We had an actioned packed 3D2N trip to Phuket. We stayed at the fabulous 5-star Phuket Marriott Resort & Spaat Merlin Beach near Patong. Phuket, also known as "The Pearl of the Andaman" is a popular resort and Thailand's largest island, located 900 km south of Bangkok. The island has magnificent long sandy beaches and has something for everyone.
We flew with Thai Smile from Suvarnabhumi Airport in Bangkok. Our first flight with THAI's lower cost regional airline. It was impressive. Hand-picked young staff, slightly older aircraft, great attitude, great uniforms and good seats. The only gripe - the boxed food served on board was...different, strange fusion style. It was a short flight just 80 minutes. On landing we transferred by minivan to the hotel just 44km from the airport.
The Phuket Marriott Resort is billed as a home to business travellers, couples and families on holiday. All were in evidence during our stay. The location is great, on a secluded stretch of Tri-Tang Beach.
The resort is also not far from Patong Beach and Patong's vibrant adult nightlife in Soi Bangla, or family friendly Phuket Old Town.
We were warmly greeted on arrival at the impressive marble lobby by Peggy (Khun Chantanut), a member of the hotel executive team.
We went straight in for lunch at DOCG, an Italian wine reference denoting the wines heritage and origins. We wondered, as we sat down, whether it referred to the food too? We had a great Italian lunch! We later met the resort General Manager, Mr. Trevor May, who made a strong impression with his warm welcome.
After lunch we went to the room (our luggage had already been taken up by the bell boys). We were pleasantly surprised by the room. It was large and luxurious.
The hotel was previously known as the Merlin Beach Resort since 2000 and under its new Marriott brand since 2016. The hotel has undergone a conversion and received a significant make over.
GM Trevor May said, "Since June last year with the closure, then reopening and rebranding we aim to give resort guests a personal experience, something they will remember. It's an iconic hotel in both the Australian and European markets.
"Our long term goal is to become more of a family resort; a MICE hotel and a Destination Weddings resort. FIT's are currently our largest market," he added.
The room was spacious and looked soft and comfortable. The bed was huge with heaps of pillows and cool luxury linen...topped with a towel elephant. Andrew took it apart to see how it was made! The room was well equipped with everything you might need. The latest hi- tech audio visuals, including a great cable TV channel selection; mini bar, kettle, iron & ironing board, robes, slippers, beach bag, flip-flops, umbrella and WiFi. The bathroom was definitely 5-star with a large tub and large separate walk-in shower.
The outdoor balcony was equipped with table and chairs with great views of the pool areas.
After a quick wash and brush up we were off again - next stop a Rum Distillery!
Chalong Bay is a locally produce deluxe white rum produced from the finest sugar cane. Like extra virgin olive oil it is made from the "first pressing" of the cane which according to our guide is the absolute best.
It was an interesting tour which also included a Mojito Cocktail Class which was great especially as we could drink our own creations.
Pichai was impressed with the flavour and quality. At Bt 690 ($19) per bottle it was also good value. He bought one.
After the rum distillery it was back to the hotel for sundowners on the beach and a delicious Thai dinner in the Thai Pantry Restaurant. We felt as though we had been eating and drinking most of the day! We'd had an early start in Bangkok about 16 hours before, so Andrew made a reasonably early exit to bed. Pichai on the other hand headed to the hotel lobby bar with great live music.
The following morning after breakfast we asked if we could have a tour of the hotel. With 3 swimming pools and over 400 rooms it's an impressive property. It's very kid friendly.
The private beach is an eco-sustainable project in progress – the hotel has a programme of coral growing in the protected reef. The hotel is also responsible for taking care of the nearby mangroves and the hotel's bats and nearby butterfly sanctuary. All are projects the whole family can enjoy.
Talking about the importance of conservation in the hotel Mr. May said, "All of our Marriott hotels in Thailand have a long term partnership with IUCN - the conservation group.
"We are particularly proud of our unique reef in front of the hotel where guests can go snorkelling and diving."
After exploring the hotel, we had lunch poolside, at the Beach Grill. The resort has eight restaurants so there's plenty to choose from. This was one of our favourite al fresco choices - it was a hot day and although we ate outside we took shelter under the umbrellas.
Try the trio of sliders or balsamic roasted beetroot salad with crispy goat cheese. The thin crust pizzas were good too.
We let lunch settle and then headed to the spa for a 30 min back and shoulder massage. It was very relaxing but too short, the time flew-by.
We decided to take a kayak and paddle 2km from Tri-Trang beach in front of the resort, to Freedom beach and back. It was a flat, calm day, not too hot, a nice excursion.
The waters at Freedom were clear and full of fish. We swam and relaxed for half-an-hour before paddling back. The beach here is fine-sand and ideal for sunbathers.
The last stop of the day was a short trip by mini van to Kamala Beach just 30 mins away. We heard this was a great spot for long, cool, sundowner cocktails and canapés. We arrived at Café Del Mar. We weren't disappointed. It was a really cool and hip hangout on the beach. Good music and a great 'vibe'. It was clearly popular. A great place to watch the sun set.
The following day after a humongous breakfast at the Merchant Kitchen Restaurant, we checked-out and set off back to the airport. Before we left Phuket we wanted to stop at a place that came highly recommended for a light lunch. It was a local restaurant - Kanom Jeen Jeelew.
It was delicious - fermented rice flour noodles in a light curry sauce. We chose Kanom Jeen Nam Ya Poo (crab).
Kanom Jeen Nam Ya Gai (made with chicken) is a dish Andrew first tasted in Chiang Mai and it's one of his Thai favourites.
Andrew & Pichai have been partners for 26 years. Both are specialists in Travel & Tourism and media relations. With truly global contacts they are very well connected and together bring more than 50 years of experience in the travel, tourism and hospitality industry.
Andrew was born in Yorkshire, UK. A hotel graduate of Napier University, Edinburgh. Andrew is a former professional hotelier (VP S&M and later General Manager of some of Thailand's leading hotels), he is a widely followed travel writer.
His work features in international publications that cover the globe, specialising in travel, tourism, hospitality, aviation, eco-tourism and destination marketing.
Pichai is Thai and was born in Bangkok. He is a graduate of Assumption University and has a long history in marketing and sales with global hotel brands Peninsula; Hyatt, Melia and Meridien.
Andrew & Pichai are both members of SKÅL International and both are travel junkies.
Andrew & Pichai are widely connected with Thailand's Travel Agent community and are both non-exec directors of WDA Travel Co. Ltd and its subsidiary Thailand by Design (tours/travel/MICE).