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Set Adrift

Estranged from the ruckus of tourist-ridden Phuket City, the stunning new Naka Phuket resort seduces guests amidst a sensuously crafted haven hovering between the sea and the mountainside. Adele Chong reports.

There is a point when the ticking metronome of busy urban living inevitably ceases to be music to be one’s ears. In these harried times, one can either resort to extremes or simply adjourn to an extremely good resort. Our bets are certainly on the latter, especially now that the breathlessly beautiful Naka Phuket has officially opened its doors. Looking directly onto the water, the term ‘hotel’ seems like a rather understated definition for this almost mythical offering by Bangkok-based architect Duangrit Bunnag. While the talented Bunnag is no stranger to designing awe-inspiring getaways, this latest feather in his cap may be his masterpiece. Sited in a sequestered valley in the west of Thailand’s largest island, the Naka Phuket represents the architect’s ambitious re-envisioning of the perfect island retreat.

Armed with the intention to preserve the site’s untouched grandeur – 1,740 sprawling acres dotted with mature trees – Bunnag’s design weaves strategically around the area’s leafy constructs, granting guests the pleasure of waking amidst treetops in style. The architect reveals that the mountainous slope which naturally unraveled into the private beach enclosed within the valley – giving rise to the site’s interwoven mix of typologies – had much to do with how the final design manifested itself: 94 glass-encased villas that protrude dramatically out of the mountainside to allow for ample privacy as well as unparalleled views of the Andaman Sea.

It’s somehow easy to imagine Le Corbusier resurfacing from a parallel universe to slumber happily by the elegant Olympic-sized infinity pool or at the rooftop spa, tranquillised by the haunting song of the local cicadas. Emerging like a shimmering modernist dream (“Simple Euclidean forms always lead the way for my architecture,” offers Bunnag), the cantilevered villas feature a concrete and wood framework, created specifically to ensure that as little as possible stand between vacationing guests and the breathtaking surrounds.


True to the idea of a natural paradise, the resort’s romance-inducing eateries (The Nava, a 450-seat restaurant serving up varied fare and “minimalist” cocktails, features a gushing view of an integrated watercourse leading to the sea) only serve fresh market produce, enabling one to replenish both the body and the soul. Given these combined splendours, who indeed can blame Bunnag from keeping a small yet blessed piece of the Naka Phuket for himself? “My favorite villa is the one which sits on the top of the mountain – it has a special design,” he says, before disclosing happily: “And I have the privilege of an Architect’s Key.”

The Naka Phuket is a member of Design Hotels