Above: the “floating” bedroom pavilion.
Banyan Tree Spa Sanctuary
Property name: Banyan Tree Spa Sanctuary
Where: Northwest coast of Thailand’s Phuket Island
33, 33/27 Moo 4, Srisoonthorn Rd., Cherngtalay Amphur Talang, Phuket 83110
Rates: The “best available rate” quoted by the resort is THB40,500 (about US$1,300) per night.
Room count: There are 14 villas in what amounts to a separate “village” by the lagoon. Each villa has a floor area of approximately 550 square meters.
The “Banyan Tree Phuket” resort is where it all began for the high-end Banyan Tree brand, which is well-established in the Asia-Pacific region and expanding globally. The all-villa resort started in the mid-1990s on the ravaged site of a former tin mine and grew into a lush, sprawling property. Today it’s part of a multi-resort “complex” called Laguna Phuket that contains a handful of large resorts and over a thousand rooms within its borders.
Notably a new hotel from Angsana, a sister brand of Banyan Tree with more affordable lodging, will open within Laguna Phuket on December 1, across the lagoon from Banyan Tree Spa Sanctuary with easier access to the sea. Eventually it will be common for Banyan Tree guests to take lagoon boats over to enjoy Angsana’s sea-side nightlife and other attractions. (We’re guessing we’ll witness something similar to Bali’s Ku De Ta bar at some point next year.)
In the mid-2000s the original “Banyan Tree Phuket” added two premium-priced sections: “Spa Pool Villas” and “Double Pool Villas.” Those sections along with the rest of the resort were considered to be a single entity (Banyan Tree Phuket), but more recently the company formally acknowledged their distinct identities by packaging them separately.
As a result there are now three resorts where there used to be one: Banyan Tree Phuket (as before), Banyan Tree Spa Sanctuary, and Double Pool Villas by Banyan Tree. Of course having been one, they still feel as if they’re part of the same vast property, with guests from all three using the same spas, restaurants, and other facilities. But we decided to consider the two “new” resorts on their own merits. Below is a look at the Banyan Tree Spa Sanctuary. We plan to review the Double Pool Villas at a later date.
There are actually a few arrivals, with each entry feeling a bit more exclusive than the last. First you arrive in the general area of Laguna Phuket, then in Banyan Tree resort, and then in Banyan Tree Spa Sanctuary. You are likely to arrive in a new BMW that picks you up at the airport, complete with cold towels and water bottles (it’s about 20 minutes from the airport to the resort). Upon entering the villa you get a foot massage on the daybed. Near the bed are samples of the available bed linens (rayon, linen, cotton, and satin) and pillows (feather, synthetic, foam, and kapok, a material harvested from tropical tree seed pods).
The main idea behind these villas is to turn pleasurable privacy and seclusion into a high art, and — as they should at these prices — they do succeed. Whereas in most resorts you’d likely go stir-crazy staying in your room all day, here you’re more likely to feel increasingly content the longer you remain there.
The living room features a daybed, a writing desk, a TV with DVD player, coffee table books, herbal and floral tea, and various snacks and amenities.
The bathroom area has two separate sink and dressing areas. The large shower has various nozzles and doubles as a private steam room. In addition to the tub inside, there’s also an outdoor tub and shower.
The bedroom features a king-size bed and glass walls. It sits in the middle of — indeed seems to float upon — a peaceful lotus-flowered pond garden. A high stone wall ensures privacy and allows you to keep the curtains open at all times if you wish. Sleeping here entails a sensation of floating upon the pond. If there’s a list of the world’s most tranquil places to sleep, this bedroom belongs on it. And if you don’t awake feeling completely rejuvenated, see a sleep therapist.
The private pool section in the back looks out upon the lagoon and features — in addition to birdsong and other sounds of nature — a manicured lawn, sun loungers, and a glass-edged pool. There’s also a dining table and an open-pavilion massage area where you can get kneaded outdoors yet in the privacy of your own villa.
Eat and Drink
The restaurants here include Tamarind (fresh seafood), Saffron (contemporary Thai cuisine in a modern setting), and Watercourt (international breakfast buffet and Mediterranean cuisine at night), among others. In-villa meals and dinner on a traditional Thai long-tail boat are among the other options. The quality of the cuisine and service is generally excellent throughout.
An Internet cable is provided at the desk in the living room, and there’s also wi-fi. The Internet speed is sufficient for most needs.
Health and Fitness
The resort features bicycles, a fitness center, and a lap swimming pool. Activities like canoeing and wind-surfing can be arranged. A golf course is on the grounds.
Smooth narrow roads connect various parts of the complex, and golf carts are the preferred mode of transport. You can also walk or ride a bicycle. Either way you’ll enjoy fresh air and lots of greenery while getting around.
Exploring the Area
The lagoon dominates the scene. The beach and sea are nearby distance-wise but might not even factor into your stay. If you’re craving a retreat with sweeping coastal views, look elsewhere. That said, the tranquil lagoon has a magic all its own and is arguably more soothing than the sea.
Nothing on Phuket is particularly far from the villa, and the island offers plenty of activities, as any guidebook will tell you. But using a pricey Spa Sanctuary villa in particular as a base camp for exploring the island makes little sense if money is any consideration. It’s more of a high-end sanctuary from the outside world.
If you want luxurious seclusion and the hefty price doesn’t induce stress that defeats the purpose of staying here, then we whole-heartedly recommend this place. While at other resorts the question usually is “How was your stay?” here it’s, “How do you feel?” Staffers ask it to point out the obvious answer: completely rejuvenated.