Indeed, that overworked word “Paradise” is entirely appropriate in describing these two lovely resorts and the pristine natural location in which I recently found myself grazing on delightfully fresh, healthy cuisine and sipping a particularly enlivening coconut juice.
Paradise Resort was opened in this fabulous spot in 2004 and became an immediate hit with discerning guests who appreciated quietude and natural splendour blended seamlessly with the epitome of service and style. Just this year, its sister resort TreeHouse Villas progressively opened with a marvellous selection of 32 Tree House, Hillside and Beachfront villas, each with its own pool and each uniquely designed by Phuket-based Australian creative guru John Underwood.
Talking recently with John, he explained that his intention was for each villa to sit harmoniously within the embrace of the surrounding natural environment, rather than imposing upon the environment as so many resorts do. John’s unique structures most certainly achieve this admiral goal, providing a romantic escape to the throngs of honeymoon and “loved up” couples who so readily flock to this idyll.
Marc Landgraf himself has a unique perspective upon the development of the Andaman region, having spent much of his stellar career working in hospitality in Thailand and the Andaman managing such iconic properties as the Outrigger Resort on Koh Samui; the Outrigger Phuket Laguna Beach Resort and Villas; and the Outrigger Phi Phi Island Resort and Spa, not to mention stints in Brussels, the Dominican Republic, Luxembourg and France after graduating in International Hospitality Management from Lausanne in 1994.
We luxuriated in the wonderful supper before us, in this unrivalled setting as Marc spoke about the concept of escape from the stresses of today’s world. “We can almost see the sense of relief and relaxation that our guests go through when they arrive here by our transfer boat and start to embrace the reality of this magical natural environment. They stop their obsessive scoping of their iPhones and become much slower and more relaxed in their movements. Sadly, Phuket island itself still harbours most of the stresses of the big cities from which many of our guests have come.
Phuket has appalling traffic and road manners, plus pollution and crowds, so it’s only when they disembark into our “Paradise” that they truly start to feel they are escaping from all that and becoming “one with nature”. Marc himself feels much of this schizoid existence as he commutes back and forth to Phuket where his wife lives and his daughter goes to school. “I feel myself changing up a couple of gears when our transfer launch comes back into the Yacht Haven. I have to crank myself up to face the traffic and stress of driving in Phuket. So many of our guests these days arrive for weekend escapes from Bangkok, or by private boat, all looking to re-charge in our slice of natural perfection prior to returning to the grind of their daily lives. It’s a sad commentary on today’s lifestyles.”
I asked Marc about the changes in tourist profiles that the last few years gave brought to the Andaman region. “We hear a lot about the way in which the raw numbers of arrivals, flights and hotel rooms keep on growing, but such simplistic numerical accounting misses the ways in which low-yield group tourism is impacting the market, bringing with it enormous environmental and structural costs.
Certainly, room rates and yield are being driven relentlessly down, while raw numbers of in-bound visitors rise. Some of the results are the traffic chaos, overloaded landfill sites, water shortages and stressed local populace and rising crime that now abound on Phuket island itself. We are really privileged to be out here, removed from all that looking back at it from, well, a slice of Paradise.”
Charmingly, as a guest, one receives a printed paper into your Tree House each evening titled “A Brief Overview of Tomorrow” telling you about the lovely events and experiences awaiting you during your next day in “Paradise”.
I noted that I could do a sunrise beachside yoga class, or a enjoy massage and spa treatment prior to a lovely drawn-out beachside breakfast. I could take a bus tour into a local village and market, learning more about the quiet pace of life here on Koh Yao Noi.
I could go diving, or kayaking through the limestone karsts, or hopping around the island by bicycle and boat. The forecast daytime high temperature was scheduled to be 31ºC all week and an almost full Gibbous moon would be waxing that very night. Somehow it was all so reassuring that slices of “Paradise” like this really do exist so close to the madness of our main island, and we are blessed indeed to have them.
“Bicycling” Baz Daniel fell off his first bicycle aged three... a case of love at first slight. Since then he has spent a further 65 years falling on and off bicycles all over the world, but his passion endures. When not in traction, he found time to become Senior VP of the world’s largest advertising and communications group, finally retiring to Phuket in 2006. He has been penning his Blazing Saddles column, chronicling his cycling adventures in Phuket and beyond, since 2013.