SALA Phuket Resort & Spa is a well-kept secret hiding away on Mai Khao Beach beside two other high-end properties, the JW Marriott Phuket Resort & Spa and Anantara Phuket. “Personal and private” is the tag-line it espouses and many guests come from their high-pressure jobs to de-stress at this picturesque hideaway. There are 63 private swimming pools in 79 of the total rooms, villas and suites, so many order in and just lounge the day away in their own private oasis.

SALA Resorts & Spas has four properties; three fall under the SALA brand (SALA Koh Samui which opened in 2004, SALA Phuket, which opened in late 2007; & SALA Khao Yai, a boutique resort, which opened at the end of last year). It also owns the Six Senses Hideaway Resort in Koh Samui, but Six Senses manages that. 

Anthony Van Sleeuwen is the resort’s acting general manager. When asked what sets Sala Phuket apart, he says “The contemporary design certainly adds personality, and I know it sounds cliché, but I really think it’s our staff and the ambiance of the resort that makes it special. Most people that know us well and come back time and time again say it’s because we are not your typical hotel. We are a lot more relaxed; it’s how we like to keep it. Management - even our chef – are all more casual in our approach and this suits our clientele as it takes the edge off.

“The more relaxed our guests are the more they will enjoy their experience and ultimately we’ll profit from that. If we are running around polishing stairs and snapping at staff it takes away from the experience. It’s not uncommon to find us up at the bar sharing a beer and relaxing with our guests.”

What about the location? “The attraction is that Mai Khao is far from the madding crowd. Most of our guests who have been to Phuket before have done the Patong thing, they’ve done the Chalong thing, and now they really just really enjoying relaxing and wasting days away in Mai Khao. But, if you do get itchy feet on a good day you can be in Boat Lagoon or Royal Phuket Marina in 25 minutes if you want to cruise any of the local islands. And Phang Nga, just over the bridge, is a beautiful day out.”

The resort combines rare historical Sino-Portuguese architecture with modern 5-star facilities and resort amenities. Room space is quite small compared to the whole villa space, the point being not to simple focus on the furnishings, but the villa as a whole.

The bedrooms in the deluxe balconies suites open onto a large balcony with a full-sized outdoor daybed, while the garden pool villas have their own private pool and an open-air bathroom, full-size terrazzo bathtub, outdoor shower and dual sink vanity all accessible from the bedroom. And on the of-chance you have to do some work, there’s a meeting/conference which can hold up to 22 with access to a projector and other meeting room essentials.

What about the F & B? “Chef Jan Hollister formerly of Poppies and Sala Koh Samui, has been in Thailand for nine years, and gets into his local flavours,” says Anthony. “He prides himself on serving a wide array of sumptuous regional Thai cuisine. But since he is American his burgers, ribs and his variations on Philly cheese steaks are all very good. 

“We don’t do buffets; breakfasts are all a la carte, we like to work from platters using the Asian concept of sharing food. A lot of our favourite platters and signature dishes for two will have 4 or 5 different dishes to taste, share and discuss. Every table gets pastries, then there’s a platter of cold cuts and cheeses for those like Continental breakfasts, as well as choices like eggs Hollandaise with crabmeat, or waffles and mangoes.”

Most Sundays there’s a 4-piece jazz band that plays a sunset set, which is complemented by a Fisherman’s Catch clay pot dinner. But once a month, there’s a 5-piece jazz band with a vocalist, and games including coconut bowling and a barbeque. Wednesday night is Blues & Ribs Night with an electronic blues band and a drum barbeque. Anthony notes, “The bar has a nice vibe to it, every day we have sunset cocktails for Bt160 with complimentary tapas.”

Each room has a flat screen LCD TV with DVD player and home entertainment system, mini-bar and writing desk. There’s a selection of free DVDs to rent and there are 24 TV channels, including 4 movie channels. And then in a very nice touch, once a week, the resort shows a classic movie such as Casablanca outside on a big screen adjacent to the Sala Restaurant in its Starlight Cinema (it’s kind of like a drive-in movie at the beach). The beanbags come out – so does the hot-buttered popcorn – AMAZING!!

The average length of stay is 5 nights, but Sala Phuket had one guest who had been there for 16 straight nights when we visited, and honeymooners who had stayed for two weeks. Many guests also extend their stays, and some return here for more time after originally deciding to split their vacation time between Sala Phuket and other resorts. 

There’s a reasonably-priced shuttle bus to Phuket Town in the day and Patong at nighttime. And there are complimentary transfers between the Anantara and JW Marriott as the resorts promote each other and Mai Khao in general as a destination.

Another perk for the resort is it is beautiful beachfront. Located next to the Sirinat National Park, it’s free of hawkers, hucksters, and those notorious jet skis. And its two beachfront swimming pools are a great way to while away the day; there’s also a gym attached to the spa and a sauna and steam room too.    

Interestingly, Anthony says social networking sites are changing the way SALA Phuket operates,  “Facebook and Twitter are changing the way we do business; we have had many couples celebrate their honeymoon with us and then through social network sites tell their friends about us, it’s a word-of-mouth fan base; about 30% of our guests are referrals. We are also number one on Trip Advisor for northern Phuket.”

Spa Journeys

The Spa has a series of three-day journey treatment packages, but does make an effort to make sure it does offer massages and facials at affordable prices as well.     

SALA Phuket’s three three-day Spa Journeys combine a variety of harmonized treatments and therapies to provide a complete and balanced spa experience. The SALA Lifestyle Journey combines therapies and treatments to stimulate, rejuvenate, and detoxify the body. The Lifestyle journey is designed to revitalize your body while releasing tension, reviving skin cells and improving circulation. Day one features an aroma and foot massage; day two, a salt glow body scrub and seaweed detoxifying wrap while day three offers up a regeneration facial and a manicure/pedicure    

The SALA Siam Experience Journey brings together indigenous resources, folk wisdom and traditions that have been practiced over centuries. Natural remedies and traditional massage coupled with holistic healing and therapeutic skin treatments combine to offer a truly cultural spa experience. Day one offers a traditional Thai and foot massage; day two a Thai herbal compress and facial while day three sees an Asian Vitality Herbal scrub and an Asian White Clay Body Wrap. 

The SALA Indulgence Journey combines the most decadent of treatments and therapies including pearl and caviar extract, aromatic moor mud and hot stone treatments. Day one has a silky skin body scrub on offer as well as an aromatic moor mud wrap. Day two has a tri-phase stone therapy and myoxy caviar and pearl facial while day three features a head massage and a French manicure/pedicure.

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