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Introducing the Rosewood Phuket

Is it still possible to get away from it all in ever-popular Phuket? A Rosewood resort on the Thai island answers in the affirmative, and the bonus is that it feels like you're staying at a good friend's well-designed hideaway. Story and photographs by CHRISTOPHER KUCWAY.

Published on Feb 22, 2018


AS I CHECK IN ON THIS, the day after the Rosewood Phuket opened, I have to admit there's a problem with my villa. Maybe I should have expected opening glitches, slight deviations from what should be, mild shocks to my resort-obsessed system. Yet, my concern is more, uh, personal. More than anything else, I simply want to lie down in this smartly designed space and catch up on my iPad issues of The New Yorker—I'm five weeks behind—but can't decide whether to do this on the daybed by the window, the three-seat sofa, the comfortable wooden-and-rattan chair in the living room, the double sun lounger under an oversized umbrella by the pool or the sink-into-me outdoor sofa. I do know that I won't collapse in the bed to read, nor will I slide into my private pool. Just yet. In the end, I leave the iPad in my villa and wander out to lunch. When showered in so much doubt, I can always eat.

Each of the villas exudes comfort.
Each of the villas exudes comfort.

With 71 villas and pavilions, the Phuket property represents the first of a trio of Rosewood resorts opened in Asia during January 2017: Luang Prabang and Phnom Penh are next up for the luxe hotelier known for its attention to detail in its properties. Sure enough, walking into my villa, the feeling is of immediate comfort; pinpointing why that is isn't as obvious. The vibe is of a well-appointed, contemporary beach house, a place borrowed from better-off friends for a few days. Both indoors and out, there's a sense of flow: everything in its right place. And while Rosewood is aimed at the high-end traveler, there's no sense of being overly posh.

This is the first resort designed by Melbourne's BAR Studio, though the group also developed the Rosewood Beijing. Its Phuket work is purposefully residential, luxurious and low-key. "Rather than look towards historical Thai architectural precedents, we took our cue from the idea that Thailand is now a very worldly country," explains design director Stewart Robertson, "so we reimagined Phuket as a weekender for Bangkok."

A healthy way to tool around the Rosewood.
A healthy way to tool around the Rosewood.

We escape to resorts to rejuvenate, to recharge and to rest, but is that even possible anymore in a getaway as popular as Phuket? "Privacy is very important to us," explains the Rosewood Phuket's easygoing managing director Andrew Turner, who has spent the better part of the past two years making sure the resort meets expectations. "Those wishing to hide away in their villa can do so easily, especially as all of our pavilions and villas have private ocean-facing garden terraces with infinity pools."

If I could go up in a drone, I would see that the Rosewood Phuket is laid out in staggered parallel layers of accommodation on a long, flat plot of beachfront well past—make that, out of earshot—the din of Patong. As Turner suggests, each of these rows is hidden from the next with dense foliage—including atop roofs—some of it native, some replanted, all lushly green. Nine pool villas right on the beach likely will be the most sought-after, though the rest fall into a can't-go-wrong category. Beachside, bedrooms are separate from living and dining areas, and everything spills out into the outdoor deck and pool that steps off into a small garden, the beach and the ocean. Dip one toe in your private pool, the other isn't far from the sea. Elsewhere along this secluded coastline, the resort's restaurants and tiers of pools also meet at the beach.

Pool or ocean?
Pool or ocean?

A stay at the Rosewood Phuket feels like you're peeling back layers. There's an endless list of vantage points, both around the resort and in each villa. Each part is a freestanding piece of the puzzle all connected through the landscape: a Thai restaurant and the wellness center feel like entirely separate entities until you uncover the shortcuts to each. "We want our spaces to be better the tenth time you encounter them, rather than the first," Robertson explains. Most first experience the comfort of the villa. Throughout the grounds is scattered local art, some of which will age with the climate. Every detail seems to lead to something else. The lush resort where much of the foliage hasn't been tampered with, and includes several towering banyan trees, is designed to capture all the rainwater through a runoff that leads to a storage pond. Using rainwater and maintaining the surrounding nature also underline what you cannot see. Out in the emerald-green bay is a coral reef rejuvenation program that will take several years to mature.

All of this leads to the obvious question: can a resort on an overly popular island really be environmentally friendly? Much is up to dedicated hotel design and practices, though the guests play their own role. The idea of capturing rainwater makes me stop to think about the amount of water I'm using as I shave in the morning. I realize I've developed a connection with the resort after a single night.

Lush greenery ties the resort together.
Lush greenery ties the resort together.

Robertson calls this a transcendent moment in any stay. "Guests should not necessarily be able to point to what it is that made the experience so good, they should just feel that it was good. Not knowing somehow makes it feel even more magical," he tells me.

I also get that feeling at Ta Khai, one of a trio of food outlets that use herbs and vegetables grown on-site. In the case of the 160-seat Thai restaurant with a separate entrance for outside diners, that means underfoot and around your table, which might be underneath the roof of an old barn or in a pavilion encircled with greenery. Ta Khai looks more like someone's well-appointed garden for diners to enjoy their Phuket-specific dishes of yellow crab curry or slow-cooked pork. The indoor-outdoor Red Sauce offers a contemporary setting with unobstructed views out to the ocean. Aside from the menu, the only hint that this is an Italian eatery is the trio of chefs debating in the open kitchen next to the modern pizza oven. Come stai? One level down, poolside is The Shack, a stop for an array of seafood dishes and fresh salads. Moving forward, Turner says, the idea is to have restaurant menus that interconnect with the resort's wellness center.

The Shack
A beetroot and chickpea salad at The Shack.

The final jewel in the Rosewood Phuket crown is Asaya, a wellness area enveloped by gardens growing jasmine, gardenia, lemongrass and mint, all ingredients used with spa treatments. The garden doubles as a buffer between the outside world and the spa proper. A wellness atelier is the first stop, a chance for guests to concoct their own salt scrub. With red and sweet basil, kaffir lime, lemon balm and even Thai curry leaf, I'm not sure if this is a modern science lab or a well-stocked tropical kitchen. Put to work, I blend rosemary, sea salt and coconut with Asaya's own massage oil, the only downside being that I begin to feel like I'll turn into someone's dinner. Amused Thai staff eye me suspiciously, looking a bit too famished for my liking. Two-and-ahalf hours later, after a salt scrub, oil massage and extended facial, that daybed back in my villa is looking ever more comfortable. I could get used to this.; villas from Bt28,900.




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