- Detailed Review
- Facts & Amenities
It’s been nearly 20 years since I first stayed at Amanpuri and fell in love with the Aman brand. It was then that I began my life as an ‘Aman junkie’ – what we devotees of the hotels are called.
And I’m still impressed by this resort; its black-tiled pool and sleek hotel styling were avant garde and original back in the Nineties, and today, the charming, laid- back existence the resort offers ensures it remains one of a kind. The facilities are outstanding, the restaurants inspiring, and its location on a lovely beach with all the right accoutrements and stunning sunsets never fails to impress.
But there are some notable ‘cracks’ I couldn’t overlook on my recent visit, obvious faults that stood out. Especially as most seasoned guests are looking for hotels that offer the best in design, facilities, maintenance and the latest technology.
It’s a shame that Amanpuri hasn’t kept up with the times, as with very little effort in updating the technology and room product, the property would be back at the top, among the best hotels on Phuket.
Overall, this resort is a true gem, and most guests will love the exclusiveness of the place. Great food and top facilities such as a state-of-the-art gym, yoga, Pilates, spa and tennis courts will impress.
Founded by famed hotelier Adrian Zecha, and opened in 1988 as a 40-room boutique hotel, it was a unique concept back then. Expanded over the decades, the resort now offers super-luxurious private villas, ranging from two to nine bedrooms in size. These attract top celebrities, among others, for privacy, seclusion and the consistent and classy experience that Amanpuri offers.
The surroundings had changed since my first visit a few decades ago, so I was disoriented, especially since the only sign I could see from the car window was that of another hotel. Arriving at the first of two security gates in a regular taxi, I was subjected to a lot of scrutiny and screening. It took a phone call to the hotel reception to ensure I was a genuine guest before I was allowed in, somewhat begrudgingly. As Amanpuri includes airport transfers with a hotel car in its room rates, this shouldn’t happen to anyone else. And in truth, although it was an unusual welcome, Amanpuri hosts celebrities and royals and can never be too careful.
When I reached the hotel lobby, the gracious Aman welcome kicked in and I was greeted by the general manager in the open-air lobby area.
As with many Thai hotels, the lobbies are open to the elements, with large, sliding doors generally kept open, except when there’s the occasional tropical rain shower. Used more as a greeting area than anything else and surrounded by water features full of lotus flowers and water lilies, there is no real check-in desk; it’s normally done in the room.
On the way to my Garden Pavilion I was shown around a few of the main areas of the hotel – the pools, the restaurants, the beach and the beach club. There’s also a library where guests can watch TV (there are none in the pavilions), read a book or play some games.
Rooms and suites
My pavilion, high above the main lobby area and pool, was a short walk and quite a few steps away, down a long walkway. There are buggies to take you closer, so you won’t need to navigate all the steps up, but do be warned that you cannot go ‘door to door’ on wheels to any of the pavilions. Dense foliage and palm trees prevent you from seeing into any other pavilions, and vice versa, allowing you to sunbathe (on one of two sunloungers) or dine al fresco (in your ‘sala’, or outdoor living room), in privacy.
Getting inside the pavilion, all 115sq m (1,238sq ft) of it counting both inside and out, was through dark-wood sliding doors, three sets in fact, for differing use. The outer ones are for security (that lock), the inner ones have a mesh, should you want to let in the breeze but no bugs, and then a solid set that acts as your ‘blackout’ option.
You enter directly into the bedroom area, which is ample in size and consists of a super-king surround bed on a low platform with a dark-wood headboard and a large wrap-around desk, again in dark wood. In fact, the whole room from floor to ceiling is awash in dark, teak wood, typically Asian in style. I think it is beautiful – timeless some would say – but to me a bit dated. It makes the room dark so that lighting is always required, a trademark of Aman’s Asian hotels – at least the ones I’ve seen. Through sliding doors, which are generally open to provide that sense of space, is the large bathroom, more or less the same size again as the bedroom.
There are not many fabrics in the room, only a lone rug and a splash of dark grey on the token chair. Linen is high quality and all white, with large pillows and a thin, duvet-style cover on the bed.
Other pavilions have ocean views (but only from the sala, not the bedroom) and are basically the same as the garden-facing ones. There’s also a host of gorgeous villas in various sizes. Do try to find out the age of the villa you are booking because, if you need mod cons, the newer versions are suitably kitted out and fabulous, especially if you like cutting-edge architecture.
One important point: should you be at all uneasy with walking or with steps, be careful with your choice of accommodation. There are steps everywhere, and although you can get a buggy to take you around, all pavilions are accessible by steps – some more than others. A plus is that some of the newer villas have elevators, which would make life easier for wheelchair-users or those with restricted mobility.
But here is my biggest gripe with Amanpuri. Today we all travel with equipment that needs powering up. And yes, there were two power points by the beds, but they were old school, and with the obligatory use of an adaptor I was only able to charge one item at a time (and luckily I was alone). It seems to me that for a small outlay, these could be changed to universal sockets, or even power hubs, common even in basic airport hotels these days.
Furthermore, since there’s no TV (for music or otherwise), the old CD player provided is just bizarre. I wanted to laugh, for who has (or carries with them) a CD collection any more?
On the plus side, the wi-fi was excellent, and I could chat to my family back home with ease over the internet.
What I liked was the bathroom made for two. On either side of the huge room were duplicate set-ups, including vanity units with make-up/shaving mirrors and an open-plan wardrobe with plenty of room for suitcases and hanging clothes.
There was a sunken bath in the middle, and a huge, black-tiled walk-in shower with a rainfall head that had the best water pressure I’ve ever experienced. The whole bathroom is swathed in teak like the bedroom, so it is quite dark inside. Luckily, there’s ample lighting around the mirrors for make-up and hair-drying. The hairdryer was very good but would only work properly in one plug, the only one with a higher voltage – another element that should be upgraded.
