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Paresa Resort, Phuket, Thailand.

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    Paresa Resort, Phuket, Thailand.

    Let's start with a map!
    That seemed a simple enough way to begin to describe this first of the five resort hotels I stayed in during a three-week vacation in Thailand in March 2014. But one map kind of needed a context, and that led to another map and then another ...and then there were four!

    That fourth one (which I'll start with!) is undoubtedly telling you what you already know, but it doesn't seem so very long ago that I would have needed such an outline map of Thailand with the location of Phuket indicated. Goodness I must have been the only person who didn't even know how to pronounce the name - with the 'h' silent! No 'F’ing'! That dubious joke may have been associated with my early assumptions of Phuket as a totally frenetic 'holiday island' taken over by sleazy fun-seeking sun-pinked Europeans. Well I have still to experience extreme-nightlife in party-going Patong. I haven't visited the island's capital Phuket Town, been shopping, done any sightseeing whatsoever - I haven't even lounged around on any of the island's beaches actually!

    But I have been to heaven, 'the heaven of heavens' - which, I am told, is what the name Paresa means.


    Zooming in on Phuket the island (which is also a province) you might just be able to make out that it is connected by bridge to the mainland and neighbouring province of Phang Nga. Obviously I have my eye on the yellow square I've marked, but before we go there you should look for a horizontal linear feature up towards the top (north) of the island, or even go play in Google Earth to convince yourself that you have located the airport runway. There are flights from both of Bangkok's airports and, depending on aircraft type, it takes around an hour and a quarter.

    Of course there are also many holiday charter flights to Phuket from various countries in Europe, as well as some scheduled routes. I had toyed with the idea of flying Emirates from Glasgow to Dubai, connecting with Dubai to Phuket direct flights and thus avoiding both London Heathrow and Bangkok altogether! But that would have me arriving at the resort between 11pm and midnight - and when one is paying a lot per night (and it is still a lot even when able to take advantage of deals and discounts), I naturally prefer to arrive in the late morning, enjoy refreshments or a light lunch until my room is ready, and have the whole afternoon and evening to enjoy. So I flew with Thai Airways from London to Bangkok (BKK) and on from there by Bangkok Airways to Phuket (HKT). There are also flights from Bangkok's other airport, Don Muang (DMK), and Jan-Olav has recently flown that route with Air Asia.

    He stayed at an amazing trendy new photography-themed hotel on Phuket. Indeed the island these days boasts numerous 'boutique' and ultra-luxury establishments as well as classy family-oriented beach resorts. Opened in 2009, I imagine Paresa was perhaps a trend-setter in the designer and architecturally innovative luxury end of the market, and in this rapidly developing sector some might say it is already fading and dated. But to me Paresa is and always will remain unique and different from its competitors. I hope to give you at least some idea of why I feel that way and why I love it so much.


      Transport generally seems more expensive in Phuket compared with elsewhere in Thailand. I had arranged with the hotel to be met at the airport, although I could probably have taken a local taxi - the airport arrivals was no way near as frenetic as I had imagined! It is about a 40 minutes drive to the hotel, and the moment when the road reaches the coast, and I had my first view of the Andaman Sea, was indeed special. For I am by no means a typical tourist in Thailand, and although this was my third visit, I was seeing a Thai beach and the sea for the first time!

      We had now turned off along a winding hilly country road, and it is time I showed you an enlargement of that yellow square on the previous map.

      I have marked the location, but a further zoom to show the details of the resort itself doesn't really show clearly everything I want to tell you about, and so here is my last map - a layout drawing which you can correlate with the above view from the distinctive winding loops in the road.

      (You'll need to refer to this drawing in due course, and have probably already guessed what that red square indicates!)

      Even this drawing seems inadequate to accurately describe what the resort looks like, and, to my shame, there are some key areas where I never got around to taking photographs, specifically the entrance and reception - well, I was only there two nights! So this is going to challenge my poor powers of descriptive writing to the limit, but I will try!


        The car slows down where roadside trees on the right hand side give way to an unassuming wall before turning into an equally unassuming walled carpark - to call it a courtyard seems too elaborate a word for this stark simplicity. A brass plaque recessed into the wall with the single word PARESA is the only indication we have arrived. A few plants and shrubs covering the lower wall along the roadside beside the entrance, and the customary shrine (also of rather simple appearance) in a corner of the yard, are the only embellishment.

        It is all as totally removed as could possibly be from the elaborate entrances and reception buildings of many Thai resorts. A small single storey building juts out into the yard, its gable-end unornamented and windowless. There is something strangely compelling about it, and those several long vertical slits in the far wall - a sense of anticipation of what might lie beyond.

        My musings are interrupted as the car door is opened. Reception staff have appeared from the corner of the building with smiles and a wai and “"welcome to Parisa"”, and I am ushered down some steps into a reception area - cool, unadorned, understated.

        Scented hand towel and a welcoming drink appear. I make it known to the reception staff (they like to be referred to as "angels") that of course my room won't be ready as I've arrived so early, but I would like to perhaps have a light lunch meanwhile? My lack of impatience goes down well - no embarrassment or not quite knowing what to do with me, more smiles and registration soon completed.

        And so my angel leads me down a flight of steps in a passage with an archetypal feel to it like entering an Egyptian temple or pyramid, doors at the end are opened ...and I defy anyone not to gasp audibly at the view revealed. Heaven indeed! A square green lawn seemingly suspended in the air like a grass infinity pool and beyond it the expanse of sea. This is what everything has been leading to, this arrival and the unforgettable view.

        The infinity lawn is a setting for many a photo shoot or bridal group, and a venue for weddings and receptions and functions and all manner of events.

