After 18 hours of travelling, and feeling surreally sleep deprived, I rapidly began to panic. Self-doubt started to replace my confidence in being a travel deal connoisseur and my jetlagged mind shoved bug infested bathrooms and slimy swimming pools into my daydreams. Allyn and I were on the last leg of a long journey to Phuket, a Thai taxi transfer to our hotel which pledged an exclusive level of luxury for a price that I just couldn’t get my head around. Try as I might, I couldn’t ignore the feeling that it was all too good to be true. And then we arrived.
Stepping out of the van, we were greeted by a smiling concierge who immediately took our suitcases and pointed us up the stairs in the open-air lobby to check in. Holding my breath, I hesitantly climbed to reveal our fate, looking around for any sign of the nightmares that had filled my mind just minutes before. With each step, more of the terrace came into sight and as I finally reached the peak, I peacefully exhaled. Revealed straight across from our entrance was a collage of swaying palms, clear lagoon pools, bright green gardens and right at the centre, a clear view of a private beach looking out to the ocean. An overwhelming sense of relief spread through me as my eyes confirmed that Thavorn Beach Village was in fact the tropical oasis it had promised.
Curving around the intimate Nakalay Bay, this award-winning resort is one of Thavorn’s two properties that prides itself on being a private paradise on Phuket Island. It is truly secluded from the backpacker lifestyle, located on the west side of the island a short drive from the infamous Patong Beach. The resort offers complimentary transfers here, not that you’d ever want to visit. Instead take advantage of booking directly with the hotel where you’ll receive free airport transfers, the best price online and access to the VIP lounge which provides an air-conditioned room to grab a drink and snack throughout your stay.
195 rooms make up the village atmosphere, each privatised either on the beach, by the pool or up on the hilltop for optimum panoramas, which is reached by the resort’s own cable car. After a personalised check in, we were escorted to our chosen home for the next ten days. I had read reviews that some had waited hours to finally reach their beds but I can assure that even at 11am, we waited no longer than thirty minutes.
We’d booked one of Thavorn’s many beach cottages, lined in four rows along their private stretch of sand. Luckily for us, our white wash bungalow was positioned with a perfect sea view from the second row, a choice I’d actually recommend as although the beachfront cottages obviously offer uninterrupted vistas, their terraces are somewhat less privatised as other guests stroll past your patio along the beach path.
The bungalow was generously spacious and without fault one of the loveliest accommodations I’ve stayed in, simply decorated in Thai furnishings. Each morning we awoke with a view of tall palms, the beach calling me from the comfort of the soft white sheets that were so silky I almost popped them in my suitcase. Behind the open wardrobe, a window looked out to an enclosed outdoor bathroom. Dominated by a large modern rain shower, here sandy toes would be washed off to the evening song of crickets.
Before 10am each morning, we’d casually stroll to the Marisa Restaurant where a varied buffet breakfast would be served before a Westernised menu took over for the rest of the day. The tables go quickly around 9am so make sure to head down early or be prepared to sit inside on a sunny day.
Due to Thavorn’s private location, there aren’t any local restaurants unless you fancy some fried chicken at Hooters on Patong Beach. Evenings were therefore happily spent at the resort either with comforting pasta and delicious dishes at Marisa or exceptional Thai food from Old Siam Thai, a stunning traditional restaurant with quiet beach tables and private terraces for the ultimate romantic meal. We had many a green curry served in a fresh coconut and my absolute favourite, a rich massaman curry with soft slow cooked beef.
Midday hunger pains were cured at the Crocodile pool bar with basic pizzas and a swim-up happy hour for tropical cocktails enjoyed from the extensive lagoon pool. The Marisa restaurant also became our go to for cocktails with an evening happy hour and delicious Thai rum.
Unfortunately, unpredictable rainclouds halted our chance to enjoy one of Thavorn’s most romantic experiences; a private beach dinner under a candlelit cabana with your own chef. Although I’d have loved to cuddled up on the sands, the twinkling tables weren’t quite as exclusive as I’d imagined, located close by to the restaurant and in fact were free to use throughout the day.
Unlike much of Thailand’s hospitality, Thavorn refreshingly supports conservation and animal welfare, up keeping over 10 hectares of natural botanical gardens and caring for the marine life that live in its private cove. Every spare patch of land is covered in shrubbery, water features, mythical statues and home-grown vegetables, attracting a variety of tropical creatures from lizards to exotic butterflies to an army of mosquitos – make sure to drown in repellent at every given moment.
As well as wild residents, the resort is also home to a family of animals including free flying birds, rabbits and two giant tortoises who are brought out to roam the grounds with a genuinely friendly keeper. Naturally I joined the kids who wanted to meet Sara, a lovely character who refused my flower treats and had more interest in channelling her inner turtle and swimming out to sea.
If exploring gardens, cocktails on the beach and interacting with wildlife wasn’t enough, a spa hidden behind the Thai terraces is a relaxing retreat for various treatments. Having experienced a Thai massage once before (and not being able to walk the next day), I opted for a long aromatherapy massage. Perhaps she wanted to go easy on me or perhaps it was the end of a long shift but my masseuse had a surprisingly light touch and I was left freezing in an air-conditioned room feeling to English and awkward to say anything. Perhaps my only critique of the resort – turn up the heat.
Thavorn also offers a selection of activities from morning yoga to Thai boxing and traditional cooking lessons, however Allyn and I took more of an interest in the surroundings. The long stretch of private pebbly sands became our adventure, just a few steps from our cottage. Come rain or shine (and trust me, there was both), we’d slip on our sandals and lounge under a cabana, explore the rock pools or climb down from the pier for a snorkel in the corals.
If sea life is your bag, or even if it’s not, I’d insist that you purchase some snorkels and water shoes to head out over the rocky beds of Nakalay Bay. For an easier entrance (which we learned after one too many stumbles over slimy rocks) head along the resort pier where you’ll find a ladder at the end. Among many trips out into the clear waters, we spotted schools of flickering colour from Moorish Idols (Gill in Finding Nemo) to bug eyed porcupine fish. We even caught a glimpse of the electric blue glow from two cuttlefish among a deep patch of blue.
Thavorn Beach Village is an idyllic resort and unlike many 4-5 star hotels, it doesn’t cost a bomb. Expect to pay between £90-150 a night with breakfast and transfers included, with cocktails at around £4-6 and mains £8-13 each. Importantly, make sure to take advantage of Thavorn’s money saving programme on arrival whereby you can top up an account of funds to spend onsite and get a few bob on the house.
I’ve already recommended Thavorn to many friends and family, and if it wasn’t for my urge to visit somewhere new, I’d be running back for more curry in a coconut and waking up to beach views.