Phuket hasn’t been a backpacker destination in a long while. As the country’s largest and most developed island, Phuket’s considered a little too big and too well known these days to be an edgy or adventurous travel destination. And some of its first resorts – namely the five-star Club Med in Kata Beach and the Amanpuri in Surin, the ultra-exclusive escape for international royals, moguls and celebrities – led Phuket in a direction well off the backpacker trail as long ago as the 1980s.
So it’s no surprise that Phuket is now attracting a fair bit of villa development, its headlands and hillsides and even a few beaches now dotted with multi-million-dollar private homes. Though it seems the rest of the world is going through a popular push to realign and restrain excess wealth, Phuket remains a place where it’s still perfectly fine to flash your cash. If the breathless excitement seen in the local property, yachting and ‘lifestyle’ magazines and websites about the arrival and activities of the super rich on Phuket is anything to go by, the one-percenters still have a safe haven here.
Needless to say, the only Occupy movement that gets any press in Phuket is that of those with means to Occupy these fabulous villas and live like a rock star.
|Sawarin Villa, Cape Yamu|
Part of my writing work for the past two years has involved reviewing such Phuket villas, a gig I got almost by accident but one I’ve settled into quite happily. The downfall of this work is that it can spark an unhealthy craving for pampering, gadgets, opulent surrounds, etc, well beyond my reach, not to mention the niggling thought that the huge amount of time and money invested in these holiday homes might better be spent elsewhere.
There’s plenty of excess to be sure, but I do enjoy poking around and getting an inside view of these villas’ quirks and design. Some have been a real labour of love for the owners, and though it would be a stretch to say the villas have soul, there are certainly a few that have a vivid personality and style. These places can and do inspire one to live a more artful life if nothing else.
Out of the more than 40 villas in Phuket and up in Natai Beach, Phang Nga, I’ve checked out, here are my picks for the top 6 cool crazy luxury villas of Phuket, in no particular order. These each have their own distinct style and features, but all share one common attraction: coveted sunset views over the Andaman Sea. The full write-ups on each are at The Villa Guide.
Villa Zamani is a striking villa with amazing views from its high, super-private hillside location, but what really sets Zamani apart is its service and facilities. It’s five-star all the way with an excellent private chef and attentive staff, including a van and driver to whisk you around at all hours of the day or night. The the big Wow here is the cinema room, complete with a full-size movie screen and real cinema seating, all set under a fibre-optic ‘starlight’ ceiling.
Crazy expensive but designed to immaculate perfection with an absolute beachfront spot on Natai Beach with two pools, one flowing into the other. Each of Viva’s 4 super-luxe bedrooms in pavilions lining the pool terrace are like mini-villas, and the massive master bedroom takes up the entire upper floor of the main pavilion with its own spa treatment suite. Just over the bridge from Phuket on the Phang Nga mainland, it also enjoys an idyllic, peaceful location.
|Villa Chan Grajang|
This huge villa set on the hillside overlooking Surin Bay features its own three-hole golf course, 6 bedrooms including two in a separate guest villa with its own pool and kitchen, a games room with a pool table plus a separate media room, a big swimming pool and a nifty blend of rustic and chic design touches. Chan Grajang would be a fabulous place for a big party or family get-together (and it’s such a big villa that those who don’t get along could easily avoid each other!).
|Baan Lom Talay|
Lom Talay’s a gorgeous 4-bedroom villa also on the hillside with views across Surin Bay, all bedrooms with sunken terrazzo bathtubs and private gardens, a private pool with heated Jacuzzi, an elegant media room with a grand piano, and, most spectacularly, a Moroccan room with indoor-outdoor living areas that make you feel you’ve stepped into an Arabian desert palace, complete with shisha pipes and piles of elaborately embroidered cushions. Awesome. [Update: this villa’s no longer available to rent, sadly.]
The 2-bedroom Sawan Anda within the Surin Heights estate packs in a lot of colour and dazzle throughout with incredible lighting, top notch furnishings and entertainment, plus a really cool art collection. Touch-pad lighting controls with several options including ‘pink’ or ‘purple’, a sparkling spa room with groovy lava rock walls, a staircase with fibre-optic lighting highlighting a beautiful Thai mural that runs the length of the staircase walls (must be seen to be appreciated in full!).
Yin’s all about appreciating art and style, with an eclectic collection ranging from edgy contemporary Chinese painters to the pop-art icon himself, Andy Warhol – nine of his famed Marilyn Monroe portraits line a wall here. Each bedroom is in a colour theme, and the master suite is over-the-top luxurious in sexy red with indoor and outdoor bathtubs, a huge walk-in closet and eye-catching works of art.