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Breaking the Circle in Yaowawit, Phuket

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Situated in the verdant jungles of Thailand’s Phang Nga province, two hours north of Phuket, Yaowawit School is home to as many as 150 underprivileged children from the surrounding areas. Either orphans or children whose families cannot take care of their upbringing, the children of Yaowawit live at the school until they turn 18. Different from other establishments, the school focuses on holistic education and experiential learning to help break the cycle of poverty. It proudly claims that quite a number of its graduates have gone on to university and the older ones have even begun successful careers.

Founded in the wake of the 2004 Indian Ocean Tsunami, Yaowawit is an impressive operation. Dedicated mentors work tirelessly to care for the children and teach them important life skills. While the school generates its own income from several small enterprises and is working towards being self-sustaining through the use of permaculture, it is grateful to receive help from individuals, small groups and corporations that share the school’s vision.

On 15 May 2019, the Elite Havens Phuket team decided to head to Phang Nga for a day of fun with the children of Yaowawit. On the way, Elite Havens Thailand Country Head, Femke Beekers, shared, “As a responsible company, we must also think about the community. So, along with the villa owners, we find out the needs of the community and help out as much as we can. In the past, we have supported the children of local prisoners in Baan Lung Pitak prison and the abused mothers in Good Shepherd by donating food and gifts on Children’s Day and Christmas. And we are always looking for locally-sourced products we can use in our villas. One such product we use is a beautifully scented soap made by abused mothers. We give this soap as gifts to our guests on their birthdays or in special gift baskets and we include a note about the women who make the soap and what they’re doing to make their lives better. We heard Yaowawit has a really good organic farm and that they also make products like detergent, so in addition to giving gifts today, we’d like to look into buying their produce or products for our villas. That way, our assistance is more long term.”

When the Elite Havens team arrived,

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The Best Beach Clubs in Koh Samui

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Fabulous Koh Samui, with its white beaches and verdant hills, is also a happening island. Hop into any of its excellent beach clubs for a day of fun in the sun. You’ll never want your vacation to end.

Nikki Beach 

Overlooking the crystal blue waters of Lipa Noi, the beach club at Nikki Beach Resort Koh Samui is renowned for its incredible events, food, cocktails, and unsurpassed VIP experience. The beach club offers guests a unique experience and personal touches that are signature to the Nikki Beach lifestyle brand. You can relax on a sunbed and listen to music played by famous international DJs and live musicians, while enjoying handcrafted signature Nikki Beach mojitos. The Nikki Beach Sunday brunch and sunset cocktails are must-dos.

 Chi  

Chi Beach Bar/Restaurant Samui from Kalara Koh Samui on Vimeo

Chi serves up modern cuisine and handcrafted cocktails, with a swim-up bar and 25-metre saltwater infinity pool overlooking a pristine white beach. With an extensive menu that offers Thai selections, pizzas, burgers and other savoury fare, there’s something for everyone. Weekly offers include oyster platter deals, saxophone evenings, movie screenings, and ‘clever cocktails’ afternoons.

Beach Republic 

Beach Republic is an elegant and stylish beachfront venue located in the northern area of Lamai. Featuring impressive modern architecture, the resort’s restaurant has both indoor and outdoor areas, the latter set around the swimming pool deck, with direct access to the beach. They host special themes and events each day of the week, with live DJs and musicians entertaining the crowd.

 Karma Beach 

Perfect for groups of friends or families, Karma Beach delivers on all fronts if you are looking for a laidback venue. Designed like an oasis, with touches of Thai elements, it exudes unmistakable tropical vibes. Get ready for mellow lounge music at an enviable beachfront location, replete with a tempting food menu. This is the lounge to head to for a luxurious and comfortable retreat.

KC Beach Club and Pool Villas

KC Beach Club and Pool Villas is located in Chaweng, the most happening beach on the island. It has a fabulous party atmosphere. Get cosy in a beach cabana or float around in the free-form swimming pool while listening to cool tunes by the resident DJ.

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Elite Talk with Country Manager Femke Beekers

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Elite Havens’ Country Manager for Thailand, Femke Beekers fell in love with the country while on vacation. So much so, that in 2000 she decided to move halfway across the world and build a life there. Fast forward to today, she has now been a resident for 19 years, the first 10 of which were spent in Koh Samui, working in the hospitality industry. New job opportunities brought her to Phuket, and for the past three years, Femke has been managing the Thailand operations of Elite Havens as Country Manager. In her free time, Femke likes to practise yoga, hang out at the beach with her family and friends, and experience all the fabulous things Phuket has to offer. We asked her about some of her favourite spots on the island she now calls home, Phuket.

Elite Havens: Please tell us a bit about yourself and what you do for Elite Havens.

FB: Ever since I finished school, I have been working in the travel and hospitality industry. Come to think of it, that amounts to more than 25 years. I worked with travel agencies in Europe and later, moved to Thailand to manage several luxury resorts in Samui and Phuket.

