Thursday, 19 March 2020

4 top resorts in Phuket to refresh your body and soul

Phuket featureWith its undulating hills crisscrossed with lush running trails and its warm tropical waters ideal for swimming, it’s no wonder the so-called Pearl of the Andaman continues to attract large numbers of tourists each year, an increasing number of them drawn in particular to the wealth of sports and wellness activities available on the island. From the annual Laguna Marathon to MMA training camps and gentler-paced yoga retreats, Phuket satisfies a wide swathe of wellness travellers.

According to a 2019 report by luxury travel experts ILTM Asia Pacific, wellness tourism is one of the fastest-growing segments in the wellness economy, with wellness trips representing 6.5% of all tourism trips taken globally. Some 258 million wellness trips are taken in Asia Pacific each year, a number second only to Europe.

Phuket feature“There are several factors driving this trend – rising affluence and a growing awareness of wellbeing,” explains Catherine Feliciano-Chon, managing director of CatchOn, the Hong Kong- based branding agency commissioned by ILTM to produce the report. “There is also a greater ease and affordability of travel options now.”

In the last few years, luxury resorts across Phuket have been rolling out comprehensive wellness programmes – each more targeted than the next – in a bid to capture this market. The efforts seem to be paying off. Thanyapura, a sports resort in the northern part of the island, is currently the destination of choice for sports teams to train ahead of international competitions like the football World Cup or the upcoming Olympics. In the first quarter of this year, luxe resort Amanpuri introduced a weekend retreat for time-strapped wellness seekers, while Anantara Mai Khao unveiled their new and expansive fitness centre.

Whether you’re looking to train for your next Ironman race or are seeking a week-long retreat of meditation and massages, these four resorts just might have what you’re looking for.

Phuket feature1. Thanyapura Health & Sports Resort

Designed with athletes and fitness enthusiasts in mind, this 23ha complex features a 25m training pool and an Olympic 50m pool, a 500m running track as well as several outdoor running and cycling trails. While Thanyapura offers year-round programmes in sports training and lifestyle improvement, its triathlon programme is proving to be the most popular. We find out why from Sasha Gervais, head coach for triathlon training and a former triathlete himself.

What makes Thanyapura’s triathlon programme unique?

We offer a holistic package for our athletes. A clinic team works with the coaches to assess each individual so we can customise a fitness and diet regime. We also have a mindfulness coach, who helps athletes train their minds to achieve higher athletic performance.

How is sports science incorporated into the training programme?

Every athlete has a unique metabolic fingerprint. By using motion analysis and measuring an array of physiological markers, it takes away the guesswork when planning training programmes.

What can triathletes look forward to this year?

We will soon launch an indoor cycling centre with 20 home-trainers. It is located right by the running track so athletes can do an efficient brick session (a full bike workout followed by a full run workout).

Phuket feature2. Sri Panwa Phuket

Perched 60m above sea level on the southeastern tip of Phuket, this all-inclusive resort commands stunning views of the Andaman Sea. With 65 well-appointed villas as well as several pool clubs and restaurants offering dreamy vistas dotted across Cape Panwa, it is a popular choice for honeymoons and romantic getaways.

However, those looking to incorporate fitness into their holiday won’t be left kicking their heels. All the suites to villas come with a private pool, and there’s also a fully-equipped gym and two tennis courts. But the highlight for most guests is the chance to train with Muay Thai professional Manop Hempitak, better known as Khun Wanmai.

Khun Wanmai is the lead Muay Thai instructor at the resort, where he has been coaching guests for 10 years. Originally from Krabi, the 37-year-old started boxing when he was just seven. Previously, he won the 45kg and 65kg weight categories in the national Siam Muay Thai Awards, and was also part of the Thai national team. He tells us what guests can look forward to at Sri Panwa.

Who books the Muay Thai classes?

It’s a mix. There are guests who are completely new to the sport as well as Muay Thai enthusiasts looking to improve their skills. We offer private boxing classes as well as group training sessions.

