Thailand - If Carlsberg Did Beaches
In the April issue of GT you can find my secret Bangkok article - a peek at the coolest places in a very hot city. But it'd be insane not to spend some time on some of the paradise-esque beaches and islands too. In fact a good tour of this beautiful and gay friendly country should be on your things to do before you wind up in Kylie Gardens gay retirement home list.
As a detox after the Bangkok bustle, the white sandy beaches, palm trees and flawlessly clear seas of Phuket and its surrounding islands are unbeatable, and only an hour away by budget flight. As well as general beaching, you'll find coral reefs teaming with marine life for world class diving and snorkelling. Many of the best sites are a short hop from the island Koh Phi Phi, but also accessible by a myriad of tour boats from Phuket.
In the nearby Phang Nga Bay area, giant limestone rock formations tower from the open sea - a hauntingly beautiful vista at dawn and dusk and an exciting option for sea caving and climbing. Koh Yao is the quietest, least-touristy island in the bay and a real car and consumerism free-zone. But if you really can't stand the thought of lying on unspoilt beaches 24/7 then shopping, people watching and dancing all night with a mix of playboys and ladyboys is on tap on Phuket - along with luxury villa hotels, world-beating spas and plenty of traditional culture.
My advice? Try booking a few nights in two or three different islands. You can get between them with the help of speedboat transfers provided by the hotels explored here.
Anantara Phuket is up there in the top three luxury villa resorts on the island. This is movie-grade glamour, though everything is done in calm, serene modern Thai style rather than Hollywood OTT. The pool villas are free flowing, expansive spaces with plenty of wall-windows to open you to the breeze from the long beachfront. You can step out of your bedroom or bathroom and straight into the pool, and there are tons of clever uses of space, plus the latest discrete technology, to allow both entertaining and unwinding. There is of course, a giant communal pool too, which feels a little like ancient Rome in its opulence, with various bars and spa baths. The setting is even more dramatic at night, when lit with flaming torches and sound-tracked by a DJ. There are two excellent restaurants, a tree-house cocktail bar and one of the standout beauty and wellbeing spas on Phuket. With lighting and mood changing throughout the day Anantara is ravishing to look at, and an incredibly uplifting place to stay.
The Shore at Katathani, Phuket
The newly opened The Shore at Katathani is all about pool villas, with 36 of them in total - all are impossibly luxurious with infinity pools as standard. There's also a restaurant, spa, wine cellar and a Secret Wedding Terrace if the romance gets to your head. The Shore style fuses seaside resort comfort, colonial antiquity with mod-con luxury in a setting that is entirely serene despite being close enough to access all the Phuket night (and flight) action. There are stunning views across the beach and sea from the hillside while well thought out design and high-technology make you feel comfortable at every turn. Other diversions include The Lighthouse cocktail bar, Serenity Spa, fitness centre and, oh yes, tropical fruit picking.
Phuket is usually the launch pad for exploring the further flung islands such as Koh Phi Phi (great for diving and snorkeling) and Koh Yao (ditto, but much quieter, less touristy).
Paradise, Koh Yao
Paradise Koh Yao is a boutique beach resort and spa, situated on one of the beautiful bays of this small island, with views of the limestone outcrops and offering a range of accommodation, from comfortable to luxurious pool villas. From kayaking to diving and rock climbing, the Paradise has friendly, dedicated activity guides to help you get the most of this incredible location - but if you're just looking for peace, tranquility and lazy beach days this is a great choice.
Zeavola, Phi Phi
The only luxury Phi Phi Island resort, Zeavola has traditional airy Thai villas as well as stunning and incredibly peaceful pool villas. There are two very good restaurants and an excellent selection of activities on hand, including fishing, scuba diving, snorkelling and kayaking. Within easy reach of Zeavola are James Bond Island, Maya Beach, Phi Phi Ley Island and Bamboo Island. You can take a long-tail boat taxi to Phi Phi town if you're up for a slightly more raucous night with the backpackers and divers who flock to the island's famed beaches and dive sites.
For more trip planning inspiration visit
EVA Air is due to fly daily from 29 MAR 2010 from London Heathrow to Bangkok non-stop. All economy seats include personal entertainment system, prices from £495, including taxes. Alternatively upgrade to Elite premium economy or the EVA award winning Premium Laurel business class, with flat-bed seating and fine dining.
For reservations, telephone 020 7380 8300 or visit evaair.com
Thai Airways runs several Bangkok-Phuket flights daily.