Most of countries are now welcoming tourists from across the world and the travel industry seems to be bouncing back and how. While it took the worst hit in the last two years, it’s such a relief to see that the airports are once again thronged by avid travelers. The Land of Smiles, Thailand has also opened its shores and is welcoming Indians with open arms.
On my trip to Phuket in April this year, I realised how much I missed my vicarious travels, those endless chats with fellow travellers about new and unexplored places and dreams and hopes to venture around everywhere under the sun. It also fills me with so much wallop to see that a whole new bunch of new destinations are opening up. Since its holiday season now, what better time than now to introduce you to Thailand’s stunning Phang Nga coastline that just raised its bar a few notches higher and got a whole lot hotter with the arrival of the haute and spanking new Avani+ Khao Lak Resort.

The RTPCR test that was required to be taken before flying to Thailand has been lifted. Infact, the best news is that from May 1st onwards, the RTPCR test that was needed after landing in Thailand has also been lifted now. When I flew there this month it was still in action, but thankfully it was a very smooth process. The test was done immediately after landing at the Phuket International Airport and we were whisked away to Avani+ Mai Khao Phuket Suites & Villas in no time. While we changed in our spacious villa with a private pool, had a delicious dine-in Thai lunch and caught up on the much needed sleep, the results were in and we could venture out. Our dinner was at the resort’s restaurant, as traditional Thai dancers regaled us with their beautiful moves. But come May, the PCR test after landing is being lifted and you can plunge into the adventure that Thailand holds in store for you as soon as you land. Isn’t that the best news you heard today?

Avani+ Mai Khao Phuket Suites & Villas has 30 spacious private pool villas and 70 residential suites perfect for the long-staying travellers. The resort is situated just a 15-minute drive from Phuket International Airport so it was the ideal pitstop before our next destination, which was Avani+ Khao Lak Resort. Island excursions include beach hopping, surfing lesson and strolling through the shopping arcade of Turtle Village.

I skipped Bangkok this time and flew in straight from Bangalore to Phuket. Ditching the usual frenzy of the capital city, it was time to do something offbeat this time. The next morning we drove to Avani+ Khao Lak Resort that recently opened doors on Thailand’s stunning Phang Nga coastline. Khao Lak is about one and a half hours’ drive from Phuket and has some of the most stunning and secluded beaches in Thailand. Khao Lak is what Phuket was 20 years back. It retains its old world charm and is still untouched and as close to nature as you would want it to be. It is away from all the touristy night clubs and night life Phuket is known or rather infamous for. There is a lot of history here in this place so you can go back in time if you please or go immerse yourself in some me-time as you indulge in some water sports like diving and snorkelling. The beauty of Khao Lak isn’t only on the land. You will be enamored by the bountiful natural beauty even underwater. There are many waterfalls around in this area and you’re always close to nature, everywhere you step out. The best part is that you’re away from the hustle and the crowd.

Exploring the ‘Little Amazon’
Exploring the ‘Little Amazon’ of Khao Lak through bamboo rafting journey along the Wang Kiang Ku river is a thrilling experience beyond words. While you glide through the rapids on your bamboo rafts with lush tropical forests on both sides, you will get a chance to spot rare species of birds; reptiles, cobras recoiled up on branches of trees, besides other exotic wildlife. After canoeing, relax and sip on some tender coconut water at the café inside. There’s plenty to do here. You can visit the Thai Muang National Park or indulge in some surfing on any of the popular beaches, which is almost a sub culture here. There are a lot of budding Thai surfers and those that come from outside to try surfing. People come here to see the beautiful beaches and not fuss about the sparse party scene. Some of the popular beaches include Khuk Khak beach, Pak Weep beach, Ko Kho Khao beach, Bang Niang beach and Coconut beach.

The area is an Instagram-perfect paradise with long stretches of untouched beaches, stunning waterfalls (do visit the Ton Chong Fa waterfall) and visit some old Sino-Chinese villages. You can have a memorable vacation here, while you also learn about the food, culture, and history of the places around it, that you will fall in love with. You can also visit Takuapa Old Town established around the 13th century that witnessed a thriving tin mining boom in the 1960s. It still holds onto its fascinating charm of ancient Thai culture with quaint alleys and painted walls. You will see glimpses of Sino-Portuguese architecture that still exists and the wealth of the community that owes its origins to the tin mining industry that flourished here many years back. The town was abundant in spices in those days. Every Sunday there is a walking street here which you should try to visit atleast once in the evening. You can also visit several historic temples, shrines, Wats and other buildings in the vicinity. If you’re around, you can also make a quick stop at Takuapa Governor’s residence that was built in the 20th century. On your drive back to Khao Lak you can stop at Ban Dok Daeng Monastery, which has a Buddhist temple and offers some scenic views from the top.