I am currently the Country Head of Thailand for Elite Havens, a position I have held for the past three years, developing our destinations and business in the region, with my colleagues Andy and Milos.

EH: How difficult was the transition from hotels to luxury villas? Was it very different from your previous role?

FB: The role itself is quite similar, overseeing the entire operation and the different teams, ensuring the processes run smoothly, which is what I do countrywide for Elite Havens now. However, when you are running a hotel, the rooms and facilities follow a common style, and are all contained within one location. With villas, each property and location is unique and caters to a different audience. Moreover, personalised service provided by Elite Concierge to the guests makes every single stay a unique experience.

EH: What do your daily duties as Thailand Country Head include? Do you deal a lot with the owners? With clients?

FB: Most of the day goes into day-to-day operations.

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Island Adventures and Family Fun in Phuket and Koh Samui

in Culture/Destinations/Families/Recreation by

Planning a family vacation to Phuket or Koh Samui and accommodating the needs of an entire family is no easy feat. The mind boggles with such a wide range of both indoor and outdoor activities available. What are the most reputable and safe options, and which activity could satisfy everyone equally – from the oldest to the youngest? Staying at an elite haven makes the decision-making process simple.  Not only will you receive the attentive care and local tips from your dedicated Villa Manager, but you also have the assurance of the Elite Havens’ Concierge to assist with all your booking requirements and to personally manage your experience. So, you can sit back, relax and simply enjoy your holiday.

Phuket

The Phuket Aquarium, on the island’s southernmost tip at Cape Panwa, is a great place to discover Phuket’s underwater world and learn about local marine conservation at the same time. The aquarium is especially suitable for younger kids who will delight at the sight of sea turtles, manta rays and, of course, those cute clownfish of Finding Nemo fame. Top Tip: Walk along the nature trail at the exit of the aquarium and you’ll find a sanctuary for injured turtles.

Phang Nga Bay, with its magical hidden lagoons and towering limestone karsts, is a sea kayaker’s dream. Day trips from Phuket accommodate paddlers of all ages* and abilities and are a wonderful way to discover this unique seascape. Alternatively, ride the waves aboard a traditional long-tail fishing boat, or charter a luxury sail or motor yacht for the day.

*If your kids are very young, we recommend checking with the tour organiser before you book, as full day trips may not be suitable.

Bikes, Boats and Beaches. If you fancy something a little more energetic, we highly recommend a day out with Andaman Nature Tours (Feel Phuket). This three-in-one tour starts with a boat trip over to one of Phuket sister islands Koh Yao Noi. From here, saddle up for a bike ride. The terrain is relatively easy-going and the scenery is stunning. You’ll ride through paddy fields and meet local farmers who are the real organic hipsters, then up into the rubber plantations. For your lunch stop, hop aboard a traditional fishing boat and cruise to a secluded palm-fringed white sandy beach,

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Through the Keyhole: Villa Naam Sawan

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Enter Villa Naam Sawan in Phuket and prepare to be transported to a beautiful, modern version of Thailand. Statues of Buddha are perched beneath a multi-pitched roof. The ceiling is strategically filled with lights that shine on large couches, Thai artefacts and a sleek dining table surrounded by stately chairs. Inviting, with a vast amount of space to envelop you – you feel tiny in here – the villa was designed by the world-famous architectural design team of Philippe Starck and Jean-Michel Gathy.

The level below has four luxurious bedrooms. All face the large swimming pool, which looks out onto a private beachfront. You can lose sense of time lounging on any of the large chairs by the pool, or on the bale to the side. This marvelous and spacious villa was made just for that purpose. 

We had a quick chat with Villa Naam Sawan’s Villa Manager Wawa about what makes her job special.

Elite Havens: Hi! Can you tell us a bit about yourself?

Wawa Biutiatinoni: My name is Nukhatra Biutiatinoni, but you can call me Wawa. I’m 37 years old. I’ve been the Villa Manager in Villa Naam Sawan for nearly 3 years.

EH: And what did you do before you became a Villa Manager?

WB: I worked with hotels for nearly 10 years within the Front Office function. My roles ranged from that of a Receptionist to Guest Service Supervisor, welcoming new joinees; as an Airport Rep, picking up the guests at the airport and even that of a Butler.

EH: Why did you choose to live in Phuket?

WB: Well, first of all, I love the sea! And the hotel industry is bustling in Phuket. There are many opportunities to work here and you can practice your English. So if someone wants to work in the hotel industry, I recommend Phuket as the place to start your career.

EH: If a guest wants to visit places nearby, what places can you recommend?

WB: First, I must check to find out what they like to do. If someone likes adventure, we have that! If someone likes shopping, we have that too! Or even relaxation. I first ask them what they like so I can recommend something basis their preferences.

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