Photography by Carol Perehudoff
We Stayed at Sri Panwa, Thailand’s Go-To Celebrity Resort
If you’re looking for an elite tropical getaway in Thailand, check out this 5-star hotel, spa and private villa property on Cape Panwa Peninsula, at the very southeastern tip of Phuket.
Sri Panwa Phuket
I now know where Chanel Boy Bags go on vacation, although I also saw a Prada walk by. (PS: I want a Chanel Boy Bag.) I’m at Sri Panwa, a luxury resort in Phuket, Thailand, and I may never leave my penthouse suite. Unless it’s for the Truffle Eggs Benedict at breakfast. Oh, and to take selfies with those Chanel-toting hipsters at Baba Nest Rooftop bar at sunset. Okay, and maybe to use the pool. And, er, the Cool Spa, because it wins a ton of awards. And okay, to hang out with the beautiful people that fly in for the weekend. But other than that, I am never leaving my suite!
Habita Penthouse suites at Sri Panwa
And why should I leave it? Let me just brag talk about my penthouse for a little minute, because soon I’ll be gone and it will be back to drudgery my fabulous normal life. This penthouse (P5 to be exact) in the new Habita section of Sri Panwa has an infinity pool, a fully loaded iPod and a living room that’s a combination of natural tropical materials and midcentury modern chic. My bed is round, I’ve got a vintage stainless steel fridge full of complimentary snacks, and a bathroom so large I got lost in it last night in the dark.
Admittedly, additional perks such as the ‘sexy’ and ‘romantic’ light settings are wasted on me as my husband left Southeast Asia the day I checked in. (So let’s not tell him what he’s missing. Let’s just wave and say, “Hi, Honey! You’d hate it here! It’s awful! Too many, er … sunsets.”)
About the resort
Sri Panwa has elite roots. Run by 30-something real estate magnate Vorasit ‘Wan’ Issara, the family-owned Sri Panwa attracts an A-list crowd (rumour has it Snoop Dogg has stayed here). It’s popularity is due, no doubt, to the resort’s youthful flair, Wan’s lofty circle of friends (I’m guessing at that) and an impeccable design sense that combines a Miami Beach sleekness with some rainforest I-want-to-be-alone serenity.
Although from what I can see I’m the only guest who is actually alone. It’s definitely a couple’s resort and ideal for honeymooners, though I see a few well-heeled girl packs and, during the week, a fair number of families.
Wan (we’re on a first name basis, only he doesn’t know it as we’ve never met) is a hand’s-on manager and lives onsite. He’s not here at the moment, but if he were we’d no doubt be best friends by now, and I’d be invited to all the celebrity parties in Asia and probably in Hollywood, too.
Baba Nest: The closest I get to meeting Wan Issara is by sitting on his roof. Seriously. Baba Nest Rooftop, Sri panwa’s vibe-y rooftop bar, is located on top of his penthouse villa, which sits on the highest point of Cape Panwa, a quiet area of Phuket known for its high-end resorts and discreet holiday atmosphere. Baba Nest Rooftop has 360-degree sunset views, photo ops galore and was voted one of the top two beach bars in the world by CNN.
There are only 12 tables at Baba Nest Rooftop so make a reservation long in advance, especially if you’re not staying on property. I had a reservation but didn’t realize it was for Baba Nest Sunset Lounge one floor below, which isn’t as happening. As I sip my mango juice (yes, I’m a wild one), a friendly waitstaffer comes down to the Sunset Lounge and tells me there’s been a cancellation at Baba Nest Rooftop and they’ve saved the table for me. Score! I’m now going to mingle with fashionable Millennials.
A lounge in the sky
Baba Nest Rooftop is like a floating platform in the clouds, surrounded by a designer shallow pool that looks out over the endless blue ocean. I sink into a striped beanbag pillow at a low table and immediately start making up stories about the people around me. The couple beside me are clearly honeymooners from Shanghai with billionaire parents. And let me just say I’m seethingly jealous of the woman’s Pucci-esque jumpsuit. Only in her case I’m sure it’s not ‘esque’ but the real thing.
An American couple is clinking wine glasses at a far corner table. For some reason they seem to have a photo crew following them around. There is also a pack of glamazon Russian girls. Silhouetted against the rapidly-turning-orange sky, they’re taking selfies, taking photos of each other taking selfies, and taking photos of each other that are not selfies. When one of them comes beside my table to recharge her cell phone (too many selfies), I strike up a conversation.
“Where are you from?” I ask. I know I sound like an idiot, but honestly, isn’t the definition of ‘cool’ being so cool you don’t have to try to be cool?
“Russia,” she says. I consider telling her I have half Russian roots, but sense it won’t make me part of the team. “Where in Russia?”
“Oh, on the coast,” I say.
“Yes,” she smiles politely and returns to her table.
“Okay, byeeee!” I give her a friendly wave. Clearly she didn’t get the memo about me being almost (if we’d ever met) best friends with Wan Issara and doesn’t know what an excellent addition I’d make to her girl pack. No matter. I’m busy taking sunset shots, which are, to be blunt, amaaazing. Who needs company when you have this view?
The real Sri panwa
Finally, in the relative coolness (well, at least not the sweltering heat) of the evening I stroll back to my penthouse at The Habita. Darkness crouches over the forest. Ferns, palms and mango trees form a shaggy wall on either side of me, tangled branches illuminated by discreetly placed walkway lamps. A breeze rustles the leaves, and from the shadows comes an unidentifiable chirp.
Remember this moment, I tell myself, pausing to breathe. I’m in the jungle and the air is as soft as butterfly breath. No matter how much glitz and bling sparkles over Sri Panwa, it’s this: the rainforest, the earthy stillness and dramatic oceanside setting that’s the real heart of the resort.
(And besides, with surround sound sunset views, my very own plunge pool and Truffle Eggs Benedict for breakfast, I feel like quite the A-lister myself.)