        Unless one walks to its edge, there is still no sign of bedrooms or buildings other than what one has just walked through, and so dawns the realisation that the resort is not at the top of the cliff but is somehow incorporated with the slope of the cliff itself!

        We take a lift to the tier below the lawn where the restaurant is located. The inside, called "Diavolo" and offering Italian specialities, continues open-plan through to the outside terrace tables of "Talung Thai" where one can sit as if suspended over the ocean or in the shade of the banyan trees.





            Following a tasty dish of spicy chicken, linger over some coffee with me until it's time to explore the resort on the way to my room.


              Now that I've revealed that the resort is built not simply 'on' but down the side of a cliff, it might both help and confuse to look back at that sketch map in #3 before we explore further. I say confuse because the label "Diavolo" suggests the restaurant is above the green lawn (but is actually beneath it), and mingled with the outer restaurant terrace "Talung Thai" you see the labels "Muse" (a library) and "Recipe" (a kitchen used as a 'cooking school' experience) which are both tucked in somewhere amongst this succession of layers! We haven't even caught a glimpse of the pool yet, and I'll leave that for later.

              Glancing at the accommodation blocks in the rest of the drawing, you may be thinking that the resort must feel all rather too closely squashed together. The inadequacy of a flat representation of the 3-D geography is only one reason for this misleading impression. The 49 units (rooms and suites of various sizes as well as individual villas) have been incorporated in buildings that combine southern Thai elements with the architectural philosophy that Frank Lloyd Wright called "organic architecture".

              I found a definition of organic architecture as "architecture which promotes harmony between human habitation and the natural world through design approaches so sympathetic and well integrated with its site, that buildings, furnishings, and surroundings become part of a unified, interrelated composition", and those words seem to me to describe the 'look and feel' of Paresa Resort perfectly.

              The cliff's lush tropical vegetation, with many mature banyan trees, was not destroyed and cleared away during the resort's construction, but preserved, and the buildings amazingly incorporated into the natural surroundings.

              Walking downhill from below the restaurant, I came across this traditional spirit house.



                Here is the view from a path along the side of the restaurant building - the upper wall on the top right of this photo is the shady corner of the restaurant terrace you saw earlier.
                On that first afternoon after lunch, my 'angel' and a driver took me to my room on a buggy/golf cart-like vehicle - you can see one here between the railings making its way along a steep winding route. These routes are marked on the drawing map as the thicker brown lines, with passing places and square turning areas indicated.

                I assume this more van-like version is used for servicing the resort, and other requirements.



                  Here’s a typical stretch of the “road” winding its way through the trees and foliage, and a glimpse of a building.

                  I found this spot to take a photo that illustrates several aspects of the resort’s layout. In front of the pair of creamy-buff-coloured posts in this photo is a pull-up place for the carts, from where a pathway accesses the nearby accommodation whose flat roof is designed with natural tones and textures to blend in with the surroundings.

                  The wooden steps in the foreground are a way down past spa and pool to lower levels. Such paths, steps and walkways interconnecting with the driveable route are a delight to explore. I rapidly gained a somewhat eccentric reputation by invariably wandering uphill on foot, though I did accept the offered rides downhill after dinner!


                    In this view from the lowest driveway you would hardly notice there were villas on the sea side as it seems you are surely at the very edge of a precipitous cliff that plunges directly down to the rocks and sea below.

                    Yet from this stairway, some pavilion-style roofs are clearly visible through the trees. One of that pair of roofs will be covering the high timber-finished traditional ceiling of an outdoor living sala belonging to one of the seven separate individual villas on the lowest and steepest part of the cliff - hence "Cliff Villas" - each with a private infinity pool!


                      But I was able to take this photo of the same villa that breathtakingly illustrates the feat of construction involved. I could only manage to get this view by sticking my camera out from the edge of my pool.

                      Yes, ….MY pool! Just as you guessed at the start, when I gave away the secret by marking my villa with a red rectangle on that layout map drawing!



                        So here facing you is my entrance gate, the way in to "my home in Phuket" - aka villa #305.

                        I'm sure you will want to be invited inside! …
                        You will be most welcome in the next continuation of this thread.


                          This is something else, Cecilia - absolutely delightful.

                          "To thine own self be true.......
                          Thou canst not then be false to any man."


                            Through the gate, and along the rear of the building, let's pause a moment to look back at the gate before taking a couple of steps to the right of this photo.

                            I'm now in the middle of the villa, standing just beneath the roof of the otherwise outdoors living sala behind me, and the pool to my right. The large window opens into the bedroom. You can see my 'front door', though that conventional description becomes somewhat meaningless in the context of this 'outside living in' concept.

                            Fortunately I found this layout plan of a Cliff Villa which makes everything easier to explain, and on which the detail geeks amongst you can locate my photos! Enjoy! (Although labelled "Furniture layout plan", I can't resist saying, as a mischievous riposte to Ralf's comment in another thread, that it doesn't indicate the placing of waste paper baskets! )


                              Inside the bedroom, there is another large sliding French window fronting sea-view onto a balcony terrace. The details of the balcony and the railings around it differ somewhat from the standard layout plan. The previous photo already showed you the wonderful reason for this, bringing me back to marvelling, as always at Paresa, at the respect for the natural surroundings…

                              …I have a tree! MY tree!

                              Oh how I loved that tree! It provided welcome shade on the balcony, a frame for sea views and sunsets, leaves rustling in the fresh breeze that mingle with the sounds of the jungle, dappled light filtering through curtains onto my bed and lulling me into a contemplative reverie.

                              I feel good, whole, calm, restored, just remembering those moments.