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Phuket, Thailand – An Indulgent Wellness Retreat at KEEMALA

I have never been tempted to visit Phuket due to its notorious wild partying reputation, courtesy of Patong Beach. My curiosity to visit was finally piqued by Keemala, a new Small Luxury Hotels of the World property opening in December 2015. Located on the hillside in Kamala on the west coast of Phuket, Keemala is very different from other Phuket resorts in both concept and ethos – the property’s owners endeavour to highlight the island’s natural resources and local Phuket culture, as well as to promote healthy and sustainable living in their guest experiences. The wellness-focused experience is luxuriously magical and invigorating for the mind, as aptly expressed through its tagline “Beyond Enchanting.
KEEMALAKeemala is located near Kamala Beach on the west coast of Phuket, close to Patong Beach (10-minute drive) and Surin Beach yet far enough for a serene, relaxing getaway. The resort is built around its unique hillside topographical conditions, making use of natural features and slopes to offer guests full sea views, streams, waterfalls and indigenous trees.KEEMALAThe 5-star luxury resort’s design concept is based on the indigenous stories of four fictional ancient Phuket tribes, the ‘Pa-ta-pea’ (Earth), ‘Khon-Jorn’ (Wanderers), ‘We-ha’ (Sky), and ‘Rung-Nok’ (Nest) tribes. Each aspect of the property – from the architecture, décor, cuisine, activities to spa treatments link back to the key attributes of the four tribes. Upon arrival at the resort, this mythical tale  is told through an intricate tile artwork located at the entrance. I love the chickens on the wall!KEEMALAMuch effort is made in supporting local talents – its 38 villas (which comes with its own private pool) are designed by Thailand-based Architect Space and Pisit Aongskultong of Pisud Design Company, while furniture and fittings are sourced within local communities and hand-made using traditional methods. Effort is made to conserve the existing environment as much as possible.KEEMALA
With such strong design attributes, it is no surprise that guests get shutter-happy from the moment they check-in at the main lobby. Check out the amazing ceiling made out of tree trunks and intricately-tiled floor! (I was super tempted to lie on the floor for a photo lol)
KEEMALAWith a strong focus on nature and wellness, the resort is ideal for gusts who appreciate nature and relaxation. Its Mala Spa offers a range of carefully-curated spa treatments, wellness activities by visiting practitioners and Holistic Living Retreats for those seeking to unwind. Only natural, paraben and cruelty-free spa products by VOYA, Siam Botanicals, and Spa Ritual are used for their treatments. I had the opportunity to chat with their wellness consultant, and it was heartening to hear the thoughts that went behind their well-rounded wellness offerings, the choice of products and even their staff (their personal trainer has a doctorate in sports, and used to be a Muay Thai fighter, whoa!).
KEEMALAA fitness gym and comprehensive schedule of activities are offered for all guests, including yoga, muay thai (amazing cardio!), meditation, movement therapy, nature walks, outdoor TRX, aqua fitness, forest Tai Chi and special classes/talks by visiting wellness consultants. In addition, they do plan customized tours and itineraries for guests, so you have to try very hard to get bored here. Our charming personal butler North was always on hand to ask if we needed anything, made sure we were on time for our activities and warmly welcomed us back with a bright smile and glass of champagne (can I bring you home lol?)KEEMALAThe resort has four room categories inspired by the four mythical Phuket tribes, with the lead-in category being the Clay Pool Cottage (staring from THB19,050+++). The 16 ‘Clay Pool Cottages’ reflect the earthiness of the ‘Pa-ta-Pea’ clan who believed in a strong connection to the earth and were leaders in agriculture at the time.  They also excelled as fishermen, gardeners, carpenters, blacksmiths and miners. KEEMALANot only would they build their homes on ground level, they’d also incorporate earth into their walls, roofs and furniture. They’d build around life-giving rivers, on flat land; this was mainly to facilitate their strong agricultural skills and allowed them to fully live off their land. KEEMALAI love the high ceiling and skylight in the bathroom, makes me feel like I am bathing in the rainforest.KEEMALAThe 7 Tent Pool Villas are inspired by the ‘Khon-Jorn Clan’ (Wanderer Clan) who were an adventurous group consisting of foragers, herders, performers, traders and explorers, who spent their time trading goods with other tribes they encountered on their journeys. Due to their nomadic ways they’d prefer to construct semi-permanent homes, so they could easily move on. (I would gladly stay here forever!)
