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Lana Willocks

Lana Willocks has 10 articles published.

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A freelance writer from Canada, Lana decided to give tropical island life a try in Phuket in 1999, where she's lived ever since. She writes about a broad range of topics from sea gypsies to seaside villas with a focus on Phuket and the Andaman region.

Famous food from chefs at Phuket’s best restaurants

in Dining by

While the Thai capital of Bangkok is a globally recognised dining destination that’s on the verge of getting its own Michelin star guide, Phuket is no slouch when it comes to delicious and daring food either. The island’s rich culinary heritage can be traced back to the diverse tastes that flourished from the waves of migrant arrivals from across Asia in days past to its current status as one of the top resort islands in Asia.

Some truly talented chefs from Thailand and around the world have added their own creative flavours, colour and panache to the Phuket dining scene. Be sure to try some of these standout dishes at Phuket’s best restaurants if you haven’t already!

Bampot Kitchen & Bar

The idea behind every dish and drink at Bampot is to take local ingredients and apply the best technique for each ingredient, whether Thai or Western style, and pair complementing flavours and textures to end up with a balanced finished dish.

It’s all about great food and drinks in a relaxed atmosphere

Chef Jamie Wakeford

Bampot is Scottish Chef Jamie’s first solo venture following a career in top kitchens in the UK and Asia.

TRY:

  • Prawn bon bon, screen curry foam
  • Duck, pistachio, pickled local jubjube
  • Crab tagliatelle, yellow curry, basil

COCKTAILS?

The Tamarind and Cardamom Smash with Chalong Bay rum, tamarind, cardamom and lime reflects Bampot’s whimsical approach.

With its meticulously presented dishes and unpretentious style, Bampot has become a foodie favourite since it opened near Bang Tao Beach.

Suay Restaurant

Stepping into Suay restaurant in Phuket Town is like entering the home of a friend, with its low-key and welcoming style providing a subtle backdrop to the sensational fusion food that’s about to be served.

Created by Chef Tammasak Chootong, known by many as Chef Noi, Suay means “beautiful” in Thai and his dishes have earned him renown not only for beautiful presentation but for his bold and sassy balance of flavours.

SIGNATURE DISHES:

  • Crab curry quiche Lorraine (where he adds a bit of Thai zest to the timeless comfort dish)
  • Bite-sized Foie gras with tamarind and lemongrass dressing,

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Thai Massage in Phuket: Reviving the Body and Soul

in Wellness by
Thai massage at Villa Amanzi in Phuket

Phuket is known for its hedonistic holiday pleasures – beach club parties, sunset cocktails, luxury yacht cruises, seafood feasts and the like. Alongside these carefree pursuits there are a growing number of places for self-care, where travellers can heal their bodies and revive their souls while on a Phuket holiday. Yoga studios, intensive martial arts training, detox/diet centres, fitness boot camps and meditation retreats are just some of the restorative activities on offer. None is as prevalent in Phuket as the age-old healing art of traditional Thai massage. 

Traditional Thai massage

Thai massage (also called assisted yoga massage) is a vigorous treatment by which your body is moved and manipulated in a series of bends, stretches, lifts and acupressure compressions to stimulate energy flow and restore balance.

WHAT TO EXPECT: During a Thai massage, no massage oils or lotions are used. Loose-fitting clothing is worn during the treatment, which was traditionally carried out on a low bed or mattress on the floor. These days, however, massage atop a massage table, spa bed or sun lounger is more common throughout Thailand.

TECHNIQUES: Experienced therapists have incredibly strong hands, and they also use their elbows and knees to apply pressure at various points along your body. A Thai massage session can also include cracking of the joints and neck and pulling the limbs.

BENEFITS: By the end of a one- or two-hour treatment, you’ll feel completely invigorated from head to toe. Given that some of the techniques can be rather forceful, be sure to talk with the therapist first, especially if you have any injuries or chronic pains that need to be handled with extra care.

