Luckily for me, you don't have to be as rich as Russian billionaire Andrey Melnichenko to stay at The Naka Island Resort. He recently stopped off at the island whilst touring the Andaman Sea on "A", his $300 million Phillippe Starck designed mega-yacht.
One of Starwoods über exclusive Luxury Collection Resort & Spas, the 5* star hotel is the only resort on Koh Naka Yai, a small tropical island hideaway, just a short taxi journey and 5 minute speedboat ride from Phuket's International Airport.
With magnificent views towards Phang Nga Bay, made famous by Christopher Lee's "Scaramanga" in the James Bond movie "The Man with the Golden Gun", the resort offers a glorious no-expense-spared experience. The hotel's 67 beautifully appointed pool villas provide total privacy, and have already played host to several discreet high profile celebrities.
The thatched pavilions epitomise luxury Robinson Crusoe, with their architecture and décor reflecting the islands indigenous culture and surroundings. I stayed in the 'Standard' Tropical Villa, but there was nothing standard about it! Covering 450 square metres (5000 square feet) the villa was nestled inside its own verdant walled garden. The master bedroom featured one of the most comfortable beds I have ever slept in, and enjoyed panoramic views across the plunge pool towards the Andaman Sea beyond. A covered walkway leads around an inner courtyard to the adjoining shower room, but this space was totally eclipsed by the incredible open-air bathroom, the perfect place to relax and soak up the nature around you.
Quite unlike the hustle and bustle of Phuket, the island is a haven of tranquility and the perfect place to relax, or enjoy a honeymoon. However, for the more health conscious among you, Naka Island provides the perfect backdrop to indulge in a little health and fitness! Everyday the hotel lays on a wide range of complimentary fitness classes from Yoga and Core Conditioning to Beach Volley Ball and Circuit Training. I tried to do at least one class per day, preferably before breakfast. Holiday's are about enjoyment, and I really love my food, so working out regularly allowed me to really indulge in my passion for Thai food without feeling guilty!
The Thai instructors are extremely professional, and are available throughout the day for private one-to-one sessions. A special mention must go to the phenomenal Phet, the resident Muay Thai Boxing instructor, who took me to my absolute limits. Alternatively, if classes aren't your thing, you can always work out in the hotels excellent air-conditioned gym, which overlooks the beach and features the very latest Technogym equipment.
The main salt water pool sits just feet from the beach and is the perfect place to swim lengths. During the 10 days I was there, it was never over-crowded, presumably because every villa has its own plunge pool. If you prefer open water, the sheltered bay and year round high temperatures make the sea here ideal for swimming in.
However, my favourite water based activity was kayaking. The kayaks are available free of charge in single or tandem configuration, and are great for exploring some of the more hidden beaches. If you wish, you can make a full circuit of the island in 1 to 2 hours depending on your fitness levels. It's certainly a great workout, and really tones your arms and shoulders.
Windsurfing and sailing are also available from the beach, and you can even pay a nominal amount for a 'hotel ambassador' to accompany you on your excursion. If you want to venture a little futher afield, the resort's concierge will gladly arrange a snorkeling or scuba trip to one of the regions famous dive sites.
Naka Island has the largest spa in the region, and boasts an almost unimaginable range of world class treatments that promise complete peace of mind, body and soul. Focusing on the key principles of health, beauty and inner peace, the peaceful surroundings and calming pools lend themselves to total relaxation.
Beauty treatments definitely aren't my area of expertise, so I will spare you my insights on facials et cetera. However, after a hard day's sunbathing and a little sore from my previous day's Kick Boxing, I decided to try a traditional Thai Massage. The signature treatment begins with your feet being washed and dried in a cleansing ritual. Instead of the usual oil, you wear a pair of loose cotton pyjamas and lie face down on a comfortable mattress on the floor. The highly skilled therapist begins by walking up the soles of your feet on his knees, gradually progressing up the body, releasing every muscle knot along the way. Relaxing this is not, but boy did it sort out my aches and pains. This was easily the most unique and best treatment I have ever experienced.
The hotel has two excellent beachside restaurants; the all-day Tonsai with its traditional, aromatic Thai classics and a peppering of Western dishes, and the more exclusive Grill, which specialises in freshly caught seafood and juicy chargrilled steaks. If you're looking for something lighter, the hotel's Z Bar serves incredible Asian inspired tapas, and is the most amazing place to enjoy a cocktail whilst watching the spectacular sunsets. If you have a specific request, Ian the hotel's amiable British Executive Chef is more than happy to help you. The chefs can even prepare spectacular feasts at your private villa, or on the beach for a truly intimate experience.
I would challenge anyone to find fault with this idyllic hideaway. It's peaceful and quiet, yet it's less than 30 minutes from the airport, and the raw energy of Phuket. The pool villas are in a league of their own, and offer unrivalled privacy. Whilst the discreet resort is clearly the perfect spot for honeymooners and celebrities alike, it's also equally welcoming of young families too. For a health fanantic like me, it's exudes luxury Club Med for Holistic Junkies, with every conceivable fitness activity in a nurturing environment. Watch out Chiva Som! You have genuine competition.
The service was impeccable as you would expect of a 5* star resort of this stature, but it was the incredible friendliness of the hotel staff that made my holiday a truly memorable one. Much credit must go to Erich Friedl, the hotel's General Manager who strives for perfection, and who is a very visible presence.
All photos by Starwood Luxury Collection Resort & Spa.
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