talented local artists, including Dr. Khan Payungphan, a distinguished fine arts professor at Phuket Rajabhat University.
Apart from the passages, the thread of celebrating local art and history is woven into all aspects of the resort. The work of renowned Bangkok-based Habita Architects, the resort’s design takes inspiration from the Traibhumikatha, one of the oldest surviving works of Thai literature that describes the different planes of existence encompassing heaven and earth. Through prominent pieces of art and the intricate, uniquely Thai design of the buildings, the designers aimed to craft an experience for guests that is allusive of a ‘heaven on earth.’
The impressive Sawan Pavilion is the centre-piece of the entire resort.
And to understand this vision, one doesn’t need to look far. When I arrived, the first thing that caught my eye was the resort’s magnum opus, the Sawan Pavilion (Heavenly Pavilion). Just beyond the airy lobby, the white and silver structure stands tall amidst the lush verdure of the surrounding landscape, its design drawing inspiration from the rich Himmapan mythology that tells the tale of otherworldly beings and their forest abodes.
The colourful and well-appointed Club InterContinental Ocean View Room.
Once I finished taking in the vistas of the Sawan Pavilion from the resort’s check-in desk, I was escorted to my sanctuary for the weekend, a Club InterContinental Ocean View Room. In addition to quality amenities spanning a spacious balcony, luxurious bed, and free-standing bathtub, the room’s biggest advantage is access to the Club InterContinental Lounge that boasts a private infinity pool and ocean-facing deck so you can enjoy complimentary breakfast, afternoon tea, and evening cocktails and canapes al fresco. Regardless of your preference, the resort boasts 221 rooms ranging from classic rooms and suites to stunning lagoon and private pool villas, so rest assured there are accommodations fit for all types of travellers.
One of the resort’s exclusive private pool villas.
DRINKING AND DINING
The food at the InterContinental Phuket Resort is a stand out. Starting with breakfast, although buffets are currently on hold, the resort’s a la carte menu ensures you can still tuck into all your morning favourites cooked fresh to order. Whether its fluffy scrambled eggs and sausages, a pastry basket of various muffins and croissants, or spicy green curry with flaky roti, you can truly have it all.
Rustic and cosy interiors of the resort’s Thai fine dining restaurant, Jaras.
Jaras is the resort’s modern Thai fine dining restaurant. Stylish yet full of rustic charm, what really sets the restaurant apart is its focus on sustainability, as dishes are crafted using local produce sourced from the island’s agriculturalists and fishermen. For a true taste of their innovative cuisine, I recommend the Five-course tasting menu that features dishes like the signature Massaman pae where goat is slow cooked in a rich tamarind-infused curry until ultra-tender; and the Pla krapong tom som, a palate-awakening seabass soup with flavours of lemongrass and chilli. Opt for the wine pairing, expertly curated by award-winning sommelier Watchara Leelao, to elevate the experience even further. If you prefer to dine a la carte, the Gaeng poo mee hoon, a traditional Southern dish that combines generous chunks of blue crab meat and smoky yellow curry is a must-order.
Dine on the sand, framed by towering pine trees at the resort’s barefoot beach bar.
For international fare, Pinto is the resort’s restaurant-cum-marketplace that draws inspiration from Old Town Phuket’s colourful shop houses and Sino-Portuguese architecture. At Pine, the resort’s barefoot beach bar, unwind over artisan cocktails by Joseph Boroski while nibbling on gourmet bar snacks like their zesty Taco ceviche. With unbeatable sunset views and evening entertainment, it’s no surprise that this spot is currently one of the island’s most vibrant hangouts. For a true slice of heaven, indulge in locally produced coffee, tea, and desserts inside the exquisite Sawan Pavilion Lounge that’s both cosy and fit for plenty of social media snaps.
The Sawan Lounge is just as stunning inside as it is outside.
The resort’s Sunday Brunch is a must-do! From noon to 3pm, each table is served five appetisers including Oysters with sour cream, lemon jam, and spicy tomato jam; and Quinoa salad with chopped roasted roots, avocado, and a drizzle of balsamic vinegar. Next, indulge in some truffle pasta before moving onto free-flow wood-fired pizza. Each diner can then choose two mains and a side from options like Pork tomahawk with nam jim jaew and house aged T-Bone steak, before ending on a sweet note with their choice of dessert. All diners also receive half a bottle of rose bubbly!
BODY, MIND AND SPIRIT
Nestled within the Sawan Pavilion is Sati Spa & Wellness. Aptly named after the Thai word for ‘mindfulness’, this sublime spa houses eight tranquil rooms and offers a wide-range of treatments that fuse modern approaches with practices deeply influenced by ancient Asian healing arts. This vision combined with thoughtful personalisation and the finest skin care and wellness products from HARNN ensure that each holistic well-being journey enhances rejuvenation.
Experience total rejuvenation at Sati Spa & Wellness.
I had the pleasure of meeting General Manager, Bjorn Courage, who offered insight into the significance of the resort’s location:
“Phuket is blessed with beautiful beaches, but what defines Kamala is that it’s quiet and pristine yet centrally located. Hence, easy to combine with any activity in mind. Moreover, it’s naturally protected within Kamala Bay, which means the beach is less impacted by ocean currents and therefore more safe to swim. From Kamala, exploring the rest of the island is easy, as popular areas like Phuket Town, Patong, Laguna, and various landmarks, restaurants, and golf courses, are not too far away.”
An inspiring choice for private parties and medium-sized weddings, the InterContinental Phuket Resort is home to several versatile event settings, including the pillar-less Arlang Ballroom and adjoining pre-function area, and the spacious beach and beachfront lawn. For a unique private dining experience, the Sawan Pavilion can also accommodate intimate get-togethers.
Reception set up on the sprawling beach lawn.
According to Khun Bjorn, “Our facilities create a great array of options. Not only are Indian weddings large in size but they take place over several days, so our resort offers the possibility of a buy-out and the option of selecting from our room inventory. However, most importantly, we have so much choice in event settings across different locations in the resort, so you can continuously surprise your wedding guests. We are also blessed with a team of Indian chefs and colleagues who are able to understand Indian culture and celebrations in-depth, which we believe is of utmost importance as weddings are the ultimate challenge in regards to attention to detail. However, I believe we’re equipped to exceed even the wildest of expectations because that is our InterContinental Brand Promise and our commitment to all who decide to stay with us.