Perched on the furthermost tip of Cape Panwa, a jungle-covered peninsula in the serene southeast of Phuket, Sri Panwa exists in a paradisal microcosm, that's as peaceful as it is fun. Favoured by the likes of Snoop Dogg and Rihanna, the resort is sophisticated cool, attracting a glamorous and youthful crowd who want to escape the tourist trap that Phuket‘s coastline has become, without having to bury themselves too deep into the wilderness.
At Sri Panwa there's no budget option; there's either lux or super-lux. Every suite or villa comes with its own private pool, ours is a thin strip of blue that falls over the edge as if pouring into the azure Andaman ocean below. Of course, that's the beautiful illusion of an infinity pool; in reality, we're suspended sixty metres above sea level in one of the resort's new penthouse suites, located in The Habita wing along with a range of ocean view suites, the flame grill eatery Baba Box, a rather spectacular swimming pool and in the evenings, a resident DJ.
The resort is designed as a self-contained village, nestled into lush tropical flora so as to ensure complete privacy (although a word of warning if you choose to skinny dip in the penthouse suite, a well placed pair of binoculars on a bobbing yacht in the distance might well catch glimpse). It's peaceful and if it's seclusion you want you can certainly find it, but the resort is by no means subdued as the brand's penchant for bright colours will tell you.
Our suite, like the rest of the resort, is tastefully designed with sleek, contemporary interiors. Yet it's not in anyway fussy; this is a room to be lived in, not simply admired. The colours are fresh and breezy, yellow, gold and light coloured wood, reflecting the laid back ambience that Sri Panwa encourages. The open plan dining area and living room is generously spacious with a huge L-shaped sofa nestled into the corner – there are DVDs for rent on a cosy a night in. The full-size fridge is stocked with complimentary goodies, including beers, juices and popsicles in the freezer, plus a load of tasty Thai snacks on the side counter (all replenished every day); guests are given caps to wear, and kimonos for the beach; the dressing gowns are short almost to the point of being scandalous (pink for girls and grey for boys).
At night, turn down service includes a seductive playlist for the bedroom and lights lowered to ‘Sexy’ setting. The main focus though is given to the views, floor-to-ceiling glass sliding doors open out from the bedroom and living room onto the terrace and pool. In the mornings, a click of a bedside button will automatically slide up the blinds so that the sunlight streams into the room and you can sit, propped up on a pile of feathery pillows, gazing into the endless blue.
The resort's private beach is the main allure during the daytime. Whilst small, it's extremely pretty with a floating walkway you can sway along way out into the sea and water sports equipment is free to use. When you return from a paddle boarding session or kayak, smiling staff await, cool bottles of water and towels in hand. The climb back up to the resort is a hundred plus steps, but at the top there’s a swimming pool to plunge into and a bar.
Nearby too is Baba IKI, the resort's premium Japanese restaurant; the Sri Panwa maki roll is the must have of the menu along with the melt-in-the-mouth teppanyaki snow fish. And below that, the pool club restaurant is where breakfast and all day dining is served on the decking around a series of pools and sunken seating areas. There are tennis courts just outside the restaurant, sitting above the resort's well-equipped gym, where you can take a lesson in the ancient art of Muay Thai or use the studio for your own yoga practice. Better still, book the floating yoga platform at the Cool Spa to literally salute the sun as it rises in the morning.
The aptly named, Cool Spa is tucked deep into the jungle, with private treatment rooms, located below a pool of water that pours down the facade like a waterfall. The menu of therapies is extensive, but in the spirit of fun, I choose a body wrap with neem black clay. Even more adventurous are the edible wraps like coffee or sticky rice and mango, but I like the idea of a nourishing natural moisturiser. After being tightly cocooned in plastic and towels for a half an hour, the therapist unwinds me, wipes off the clay with a warm flannel and massages more moisturiser into my skin. I leave feeling soft and dreamy.
For dinner, we hop in one of the resort's tuk tuks to Baba Soul for Thai sharing plates. It's a sultry setting, the place you'd choose for an intimate affair, although, a little bewildering, the menu comes on an iPad with photographs of the dishes, which admittedly is helpful to an unfamiliar eye, but we spend a while trying to work out the selection process and whether you make your order via the device or in person (in person it turns out). The food though, is all delicious; favourites include the deep fried prawns with tamarind and the soft shell crab with peppercorn sauce.
Baba Nest, though, is the resort's real highlight and easily one of the most glamorous bars in Asia. A platform, scattered with beanbags and low tables, and panoramic views of the surrounding islands, this is the place you absolutely have to be at sunset, Rossini in hand (champagne and strawberry purée), as the electric blue sky turns pink and gold and drips into the sea.