Jacqui Stafford checks in (just for dinner, sadly) at the Amanpuri resort in Phuket, Thailand, and redefines casual chic
When Leonardo di Caprio and Kate Moss need some peace and quiet, they head to the Amanpuri, atop a coastal hillside over a stunning beach in Phuket, Thailand. The Amanpuri, which means “place of peace” in Sanskrit, is a resort of secluded pavilions interspersed with groves of coconut palms and private infinity pools, of netting draped teak beds, of endless rounds of massage, exquisitely prepared cuisine, complete privacy and utter elegance.
When you, on the other hand, need some peace and quiet, you book for dinner (because you’re staying at Hotel El Cheapo miles away, and it’s sure as hell the nearest you’re going to get to spending any time there): You’ll revel in the Zen-ness of it all, marvel at the quiet luxury, enjoy an outstanding gourmet experience with palm trees gently swaying in the breeze of the night, all the while pretending you’re a guest.
This is all theory, of course.
“Should we get a taxi?” suggests Belinda, glancing anxiously at the enormous, rolling black clouds above, as we teeter down the steps of our excuse-for-a-hotel in our Manolo Blahniks (one of the many reasons we can’t afford a night at Amanpuri). The overweight Germans draped around the exquisitely pretty Thai girls that populate our seedy hotel are watching skeptically.
“Don’t be ridiculous!” I yell over my shoulder, hailing a touk-touk, (a small open-sided, bus-like contraption not dissimilar to a hairdryer, which the locals use for transportation, considered a bit déclassé, but cheaper than a taxi.) “It’s only a few drops, and the Amanpuri’s just up the road, anyway.”
An hour and a half later, our mobile hairdryer is still negotiating the hair-pin bends at about ten miles an hour, swaying dramatically as we’re battered by the howling gales. Buckets of torrential rain are pouring in sideways. My mascara, so carefully applied just hours before, is now a smudged line somewhere halfway down my left cheek. My hair is the definition of rats tails, my Blahniks are pathetically sodden… and about the only thing we have going for us is, well… nothing really.
Worse yet, as we limp up to the Amanpuri, two sleek American women in Chloe, Gucci, and some un-wet Jimmy Choos step gracefully out of a limo, right in front of us. “Is this the right place, the Amanpuri?” one loudly questions the concierge, looking us up and down.
The idea was to sweep into this delectably tranquil spot, heading straight for our reserved tablenot dart in, spy-like, dodging behind the vast colonnades in an attempt to get to the bathroom to rectify the mess we’re in. Luckily, it’s not far. Just past the resort shopoverstuffed with exquisite Thai furniture, hand-crafted wooden accessories, luscious flowers, intricate linens… but even I can’t bring myself to shop in the state that I’m in.
Mercifully, the bathroom is empty. Not so mercifully, I only have the bare minimum of makeup with me, not the suitcase-full I normally cart around. This evening was meant to be all about style. Chic. Elegance. A bag the size of a matchbox.
I rummage through the matchbox. One lipstick, one eyeliner. I rub a dab of lipstick onto my cheeks, dot a tiny smudge over my eyes, then do my lips. It’s a kind of all-one-color thing, very now. I line my eyes, and dot the liner lightly along my eyebrows, which I appear to have left in the touk-touk. Hair is a different issue. Needs more help. It gets slicked behind my ears, and tied into some semblance of a French twist. Sort of. With a stretch of imagination. However, with the hand drier focused onto my Blahniks, my pride and leopard skin tote start to recover.
We make our way to the restaurant. It’s on a wooden terrace, bathed in candlelight, and overlooking a stretch of impossibly white sand, with the soft sound of waves lapping. Kate’s not here, and neither is Leonardo, but the waiters outfitted in azure silk treat us as if were equally as fabulous.
After a succulent beef satay, an ingenious, mild red curry, and a bottle of first-class Merlot, we allow ourselves to fall into the serenity and peacefulness of it all. (I look around for the American women. What a shamethey appear to have been placed behind a colonnade with no view.) By now, I’ve completely forgotten about my cold, damp feet, and the state of my hair. It’s pure heaven here.
Some hours later, our check arrives and the price, fittingly, is also out of this world.
“We’ll get a taxi back,” says my friend, determinedly. “Yes,” I agree. “Yes.”
As the staff wishes us goodbye in their utterly betwitching traditional Thai manner of clasping their hands together and bowing their heads, I catch sight of a waiter heading discreetly in the direction of our table to mop up a little puddle of rainwater.