Villa Napalai Surin - Massage RoomMASSAGE AREA AT VILLA NAPALAI – SURIN BEACH, PHUKET

The principle behind Thai massage is that life is sustained by a vital force, ‘lom’, that is circulated through the body along invisible pathways called ‘sen’. When these pathways are blocked it leads to illness, fatigue and imbalance. Thai massage is believed to help unblock the pathways and stimulate the flow of lom, thus restoring the body back to health and vitality.

Thai massage is an integral part of traditional Thai medicine, with techniques that have been passed down through the generations for more than 2,000 years. Ancient texts of Thai medicine have been lost to the ages but in 1832 King Rama III of Siam commissioned 60 stone etchings to be made using fragments of text found at the royal court.

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Phuket Architecture and the Evolution of Luxury Design

in Destinations by
Thai architecture Phuket hillside Villa Minh

Before Phuket, Thailand earned its reputation as a world-class beach holiday destination, for centuries it called to fortune-seekers, workers and traders from Asia, Arabia and Europe. This interesting convergence of cultures is reflected in the island’s architecture. We take a look at how luxury villa design has evolved in Phuket over the last 150 years or so.

SINO-COLONIAL ELEGANCE

Baan Chinpracha Historic Mansion in Phuket by Opal HoPHUKET TOWN OLD GOVERNOR’S RESIDENCE

Back in Phuket’s booming tin-mining days in the late 1800s to early 1900s, the island’s emerging wealthy class built luxury mansions of Sino-Colonial design, in a fashion that reflected the tastes of the tin-mine barons of the time, who were largely descendants of Hokkien Chinese immigrants with family ties stretching from Phuket to Penang, Malacca and Singapore.

A handful of these mansions still stand today in Phuket Town, including the old governor’s residence, now home to the Blue Elephant restaurant (pictured above), and next door Baan Chinpracha mansion (below), which is now part family home, part museum.

Baan Chinpracha Historic Thai Architecture by Jinjoo ShinINSIDE BAAN CHINPRACHA MANSION

European influences are seen in the homes’ elaborate porticos (arched windows and doorways), neo-classical pillars and Italian marble floor tiles with intricate designs. Thick walls and inner courtyards helped protect the mansions’ residents from the sweltering heat, and air circulated through rows of elegantly arched louvered windows. 

These luxury villas of the past were largely found in the island’s interior near Phuket’s commercial centres – all the fabulous beaches lining its coast were not considered desirable places to live for anyone but fisher-folk. But once travellers discovered the beaches and tourism replaced tin mining as the economic driving force in the 1980s, visions of luxury living shifted to the coastlines.

QUINTESSENTIALLY THAI

Amanpuri PhuketAMANPURI PHUKET (IMAGE FROM TRIPADVISOR)

In 1988, a coconut plantation on a headland near Surin Beach became home to the Amanpuri, an exclusive resort built to a level of luxury unheard of at the time on Phuket. Designed by architect Edward Tuttle as a collection of elegant pavilions spilling over the hillside, it was a ground-breaking style that came about after his extensive travels around Thailand.

Historic city of Ayutthaya by UNESCOCITY OF AYUTTHAYA (IMAGE BY UNESCO)

His main inspiration was the ancient Ayutthaya architecture of central Thailand (above),

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Top Five Phuket Day Trips

in Recreation by
Phuket Thailand Elephants

Phuket’s golden sands, warm seas and sensational sunsets have long lured visitors from around the world, but there’s a lot more to this tropical island paradise than the beautiful beaches that fringe it’s shores, glittering temples, majestic wildlife, breathtaking seascapes, underwater wonders and a fascinating cultural heritage are yours to discover.

Here are the five essential Phuket day trips.

