Travel Well

A Land of Smiles: Thailand’s Earthly Heaven

Published: Tuesday, May 12, 2015 | 2:03 AM

A magnificent sunset at Phuket.

Thailand is known as the Land of Smiles, because of the cheerful, friendly nature of its people. I spent a wonderful week in the south of Thailand, trying to absorb as much of the local culture as possible.

Flying into Phuket, the largest island in Thailand, with 541 miles of beach on the Andaman Sea coast, I could not help but be dazzled by the turquoise water shimmering below me. Dotting the shore were swimmers, surfers and long-tailed boats as far as the eye could see; I was chomping at the bit to get started on what I knew was going to be the trip of a lifetime.

My first stop was the cool, and inviting La Flora Resort Patong ( Nestled in the heart of the Patong Beach district, the La Flora Resort is a sleek, contemporary boutique hotel with spacious rooms, fitted with teak furniture and finishes,with accents and bedding in beiges, tans and whites. Set directly on Patong Bay, literally seconds from the sea shore, many of the rooms have their own private pool; each private pool is secluded and not visible from any other room. More than half of the remaining rooms have direct access to the main pool, conveniently set in the middle of the resort. The remaining rooms are all ocean view.

An absolute must is watching the sunset while sipping one of their signature cocktails from their rooftop restaurant.

The La Flora is a couple of minutes’ walk from the vibrant, world famous Bangla Road.  Closed to vehicle traffic, the street is teeming with stalls upon stalls of vendors hawking their wares during the day. At night, it becomes a bustling, buzzing, almost hypnotic mix of music, people, clubs, lights, and men and women trying to entice you into their clubs.

The nightlife of Bangla Road.

They advertise sex shows, also known as “ping pong shows,” cheap beer, dancing girls and girly boy shows. There are also quite a few girly boys, decked out to the nines, encouraging you to take their pictures. Of course, there is a cost attached, and if you take a picture of, or with them, you are paying, make no mistake about it. Politely decline the shows or photo ops, and they will just smile and leave you alone.

The next stop was the breathtaking Aleenta Phuket Resort & Spa ( The Aleenta is located in the Phang Nga district of Phuket, just 20 minutes north of the Phuket International Airport. The resort sits directly on the pristine Natai Beach. Passionate about the environment, the Aleenta’s efforts in promoting and maintaining eco-consciousness garnered the hotel the 2015 award for Thailand’s Best Small Green Hotel.

The Aleenta Phuket Resort and Spa is a magnificent, small luxury hotel. There are a total of 30 rooms and suites that range from 830 sq. ft. for the ocean view lofts, right up to 5,385 sq. ft. for the Grand Deluxe Pool Villa. The hotel is ideal for rest and relaxation, away from the hustle and bustle of the more touristy areas of Phuket.

The moment I stepped into the reception area of the Aleenta, and was greeted by a member of the staff, I knew I was going to enjoy my stay. Walking to my suite, the first thing I noticed was the spectacular view of the ocean directly in front of me, perfectly manicured gardens to the left and right, and the pond teeming with huge koi flanking the walkway to the suites.

The two-room suite itself, painted and furnished in tasteful, neutral colors, was cool and calming. One room had a sofa, large flat screen TV, table and chairs, fridge and coffee maker, while the bedroom had a comfortable, king sized bed, with floor to ceiling windows. A private outdoor pool, chaise lounges, Jacuzzi bath and shower allow the guest to unwind and feel at home.

The hotel is equipped with two full service restaurants, (both of which offer room service), two bars, a gym, reading room, kid’s club and spa. The black with gold accent mosaic tiled infinity pool at the front of the resort, overlooking the ocean is absolutely stunning.

Personalized luxury in Phuket.

The resort is a little out of the way, and there is only one tiny convenience store within walking distance, otherwise it’s a 15-minute taxi ride to town. That said, however, there really is no reason to leave the Aleenta; you could easily stay a week without even leaving your suite.

In the Mai Khoa district of Phuket,  bordered partially by the Sirinath National Park, are the sumptuous Anantara Phuket Villas  ( The hotel is a mere 15 minute ride from Phuket International Airport, and but a two minute walk to Turtle Village, a quaint shopping and dining destination where one could find anything forgotten, or unique souvenirs for friends and family.

It boasts five restaurants (among them, the award winning Sea. Fire. Salt.  restaurant; The Tasting Room, with individually designed menus, and The Tree House, offering Thai-style tapas and cocktails); a beach bar, Spice Spoons (a cooking school), and a stunning beachside infinity pool. The fragrant, lush vegetation surrounding the hotel, lotus blossom filled lagoons, myriad of walkways, and meticulously maintained property creates an especially unique setting.

There are also complimentary bicycles on site the use by guests. Simply pick up one in one area, and leave it in another. Since the property is quite expansive, the bikes are a great idea.

Each of the 91 villas at the Anantara offers its own private pool, terrace and spacious outdoor sitting area. The villas themselves are opulent, comfortable and leave the guests wanting for little.

The pool at Arantara.

The small touches; from the the delicious cookies left in the room twice daily, sketch pad and pencils, to the the rich soaps and shampoos and different types of intoxicating bath crystals or flower petals to scatter in the bath water shows that the management perfectly understands the desires of their guests.

The Anantara spa, which offers its own line of signature products, is the quintessential place for a spa treatment. I had the privilege of meeting Sirinart, (Kung to her friends) who gave me the best massage of my life.

My trip to Thailand was everything I expected it to be and more. It truly is the land of smiles, and a destination I look forward to visiting again soon.



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