After five days in Hong Kong we flew down to Thailand for a week on the island of Phuket, then Phang Nga on the mainland and finishing in Bangkok. Home for the first three days was the idyllic Paresa, which in Sanskrit means 'heaven of all heavens' and I'm inclined to agree: it's one of the most beautiful places I've ever stayed.
Perched high on the cliffs overlooking Kamala Bay, Paresa is a luxury five star hotel with an understated, elegant main building surrounded by 49 villas dotted around lush, tropical gardens, giant palms and huge Banyan trees. The peaceful, quiet resort is spread over 30 acres, with only the sound of singing cicadas and chirping insects at night.
The contemporary suites and rooms come with comfortable super king size beds dressed in luxurious white linen with soft feather pillows, private outdoor terraces with sun loungers and your very own pool, a massive bathroom with Thann toiletries, two basins, a deep bath by the window and both indoor and outdoor walk-in showers.
Whilst I was there it was my birthday and it was my probably my favourite one yet, made even more special by the friendly staff (Dawid Koegelenberg is the most charming GM ever), who were attentive, polite and do a very good job at making guests feel looked after. They even gave me a birthday card and chocolate cake, brought to our table by smiling, singing waiters and waitresses. The service was flawless.
Breakfasts are a relaxed affair with plenty of fresh fruit, dim sum and pork buns (when in Rome), juices, pastries and - if you're feeling particularly indulgent - sparkling wine you can wander up and serve yourself, or you can order from the a la menu. After poached eggs, earl grey tea, passion fruit juice and a glass of fizz - breakfast of champions - I was raring to go.
Paresa offers lots of adventures and organised day trips, so on my birthday we woke up at 6am for an excursion to the picturesque Phuket Old Town (photos coming soon). With our own tour guide, we walked around the historical streets and 19th century buildings, visiting local shrines and authentic shops; it was a great morning spent exploring the "real" side of Phuket, away from any other tourists.
we saw this little guy when we opened the curtains before sunrise
We were dropped back at the hotel for 11am, in time for a few hours chilling on the daybeds by the infinity pool with a Champagne glass in hand before lunch. After sushi, we visited the tranquil spa which offers all the usual treatments and massages using local, organic products. We spent a blissful hour there; the 60 minute deep tissue massage to release tension and the slightly softer Thai massage with oil which almost sent me to sleep.
Shuttles run throughout the day to take guests down to the small fishing village Kamala - one of the many low-lying flat beaches on the west coast hit by the Tsunami in 2004 - so we went for an afternoon of swimming, wandering along the sandy beach and watching salt dry on our skin.
Each evening, we watched the sunset over the Andaman Sea with sundowners before a chilled, al fresco dinner. The food here is excellent: one restaurant with two kitchens - Diavolo for modern Italian and Talung for Thai dishes - our favourites were the fragrant, traditional curries and hot tom yum soups.
We visited the cooking school Recipe to cook some Thai favourites from scratch with the resort's Master Chef and spent another few hours languishing by the pool gazing over the beautiful azure waters, cursing having to leave... What a wonderful few days.
Paresa Resort, 49 Moo 6 Layi, Nakalay rd, Kamala, Phuket 83150, Thailand