KEEMALAInside the Tent Pool Villas (starting from THB21,200+++) you will see the forms of wildlife and textures that have inspired the interiors, and materials were also chosen to highlight their pursuant lifestyle.
KEEMALACheck out the minibar hidden inside a giant wooden trunkcaseKEEMALASpacious Bedroom. I bet the nomads didn’t have it that good :pKEEMALAEvery detail is carefully curated, from the wooden keg basin to the tribal engravings on  copper water pipes that were specially commissioned for the resort. KEEMALAI can imagine reading a booking while sipping a cup of tea on the outdoor terrace, and having a dip in my very own pool with a glass of champagne in hand. (now where’s my bikini…)KEEMALAThe seven two-storey ‘Tree Pool Houses’ (my personal favourite) are built to represent the ‘We-Ha’ people who worshipped the universe and chose to live suspended from the trees to be nearer to the sky. The clan included the talents of healers, creators, architects and inventors.KEEMALAI liked how the different areas are spilt over two levels of living space, allowing utmost privacy. KEEMALAThe inviting bed beckons…The bathroom and bedroom are on the upper level, while the pool and lounge area are on the lower level.KEEMALA I could stay here all day… KEEMALALooks like utter bliss to meKEEMALAAnd this innovative structure is what I called home at Keemala – the ‘Rung-Nok’ tribe who inspired the design of the eight ‘Bird’s Nest Pool Villas’ (starting from THB25,500+++) enjoyed an opulent way of life. The interwoven design of their homes was thus to aid protection and privacy. This clan was thought to be more superior in both intellect and spirituality and comprised of artists, poets, musicians, philosophers and astrologers (I chose the right tribe, lol!).KEEMALAThe people would bathe under the moonlight believing that their souls would be replenished, thus the inspiration for these beautiful private pool villas. You can see the mountains, local Phuket life and Kamala Beach right from the pool which also comes with a jacuzzi.KEEMALA8-cellent interior decorKEEMALABest part about luxe travel – state your desires and your itinerary is planned and arranged for you by your personal butler – super stress-free! :) A pre-arrival form is sent so you can let the resort beforehand know your preferences from the amenities you need, hardness of your pillows, items you want in the minibar, to activities that you are interested in. KEEMALAUber spacious living space, I could play hide-and-seek here *cheeky grin*KEEMALAOur welcome jasmine garland which we placed inside the cupboard to make our clothes smell amazing :)KEEMALAInstead of a conventional minibar, Keemala provided a picnic basket which tempted us to go picnicking.KEEMALALocal coffee beans and a hand grinder are provided instead of a coffee machine, so you can make your own coffee fresh. KEEMALAWell-stocked fridgeKEEMALAThe locally-flavoured nuts were great snacks especially when lazing on the couch watching TV :pKEEMALAWe totally dig the retro-looking high chairs from a Thai brand. Our welcome fruit basket came with lots of local fruits as well.KEEMALAThe bathroom is a highlight by its own right – I loved the stone basins, the unique monsoon shower with its hand-made tile flooring (every villa has a different design).KEEMALAIn line with the resort’s eco-wellness theme, only naturally-made toiletries are offered KEEMALAA turndown service is provided, and this evening we had pomelo stuffed with cminced hicken for a light snack. KEEMALAKeemala has four outlets for dining – the main restaurant, pool bar, lounge area and a wine cellar ideal for small parties and meetings. I am impressed with the large and diverse menu offering, from local Thai food, Western, Chinese to even vegan and gluten-free choices.KEEMALAAs an extension of the wholesome spirit of Keemala, ingredients used in the cuisine are locally sourced and organically grown where possible. They have a garden where they grow their own herbs. Do say hello to their three adopted water buffaloes when you visit :)KEEMALAMeals were cooked with nutrition and taste in mind – that morning I chose a wholesome Chinese chicken soup with quinoa porridge. KEEMALAThe mushroom soup was memorably delicious.KEEMALAA native of Phuket, Executive Chef Poonsak carries more than 20 years of culinary experience under his belt and is well-versed in crafting gastronomic sensations for his guests, such as this very pretty oyster and soft-shell crab appetizer.KEEMALA
