Perched high atop the Cape Panwa peninsula, Sri Panwa is a secluded oasis of calm. Waterlocked by the Andaman Sea, and accessed via a narrow coastal road, there’s so much water in and around this luxury Thai resort that one could almost mistake it for the set of Kevin Costner’s Waterworld. Well, not really, but I couldn’t resist an opportunity to use hyperbole, no matter how bad it is.
Every single suite and villa within Sri Panwa has its own private infinity pool with a built-in jet stream complemented by stunning coastal views. Plus there are two large communal pools with bar service and water gardens surrounding the spa and restaurants. The chlorine bill must be phenomenal. And you better believe the penthouse has another massive infinity pool. Of course the size of the pool and quality of the view depends entirely on the suite or villa, but still…
Travelling around two hours south-east of Phuket International airport, this clifftop resort sits around 40-60 metres above sea level. The elevation creates stunning panoramic views of the surrounding islands, and many of the villas benefit, offering unobscured views of the coast.
Unfortunately the beachfront is quite small and rocky, meaning there won’t be much time spent lying on the sand. Sri Panwa does have sunbeds, towels and complementary ‘stylish’ crocs for making the most of the water’s edge. For swimming, there’s a long floating dock, with clear waters perfect for snorkelling. General rules of a floating dock – bring good balance and leave valuables back at the shore.
Where its sister resort Baba Beach Club is all about partying and live music, Sri Panwa is where you go to escape the bustle. The villas are hidden amongst natural jungle surrounds with large walls creating privacy between you and your neighbours. My two-bedroom pool villa was impressive – Signature terra cotta outside, contemporary tropical styling within and unobscured views of the sea and beyond.
On two sides, the master bedroom has floor-to-ceiling sliding windows that can be opened for jumping straight into the private infinity pool. The indoor shower doubles as a steam room while another by the poolside not only makes showering outdoors a possibility but essential.
The two bedrooms are separated by a central courtyard placing that much-needed distance between you and the kids if holidaying as a family. Both bedrooms feature bathrooms and surround sound systems with iPods preloaded with a variety of playlists perfect for creating that chilled holiday atmosphere.
Just like Baba Beach Club, Sri Panwa makes use of mood lighting. Choose between “welcome, relax and sexy” on a touchpad found in each room. The bar fridge has champagne, for if the sexy lighting and smooth jazz playlist don’t quite get you in the mood.
Stepping down, but only slightly, the one bedroom villas offer more of the same but on a smaller scale. The suites are modern and packed with luxury features, but are boxed in next to one another like a standard hotel, sacrificing that jungle seclusion.
FYI – The penthouse was purchased by a local seaweed magnate and has previously housed celebrities such as Rhianna, Mariah Carey and Snoop Dogg.
Sri Panwa’s restaurant concept was worthy of the trip alone. Spread across six locations, the various dining experiences go above and beyond to capture the tastes of Asia and the world.
Baba Soul Food offers an intimate gourmet Thai dining experience with equally impressive views. Baba Poolclub features an extensive menu offering a wide range of Italian, BBQ, Thai and Hot Pot cuisine. Start your day at the Poolclub with a buffet and dedicated breakfast menu.
Freshly made sashimi, sushi and other Japanese delights can be experienced at Baba IKI. The chefs are local but received training from traditional Japanese sushi chefs. The flavours and presentation on offer are immaculate. Hilariously, my traditional Japanese cuisine was paired with a South Australian Shiraz. I’m not entirely sure if this is standard practice or the staff popped this bottle hoping to appeal to my Aussie pride. Either way, it was a good choice.
Baba Hot Box serves up American-inspired BBQ/grilled burgers, and finger food for those fussy eaters and Baba Chino serves up gourmet Chinese dishes that put your local takeout to shame.
Finally, we have Baba Nest. Located high in the sky, this is the ultimate escape for sunset cocktails. Baba Nest sits at the highest point of the estate, at the centre of an infinity pool and presents unmatched 360-degree views of the coast and islands. An abundance of cushions and low tables adorn the glazed tile floor. Cocktails, drinks and light meals arrive via table service because a bar would only disrupt the views. As you may have realised from the accompanying images, this is a lovely spot.
Of course, it’s not all lounging around being gluttonous. Sri Panwa has the usual fitness staples like a gym, tennis courts and select water sports. The Muay Thai boxing gym holds private classes and welcomes unfit amateurs, like this humble journalist. For everyone looking to exhaust as little energy as possible, try the Cool Spa retreat, games room or cooking school.
Sri Panwa is pitched as an all-encompassing experience, meaning you’re not supposed to leave, unless visiting surrounding islands on the resort-owned party boat. I’m not entirely convinced that there are enough activities within this luxury estate to keep holidaymakers content for long periods, especially those with kids. Alternatively, there is an aquarium located right next door and select bars nearby but thanks to the immense size of the Sri Panwa estate, you will need to hail a ride.
I’ve said it before, Sri Panwa is an impressive resort. The villas are some of the finest accommodations I have ever seen, and the variety of bars and restaurants is guaranteed to satisfy any distinguished hedonist. It’s just a shame the beachfront doesn’t live up to highs set by the other on-site facilities or nearby beaches.
A word of advice – Don’t settle for a suite. Sure, they’re nice, with a modest infinity pool, but you should really book a villa. Do it and thank me later.
Man of Many travelled to Thailand as a guest of Sri Panwa.