Story and photography by Steven Andrew Martin

When Thailand Surfrider Magazine was first invited to stay at Sri Panwa, and my girlfriend Lakkana and I were offered to go, our first thoughts were that we were too busy. And besides, we already live in Phuket, go to the beach every day, have cable TV, high-speed internet, and an espresso machine. So packing up just to drive down the road to Sri Panwa seemed inconvenient and unnecessary.

This somewhat negative attitude was quickly turned around after Sri Panwa hospitably and encouragingly re-invited us to visit?recommending that we would find their pool villa more than interesting and comfortable. We were hooked when they explained that the resort?s style was ?all-inclusive?, complete with private pool villas and an a la carte made-to-order breakfast. Not really knowing what to expect, we threw a few things in the car and drove down the winding road that leads to the southeastern tip of Phuket?the Sri Panwa peninsula.

Once on property, we were escorted in a chauffeur-driven and sharply-painted tuk-tuk up the mountain to our private pool villa. Complete with a personal pool villa attendant, we were in awe when the villa door opened to reveal panoramic views of the ocean below. It was as if we were walking on water as the sea shimmered below us while boats of all sorts zoomed by on their way to Phuket?s international Makham port. In an eye-shot we saw below us a giant cruise ship passing silently by, speedboats parting the sea in whitewater trail like jet-airplanes across the sky, and classic long-tails putting along.

Next we got an education in high-technology from our villa attendant as she explained how to change the lighting and air conditioning; how to use the massage jets in the private infinity lap pool; and how to operate the cooking-hot Jacuzzi and steam room. Lastly, she gave us a serving tray full of hand-held controls that guests use to manage all the entertainment systems. I felt like a modern-day ?Captain Kirk? on the ?Starship Enterprise?!

The accommodations at Sri Panwa are private and all-inclusive. You don?t share your pool, Jacuzzi, or sauna, with anyone that you didn?t invite; only things you share are the sweeping views of the beaches and the Andaman Sea. Pleasantly, we also discovered that each villa comes with a complementary mini-bar stacked with beer, soda, snacks, and a selection fresh fruits; there was even a personal espresso machine with a variety of exotic teas and coffees! And suddenly it hit me. I had turned this down at first request. What was I thinking? The first day we swam in the infinity pool while being dazzled at the view, watched all kinds of new movies on the big screen TV, took sauna baths, ate fruits, did some photography, and of course, clean out all the beer in the mini bar! The second day we explored the grounds, walked through the brilliant tropical gardens and tree-lined paths, down jungle-jim-style wooden staircases leading past sun decks and cliff-top swimming pools to the private coves below.

In the late morning we had a la carte seaside brunch?all inclusive Sri Panwa style?which was the icing on the cake of our visit. With views of the newly-revamped Phuket Aquarium and the renowned Phuket Marine Biological Center (PMBC), we were given a mile-long list of breakfast options. Sri Panwa guests simply need to check the boxes of the delicacies they might like to sample. Together, Lakkana and I went down the list, indiscriminately ticking each box that caught our fancy. Cappuccino – check; Eggs Benedict – check; Omelet – check; Waffle – check; Pancakes – check; Coconut yogurt – check; Hand-prepared hash browns – check; Fresh fruit marmalades and jams – check.

A tour of the kitchen was also impressive; a culinary artist?s fantasy constructed entirely out of stainless steel, where inspired young chefs create with insight. We saw how each order was treated as an individual project. This was not the typical buffet style food line; in contrast, guests can watch the chefs? work in the open-air kitchen from either the red napkin-lined tables or from the garden areas just beyond. As a food-lover, what I?ll remember most was the quality of each individual dish. Everything is the best-of-the-best. Clean and natural ingredients combined in such a way that anyone would instantly recognize the excellence. Indeed, no expense was spared.

Normally, surfers are not preoccupied with the need for such systematic lavishness, but in this case, it?s worth making an exception. Although I have traveled far and wide in my life as a travel writer, and have experienced the four corners of the world?s quintessential ?5 star settings?, this was perhaps the cr?me de la cr?me of global hospitality and tourism!



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