A Winter time respite in Phuket is given a luxurious twist at the Sala resort, tucked away in a development area 40 minutes outside of Phuket's old town. At the resort indoor life is turned outdoor Thai style to make the most of the sun. And for dinner, there is a seafood feast at a most unusual restaurant!
Mr NQN once said to me "I don't think I've ever thought that there was a situation where I thought you could be more excited." I think it was his subtle way of saying "Calm down" but when I get excited, I cannot contain the crazy and there is a physical manifestation of exhilaration. Using done through excessive movement and noise production.
It's Mr NQN and this statement that I think about when we arrive in Phuket and check into my villa at SALA. I studiously avoid looking at the hotels prior to a visit should my judgment be clouded by fish eye lens photos and lovingly choreographed model couples posing on a website. So it means nothing prepares me for when I walk into my villa door and I am greeted with the view of my personal pool, outdoor bath and shower.
SALA resort is a boutique hotel with 79 villas and suites that sits along Mai Khao beach beach. In fact if I would stop squealing for a second I can hear the waves crashing from my pool villa. At 157 square metres, it's sizeable and made for sharing (although it does get a lot of direct sun during the day). The outdoor bathroom area has double sinks, a tube that an fit two and a 22 square metre pool. The shower is also outside as is the bathroom but a privacy curtain can be pulled across if need be.
Amenities are comprehensive and include their own brand in full sized dispensers. Everything is provided down to toothbrushes and razors as well as shampoo, conditioner, body wash and lotion.
Inside offers air conditioned comfort and a large king sized bed and this is where check in is completed. The staff member asks me to sign a form and shows me a box. She explains that in the box are four miniature pillows ranging from soft goose down to firm and high and ask me to choose the one that I want. I then pick a body lotion scent and a soap scent (I choose orange cinnamon) and they then ask me what time I would like turn down and maid service to allow for maximum privacy for guests. It's a lovely touch.
There are robes, slippers, a coffee machine and tea and a mini bar as well. The robe doors are a little fiddly and a bit obtrusive at times (truthfully you could do without them). Also the key doesn't work until you slot it in right behind the bed which means that you often walk into a pitch black bedroom at night and fumble around for the box to place the key in. And after a long, hot day out one of the best things about returning to a hotel room is walking into an air conditioned room whereas this doesn't happen as the power is switched off. Because there is no power, items don't charge during this time too. There are also a lot of light switches and it can take some time to get used to what turns off what.
The reception area is dark when we arrive and it is designed to evoke Phuket old town's beautiful Sino Portuguese architecture. At night it looks seductive and textural. The hotel is located about 15 minutes from the airport in the North West shore of Phuket. However it is about 40 minutes drive from Phuket town and located in a development that houses several luxury hotels which can be an issue for those who want things a bit closer to the centre of Phuket.
Woody, our guide from Absolutely Fantastic Tours comes back to take us to dinner. After a 30 minutes car ride towards Phuket town we alight on the wet, sandy banks of a pier and climb on board a longtail boat. It's a short boat ride across the water to the "Kruvit Raft" seafood floating restaurant. It's quiet this Saturday night, a little disconcertingly so given that there is just other table but as it is low season we notice this to be the theme.
The unique thing about this restaurant is that live seafood is caught from nets that bob in the water. They show you to the various cut out square fish pens cut out of the planks of wood and the types of seafood on offer. There are what appear to be tropical fish and stonefish too although these weren't offered to us. And just a warning my lovelies, wear flats and not heels because the terrain is not heel friendly! Prices are relatively high, a lobster is about $160AUD for a fairly small one but crab is inexpensive.
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The morning glory or kangkong arrives first. I adore this uniquely textured vegetable with the stringy ends and hollowed out crunchy tubes.
The local vegetables come stir fried with scrambled eggs and are flavoursome - we dig in with relish. We watch as they load a longtail with trays of food - they also do home delivery via longtail to the nearby accommodation across the river.
The seafood comes out next. Each dish is freshly cooked to order and this is a two-parter dish. The first item is a gorgeous soup that is a combination between Tom Yum Goong and a Hot and Sour Soup made using a wild caught white fish. It hits the spot with all of the flavours. Angelica had ordered for half of the fish (the head) to be cooked in the soup and the other half in another dish.
Next are the crabs cooked in a curry sauce. It's a really unique sauce, reminding me of curry powder but absolutely moreish. It's a little fiddly for some to get the meat out of and Woody explains that sometimes you can also get this dish with the meat already taken out. Next time!
The last dish is the other half of the fish. This is stir fried with chillies, fresh herbs and mushrooms. The flavour is excellent but what is interesting is the wonderful soft, almost jellied texture of the fish. This ends up being my favourite dish of the night with the local vegetables and the crab with curry sauce.
Back at the villa I eye off the bath but have some work to do and it is getting late. But the sparkle from the water and the luminiscence of the light beckons and I think to myself, "Sod it, it's time for a skinny dip!" and walk into the pool from the gently sloping shallow end to the deeper end and emerge out the other end, body cooled from the water. After that it is a shower under the moonlight in the outdoor shower. Yep, please send all my mail here. I may not be coming home.
So tell me Dear Reader, how important is hotel proximity? Do you prefer to stay in the middle of things or would you go further out for more luxurious accommodation? Do you skinny dip when you have your own pool? And have you ever eaten tropical fish?
NQN visited Thailand as a guest of the Tourism Authority of Thailand.
333 Moo.3 T.maikhao A.talang, 83110, Thailand
Phone:+66 76 338 888
Boat from Laem Hin Pier, Ko Kaeo, Phuket Town, Phuket 83000, Thailand
Open Daily 10.00-22.00hrs
Free long-tail speed boat service