Aman Resorts have a special reputation. It’s in fact pretty hard to put it into words. If I were to try, I’d say things like “understated luxury”, “authentically local”, and “heartfelt service”. And then I’d also say “REALLY EXPENSIVE” because wow are they expensive! Being in the airline points and miles game I’ve heard of Aman Resorts quite a few times but there aren’t really that many reviews out there, for a couple of reasons: they’re very expensive and have no loyalty program. However, as most of you know I recently stayed at Aman’s flagship resort, Amanpuri (meaning “place of peace”) in Phuket, Thailand, for one night. I wanted to review it to see if it could live up to the hype. And I wanted to take some great pictures so you could feel like you were there with me.
Making the booking
So, I know what many of you are wondering: did I receive a complimentary stay? A special media rate? How did I get to stay there? It’s really simple: I paid cash. No media rate, no special blogger stuff. I traded emails with the resort staff before my stay and let them know I was a photographer and hoped it’d be ok if I brought my tripod for some pictures and they indicated it would be fine.
I booked the hotel through American Express Fine Hotels & Resorts (to which I had access through my Amex Platinum card), which includes special amenities like early check-in, complimentary upgrade, breakfast, late check-out (critical for this property since I wanted to maximize my time here). It also included a 60-minute spa service, which would be very much needed after the crazy amount of flying it took to get there.
Phuket has a rainy season that runs from June through October, during which the majority of its annual 100 inches of rain falls. Because of this hotel and resort rates drop substantially. The same is true for Amanpuri. Although discounts are not common at Aman Resorts, I was able to secure a rate over 40% lower than their typical daily rate. It sounds like a great deal and it totally was, but friendly reminder: the daily rates are usually around $1000. So, thanks for reading Andy’s Travel Blog and please click on some of the ads!
Getting to the resort
I had what could be described as a long flight to get to Phuket. From Dallas I flew to Hong Kong on American Airlines in Business Class (review coming soon), Hong Kong to Singapore on Cathay Pacific in Economy Class (review not coming soon), Singapore to Kuala Lumpur on Malaysia Airlines in Economy Class (review definitely not coming soon although it was perfectly fine for a 40 minute flight), and finally Kuala Lumpur to Phuket on Malaysia Airlines in Economy Class (ditto). All in all it was 10,000 miles of flying over 30ish hours and, I don’t care if the long flight was in Business or not, that’s a lot of flying.
I had heard Phuket’s airport can be a bit of a melee, particularly with taxis, so I reached out to Amanpuri and was able to secure their airport taxi service for 1000THB (about $30). I made it through customs rather quickly (fill out both sides of the immigration form) and quickly found the gentleman outside Arrivals holding an Amanpuri sign. I gave him the Head Nod of That’s Me and he greeted me by name, welcomed me to Amanpuri, and from that moment I was in their hands and had few worries. We walked over to the waiting Toyota Camry (they have a BMW 5 series for 3000THB but I didn’t think that was necessary for little ol’ me) and I was off. The driver had cold water bottles waiting in the cupholders and told me the journey would take approximately 40 minutes. We wound our way through Phuket’s serpentine highway system and I enjoyed passing through the little villages on our journey. It actually reminded me of Cusco in Peru a bit. We turned off the main road and I knew we were close.
At most resorts you have massively huge entries to show the regality of the place you’re staying (and we passed plenty of entrances to other resorts that were like this). Amanpuri has a different take on luxury. It actually shares a beach with another resort but is otherwise isolated from the noisiness and craziness of Phuket. We went through a gate and passed the entrance to the other resort, and another gate was raised for us, complete with gate staff bowing, and we were there.
It was unlike anything I’d ever seen. Most resorts are plopped down on top of whatever environment is there, but Amanpuri was different. It emerged from the surroundings, it felt like it was supposed to be there. That’s an Aman staple: using what’s already there and letting the environment show them what to build. Amanpuri doesn’t have a main building with all the rooms, rather individual pavilions on the myriad hills around the property.
We arrived at the main entrance where four Amanpuri staff were waiting to greet me. I was welcomed, ushered away from my luggage, and given a cold towel to cool me down a bit. Yuki, the Room and Service Manager, welcomed me and mentioned that she hoped I had brought my tripod for some great pictures. Nice attention to detail. I was walked to a waiting buggy to drive me to my pavilion (the buggies are necessary as it is quite hilly). A laughably short buggy ride later and we arrived at the staircase to my pavilion. Up about 4 flights of stairs was pavilion 901.
We completed check-in procedures in the pavilion and the attendant took me on a tour of my pavilion and made sure I understood how everything worked and where everything was. I had a spa appointment in about 30 minutes, which gave me plenty of time to sit there with my jaw on the floor as I looked around my pavilion.
