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Monday 30 December 2013

The London Foodie Goes to Thailand - Phuket Island (Part 2)

After a few days at Cape Panwa, on the southeast coast of Phuket (reviewed here), we headed west to Pansea Beach. Only a 30-minute drive north from the tourist town horror of Patong, Pansea Beach is fortunately a totally different proposition.

Sometimes known as "millionaire's row" on account of the luxury villas, and the VIPs who like to stay there to get away from the crowds, Pansea Beach is a scenic enclave with clear water, fine white sand and tall tropical trees. It is a lovely spot for a relaxing and stylish break with prices to match.

Where to Stay

The Surin Hotel

The Surin Hotel is part of the YTL Group of Hotels of whom I am a huge fan. Recently, I was lucky enough to stay at two of their properties in Malaysia - Pangkor Laut, the flagship luxury resort on Pangkor Laut Island and also the elegant Cameron Highlands Resort - reviewed here and here.

The lovely Surin, view from Pansea Beach

Nestled away from the crowds of Phuket on a pristine and quiet stretch of shoreline overlooking Pansea Beach, the resort is a 25 minutes car journey from Phuket International Airport and a 30-minutes drive from Patong Beach and historical Phuket Town.

Sunset on Pansea Beach
Formerly known as The Chedi, The Surin was acquired by YTL and completely renovated by Paris based designer Ed Tuttle, one of America’s most celebrated architects. Enjoying a tranquil beachside location, all hotel rooms are self-contained cottage suites perched on a sloping hillside overlooking the sea with direct access onto Pansea Beach.

With a consistent Thai colour scheme of green, saffron, and gold set against neutral grey and white paintwork, the rooms are tasteful befitting the hotel's membership of the Design Hotels group of independent boutique hotels. We loved our cottage – small but perfectly formed, it was elegant, with a beautiful and serene feel about it and only a few metres away from the beach.

With a striking black hexagonal shaped swimming pool overlooking the beach (sadly closed for repairs during our stay), several bars, Thai and Italian restaurants, a gym, spa and a stunning reading room, the hotel has all the amenities for a stylish and relaxing stay.

Enjoying some sticky rice with mango and a chilled Singha beer at The Surin Hotel
The Surin gym is small but well equipped with treadmills and exercise bikes, with great views of the sea. It is probably one of the most under-utilised gyms in the world.

Probably the most under-utilised gym you will ever see....

... and this is why!...
The dining room at The Surin, where breakfast is served, has walls of glass, affording great views of the swimming pool, beach and bay.

Breakfast was excellent, with an array of tropical fruits, charcuterie, smoked salmon and cheeses, as well as yoghurts, bread and fresh juices. There were also stations to order freshly baked waffles, crepes and omelettes.

Where to Eat

Suay Restaurant

Situated in a beautiful wooden house surrounded by a covered veranda in Phuket Town, Suay Restaurant is a 20-minute taxi ride from The Surin.

Suay is owned and run by a renowned Thai chef, Tammasak Chootong who trained in Germany and worked at the Michelin-starred Top Air Restaurant in Stuttgart. Returning to Thailand, he worked at a number of international hotels before setting up his own restaurant and cooking school at Suay. The restaurant, reflecting the background of its owner, has a casual if somewhat Western feel to it, offering a range of authentic Thai and fusion dishes to suit most palates.

We started with a cappuccino of galangal and coconut served with grilled sea scallop on a lemongrass skewer (£3.50). This was good, with the succulent scallop and sweet coconut flavours counterbalanced by the astringency from the lemongrass.

Next came a succession of dishes served simultaneously. The green papaya salad with fresh squid strips and ground peanuts (£2.50) had a good amount of heat and partnered well with the grilled pork neck salad (£2.20), one of the best dishes of the evening.

The spicy salmon carpaccio Suay style (£3.00), one of the restaurant’s signature dishes, was adequate as was the fresh prawn spring rolls with peanut sauce (£2.80).

The roasted duck in Thai red curry with lychee (£4.30) was flavoursome although there was little duck to be seen.

Dishes were mostly well made and seasoned, but we found the portions a tad ungenerous. Suay Restaurant is regarded among the best restaurants in Phuket Town and is definitely worth a visit.

What to Do

Swimming and Water Sports

The Surin overlooks Pansea Bay, with its stunning fine white sand, and the bay is a great place to swim and for water sports including snorkeling and surfing. This is also a good location from which to visit some of the neighbouring islands like the famous Phi Phi.

Just one note of caution - the sea on the west side of Phuket can get very rough, particularly during the monsoon season, and every year a handful or two of foreigners drown there. It is important to take notice of the flags indicating whether swimming is safe or not. The Surin has lifeguards permanently at the beach during the day, and they rescued swimmers on more than one occasion during our stay including yours truly!

How could I have missed that red flag?!... It was nearly kaput for me.

Spa Treatments

The spa is at the top of a steep hill overlooking the bay within the hotel’s grounds, but fortunately there is an electric buggy to whisk guests up for their appointment. We had a blissful 60-minute oil massage there that got us walking on clouds upon completion. Highly recommended.


There are several top quality golf courses near The Surin (including the Blue Canyon Country Club and the Phuket Club), and the reception can book and arrange transport for anyone interested.

Visiting Patong

This is one of the party capitals of Asia, famous for its nightlife. There are hundreds of bars, clubs and restaurants clustered on the beach road and Bangla Road. We spent a couple of hours there without finding anywhere particularly good to eat or anything worth seeing, a total nightmare of a place.

Travel Essentials

The Surin Hotel
Pansea Beach, 118 Moo 3
Cherng Talay
Talang, Phuket

Room cost varies widely depending on season and room type. Our one-bedroom deluxe cottage cost from around £350 per room per night.

Suay Restaurant
50/2 Takuapa Road
Talat Nuea, Mueang
Phuket, 83000

AirAsia flights from Bangkok to Phuket cost around £70 return per person.

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