We travel to the pearl of the Andaman, to discover authentic Thai cuisine at Banyan Tree Phuket, Thailand. One of the greatest things about arriving at Banyan Tree Phuket, is the welcome. Of places around the world, I find Thailand’s hospitality to be up there with the best.
We travel to the pearl of the Andaman, to discover authentic Thai cuisine at Banyan Tree Phuket, Thailand.
One of the greatest things about arriving at Banyan Tree Phuket, is the welcome. Of places around the world, I find Thailand’s hospitality to be up there with the best. The locals approach and greet with such grace and respect, as they bow, press their hands together and say “sawatdee khap”, meaning “hello”, in a somewhat soft-spoken, welcoming tone. Thoughtful, simple luxuries like this multiply throughout the stay.
Designed as a small Thai village, Banyan Tree Phuket is a large villa-only resort (all with personal swimming pools) comprising 137 options ranging from deluxe pool villas to double pool villas, that spread comfortably around luscious natural sounding grounds encompassing a saltwater lagoon, and back onto the beaches of Bang Tao Bay and a manicured 18-hole golf course.
A culinary journey
In Thailand, the food demonstrates "intricacy, attention to detail, texture, colour, taste, the use of ingredients with medicinal benefits, and good flavour, as well as care being given to the food's appearance, smell and context,” as described by Thai celebrity food expert, chef and writer, Mom Luang Sirichalerm Svastivadhana, usually known by the nickname McDang.
Taking a deeper look at the country’s cuisine, it’s broken down regionally to represent the five main regions, which include Northern Thailand (this is where most ethnic groups live in Thailand, which sees the cuisine become well-rounded and full-bodied), Bangkok (where food boasts strong Chinese and Portuguese influence), Central Thailand (most rice-growing plains are here and the food tends to be smoother, a little more mild and lasting in taste with a touch of sweetness), Isan (a region influenced by Laos and Khmer cuisine), and Southern Thailand (food tends to be much hotter here and is heavily influenced by flavours and spices used in Indonesia and Malaysia).
At Banyan Tree Phuket’s signature restaurant Saffron, is where you’ll find authentic Thai fare that encompasses influences from throughout the country. Cooking classes with professional, local Thai chefs are available as required and take you on a journey of discover through sourcing ingredients, creating base pastes and sauces, to blending spices and traditional herbs. Thailand’s land is rich with high-quality fruits and vegetables that are considered premium in most countries around the world.
Whether you try the class or visit the outlet for dinner, I’d recommend trying classic dishes like papaya salad, tom yum goong, (a spicy and sweet tiger prawn soup, seasoned with lime, chili and lemongrass), tom kha gai (chicken with coconut milk, mushrooms, kaffir leaf, lemongrass, chilli and galangal), phla raad prik (fried fish with sweet chilli sauce), and to finish, the simple but splendid sweet dish of mango with sticky rice. The mangoes in Thailand are amongst the best in the world.
Thai food aside, Banyan Tree Phuket lends its culinary talent to a range of international cuisines including authentic Japanese fare at Tamarind, a restaurant led by the accomplished Japanese Master Chef Shiraishi Kikuo. Expect delicacies from sweet shrimp sushi and California temaki to tenderly grilled Wagyu beef and delicate salmon belly in sweet soy sauce. Also for dinner, enjoy freshly caught fish and seafood at the Watercourt’s mini ‘Seafood Market’, which you can handpick what you’d like to try.
The resort’s fine dining outlet, Tre Restaurant, serves refined Western cuisine with Asian influence, while Sands and the Pool Bar offer a much more laid-back affair, including ‘grab and go’ options to enjoy at the beach or on your travels outside of the resort. To mark a special occasion, Banyan Tree Phuket also offers private location dinners, where experiences are tailor made.
Whether you’re looking to relax or keep active, there are activities suited for all ages at Banyan Tree Phuket. Personally, as a beach lover, I was in my element sitting beachside admiring the jaw-dropping sunset spectacles over the Andaman Sea. However, activities on offer include the likes of golf at the 18-hole golf course, tennis, horseback riding at the beach and Quest Laguna Phuket, which provides challenge-hungry guests with a thrilling treetop rope course and more. And, for children there’s a full range of outdoor adventures at the Turtle Club to enjoy. All guests are also provided with personal bicycles for getting around the resort, so a bike ride is a favoured option too.
To stay, even the entry level villas here are equipped with their own swimming pools and carefully manicured gardens, in addition to his- and hers dressing and washing areas, and open-air sunken bath. If you really want to indulge, opt for the super-luxurious two-bedroom villas that come with their own 24-hour in-villa chef (separate from the main space) and butler, plus large infinity pools that back onto the lagoon. Or, take it that step further and book one of 12 spa pool sanctuary pool villas that come with unlimited in-villa massage (absolutely dreamy!).
Out and about
Although there’s lots to keep you occupied at Banyan Tree Phuket, like the quality dining experiences, and private, intimate activities – a draw that could easily keep you happily content within the resort’s grounds during your stay – you may also want to venture outside of the Laguna area to discover Phuket’s sights.
Aside from beautiful beach after beautiful beach – Karon, Kata, Surin, Patong and Nai Harn, to name a few – there’s much to do around the province – and even further afield, if you don’t mind joining a boat trip to nearby islands like the famed ‘James Bond Island’ – they really are picture-perfect.
If you’re less of a beachgoer and enjoy in-land nature, the Bang Pe Waterfall, is where a group of expats have established an amazing Gibbon Rehabilitation Centre. The project focuses on nurturing gibbons back to health and keeping them out of harms way – it’s a wonderful place. Next on the list is a trip to Big Buddha. The winding journey up to the 45-metre Buddha alone is an experience, with breathtaking birds-eye views over the Nakkerd Hills. Or, stop by the Chalong Temple – a temple said to be one of the best in Phuket.
Activities and sightseeing aside, Phuket is a vibrant, stunningly colourful destination, that’s well worth a visit (or visits). With so much to do, see and most importantly, eat, I’m optimistic that a gourmet getaway married with true Thai hospitality and a myriad of culinary pleasures, is sure to have you returning back to Phuket, time and time again.
Details: Emirates Airlines fly daily from Dubai International Airport into Phuket, Thailand. Ticket prices start from around US$800 (around Dhs3,000) for economy, and US$2,000 (around Dhs8,000) for business class. Please note that these figures are priced based on travel during mid to high season. Visit: emirates.com To stay at Banyan Tree , Phuket Call: +66 76 372 400 or toll-free on 800 065 0586, e-mail: email@example.com or visit www.banyantree.com