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A guide to Phuket from Goldie, its least likely resident

A view of Thailand's famous island through the eyes of one its best-known residents – Goldie

Cathy Adams
Thursday 16 November 2017 15:09 GMT
Gold star: Hotel Sri Panwa meets with Goldie's approval
Gold star: Hotel Sri Panwa meets with Goldie's approval (Sri Panwa)

Kamala Beach, western Phuket, at sunset. I’m bent double doing the downward dog. Then the triangle, then some other move that I’ve never heard of. I think my hamstring snaps.

​Kamala, all crystal-clear water and hedonists under swinging palm trees, doesn’t look anything like Walsall, the hometown of my yoga partner, Goldie. If you haven’t heard of him – “Your mum knows me, or your grandma. I’ve been around for a long time” – Goldie’s the gold-toothed drum-and-bass musician, Bond villain, graffiti artist, Strictly Come Dancing star, urban culturist, OBE and, more recently, the guy who apparently revealed the identity of Banksy. And we’re doing the downward dog together on a Thai island.

Goldie (the locals call him phan tong, meaning “gold tooth”) has been living in Phuket for the past eight years. He got married here; it’s where his most recent album – The Journey Man – was written. The Journey Man doesn’t sound much like Timeless, his first (groundbreaking) drum-and-bass album that went platinum: but that’s probably because Timeless was recorded in drab old England. The Journey Man was inspired by Phuket, while the track Horizons was inspired by a 5am walk on this very beach we’re contorting our limbs on.

High life: Sri Panwa hotel is classic Phuket (Sri Panwa)

“Coming to Thailand was about finding myself, but also about reinventing myself,” Goldie tells me. “I think it’s a very forgiving place, Phuket, in the way that you have to respect it a lot more than people do.”

Which is what we’re doing today. Goldie is giving me a personalised tour of his adopted island home – starting with his gorgeous bleached-white house, high up in the jungly hills above Kamala, where he lives with his wife, Mika, and youngest daughter Koko.

If the route to his gaff (yes: gaff) is maze-like, then his house is even more so. Bright prints and monochrome family portraits hang from the walls; mementoes from his travels are dotted around the living room. Every room is a study in playful art. I’ve known Goldie for about 18 minutes but already I can tell it’s very him. (He’s also got a good eye for hotels. I tell him I’m staying at Sri Panwa, all teak and infinity pools high above Cape Panwa, the southernmost tip of Phuket, and he gives it full marks.)

Chic shack: Nan Lanna is Goldie’s favourite restaurant on Phuket (Cathy Adams)

It’s lunchtime, and Goldie’s hungry. It starts to drizzle as we pull up outside Nan Lanna (now called Chiang Mai), a northern Thai restaurant known in Goldie’s household as “the best restaurant in Phuket”. It’s hardly haute cuisine: in fact, it’s fashioned as a sort of roadside shack on the road that bisects the island. But the food is excellent: bowls of juicy khao soi (fried noodles from northern Thailand, usually with chicken) and joints of pork stewed in a rich sauce – kaeng hunglay – come with gelatinous baskets of sticky rice that we dig our fists into.

We were meant to be going to one final stop on Goldie’s ultimate itinerary of this sun-dazzled island – a place called Makro – but after lunch, he’s tired and needs to head home for a nap. Where is Makro anyway, I ask – and is it so good that I should go there alone? “Makro is like the Costco of Asia,” Goldie says excitedly. “You don’t know this? Makro is the wholesale place where you go and buy tons of water, loads of cheese, toilet paper, all the sexy stuff and essentials. Makro, yes, go.”

Goldie’s Phuket afternoons mean yoga. “I’ve just started doing vinyasa, which is killing me,” he says. Is that the hot one? “Vinyasa is more about inversions, and it’s hard work. People think Bikram is hard work, and I’m over it – I’ve been doing it for seven years, five times a week, and no problem.”

By the boardwalk: Phuket is an island idyll (Getty/iStockphoto) (Getty Images/iStockphoto)

With that, Goldie slides on his Yogangster sweatshirt and razzes his mint-green Filano scooter throatily down the hill. If not stretching at the beach, Goldie will be at his favourite studio in Kamala, he’s already told me. Run by Jack, a sinewy Australian, Yoga Republic is a small studio that does a range of yoga classes. Or at least I assume it is – I never got to see Goldie actually do yoga inside it.

Island life: Goldie is known as ‘gold tooth’ by locals (Cathy Adams)

We agree to meet for a beer at Bob’s Bar in Kamala at 6pm. This otherwise unremarkable beach bar is entirely inspired by Bob Marley, which means everything, from the facade to the tablecloths, is decked out in the colours of the Rastafari flag. Bob’s is where Goldie comes almost every night, to eat, drink, play backgammon with Koko’s schoolteacher and entertain everyone else while he’s at it.

It’s gone 6pm. Goldie arrives just in time for sunset, backgammon board slung over his shoulder, by which time I’m two Singhas down and in no fit state to play anything. Yoga, then?

Which is how we finish the Goldie tour of Phuket: doing the downward dog, scraping our hands on the sand, as the sky turns pink, purple, then navy blue. It’s a traditional Thai island end to the most golden of Phuket days.

Travel essentials

Getting there

Thai Airways flies from Heathrow to Phuket via Bangkok from £517.

Staying there

Sri Panwa has doubles from 14,000 baht (£314), B&B.

More information

Goldie’s album The Journey Man is out now.

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