infinities on high
It takes just over an hour for me to arrive at the southeastern tip of Cape Panwa, Phuket. The car makes a right turn and I bid goodbye to the glistening sea. The entrance of Sri Panwa isn’t as secluded as one expects — the aquarium and marine biological center lie just to the right of the resort — but these two quickly disappear behind dense forestry.
Sri Panwa gently hugs the curves of Panwa’s coastline, occupying nearly 60 hectares of land, and, at its highest, sits at 60m above sea level. The roads form a labyrinth of paths, meandering to secret nooks and crannies for one to explore. The resort can be broadly split into two categories. Social areas at Sri Panwa include Baba Poolclub, Baba Nest and Cool Spa amongst others, while private areas include villas, residences and its latest addition, The Habita.
An oversized arching leaf shades the entrance of The Habita, and marks a stark contrast to the pool suites and villas, which have been designed as separate properties. The enclave consists of a collection of restaurants, pools, 20 pool suites (70sqm) and 10 penthouses (140sqm). While the penthouses are equipped with a kitchen and larger living area, both options include a balcony with an infinity lap pool. It isn’t difficult to hole yourself up in the room, but for those who wish to socialise, a communal 50m pool sits just below. Apart from a kid’s play area, the curvaceous pool ends with a waterfall feature that leads to a splash pool.
The opening of The Habita also sees two restaurants and a lounge set within the property. Baba Chino serves modern Chinese cuisine, while Baba Hot Box grills a mean platter of meats and vegetables, with a variety of sauces to boot. The spicy local Jeow sauce isn’t for everyone, but the white truffle sauce will win you over. Baba Shishi Lounge, a recently-opened venture, makes another communal point for guests to chill, nurse post-dinner cocktails, and smoke some shisha.
Apart from The Habita, dining options are available all over the property. Baba Soul Food, located at the reception block, offers authentic Thai cuisine, while Baba Iki at the pool club serves Japanese sushi and teppanyaki. For those who want a bit of everything, Baba Poolclub spoils you silly with an extensive list of cuisines including Japanese, Thai and Italian, along with grill and hotpot options. I eat my way through the trip, and coin a new term for it, ‘grub crawl’.
Due to Sri Panwa’s hilly nature, buggies are used to ferry guests between resting and social areas. The waiting time is near zero: dial for concierge (if you’re in your room), and a buggy turns up at your doorstep almost immediately. The widespread ground area proves to be a huge plus too; I hardly run into guests throughout my stay.
It doesn’t take long to realise that Sri Panwa’s specialty isn’t that it’s been designed to be ‘one with the hills’, nor is it that social and resting areas have been thoughtfully interspersed throughout to ensure maximum privacy. If anything, it’s the fact that each accommodation, right from the most basic pool suite, comes with a private infinity pool, along with an iPod (or two, depending on your room size) with numerous playlists that have been curated by the owner, Vorasit ‘Wan’ Issara himself. The tone for this trip has been set. Wherever I go, I’m surrounded by numerous water features, along with a slick mix of beats.
Accommodation for me is at LV02 Shamu, a one-bedroom, 260sqm pool villa. It may be older than The Habita, but I most definitely prefer it. Upon stepping through the doors, I’m gifted with a sight to behold: an uninterrupted view of the Andaman sea.
The villa comprises two wings. The left consists of an outdoor pavilion for sunbathing, a sheltered lounge area, an enclosed living room with twin daybeds, a well-stocked pantry, and spacious bathroom with standing shower. For those with additional guests, the living room can be converted into a second bedroom. The right wing houses the bedroom and an extended living area that directly opens to the infinity pool, and I’ve to stop myself from diving in. Wooden sliding doors to the right reveal an equally impressive bathroom complete with a hot tub for two, twin sinks, a walk-in closet, and a steam room with rain shower.
I finally pry myself away from the villa and head to Baba Nest. Perched atop the hill and overlooking the Andaman sea, Baba Nest is the vantage point for sunsets. The wooden platform is littered with floor tables and colourful beanbags, offering a casual yet cosy setting. Unsurprisingly, a u-shaped infinity pool hugs the platform. While the giant ball of fire paints the sky in a gradient of orange, to pink, then purple, I spot the Big Buddha, one of Phuket’s main attractions in the Chalong district.
The resort provides more than enough facilities — train with a Muay Thai fighter in the air-conditioned ring, or indulge in a spa treatment at Cool Spa — to keep its guests occupied. However, the largest infinity pool — the Andaman sea — beckons, and I’m at its mercy. The next day, I board one of Sri Panwa’s two chartered speedboats and as the resort vanishes into the horizon, a pontoon, soft sandy beach and clear turquoise waters greet me.
My mind slowly drifts as I snorkel, parasail and kayak the afternoon away, and when I sit on a beach chair to unwind, I have but one thought, “Sri Panwa has the ability to make one feel like life’s on infinity, even if just for a moment.”