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Beth Weitzman | Photo: Courtesy Images | August 27, 2013
Discover heaven on Earth at cliffside paradise Paresa, Thailand’s sublime tree-line treasure.
Facing the Andaman Sea and proffering the utmost in privacy and panoramas, nature-flanked Paresa lives up to its Sanskrit translation, “heaven of all heavens.” Located in Phuket, Thailand, the luxe boutique resort boasts 49 guest villas built around several huge banyan trees. Set amid immense greenery, the resort is truly divine—a theme carried on the wings of golden angels featured in artwork displayed throughout the property. The mammoth, luxuriously appointed tree houses (aka guest rooms) recall Frank Lloyd Wright’s organic architecture—but only as a study of Southern Thai style reinterpreted by Bangkok-based UKD Architects, who have made use of soaring, pavilion-style ceilings and rich timber finishes from sustainable Thai forests to produce the lavish spaciousness of villa interiors.
Naturally, my jaw drops the minute I enter my room. Dubbed the Aqua Pool Suite, it’s an oasis of light, which streams in from all sides to highlight surreal water and forest views visible from all vantage points, including a private, outdoor infinity-edge plunge pool (large enough to accommodate mini laps). Floor-to-ceiling sliding glass doors expose the entire room to the elements, making indoor/outdoor transitions seamless. Traditional local and Chinese furnishings—including a king-size bed dressed in plush white linens, feather pillows and duvets—join a comfy daybed couch that faces outdoors, perfect for afternoon tea or espresso, which you can make in your very own machine. Light, beautiful and warm, the utopian space features Thai teak floors and creamy white walls that impart a feeling of tranquility. The bathroom is just as grand with rainwater indoor and outdoor showers, cascades of towering glass and Italian terrazzo tile walls hosting bona fide Phuket batik works. The space also includes a tub, dual vanity and plenty of closet space.
All six suite categories boast 270-degree views and open floor plans, from one-bedroom options to a Grand Villa, which includes five bedrooms and accommodates up to 12 people. For smaller groups, the Cielo Residences feature private living and dining pavilions, large verandas, indoor and outdoor bathrooms, personal butlers and fully equipped kitchens with wine cellars. Meanwhile, all five Dima Spa Suites wow with a lineup of infinity pools, steam rooms, water-surrounded island bathrooms with huge floating bathtubs, and outdoor spa treatment areas for in-suite services. This haven is the ultimate romantic escape.
Taking stock of my own personal surroundings passes the hours until dinnertime. I’m scheduled to enjoy tantalizing tastes at Talung Thai restaurant, a signature al fresco spot where hospitable service joins forces with unsurpassed vistas and top-quality cuisine. The selection impresses with an assortment of zesty small plates and a bevy of authentic Southern Thai entrees. Though the menu is plentiful—highlighted by noodle dishes, hot wok and grill options, and clay pot curries—it’s the traditional tom yam goong soup and pad thai (my all-time faves) that captivate. Evening dining concludes under a cover of stars with anticipation mounting for the next morning’s adventures.
Back at Talung for breakfast, I enjoy pad thai again, plus made-to-order juice, and nibble at the wide array of options presented at the buffet-style spread. Afterward, in preparation for an afternoon cooking class at the resort’s state-of-the-art, purpose-built cookery school, Recipe—which enjoys 270-degree ocean views and the expertise of the resort’s master chef, Ryan Arboleda—we join the talented toque and fellow Thai chef Noon en route to the local market, where we source tasty handpicked ingredients for a tutorial. Using this bounty, plus local herbs from Paresa’s own garden, Arboleda and his chef squad take our class on an interactive culinary journey through Southeast Asia that positively dazzles our palates.
Fully satiated, my group splits off to relax in our own ways before reconvening for cocktails and sunset on the Miracle Lawn. Then, we prepare for another sumptuous dinner, this one served at Paresa’s Italian culinary concept restaurant, Diavolo. Consistent with the feel of the resort, Diavolo is pleasantly ventilated, with far-reaching, natural-beauty outlooks, but also with a bit of flair—picture fire-red walls and black floors. In lieu of Talung’s Thai, savory pizzas, indulgent pastas, fresh seafood and heavier meat dishes like chicken saltimbocca are the specialties here, but Diavolo equals its Thai counterpart in deliciousness. (And let’s just say that post-dinner cocktails on the outdoor deck provide a seriously smooth finish to my meal.)
There’s plenty of time to digest the entire experience the next day at Paresa’s intimate cliffside spa. Equipped with five double-treatment rooms—boasting baths, steam showers and private balconies—it’s an oasis of relaxation. And, you know what they say: When in Thailand… The Thai massage is an obvious choice, and happens to be incredibly reviving and delightful. All treatments—body treatments (wraps, conditioning and polishing), massages, facials, specialty milk and herbal soaks—supply rejuvenation by way of organic products and Asian techniques. Other spalike offerings include both international and Thai services, such as yoga, reiki, meditation and mind training. If you have 210 minutes to spare, then splurge on the Heavenly Bliss, a signature pampering session that features an herbal steam, lime body scrub, honey body mask, aroma relaxation massage and aromatic Thai facial. Head to toe, this is spoiling at its finest.
Outside the resort, excursions to Old Town Phuket and nearby Surin Beach shops and galleries are optional—but, fair warning, Paresa casts a mysterious spell: Once here, you won’t want to leave. When I do, it’s usually briefly and for a boat-and-beach setting.
Boating explorations of the Andaman Sea, for example, are a must-do. The striking limestone karst geological formations set in the sea (characteristic in this part of Thailand) are simply breathtaking and something everyone should see at least once in their lifetime. Also in this area is a group of six islands known as Ko Phi Phi—popular docking spots with idyllic beaches perfect for picnic lunches, sunbathing and snorkeling.
Dusk seduces with sunset cocktails at Paresa or at hot spots like Catch Beach Club in nearby Surin Beach. Dinner can also be enjoyed at restaurants such as Taste, where I delighted in a meal on my last evening. While getting out and mingling with the locals is always a wonderful experience, hands down, the cuisine served at Paresa can’t be beat.
From authentic service to innovative spaces, gastronomy and spa offerings, the experience at Paresa is not one easily matched or surpassed.