Great for quiet, tropical and romantic holidays
What is it? Beachfront resort
Will set you back: From $225 AUD p/n
When we arrived at Anantara Layan in Phuket, there was a smiling, multi coloured elephant greeting us at the door. We later found out this 1.5 metre statue (didn’t we mention that?) was painted and bedazzled for the annual Elephant Parade – an exhibition of eighty-eight elephants, decorated and hand-painted by artists and celebrities to take place in Bangkok. This happy, uplifting elephant would eventually be auctioned off with the proceeds going to The Golden Triangle Asian Elephant Foundation, which was a perfectly adequate reason to feature the statue in the lobby of this five star tropical resort. But a convenient little byproduct of this decorative choice, is that the statue is also a perfect reflection of the vibrant yet peaceful, beautiful yet unassuming resort that is Anantara. We knew that the Anantara hotel chain had grown rapidly over the past five years, but we didn’t know exactly what to expect and couldn’t wait to find out what it is about Anantara that keeps guests from all over the world, coming back for more.
The beachside lobby at the resort is pure elegant simplicity with an evident Thai influence. Open-air, wooden-accented and with an enticing view to both the main pool and the white, sandy beach right in front, this welcoming design is enough to get you immediately into holiday mode. On its other side, the five star resort’s lobby area looks out to a stretch of manicured grass where open-air movies are screened every Friday night. Above that lie the green hills with its hill villas and at the very top: The Residences by Anantara… which is another accommodation option the resort offers, at the absolute upper echelons of luxury.
The grounds are immaculate and private, making it a true hideaway. Golf buggies take you up the hill to visit the absolutely stunning spa that features its own pool, as well as one of the resort’s two restaurants. There is also another lobby here, positioned near the spa for those staying at this side of the resort and at The Residences.
We stayed in a Beach Access Pool Villa, and we were beyond impressed. We have stayed in a lot of villas throughout Southeast Asia, and what stood out about the Anantara villa was the premium interior design. There is absolutely no skimping on luxe trimmings at this resort. Where other resorts have a villa “feel”, or will impress you with their size or their location, Anantara’s villas will impress you with their premium detail.
The bedroom is beautiful, and the bathroom is stunning, with floor-to-ceiling windows that open up the whole villa space with a view to the gorgeous and very new pool, and small outside deck. A thirty second walk out behind the trees, ensuring the villa is completely private, and you’ve arrived at the far end of Bang Tao beach.
The bathtub looks onto the pool, and is luxury defined. The room’s style is contemporary with a Thai influence, and features a rich palette of dark, glossy wood, plum and of course, white. One of our favourite design decisions in the room was the pool, with its teal-coloured tiles that gave the villa an even more sumptuous but also contemporary feel.
The villa is 180m2 in total, including its gorgeous outside area so there is more than enough space for two. The other accommodation options also include some suites and rooms, but you really can’t look past the villas, of which there are eight types!
The Beach Access Villa is incredibly comfortable and spacious, and aside from the luscious bed, what makes it so is all of the room amenities. The mini bar is totally fancy pants – with boutique brands displayed in a gorgeous wooden cabinet that looks and feels premium. The room also has Apple TV, a Bose sound system, an outdoor shower, oversized bathroom with equally large shower and a stunning bathtub.
We can highly recommend the Anantara Spa. Aside from its absolutely breathtaking position half way up the hill, ensuring it has a stunning view to the ocean and down to the rest of the resort, the spa is beautifully designed. Its deep teal-coloured pool is tropical and luxurious and nearly always completely empty, which is ideal for those who opt for a room rather than a villa. The spa has its own lobby, and then multiple spa rooms positioned a short walk (that is partly open air) from there. I especially loved this open air aspect – it does a really good job of maintaining the Thai feel of the resort, while encouraging guests to wind down, switch off and connect with the nature that they will find all around them at Anantara. The lobby itself is particularly charming, with high, wooden-beamed ceilings and an exterior that makes you feel as though you’re entering a giant tree house.
The massage I had was very enjoyable, although I felt that the interior design of the spa rooms could have been warmer and more Thai-influenced. They felt a little sterile to me and at odds with the rest of the resort. I did love, however, the recovery section, dim-lit and complete with lounges, snacks, tea and cold drinks for guests to enjoy for as long as they like either pre or post-treatment.
In true Asian tradition there was a plate of fruit waiting for us when we arrived at our villa, and the staff member who showed us in the ins and outs of our accommodation was courteous and professional, just as expected.
In fact, the service overall at the resort was exemplary. Wait staff through to housekeeping and the spa practitioners were all incredibly professional and pleasant.
If, at any stage, you would like to visit the upper section of the resort that is up a hill from the beach, a quick call to the villa attendant sees a buggy and driver arrive at your door to take you to your destination. The hillside is also where you will find Dee Plee Restaurant, the spa and the stunning Residences by Anantara.
Although we were desperate to try the resort’s Thai restaurant, Dee Plee, positioned at the top of the hill with a breathtaking view out to the ocean panorama, the restaurant was unfortunately reserved for a wedding during our stay. We did, however, dine at the other restaurant at Anantara Layan, Sala Layan, positioned one level up from the ground floor pool and bar. With a massive outdoor balcony dining area as well as an inside dining space complete with a wine cellar, the restaurant is elegant and refined while maintaining its Thai feel.
While the view – the petite beach is directly in front of the resort – is gorgeous and the mood at night is incredibly romantic and ambient, the food at Sala Layan left a little to be desired. We opted for tuna steak which unfortunately was overcooked beyond belief – surprising for a Thai restaurant given the Thai generally cook seafood very well. The rest of the meal was pleasant, but the standout for us was the wine list and the service. The waiter was incredibly attentive and took on board Mr T’s gluten intolerance with no qualms whatsoever.
However, the breakfast buffet did not disappoint! Wow. Our high expectations had been pre-empted by the staff who are very proud of the spread, and who had gone so far as to say it will be the best hotel breakfast we have ever have. We can happily confirm, it was definitely in our top three hotel and resort breakfasts of all time. The buffet selection is so extensive it’s hard to know where to start. In addition to the wine cellar which becomes a cheese and cured mets room during breakfast hours, there is every kind of breakfast food you can imagine, and all of it is made on-site. The pastries and bread are baked in the kitchen, and there is an extensive healthy breakfast table with tonics, juices and other colourful and healthy options. There is so much food at this daily spread that I wouldn’t be surprised if many of the guests stock up on an oversized breaky to see them through to late afternoon Happy Hour!
Anantara Layan Phuket is located on the northwest coast of Phuket, in a peaceful and secluded corner of the island. Phuket is unfortunately known more for the reputation that the island's seedy party district, Patong gives it, which has masked the natural beauty of the island to many travellers. Venture a little further, though, and you'll find gorgeous, white beaches and unspoiled natural beauty. The resort is situated at Layan Bay, which is surrounded by National Park forest at the far end of Bang Tao Beach, another beautiful stretch of sand. Good news for long distance travellers, too: Anantara Layan is only a fifteen minute drive from Phuket International Airport, a drastically shorter journey than the more common hour-long drive to the island's popular southern tip. A short beachside stroll away guests will arrive at the more vibrant area of Laguna, where there are dozens of bars and boutiques, or a 35-minute car ride will get you to the famous Patong, Karon and Kata beaches.
secluded, romantic escape with designer, luxurious trimmings