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Paradise at Sala Phuket 

The Hush: We looked like we had absolutely no business being there. Stood against a backdrop of ornamental lily ponds and manicured gardens, we stuck out like sore thumbs, sweltering in our two-day old t-shirts. Cursing Air China for losing our bags, we came to regret our choice of cosy plane wear. Add to that a layover in Beijing and a night at the ironically named ‘Airport Mansion Hotel’ and we looked more festival than five-star. But things were about to take a turn for the better…

Shown to our room by a smiling concierge – we’re greeted by a palatial pool villa, complete with freestanding stone tub, a full-size infinity pool glittering in the afternoon sun – not even a wayward leaf troubling the surface. We feigned nonchalance, muttering some pleasantries, careful not to give ourselves away –  surely this was some sort of mix-up with the rooms. But as the slap of his sandals grew faint and we realised this was all ours for the next few days, we succumbed to giddy delight – hurling each other into the beckoning water.

 

Sala is made up of walled pool villas, each your own private piece of paradise. Thai for open pavilion, it’s true to its name with an indoor-outdoor aesthetic running throughout. Atop a sweeping infinity pool, there’s an al fresco bathroom, including tub for two and a ferocious rain shower beneath a dappled jungle canopy.

  

Curtains billow in the wind as the evening draws in, a chorus of chirping cicadas striking up. Sinky-soft pillows fill every corner, just begging to be snuggled into. While the bedroom is an air-conditioned haven, even these walls fold back to reveal the powder blue pool, illuminated in the moonlight.

     

Uncharacteristically we were up at dawn, a rare combination of jet lag and excitement. Exploring the gardens we found stooping jungle trees, white rope swings dangling from their tendrils, and the prettiest lily ponds, purple flowers closed tight in the dawn light. We picked our way over dew-dampened grass and sandy roots as we stumbled down to the beach – an endless stretch of golden sand flanked by wild, roaring waves.

    

  

Breakfast at Sala is laid back affair held shady spot overlooking the palms reflected in the black stone pool -start with a buffet and fresh juices made to order – or even a Bloody Mary if your head’s a bit sore. Our chuckling waiter tells us it’s one item each from the a la carte, but seeing our dilemma over pulled pork eggs benny and banana waffles, steals us a wink and says he’ll bring both, “because breakfast needs dessert!”.

The Sala staff couldn’t be nicer. By day, frosted towels and refreshing peach iced tea are pressed into your hand at every opportunity and by night they host an open air cinema with beanbags and hot buttery popcorn.

    

We spend lazy days gazing out to sea from the black infinity pool, mirrored ripples skipping along its surface. Admitting defeat from the heat, we retreat to a barside cabana, snacking on plump scallops poached in spicy coconut milk and enormous portions of the best Pad Thai I’ve ever eaten.  Sipping cocktails and cool crisp wine, we listen to mellow music as the sinking sun turns the horizon a furious pink.    

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As lovely as the rest of Sala is, we readily await dusk when we return to our villa. Locking the outside door you’re left in blissful seclusion. Sinking into the ludicrously large tub, we’re surrounded by shimmering tea lights and laced with lavender salts – soon to be lost in our own little world.

  The Hurt: Rooms at Sala Phuket start from around £150 per night, food is reasonable and breakfast is huge. You’re only 15 minutes from the airport so this is a great start / end to the trip. 

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