Find your slice of haven at Avani+ Khao Lak
You will find your own slice of peaceful haven with stunning oceanfront Andaman Sea views and panoramic sunset scenery, at Avani+ Khao Lak Resort, a 327-key oceanfront property located on the sandy shores of Bangsak Beach in Thailand’s Phang Nga. The brand’s largest resort in Thailand by number of keys, the property serves as a launch pad for AvaniFit, the brand’s new lifestyle concept aiming to put fun and variety into hotel fitness. The resort combines modern design with blissful pools, family-friendly amenities and chic dining venues boasting stunning Andaman Sea views. A wide range of room categories ensures all types of travellers are catered to, from Deluxe Lagoon Pool Rooms for couples and solo travellers featuring a spacious balcony to Family Pool Suites with plenty of running room for even the most energetic mini-travellers, garden views, separate living room and dining area, king and twin beds and a private balcony.

A special mention for the General Manager Leandro Cavaco Silva, who personally meets every guest at the hotel and ensures they are well looked after. Despite the long and busy Songkran weekend, Leandro was all over the place donning many hats. No wonder then that all the departments functioned seamlessly and there were no teething issues whatsoever.

Active holidays
The resort’s AvaniFit is a dynamic, 24-hour facility that aims to challenge fitness enthusiasts with a combination of endurance and resistance training, aerobics and high-intensity interval training. Depending on your fitness objectives, you can also sign up for boxing or tennis classes or try your hand at hanging yoga and indoor or outdoor climbing wall. Outdoor activities are key to the stay experience and range from beach assault courses and pool workouts to kayaking, on-property PADI lessons and surfing nearby.

Other wellness amenities include AvaniSpa specialising in pampering treatments and healing therapies, as well as express and kids’ spa treatments. There are six treatment rooms and lush gardens, so you can get pampered with soothing spa and beauty treatments, then refuel and revive with healthy menus or multi-day nutrition and wellness packages. At the two-storey AvaniKids club, Khao Lak’s largest, children of similar ages get dedicated play zones featuring age-appropriate playgrounds, board games and PlayStation corner. To encourage more outdoor time, there is a splash park, beach activities and a private skate-park complete with a pump track, ramps and fun boxes for older kids to perfect their kickflips and board slides.
At Elements, an all-day dining restaurant serving hearty breakfasts, gourmet lunches and themed dinners, local ingredients are spun into fresh dishes served in a contemporary setting. Relaxed and unhurried, The Beach House is the preferred spot for sultry sundowners and grilled seafood. I specially loved the freshest grilled fish I tried for my lunch here. Splash, a poolside venue where options range from artisan pizza to homemade gelato, will hit a note with families, while Aqua Juice Bar with its vitamin-packed cold-pressed concoctions caters to the health-conscious. The Pantry, Avani’s signature on-the-go dining concept, offers wholesome salads and sandwiches, cold pressed juices and fresh pastries.

In addition to cooking classes, sunrise yoga and other on-property activities, you can enjoy a lazy cycle along the coast to check out nearby Bang Niang market or up the intensity with more challenging excursions into the lush terrain surrounding Khao Lak. Excursions to Similan Islands, Phang Nga Bay or Koh Phi Phi are also on offer, as are day trips to the Takuapa Old Town or rafting through the bamboo forest. For event planners, Avani+ Khao Lak Resort offers over 1,000 square metres of meeting space, including a ballroom that can accommodate up to 500 attendees, a dedicated wedding pavilion, flexible breakout rooms, a breezy outdoor garden and a stunning beachside venue.

On our last evening in Thailand, we shifted back to the stunning villa at Avani+ Mai Khao Phuket Suites & Villas for its close proximity to the international airport. We also made good use of our last night here and visited the Night market at Soi Rommani, which was buzzing with vibrant stalls selling everything that tourists like us would want to bring back home. We shopped to our heart’s content over live music that added to the fervor of the evening and tucked in some local delicacies from the live street food counters. The next morning we left Phuket with mixed feelings – a feeling of happiness to go back home and yet a wee bit wistful to bid adieu to these warm shores.

How to reach: Phuket has direct flights from Bangalore and many other Indian cities. Avani+ Khao Lak Resort is located 90 kilometres north of Phuket International Airport and can be reached by car in approximately 1.5 hours.