Discovering Phuket’s hidden charm

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TH3227 Thai fishing boat

Eschewing the more frequented tourist areas of Phuket, photojournalist David Bowden explores the quieter northwest coastal areas of the popular Thai island and finds the pace to be just to his liking.

Phuket is Thailand’s best-known resort island and, as it’s just a 90-minute flight from Kuala Lumpur, makes for an ideal holiday any time, but especially for an enjoyable weekend escape.

The island is deceptively large and like many popular regional holiday destinations, Phuket always seems to be playing catch-up with its infrastructure development. With the airport located in the far northwest of the island (Phuket is the size of Singapore and 48km long by 21km wide), accessing the main beaches on the west and south coast can take time due to the traffic – you can expect a one-hour journey to Kata and Karon Beaches.

TH3154D fishing boats Nai Yang Beach
Fishing boats Nai Yang Beach

So a resort close to the airport makes good sense, especially for a short visit; for example, the Nai Yang-Naithon beachside on the island’s northwest is within a 15-minute drive from the airport.

The two beaches are separated by a forested headland, with Sirinat National Park located between Nai Yang and the airport to provide a natural buffer to any airport noise. Once an island of sleepy fishing villages, things have changed dramatically all over Phuket, although the northwest still remains reasonably free from overdevelopment and subsequently, isn’t yet overrun with tourists. Visitors can choose a range of accommodations options up here, from the large international chains to some impressive small boutique outfits.

Making dreams come true

HOT4572 coastal view Pullman Arcadia Phuket

The Pullman Phuket Arcadia Resort is a new property on a headland overlooking Naithon Beach lined with a long undisturbed thicket of casaurina trees. Upon checking in, I read on my welcome letter; ‘Welcome to our beach house, your holiday.’

Bags were dropped in the room, sunscreen applied, flip-flops put in place, and shorts and t-shirts slipped into to make the most of my beachside holiday.

Naithon Beach is located below the sprawling resort and while I enjoyed a few leisurely walks along the neardeserted beach, it was one of the resort’s infinity pools where I mostly swam and lazed in the sun.


The Pullman is an expansive resort with the deluxe rooms close to public areas and the luxury ocean villas extending up the rocky headland.

It’s an undulating property and while buggies ferry guests around, it offers good exercise for those who choose to walk. Dhatri Spa is highly recommended for Thai massages, specialised aromatherapy treatments, Guinot facials, jasmine and oatmeal scrubs, and aloe vera wraps.

HA419 Spa by beach Pullman Phuket Arcadia Naithon Beach
Spa by the beach at Pullman Arcadia

Thailand rarely disappoints hungry diners and the two resort restaurants are so tempting that many guests will opt to dine in rather than eat out. Chef Favio Manzoni, who heads up Vero the Italian Trattoria and Wine Bar, learned his craft where he grew up in northern Italy on the shores of Lake Como. Vero delivers specialty dishes that offer a culinary journey through various Italian provinces.

POOL707 pool Pullman Arcadia Phuket
Pullman Arcadia Phuket

These range from wood oven-baked pizzas to secret family pasta recipes. Chef Favio’s favourite dish is slow-cooked rabbit as it is a little unique in Asia and rarely seen on menus.

Accor has a members’ programme called Le Club AccorHotels through its My Resorts programme which offers extra benefits at the Pullman. It’s aimed at guests indulging in little extras and rewards and as I was in holiday mode, I opted to pay a little extra for the MyGlass option and received a free-flow of soft drinks throughout the day and a generous amount of alcoholic beverages as sundowners.

Small and personalised

HOT4173D pool & resort grounds Dewa Resort Phuket
Pool and resort grounds Dewa Resort Phuket

Dewa Phuket Resort is located on Nai Yang Beach and around a headland just to the north of the Pullman. Like the Pullman, the first pleasant surprise is that it’s just minutes from the airport so I was enjoying my first Singha beer in the resort’s Bamboo Bar within four hours of me departing my apartment in Kuala Lumpur.

Nai Yang is located next to Sirinat National Park so there’s no unchecked beachside development which is typical of some other beaches in Phuket. I was told that the National Council for Peace and Order (those who are now in charge of Thailand) had a big clean-up recently and cleared those restaurants that had encroached upon public land. The park protects just 90km2 of sea and land with much of it the offshore waters which are an important turtle egg laying habitat from November to February.

HOT4172D apartment living Dewa Resort Phuket
Apartment living Dewa Resort Phuket

Dewa Phuket is the only resort of any substance along the Nai Yang beachfront and yet from a distance it doesn’t look much like a resort as the tallest building is only four storeys high. While not actually on the beach, it’s a short scurry across a quiet rural road to the near-empty beach.

While many resorts claim they are many things to different groups of people Dewa Phuket can actually accommodate lively families and intimate couples. Couples will be attracted to the private villas situated closest to the beach while families can enjoy the space provided in the condominium-styled accommodation of the low-rise building at the rear of the property.

HOT4176D entrance to pool villas Dewa Resort Phuket1The apartments include both one and two bedroom residences fitted out like serviced apartments with self-catering facilities. Dewa has just 34 pool villas and 62 residences, so it never feels crowded.


There are two pools as well as individual plunge pools in the villas. A spa provides soothing treatments and a professionalmanaged Kid’s Room is perfect for those seeking an opportunity for their children to socialise with other global kids.

While the beach has the usual assortment of seafood restaurants, Dewa Phuket offers competitively-priced local dishes and Western comfort food served around the poolside setting of The Lounge and Dining Room.

Though Nai Yang and Naithon perhaps aren’t for those seeking the usual Phuket action and excitement, they are both perfect for those who like to check in and chill and utilise the onsite resort facilities.

Neither area is located immediately on the beach but both are close enough to enjoy the sea breezes coming from the Andaman Sea and the sunset reflections off the water on this side of the island. Families will especially enjoy both as the range of facilities and activities is comprehensive.

With an abundance of sandy beaches, luxurious resorts, inviting and competitively-priced food, varied nightlife, championship golf courses, and its proximity to Kuala Lumpur, Phuket is very popular with those seeking a nearby location to recharge the batteries.

Getting There

Phuket is one of the easiest regional islands to access as several full-cost and budget airlines fly there direct from Kuala Lumpur. Thailand is visa-free for many nationals, including ASEAN nationals and most Western expats.

TH3156D Nai Yang Beach Phuket
Nai Yang beach, Phuket

Where to Stay

Dewa Phuket Resort ( and Pullman Phuket Arcadia Naithon Beach (

When to Visit

Phuket’s monsoon season from May to October may affect some outdoor activities but low season accommodation rates more than compensate for the slight inconvenience. During the peak season from November to February, there are few bargains to be obtained from resorts.

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