Finding peace and quiet on Phuket

Mum, there's a tree growing out of our house! Lena Corner and family found a quiet spot hidden in the jungle on the south-east coast

Ronnie, my four-year-old son, is confused. "Why is there a tree growing in our house?" he asks, pointing to the thick trunk reaching up and out of the bathroom ceiling through a carefully crafted hole. It's a good point, but we've just arrived at our villa in Sri Panwa, on the south-east tip of Phuket in Thailand, after a 14-hour journey with two small children and, feeling slightly frazzled, an intelligent response escapes me.

The simple answer is that the tree is 100 years old and the man who built the villa, Vorasit Issara, a Thai local, didn't have the heart to chop it down. The same goes for every other tree on this 32-acre plot on a hill overlooking the aquamarine blue seas of Cape Panwa. The result of Wan's benevolence is that each of Sri Panwa's villas, and there are about 50 of them, appears as if it is swamped in the tropical undergrowth. Better still, each villa looks out over the Andaman Sea, and ocean views in Phuket these days are a hard to come by.

It has been 20 years since Aman Resorts opened its flagship, Amanpuri, in a coconut grove on the west coast of Phuket and introduced the island to the idea of private villa holidays. Nothing has been the same since: it placed Phuket firmly on the map, helped kick-start a decade-long property boom, and now, on the horrifyingly overdeveloped west coast, there isn't a slice of ocean-front land left untouched.

Having so little left to work with, the developers started looking further afield – to the north into Phan Nga, where Philippe Starck designed Cape Yamu, which opened recently, and to the east, where Sri Panwa sits. The land was originally bought by Wan's family as a place for a holiday home, but he spotted the potential and persuaded them to turn it into something more.

Wan's eco theme is continued throughout with sand-washed floors outside, pale local woods inside and walls brushed with coconut leaves to create a primitive textured pattern. The designers also, rather cleverly, borrowed a floral motif from the paving stones on the Talang Road in Phuket Old Town and used it on tiles and floors.

We had been planning a family holiday in Thailand since the birth of our second son, Huxley, and now that he was a year old it seemed like a good time to go. A villa really is the only option if you have a child of that age because it enables self-catering. Even so, the staff at Sri Panwa had prepared a bowl of spaghetti bolognaise for Ronnie on arrival, knowing that he would be hungry and probably wouldn't want to tuck straight into Thai food. In another child-friendly twist, we woke the next morning to find someone had come and thrown inflatables in our pool for the boys.

Thailand is also a good place to take young children because, unlike many parts of South-east Asia, no innoculations are required. There is also an endless supply of mango, banana and papaya, which means perfect baby food is always close to hand.

However, what I didn't realise was how much the Thais adore babies. We lost count of the number of times Huxley's cheeks got squeezed. Even in the illustrious confines of Baan Rim Pa, a restaurant perched on the edge of a cliff overlooking the beach at Patong, and supposedly one of Phuket's best. The waiters took the baby off our hands and sang to him, for the duration of the meal.

One place to try cuisine of a more local extraction is in Phuket's Old Town. Apparently, only about 3 pe cent of visitors ever bother to go there, despite its lovely Sino-colonial architecture, built by Japanese workers who came in the 19th century to mine tin. Added to that old-world view are the new galleries, shops and restaurants that have started moving into its crumbling shopfronts.

We were sent by Nim, our guide at Sri Panwa, to a restaurant called Raya, set in a charming old colonial-style room with gorgeous green-glass windows and electrics hanging out of their sockets. It's run by the inimitable Madam Rose, who has been serving her version of Southern Thai cooking there for nearly 15 years. She'll help you order – the yellow crab curry and tamarind prawns are both favourites. Rose is often brought in to cook at Sri Panwa and she once had the terrifying job of catering for Gordon Ramsay when he stayed there – "We've found our second home," he is said to have commented.

One of the best things about Sri Panwa is its proximity to the cluster of tiny islands just off the south coast of Phuket. Sri Panwa organised a boat for us, but any one of the local fisherman will take you there in a traditional Thai longboat. It took just 20 minutes to get to Banana Bay on Koh Hai (Coral Island), where you get a wonderful glimpse of how these islands must have looked before the developers moved in. It's all ramshackle beachfront bars, delicious fisherman's food for less than a pound, and magnificent undamaged stretches of coral reef just 20 metres from the shore.

There's also Koh Lone, a slice of white sandy beach three kilometres long, with tropical jungle, populated by the odd palm farmer and a few monkeys. This beach is so deserted that when one longboat full of tourists once broke down there, the fisherman in charge had no choice but to dive into the Andaman and swim back to Phuket for help, dodging the sea traffic and tussling with the tide.

COMPACT FACTS

How to get there

EVA Air (020-7380 8300; evaair.com) flies to Bangkok from £510 per adult and £420 per child. Thai Airways (0870 606 0911; thaiairways.co.uk) offers transfers to Phuket from £141 per person. Seven nights at Sri Panwa (00 667 637 1000; sripanwa.com) costs from £5,283 for four sharing a two-bedroom, ocean-view pool villa, including transfers, breakfasts, free mini-bar, and a massage per adult.



Further information

Tourism Authority of Thailand (tourismthailand.co.uk).

