The outside world fades fast when you arrive at Phulay Bay, A Ritz-Carlton Reserve (reserve.ritzcarlton.com/phulay_bay) in Krabi, Thailand. Dwarfed by 20-foot, plum-hued walls and swaying palms, you make your way across a huge shimmering pond on stepping stones to the soaring Thai lobby pavilion, which stands on an island. We suggest luxury travel advisors arrange for clients to check in at the resort after dusk, as we did, when thousands of gently flickering candles cast a reflection on the pond making for a truly fairytale arrival.
This 54-room boutique hideaway is the first Ritz-Carlton Reserve, and sets the bar high on secluded luxury. With more Reserves planned for the Maldives, Turks and Caicos, Mauritius, Muscat and Thailand, this breakaway brand looks set to create a lot of buzz.
Note: At Phulay Bay, there is no reception desk, so guests are greeted and led to their accommodation by a personal butler who looks after their every need—from checking in and unpacking, to calling in housekeeping while guests are out and about. The butler can also organize offsite activities, make spa and dining appointments and arrange transfers. General Manager Estelita Sebeto ([email protected]; 011-660-7562-8111, ext. 1111), who is the contact for VIPs, says guests come to rely so much on their butlers they don’t want to leave without them.
On the 10 acres of beachfront sanctuary, the tropical vegetation is landscaped to border pathways creating hidden corners and secluded nooks. Swathes of lawn sweep past the infinity pool to the shoreline. And, like everything at Phulay Bay, the proportions are arresting. Thai architect Lek Bunnag has done things on such a grand scale—without being flashy or flaky—you can’t help feeling that, like Alice in Wonderland, you have suddenly grown smaller.
Rooms in the Pavilions and Villas, no two of which are the same in style or size, have generous couches in the palest shades of white Thai silk (the guest slippers are also silk) and colorful northern-style Lanna paintings on the massive teak doors and cupboards. The contemporary Thai décor and lavish use of space continues in the bathrooms which have double sinks, many with couple stone bathtubs shaped like open orchid blossoms, and soaring domed ceilings with colored-glass skylights. The rooms are also fitted with flat-screen TVs and large walk-in closets, and have either spacious balconies or walled-in gardens. Top Touch: All 30 villas have indoor and outdoor bathtubs and plunge pools.
|The Vitality Pool at ESPA at Phulay Bay. The spa has 11 treatment rooms and RAW, the spa’s café, which serves food and drinks that complement the spa program.|
Our top choice, especially for honeymooners, are the six 1,290-square-foot Royal Villas, which have seafront locations and 130-foot infinity pools.
We also recommend the Reserve Villas, which, at 1,140 square feet, have raked-sand Japanese gardens. Note: We liked the Ocean Pavilions for their sundecks and rooftop patios. For the best sunset views, ask for Nos. 57 and 59, which are on a hilltop.
For extended families, there are eight sets of interconnecting Reserve Villas and 22 interconnecting Ocean Pavilions. Tip: For families with small children, we suggest booking the Beach Villas for their plunge pools and sundecks.
Rooms Division Manager Marcel Damen ([email protected]; 011-66-75-628-111) says to book as far ahead as possible, and no later than this month, for Krabi’s peak season, which runs from December 22 through January 6. Also, contact Damen to set up exclusive weddings and to reserve the Lae Lay private seafront pavilion for romantic candlelit dinners.
Getting There: Phulay Bay is 40 minutes from Krabi airport and two hours from Phuket’s international airport, both of which serve private jets. Although Krabi is quieter and has fewer amenities than its famous neighbor, there are endless bespoke experiences in which to indulge at Phulay Bay, such as luxury-yacht picnics, elephant trekking, meditation classes with local monks and Thai cooking classes. The Phulay butlers organize these and more, and also lead young guests to the Kid’s Club where they have fun with batik painting, treasure hunts and cooking classes.
The ESPA Spa’s three Thai pavilions have 11 treatment rooms for couples and individuals, and a VIP treatment area with a private outdoor terrace. Contact Spa Director Sirikorn Jantawong ([email protected]; 011-66-75-628-111) to reserve treatments in advance for your clients. And ask her for Kunh Oh, who was named Therapist of the Year 2009 by a leading Asian spa magazine.
The Sri Trang Restaurant specializes in traditional Thai cooking. The Jampoon serves international specialties and has an Action Kitchen chef’s table for up to 12. Be sure to book ahead for clients keen on joining these weekly seven-course Thai menus accompanied by fine Thai wines. The Chom Tawan Lounge has all-day casual dining and inviting lounge beds with oversized silk cushions. Note: These quickly fill up in the evening for sundowners and nightcaps.
|Thai Cooking is on display at Sri Trang, one of six dining options at the resort.|