A piece of culinary artKEEMALAHealthy baked fish with vine-ripened tomatoes and olivesKEEMALAThe desserts are amazing at Keemala – this cheesecake was a feast for the eyes and tastebuds. The rich chocolate trio and mango with sticky rice were fabulous as well.KEEMALAMeals at Keemala are developed to match the tribe/room category that you are staying at as part of the storyline – I was surprised with a sumptuous “Rung-Nok” dinner which I could have right at my Bird’s Nest Villa – they would set up the dinner table by the outdoor pool, and the chef would barbecue the fresh seafood for you under the stars. Luck would have it that it was raining that day, so we had our treat indoors at the restaurant.KEEMALAThe gazpacho was a simple yet satisfying starter.KEEMALAA sumptuous bucket of sashimi and sushi, OMGKEEMALAThe star of the night – fresh catch from the Andaman Sea. Bon appetite! :)KEEMALAWe thoroughly enjoyed our stay at Keemala. The property was visually spectacular, being so different from the usual hotel offerings. It is also one-of-its-kind in Phuket focusing on wellness and relaxation. I liked how the tribal theme permeates every vein of the property, from the architecture, décor, F&B to activities. Furthermore, I appreciated the effort to offer guests an insight into the local way of life instead of the usual touristy gimmicks. Most importantly, we felt totally relaxed and happy during our time there. I am glad we stumbled upon this enchanted rainforest :)

Now x’cuse me while I soak in utter bliss…c’etait une bonne vacances :) 

Address: Keemala Phuket, 10/88 Moo 6, Kamala, Kathu, Phuket, Thailand, 83150

Tel: + 66 (0) 76 358 777
Website: keemala.com
Facebook: www.facebook.com/keemala
Email: stay@keemala.com
Distance from Phuket International Airport: 40 minutes (Their airport transfer is swag – it’s a rugged-looking Land Rover with wifi access)

Nearest beach: Kamala Beach (5 minutes by car)
Note: Adults-only policy (14 years old and above)

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Indonesia, Bintan Island – The Sanchaya: A Bespoke Getaway

The Sanchaya, Bintan Just 45 minutes away by ferry from Singapore lies The Sanchaya, a newly-opened luxury beachfront retreat set across 23 acres in the northern Lagoi Bay development of Bintan Island. With twenty one private villas and nine suites, the private estate is filled with hand-picked treasures and artefacts that gives an insight to the varied cultures of South-east Asia. Everything at The Sanchaya (which means ‘collection’ in Sanskrit) is bespoke and well thought-through, from the custom-made furniture, freshest produce cuisine, personalized activities to detailed attention from the ever-smiling staff, offering guests the ultimate pampering. A weekend getaway option to Bintan Island never seemed sexier ;)The Sanchaya, Bintan The Sanchaya, a member of Small Luxury Hotels of the World, is the only property on Bintan Island with its own VIP Lounge at the Bandar Bentan Telani Ferry Terminal. Express immigration and customs clearance is handled by the estate staff. All you need to do is to chill at the lounge upon arrival while awaiting your personal transport to the private estate.The Sanchaya, Bintan A look at the huge VIP lounge. The Sanchaya, Bintan The Sanchaya is just a short 15-minute drive away. All their drivers are native Bintan Island residents, so feel free to ask them about any places you would like to visit. The Sanchaya, Bintan We were warmly received at the estate with a welcome drink and bright smiles from The Sanchaya’s Estate Companions who remembered our names. Impressed. The Estate Companions are trained by The British Butler Institute which is recognized as the leader in butler and hospitality training worldwide.The Sanchaya, Bintan Check-in to a blissful stay! The decor of the estate is tasteful and every detail is taken into consideration.The Sanchaya, BintanThere are more than 175 unique styles of custom designed furniture at The Sanchaya fabricated by more than 250 Indonesian artisans. Look at those amazing-looking floor tiles, custom-made for the estate. The Sanchaya, BintanMajestic-looking The Great House which forms the main part of the estate. The Sanchaya, Bintan The estate’s all-day dining let guests eat whenever they feel hungry instead