#1 Phang Nga Bay

James Bond Island Phuket

JAMES BOND ISLAND – IMAGE CREDIT: TINGGLY.COM

Beckoning just off Phuket’s east coast, this sheltered bay is perfect for a luxury yacht charter or a sea kayaking trip. Glide past towering limestone karsts, visit the Panyee floating village, or paddle through caves to find hidden lagoons of ethereal beauty. In the middle of Phang Nga Bay is James Bond Island, whose steep rocky pinnacle jutting out of the emerald water has become the iconic image of Phuket and the Andaman region. A busy spot at times but a breathtaking sight nonetheless. 

#2 Big Buddha

Phuket Big Buddha

Travel to Phuket’s southeastern interior to find two of the island’s most sacred sites. Wat Chalong is a 200-year-old Buddhist temple of golden-spired marble pagodas with red-tiled roofs. At the heart of the temple is the 61-metre Phramahathat Chedi, a glimmering three-storey stupa that houses a sacred bone fragment believed to trace back to the Lord Buddha. Climb to the top level to enjoy views of the surrounding hills and the Big Buddha, an imposing 45-metre statue in pure white marble. The views extend across much of the island’s south and to the sea beyond. Entry is free for both Wat Chalong and the Big Buddha but donations are welcome. And make sure to dress modestly when visiting these religious sites.

 

#3 Elephant Sanctuary

Elephants in Thailand

IMAGE CREDIT: PHUKET ELEPHANT SANCTUARY

Elephants are highly revered in Thai culture but sadly their diminishing habitats across Southeast Asia and popular use as tourist attractions have led to their abuse and exploitation. Phuket Elephant Sanctuary, opened in late 2016, offers an alternative to visitors who want to see these majestic giants without contributing to their mistreatment. Adjacent to Khao Phra Theao National Park, the sanctuary is open for half-day visits to observe the elephants in their natural environment (3,000 baht for adult entry,

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Snorkelling Phuket’s Underwater Eden

in Recreation by
Snorkelling Phi Phi Islands Phuket

Phuket is well known for its sea, sand and sunsets, but those who venture into the blue beyond the beach will discover another island delight: snorkelling.

The Andaman Sea is rich with tropical sea life and dotted with idyllic islands, and a short boat journey from Phuket will bring you to several fascinating underwater sites. Here’s a brief guide to some of the best snorkelling sites around Phuket and how to get there.

Though it’s certainly no longer the untouched paradise portrayed in Leonardo DiCaprio’s movie ‘The Beach’, the Phi Phi island archipelago, with beaches of glittering white sands framed by dramatically steep cliffs, is still a wondrous sight.

When snorkelling Phi Phi island, the depths reveal sites teeming with colourful fish, especially among the fertile reefs near the uninhabited Bamboo island. Found about an hour’s boat ride to the east of Phuket, Phi Phi is best visited during the calmer months of December through March.

Sea Turtle Khai Island KHAI ISLAND – IMAGE CREDIT: EMOTIONTRAVEL.CO.TH

Just 15 minutes away from Phuket’s southwest coast lies the tiny Coral island, with two beaches and a resident family of hornbills to visit between snorkelling sessions. Thirty minutes further are the Raya islands with shallow reefs ideal for exploration by snorkel. Raya Yai, with just a few resorts and no cars, has some spectacular beaches for relaxing breaks in between snorkel outings.

Young explorers will love the Khai islands, a trio of tiny isles of sand and rock that resemble eggs (‘khai’ in Thai) floating in the water. Khai Nok, Khai Nui and Khai Nai are easily accessible and ideal for snorkelling with kids, just 20 minutes east of Phuket and surrounded with clear shallow waters and fertile reefs. Young children need only stand in the shallows to spot at least a few fishes. It does get busy here at times so try to come outside of peak visiting hours for a more peaceful trip. 

Snorkelling Similan Islands SNORKELLING THE SIMILAN ISLANDS – IMAGE CREDIT: ORIGINALDIVING.COM

The diamond in the crown of the Phuket snorkelling experience is the Similans, a stunning nine-island archipelago with crystal clear waters and an incredible variety of reefs and marine life. It’s a bit of a hike to get there: an hour’s drive north to Tablamu pier on the mainland, followed by an hour on the boat,

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