Aman’s own products came in large, plastic bottles and were of nice quality. I liked the fact that mosquito repellent (again, Aman branded) was provided.
While I was there they had closed one of their restaurants (the Thai) for refurbishment, and so were serving both Thai and Italian menus in the Italian restaurant. I enjoyed a lovely Thai green curry with king prawns on one night, and grilled king prawns with a tomato salad on another – both delicious and accompanied with freshly made bread and breadsticks.
Throughout my stay the service was efficient and polite, but not overly friendly or chatty. Given that I was alone, I would have expected a little more engagement on the part of the staff. It all felt a bit too formal, especially since the Thai people are always so engaging and friendly.
I did, however, see the GM often doing the rounds in the restaurants, a sure sign of a well-run ship.
At Amanpuri you are not given bills to sign (unless you specifically ask for one). They keep track and, at checkout, you’ll get a copy of all the bills for each charge, which is nice as nobody wants to sign for everything all the time.
But take note: if food is an important factor in your stay, check what will be open when you plan to visit, as it can vary due to the season and some venues will be closed.
Other restaurant options
Something special for lovers of Japanese food will be the arrival of Nama (also scheduled to open in 2017 at other select Aman properties), a restaurant concept showcasing washoku, a traditional artsy cuisine style. It won’t be open in low season but if you’re there from December to April you’ll be in luck.
Interestingly, the breakfast at Amanpuri is solely a la carte, something you don’t see too often any more, with most hotels having at least a partial, if not full, buffet-style breakfast.
The new South American lounge and its cuisine is perfect for those who like ceviche, tamales, tostadas and tacos. It also provides more of a ‘light bite’ option for anyone who needs a ‘night off’.
During high season there’s also the Beach Club, serving wood-fired pizzas, grilled meats and salads.
Outside the hotel and down the long driveway to the main road is a selection of restaurants that looked popular and Western in style rather than local. With two five-star hotels in the vicinity, these high-end restaurants had something to offer.
Spa and wellness
The sporting facilities at Amanpuri are, quite frankly, exceptional.
The fitness centre and gym are huge, occupying two floors. There are machines and equipment galore, all state-of-the-art. Trainers wandering around help keep you motivated. There’s also a huge Pilates gym, with mats, machines and a Muay Thai boxing area. There are also four tennis courts, with coaching available.
There were different classes to choose from each day, from abs and tums to Pilates, to Muay Thai, tennis and yoga – all complimentary.
The spa, in a separate building, is equally impressive. There are six private pavilions with steam rooms, showers, baths and outdoor meditation rooms. I had a sublime oriental oil-massage treatment, and the therapist was very skilled. So much so that I felt much more supple and relaxed once it was finished – and for many hours after.
Should you want to go the extra mile, the hotel is currently operating Spa Wellness Immersion programmes, designed to help you change your way of life – on all fronts.
Pool and beach
Amanpuri’s pool is renowned. Rectangular and tiled in sleek black, it is a great length for laps as well as an afternoon float. There are lovely teak sun loungers, plush cushions and parasols on the deck, where you are looked after by the pool staff should you want to order drinks or food.
Recently, the hotel has added two pools, both down at the Beach Club (one for kids).
Amanpuri sits on a stretch of Pansea Beach overlooking the Andaman Sea. It’s lovely, and although not big, is probably adequate considering many guests choose to stay in their villas during the day. They have recently installed a couple of small cabanas just off the beach too, which in high season would need to be reserved well in advance.
Guests can go Hobie cat sailing, paddleboarding and kayaking should sea conditions allow. The hotel also has its own cruisers should guests want to explore the coastlines. Phang Nga Bay, home to James Bond Island (from The Man With the Golden Gun), and the Similan Islands or the Phi Phi Islands are worth exploring.
Years ago I would have said that Amanpuri was designed for couples, so leave the kids at home. However, due to the addition of villas, they have created an atmosphere that is more conducive to taking the kids along. The pavilions are not that well suited for children (perhaps one child would fit comfortably – although I do think they allow two in the pavilions at a push). Opt for either the two- bedroom pavilion with a pool, or better yet, one of the private villas where there will be more space for the kids to enjoy themselves at their usual voltage levels. You will also have villa staff who will babysit should you wish to have some time off.
There is no kids’ club, but with the new addition of the kids’ pool by the beach, at least there is somewhere you can keep an eye on them while enjoying the beach yourself.
Staff and service
Most hotels in Thailand have service levels that are exceptional, and the Amanpuri is no different. But in the restaurants the staff were more formal than I’ve experienced elsewhere. Perhaps they didn’t want to appear over-familiar.
Whatever the case, things do get done here when it comes to service. When I left the room for meals or the spa, ‘turndown’ happened, room service trays were collected and water was mopped up after a rain shower.
At certain times of the year you essentially need someone to die to get a room confirmed, Christmas to New Year being the busiest time.
While I was here during the low season there were Americans (en masse due to a large villa party), Chinese, Brits and some expats from Singapore and Bangkok on a weekend away. Guests all belonged to the super-smart set who tend to follow the Aman brand and have an air of quiet, knowing superiority – they know they’ve got it right.
I was left a copy of my bill the night before I departed, which was all in order. When I came to leave the next morning, I called the lobby to ask them to collect my bag, and someone was there within a nano-second. He whisked away my bag and I meandered down the steps to the lobby. On arrival, my bill was ready and waiting for me and everything was correct.
After a quick chat with the GM, I was in the car and winding my way down the long private drive. Now that’s service.
How to get there
40 minutes by road transfer from Phuket Airport