of allocated mealtimes, serving à la carte breakfast, lunch, afternoon tea and dinner as you wish – a big PLUS point for a sleepyhead and forever-hungry piggy like me :p The Sanchaya, Bintan Fancy a delicious-looking yoghurt for breakfast? The Dining Room uses the freshest market produce of the day, and the restaurant aims to satisfy all cravings whether on or off-menu. The Sanchaya, Bintan During breakfast, the traditional Jamu Gendong lady will visit your table offering a healthy and refreshing Jamu drink, an Indonesian natural medicine based on ancient tradition which uses local spices and root-tubers unique to this area. The Sanchaya, Bintan After breakfast, relax on these inviting rattan rocking chairs and take in the beauty of the beachfront estate. The Sanchaya, Bintan Located in The Great House overlooking the pool and beach , The Salon and Library has the feel of European salons in the 18th and 19th centuries. Check out its selection of rare books or simply relax over drinks with the rest. By the way, those intricate leaf-shaped ceiling fans are custom-made too. The Sanchaya, Bintan I can’t wait to sink into the grand-looking leather couches. Elegance and grandeur permeates every corner of The Sanchaya. Awesome for a profile photo too :pThe Sanchaya, Bintan The estates also houses a huge wine cellar of old and new world wines that can rival a respectable restaurant. Cheese, chocolate and wine tastings are held here too.The Sanchaya, Bintan I was impressed with their super well-stocked cheese and charcuterie selection. Am I really on Bintan Island?!?The Sanchaya, Bintan Admiring the lovely scenery outside while enjoying a glass of wine. That’s what I call a real holiday :) The Sanchaya, Bintan The Sanchaya fronts an ivory-coloured beach with views of the sea where I am told you can spot dolphins and turtles. What’s best, is that you can enjoy The Sanchaya’s bespoke full club bar service where bar artisans will create a handcrafted cocktail a la minute on a traditional jack tray, set up right next to your deck chair. My personalised cocktail will be named Spunktitude Rocks ;)The Sanchaya, Bintan Forgot to bring your swimwear? Simply stop by the well-stocked retail shop carrying international labels. I might just get a new outfit to do a Look of the Day ;) The Sanchaya, Bintan All the villas at The Sanchaya are named after tropical flowers. The Sanchaya, Bintan Villas have separate bedrooms and living rooms furnished with art and luxurious furnishings sourced from across South East Asia, reflecting the romantic colonial style of the residence. The Sanchaya, Bintan A kitchenette great for in-room dining The Sanchaya, Bintan Modern amenities such as Bang & Olufsen TVs are available in both the living room and bedroom. An iPad mini which connects to both TVs is preloaded with movies and music easily accessible via Airpush. I can’t wait to sink into the bed rightaway, and call me when it’s dinnertime? ;) The Sanchaya, Bintan Even the bathroom is an epitome of luxury living, from the claw-feet bathtub, custom bathroom amenities and fluffy bathrobes. I felt like I just walked into a movie set. The Sanchaya, Bintan And I can now shower sitting down :D The Sanchaya, Bintan Welcome to my walk-in closet, I’m all ready for a colonial holiday! :p The Sanchaya, Bintan I can imagine spending the whole day lazing at the private backyard, sipping tea and reading a book like a European lady in the 19th century would. The Sanchaya, Bintan Or throw off my shoes and have a leisurely stroll on the soft grass. And maybe run around the coconut trees lol. You can also request your butler to arrange for off-site activities such as a mangrove discovery tour, visit a traditional Indonesian ‘kampung’ village or go island hopping to Senggarang and Penyengat Islands to see ancient temples, palace ruins and tombs. The Sanchaya, Bintan Lawan Village’s seven Thai-style villas are built around a beautiful man-made lagoon to create a relaxing atmosphere. The Sanchaya, Bintan The décor reflects Thai influences, using elegant furnishings accented with dark wood, soft neutral tones and high vaulted ceilings to create the serene ambiance of a private residence. The Sanchaya, Bintan A well-stocked all-inclusive minibar. We totally dig the blue-white floral kettle (which can be purchased at the retail shop). The Sanchaya, Bintan Even drinking water is a luxury affair