It was one large open concept room with a massive king-size bed (with a complimentary fruit basket on the nightstand) facing the bathroom area.
In the middle of the restroom area was a massive floral display that really tied everything together.
There was wood decorations everywhere in a way that felt rich and luxurious without being gaudy. Outside the sliding doors was my own outdoor seating/dining area, where I could take my evening meal if I preferred.
Included with my stay was a complimentary 60-minute massage at the spa. The spa facility was conveniently located pretty much at the bottom of the stairs next to my pavilion, so it was at most a 2-minute walk.
I was welcomed to the spa with a cold towel and fresh juice. They also presented me with a menu of the available services.
I’m not really a massage enthusiast, but I saw a 60-minute Thai massage and figured I was in Thailand so I should get it. I was led to my treatment room, which wasn’t a room but in fact its own pavilion with wonderful views out to the sea and the surrounding jungle.
I really enjoyed the treatment although I fell asleep pretty early in it from the jet lag. At the end I emerged refreshed and was greeted with, you guessed it, a cold towel, fruit, and peppermint tea.
After the treatment I went to the main pool area for afternoon tea. They had a variety of snacks available and 3 different teas available (I had some ginger tea and it was lovely).
I sat down by the stairway down to the beach and enjoyed the ambiance of the waves crashing into the beach.
In addition to the resort they have villas, from 2 bedroom all the way up to 6 bedrooms! I spoke with Yuki and she was kind enough to give me a tour of an empty 4-bedroom villa. It was stunning. Each room in the villa was about the size of my pavilion with its own private pool (each villa has its own pool). Each villa also comes with a kitchen and butler service as well. The villa we were at is where they also host weddings as it was pretty much on the sea (there was a staircase down to the area where they do weddings).
The decorations around the villa were exquisite and fitting with the resort.
The Main Building
While there were myriad areas to spend your time at Amanpuri, I always ended up back near the main building and pool area. In keeping with the rest of the resort it was luxurious without being gaudy. Everywhere I went I was greeted warmly by staff members.
Inside the main building there is a robust library with over one thousand books for guests to read while they’re there.
Main pool area
The pool area was fantastic. Everything was perfectly manicured and received constant attention from hotel staff.
As it was nearing sunset, I went down to the beach with my tripod to attempt a picture I’d never tried before: a long-exposure of the waves crashing against the rocks on the beach. I got about 3 pounds of sand in my tripod and nearly dropped my camera in the water but I was massively happy with the final result!
I came back from the beach and grabbed a few more pictures of the main pool facility.
I went to the Thai restaurant for dinner, which was excellent and (I thought) reasonably priced.
By this time my energy was about spent so I retreated to my pavilion for a wonderful night of sleep.
The next morning I awoke just before sunrise to this lovely view.
I went up to the gym to grab a timelapse of the sunrise, but it wasn’t that great because it was pretty cloudy.
After the sunrise and my missed timelapse attempt I went down to the main restaurant (where I had dinner the night before) for breakfast.
It started with coffee and a fruit selection, which ended up being a massive amount of pineapple.
I finished with an American breakfast of scrambled eggs and bacon.
I was relaxing with a coffee and paper as a gentle rainshower blanketed the main pool area. It was about the most serene thing ever.
I went down to the beach for quite a few hours and caught up on my reading.
The beach service was prompt and fantastic. I sunburn easily and was really dependent on the umbrellas. When one umbrella was no longer providing the shade I needed, a beach attendant promptly rushed over and, without me asking, set up another umbrella to ensure I was comfortable.
I really didn’t want to leave
That’s the best way of putting it. I didn’t want to leave this wonderful place. I’m sure if I was used to staying in places like this there would be some critiques of some aspects of service, but for me it was just perfect. Not only was the service exemplary but it was clear the resort had a solid system of communication in place. Everyone seemed to know who I was, I was never asked for my pavilion number to charge something to the room, they just knew it.
It was clear to me the staff on every level was empowered to make a guest’s stay better and each person embraced it. It’s redundant to say that the service was excellent but what was so surprising was the warmth of the service. It was not robotic and nobody seemed to be doing things because they had to, it really felt like they did things because they wanted to.
I’m sold. I can’t imagine any place being like Amanpuri. That said, there are plenty of people on Flyertalk who say Amanpuri pales in comparison to the other Aman resorts. I don’t know when I’ll be able to go and compare them, but I think Amans are worth saving up for. They even have a term for converts: “Amanjunkies”. They say it’s hard to stay at just one and I believe them.
To be clear, there are much cheaper resorts in Phuket that provide a high level of service. I just don’t think there’s any place that will provide that service quite like Amanpuri.
I leave you with my fondest memory of Amanpuri, the amazing sunset from earlier in this post.