For many people, a Phuket resort means lazing by the pool, going lobster-red after hours of sunbathing, and ordering cheap cocktail after cheap cocktail, mini umbrellas included.
After a while it can get tedious (no, really), so Adam Bub trials a few ways to keep the body busy, and the mind on holiday time.
Away from the nightlife and tuk-tuks of Patong, the four-star eco-friendly Vijitt Resort sits on its own private beach, the cheerily Western-named Friendship Beach, on the southwest tip of Phuket in laidback Rawai. Seemingly isolated from neighbouring resorts by dense greenery, this lush 92-villa coconut-palm-lined hillside property spans 18 acres. That means plenty of room for activities in and outdoors.
Exercise by the pool: Yoga and boxing
With the glassy seven-metre pool and its red umbrellas on one side, and the palm trees and azure-green waters of Chalong Bay on the other, I don't need much convincing to do a spot of morning yoga.
On most days, an instructor leads a beginner-friendly one-hour session of Ashtanga, or "eight-limbed", yoga (encompassing breath, meditation, posture and more). In the warm, tropical air, it's an invigorating way to start the day even if the instructor is a bit vague with her tangled-up positions.
For something more heart-pumping, give a half-hour class of Muay Thai boxing a try. Continuing on the octo- theme, this style of martial arts is also known as the "Science of Eight Limbs", referring to the eight points of contact used in punches, kicks, elbows and knee strikes.
I'm here just to have a go rather than enter serious combat, but the bright pair of boxing shorts and rubber boxing gloves are go a long way to getting into fierce character.
Only some of us attempt to knee our boxing coaches in the crotch (funny, the girls take a special shine to these moves).
The pool: The backdrop to a morning yoga or afternoon Thai boxing class. Tip: Take a dip afterwards.
Image: The Vijitt
Green thumb: Natural rubber tapping and a botanic walk
Not the usual activity you'd see at a luxe resort, rubber tree tapping is something of a must-try experience at The Vijitt. Rubber is important to the Phuket economy, but the onslaught of tourism in the region is threatening the survival of plantations, and therefore the livelihood of local communities.
With 150 rubber trees on site at The Vijitt, a guide shows guests how to tap a tree to produce natural latex something city folk like me wouldn't have a clue about. But there's a sense of satisfaction hacking at a tree (gently, gently)and drawing my first line of white sap that will go on to become rubber. The proceeds go to the local community, so it's not going to waste.
It's a small gesture that literally taps into the local culture and environment. Despite the discomfort of the heat, it's definitely more rewarding than lounging around in my air-conditioned villa.
Staying outdoors, I do the resort's botanic walk. That's one of the benefits of staying in a large resort: there's so much room to move that you often find yourself the only person in eyeshot. Of the 24 kinds of native and exotic flora along the pathways I find various kinds of palms, banana, mango and durian trees, gardenias and frangipanis, and unusual fruits like sapodilla (potato-looking berries).
I'm happy doing this walk unguided. There's also a guide available for the beach marine walk, which I don't get time to do, but I'm told involves coral, crabs and local fish at low tide.
Snorkelling day trip
While not strictly on the resort grounds, a snorkelling half-day trip at nearby Coral Island is offered as a complimentary service to Vijitt guests. Called "Vijitt Club", the service includes free transfers just a few minutes by minivan and a 15-minute speedboat ride from the pier and voila!, I've arrived on a private stretch of paradise viewable from the resort.
In keeping with the anglicised, unimaginative beach naming convention, the island's white-sand beaches are called Long and Banana Beach. Snorkelling from the shore is super-easy as schools of fish hang around the clear light-green waters, although the coral doesn't compare to the luminous reefs of the Great Barrier Reef.
The island's only food outlet isn't much to write home about either (I had a chicken curry with virtually no chicken), but the experience of sitting at a picnic table enjoying lunch with friends while catching the ocean breeze (and some delicious pink pina coladas served in coconuts) is worth the trip alone.
And if you've got kids
The centrally located "Rotunda", home of the kids' club, is a paradise for youngsters. Parents can happily hand their kids over to the babysitters, but even their work is mostly done thanks to the facilities on hand. Active youngsters can enjoy the indoor and outdoor playgrounds with five-star water views. Inside the Rotunda are a number of spaces including a wading pool, a movie room, a games room, an internet room, an arts and crafts area, a sleeping spot, and the coolest thing of all: a ball pit.
Day spa delirium
One of The Vijitt's best assets is The V Spa. Built in harmony with nature, the treatment rooms are a handful of straw-roofed huts perched above picturesque green hills divided by a lake. Each hut has a balcony with a jacuzzi a serene, ultra-private vantage point.
The signature three-hour treatment is pretty much the reason people go on holidays. Between a deep massage, a banana leaf body wrap and a jacuzzi chill-out session, I'm chilled beyond belief.
Like a virgin: The view from the V Spa lobby.
On my three-day visit I still don't manage to squeeze in the resort's full roster of things to do (how did I miss aqua aerobics in the pool? Or the napkin folding class?). Most of the activities are free, and the few that do cost anything are extremely cheap, like horse riding on the beach, kite surfing, Batik painting and Thai cooking classes.
If all else fails, catch the shuttle bus into Patong and see a lavish ladyboy show. Boring? Not a chance.
For more information
Villas at The Vijitt Resort are available from around $116 to $411 per night. For more information or to book, go to vijittresort.com.
For flights to Phuket, visit thaiairways.com.au.
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