The Independent travel offers: Discover a world of inspiring destinations

Suggested Topics
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
Actor, model and now record breaker: Jiff the Pomeranian
Video
News
Down time: an employee of Google uses the slide to get to the canteen
businessHow bosses are inventing unusual ways of making us work harder
News
REX/Eye Candy
science
News
i100
Sport
Alexis Sanchez celebrates after scoring his first goal for Arsenal in the Champions League qualifier against Besiktas
sportChilean's first goal for the club secures place in draw for Champions League group stages
Arts and Entertainment
Amis: 'The racial situation in the US is as bad as it’s been since the Civil War'
booksAuthor says he might come back across Atlantic after all
Extras
indybest
Travel
ebookHow to enjoy the perfect short break in 20 great cities
Life and Style
Google Doodle celebrates the 200th birthday of Irish writer Sheridan Le Fanu
tech
Arts and Entertainment
Vinyl demand: a factory making the old-style discs
musicManufacturers are struggling to keep up with the resurgence in vinyl
News
i100
News
In Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind Jim Carrey and Kate Winslett medically erase each other from their memories
scienceTechnique successfully used to ‘reverse’ bad memories in rodents could be used on trauma victims
Arts and Entertainment
Singer Pixie Lott will take part in Strictly Come Dancing 2014, the BBC has confirmed
tv
Independent Travel Videos
Independent Travel Videos
Simon Calder in Amsterdam
Independent Travel Videos
Simon Calder in Giverny
Independent Travel Videos
Simon Calder in St John's
Independent Travel Videos
Independent
Travel Shop
the manor
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on city breaks Find out more
santorini
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on chic beach resorts Find out more
sardina foodie
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on country retreats Find out more
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

ES Rentals

    iJobs Job Widget
    iJobs Travel

    Business Development Manager / Sales Pro

    £30 - 35k + Uncapped Comission (£70k Y1 OTE): Guru Careers: A Business Develop...

    Graduate Sales Executive / Junior Sales Exec

    £18k + Uncapped Commission (£60k Y1 OTE): Guru Careers: A Graduate Sales Exe...

    Web Developer / Software Developer

    £25 - 60k (DOE): Guru Careers: A Web Developer / Software Developer is needed ...

    Oracle 11g SQL 2008 DBA (Unix, Oracle RAC, Mirroring, Replicati

    £6000 - £50000 per annum + Bonus+Benefits+Package: Harrington Starr: Oracle 11...

    Day In a Page

    Israel-Gaza conflict: No victory for Israel despite weeks of death and devastation

    Robert Fisk: No victory for Israel despite weeks of devastation

    Palestinians have won: they are still in Gaza, and Hamas is still there
    Mary Beard writes character reference for Twitter troll who called her a 'slut'

    Unlikely friends: Mary Beard and the troll who called her a ‘filthy old slut’

    The Cambridge University classicist even wrote the student a character reference
    America’s new apartheid: Prosperous white districts are choosing to break away from black cities and go it alone

    America’s new apartheid

    Prosperous white districts are choosing to break away from black cities and go it alone
    Amazon is buying Twitch for £600m - but why do people want to watch others playing Xbox?

    What is the appeal of Twitch?

    Amazon is buying the video-game-themed online streaming site for £600m - but why do people want to watch others playing Xbox?
    Tip-tapping typewriters, ripe pongs and slides in the office: Bosses are inventing surprising ways of making us work harder

    How bosses are making us work harder

    As it is revealed that one newspaper office pumps out the sound of typewriters to increase productivity, Gillian Orr explores the other devices designed to motivate staff
    Manufacturers are struggling to keep up with the resurgence in vinyl records

    Hard pressed: Resurgence in vinyl records

    As the resurgence in vinyl records continues, manufacturers and their outdated machinery are struggling to keep up with the demand
    Tony Jordan: 'I turned down the chance to research Charles Dickens for a TV series nine times ... then I found a kindred spirit'

    A tale of two writers

    Offered the chance to research Charles Dickens for a TV series, Tony Jordan turned it down. Nine times. The man behind EastEnders and Life on Mars didn’t feel right for the job. Finally, he gave in - and found an unexpected kindred spirit
    Could a later start to the school day be the most useful educational reform of all?

    Should pupils get a lie in?

    Doctors want a later start to the school day so that pupils can sleep later. Not because teenagers are lazy, explains Simon Usborne - it's all down to their circadian rhythms
    Prepare for Jewish jokes – as Jewish comedians get their own festival

    Prepare for Jewish jokes...

    ... as Jewish comedians get their own festival
    SJ Watson: 'I still can't quite believe that Before I Go to Sleep started in my head'

    A dream come true for SJ Watson

    Watson was working part time in the NHS when his debut novel, Before I Go to Sleep, became a bestseller. Now it's a Hollywood movie, too. Here he recalls the whirlwind journey from children’s ward to A-list film set
    10 best cycling bags for commuters

    10 best cycling bags for commuters

    Gear up for next week’s National Cycle to Work day with one of these practical backpacks and messenger bags
    Paul Scholes: Three at the back isn’t working yet but given time I’m hopeful Louis van Gaal can rebuild Manchester United

    Paul Scholes column

    Three at the back isn’t working yet but given time I’m hopeful Louis van Gaal can rebuild Manchester United
    Kate Bush, Hammersmith Apollo music review: A preamble, then a coup de théâtre - and suddenly the long wait felt worth it

    Kate Bush shows a voice untroubled by time

    A preamble, then a coup de théâtre - and suddenly the long wait felt worth it
    Robot sheepdog technology could be used to save people from burning buildings

    The science of herding is cracked

    Mathematical model would allow robots to be programmed to control crowds and save people from burning buildings
    Tyrant: Is the world ready for a Middle Eastern 'Dallas'?

    This tyrant doesn’t rule

    It’s billed as a Middle Eastern ‘Dallas’, so why does Fox’s new drama have a white British star?