here. The Sanchaya bottles its own water on the Estate through a highly specialized process of mineralization to ensure the water is safe and pure.The Sanchaya, Bintan View of the entrance of the estate from The Great House where the suites are located. The Sanchaya, Bintan The Great House Junior Suite feels like entering someone’s living room. A rich someone with good taste.The Sanchaya, Bintan Rooms are tastefully done with personalized stationery and a pillow menu too. The Sanchaya, Bintan I love the sea view from the private balcony. The Sanchaya, Bintan Custom amenities are available, so feel free to come without your toiletries bag ;) The Sanchaya, Bintan The Sanchaya, Bintan The Sanchaya Spa offers a choice of indoor and outdoor treatment rooms to experience Thai, Balinese and Swedish massage therapies. They also grow their own herbs for the treatments. The Sanchaya, Bintan Outdoor treatment room. Perfect for a Thai massage. The Sanchaya, Bintan What I found interesting is the range of essential oils that reflect the body’s seven sacred chakras that were exclusively created for the estate. The Signature Sanchaya Oil smelt heavenly, and I was amused by the Root Chakra Oil (is that particularly good for men lol?).The Sanchaya, Bintan Indoor treatment room. See you in two hours’ time ;) The Sanchaya, Bintan It’s mealtime! Food always has that smiley effect on people :) The Dining Room features international cuisine as well as a refined style of Southeast Asian food. The Sanchaya, Bintan A colourful medley of freshly-blended juices to prepare the palate for the feast ahead. The Sanchaya, Bintan The appetizer was a balsamic vinegar reduction with raspberry sauce. I was more interested in the crystal food cover. Such indulgence.The Sanchaya, Bintan Goatcheese served with beetroot and mango which went well with the freshly-baked warm bread and their home-churned butter. Yumz. The Sanchaya, Bintan A fiery-looking Ketam Bumbu Kuning, which is Kepri stone crab cooked in light yellow sambal, carrot, cucumber and local fresh paddy herbs. In the background is the chef who came out to greet us. The Sanchaya, Bintan The tender beef rendang which we enjoyed. The Sanchaya, Bintan For those craving Japanese food, a sumptuous bento box is available. The Sanchaya, Bintan I enjoyed the Ikan Asam Pedas, a spicy and sour red snapper fillet cooked with tamarind, ginger flower and pineapple. The fish was springy to the bite, and the gravy didn’t overpower the fresh taste of the fish.The Sanchaya, Bintan Be sure to indulge in the Estate’s tea offering an extensive selection from Ronnefeldt teas including their own Sanchaya Blend. This blend is collected from small scale farmers who pluck the healthy, green leaves at an altitude of 1500 meters in the Ilam province of Eastern Nepal and is exclusively available at the estate. The Sanchaya, Bintan The Pave of Egyptian Date Molotove (date cream incased in meringue paired with sun ripe mango sorbet) was my favourite dish of all. It was so unique I am still thinking about it. The Sanchaya, Bintan No girl can resist a Molten Bitter Sweet Chocolate Fondant with Madagascar Vanilla ice cream. Or anyone with a sweet tooth. :)The Sanchaya, BintanA tasty Soft Nougat Praline Sensation (pistachio ganache served with caramelized sapodilla & hazelnut foam) The Sanchaya, Bintan This dessert has a grand name of Lavish Lavender (lavender parfait and almond dacquoise with black mission fig and foamed cream) The Sanchaya, Bintan The Gourmet coffee menu features blends that are hand-ground in front of each guest and brewed in a French press. I opted for The Sanchaya custom blend coffee made of four types of Arabica beans sourced from Estates in West Java, Central Java, Lombok and Flores and cultivated at 1100 meters above sea level. I knew coffee drinking was an art, but this was the first time I saw it as a performance, paying homage to a traditional preparation technique rarely seen today. The Sanchaya, Bintan The notion of time is forgotten when you are at The Sanchaya, with no effort spared to make you feel right at home and pampered like a princess or prince. I can’t remember when I am supposed to go home :)The Sanchaya, Bintan The Sanchaya
Address: Jalan Gurindam Duabelas, Plot 5 Lagoi Bay, P. Bintan, Kep. Riau 29155, Indonesia
Tel: +62 770 692 200
Email: welcome@thesanchaya.com
Website: http://www.thesanchaya.com/