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A new view on Phuket

Tales of tourist misdemeanours, tacky souvenirs and tasteless bars havegiven Phuket, an island off the southwest coast of Thailand, a badreputation. But plenty of this sprawling state remains unspoiled andnew boutique hotels are attracting a different kind of holidaymaker.

Tales of tourist misdemeanours, tacky souvenirs and tasteless bars have given Phuket, an island off the southwest coast of Thailand, a bad reputation. But plenty of this sprawling state remains unspoiled and new boutique hotels are attracting a different kind of holidaymaker.

At the eastern end of Phuket, Layan is an unspoiled village built around a winding coastal road. There are just two tiny hotels interrupting the lagoon here, divided by a spit of sand. A couple of beach cafés serve Thai basics including fried rice and curries — the antidote to the brash, hamburger-vending restaurants of the south.

Meanwhile, regulations dictate that you can’t see buildings from the deserted, coconut milk-coloured stretch of sand at Mai Khao, where turtles come to nest.

So the new luxury hotel from Asian chain Anantara (phuket.anantara.com) is set well back from the beach. This is honeymoon territory — the hotel has been designed to resemble a Thai fishing village, rooms have private plunge pools, there’s a glitzy treehouse bar, and the pool is a glamorous, palm-fringed affair. You’ll find deals if you bargain (from $250 B&B), and you can skip pricey meals in the hotel in favour of barbecued fish from the beach shack between the hotel and the sand.

Meanwhile, Phuket City is being called a mini Singapore. Colonial buildings have been turned into fancy bars, restaurants and hotels. Attractions include The China Inn (20 Thalang Rd.), a coffee shop in one of Phuket’s renovated old shophouses. Also explore the mansions on the outskirts, built by Chinese merchant immigrants in the 19th-century. Stay at Sino House (from $50; sinohousephuket.com), with its antiques and China-inspired rooms.

 
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