What are the benefits of learning Muay Thai here?

We have a boxing ring so you get a feel for how the professionals train – or you can opt to train in the privacy of your villa. Even though each session is only one hour, participants really get a full body workout. If you’re a beginner, you can get a feel for the sport to see if this is something you want to pursue in your day-to-day life. As an added bonus, you get to equip yourself with a few basic self-defence moves.

What are some of the other fitness activities available?

For guests who want to stay active, we have a team of yoga, Pilates and fitness instructors on standby every day. We also offer complimentary use of the resort’s kayaks and can organise diving or snorkelling trips to the surrounding islands.

Phuket feature3. Amanpuri

While Aman is a name that needs no introduction, not many people know that this is the luxury hotel group’s first-ever property. Set up in 1988, the 24ha Amanpuri features 40 pavilions and 44 villas sprawled across a headland along the western coastline. The resort has been offering comprehensive health and fitness retreats since 2017 and introduced a functional health clinic in December 2018. Spa and wellness director Shinichi Kiyose, also trained in Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM), shares insights on this growing trend.

What makes the spa programmes at Amanpuri unique?

The wellness team – a medical doctor, fitness instructors and a TCM practitioner (myself) – works closely to create a holistic programme for each guest. No two guests are the same, so each programme is customised to the client’s specific needs, and comprises a mix of medical and therapeutic treatments and workout plans. What’s more, not many wellness destinations can boast such a beautiful and exclusive beachfront location.

What are the wellness retreats that you have on offer?

We offer four wellness immersion programmes – each targeted at different lifestyle concerns such as weight management or stress reduction and ranging between three and seven days. All include private coaching from nutrition and fitness professionals. More intensive programmes include medical components like heavy metals testing and treatments such as physiotherapy.

Can you tell us about the wellness cuisine offered at the resort?

For immersion participants, our Thai chef creates nutritious, plant-based dishes using seasonal local ingredients. Each menu is tailored according to the guest’s specific needs, based on findings from the wellness consultation.

What can guests look forward to?

We launched our Fitness in Nature retreats this February. Designed for busy professionals, these condensed versions of our wellness immersion programmes can typically be done over a weekend.

Phuket feature4. Anantara Mai Khao Phuket Villas

With a stunning backdrop that is Mai Khao Beach, this 91-villa resort offers sun, sea and sports in equal measure. The resort started doing health and fitness retreats in January 2019 and will be unveiling a revamped fitness centre in the first quarter of this year. Lucia McCallion, director of spa, wellness and recreation, offers an introduction to their all-inclusive retreats.

What makes these retreats unique?

Our guests come to us with a wide variety of concerns and we tailor each programme to their specific needs. If the guest has a particular injury or weakness they want to work on, the team can put together a programme to help strengthen this area as well as a rehab programme for them to use back home. We use equipment such as the Matrix S Drive, which is designed for high-intensity work like resisted walking and is beneficial for deconditioned individuals and the elderly. All fitness packages include a range of therapeutic spa treatments and a nutritious wellness menu.

What is the wellness cuisine served here?

Using locally sourced ingredients, we’ve come up with a menu that caters for various dietary requirements, including vegan. It also features a mix of Indian and Arabic dishes to cater to our international guests.

Tell us about the new fitness centre.

Guests are increasingly looking for something beyond a standard-issue hotel gym. As such, we’ve expanded our training space to include a strength zone that features functional training accessories like deadlifts and rope pulls as well as a cardio zone with curve treadmills to complement the high-intensity interval training classes.

Fitness calendar

No matter the time of the year, there’s something going on in Phuket for those seeking an active holiday. This year, look forward to:

Illustrations by Olivia Waller

SilkAir flies daily between Singapore and Phuket. To book a flight, visit

SEE ALSO: Review: Baba Beach Club, Phuket

This article was originally published in the March 2020 issue of SilverKris magazine

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